What sorts of events are making money for drag strip operators?

CB: Midnight Madness and Grudge events! I've been fortunate in that I've been able to see those types of events succeed all over. My friend Tony Adams had a great show in Yakima, Wash., that was nothing but drag racing for $5 to watch and $10 to race way back in the early '90s. Mission, BC, and Calgary both had solid programs in the late 1990s. When I got to Vegas we mixed things up by adding DJ's, car shows, drifting and stunt teams for our program. (I will go on record to say we were the first grassroots drift program anywhere in the country at a dragstrip). While the events have faded somewhat through the years in some parts of the country, these events are still doing well in areas like St. Louis. Our opening event of 2015 completely filled the pit area and parking lots of the strip.

The people attending these events are all about the social aspect and not the competition aspect. It's about being there and enjoying your car or your friend's car. It's not about your trick nitrous bottle, your reaction time or your weather station. It's simple and painless. It's two cars rolling up to the line and just going for it for the sheer joy of it.

We are doing the same thing with our Wednesday night program. We changed the name from 'Test 'n' Tune' to Wide Open Wednesday. We started selling 99-cent beer and 99 cent hot dogs. We added a bike shootout (one run) that gives away a case of beer and a trophy. Last Wednesday we had 175 cars, 1,100 spectators and sold 445 hot dogs in just four hours. Our advertising spend was $200 on Facebook with a giveaway item to the person with the most shares. The people that come out for Wednesday nights are older than the Madness kids but they share one common thing: they want to keep their racing simple. The other stuff is just too hard. We've hurt ourselves by forcing guys to have electronic gadgets to win races. The casual fan is never going to transfer over with the obstacles that are thrown at them.

What is your take on the free ticket but charge for parking paradigm that has become increasingly popular with some track operators?

CB: I absolutely hate it and think it cheapens what we are trying to do.  While tracks are making money off of the parking charges, you are telling people that the product you have is worth NOTHING! You are telling people that your parking lot is worth more than the on track product. Anytime your average Joe can walk into his local grocery story and pick up a stack of free tickets from the counter you have just ruined your product. To still keep a value on the product, I've encouraged others to say "$20 per carload" instead of "Free plus $20 to park."  It's the drive-in movie concept, give them a good deal every once in a while but never make it free all the time.

Strategically placed comps with a service tie-in is the way it needs to be addressed. I just had a NASCAR promotion where we gave away 1,700 tickets to active duty military at a local Air Force base as part of a military recognition program. It was a huge public relations hit for us and the publicity we received was worth more than the face value of those tickets. I also had a promotion with a hair salon chain that was a trade for a month of converted media. They bought tickets at a substantial discount and made up the difference by changing their spots for the month to promote the race. The only way you got one of their tickets was to buy a haircut. It got away from the tickets on the counter promotion.

I'm a firm believer is selling discounted tickets to rotary clubs, unions, church groups, scout groups, little league teams, etc. because those are typically new fans who otherwise wouldn't buy a ticket. The shelf life of those free ticket programs is typically 2-3 times per market. After that there is no buzz surrounding the show and there is no value to the product. It then kills the market for similar products to come in.

When I was in college we used to go watch our local AAA baseball team and we knew that if we made a little effort we could find free tickets because they were usually everywhere. There was one night that we decided to go to the game last minute but talked ourselves out of it because we weren't willing to pay the $7 to get in. The team, which finally went under, had trained its customers not to buy tickets.

Successful baseball teams still sell tickets but they get people in the door with concession offers, special appearances, creative advertising, giveaway items, fireworks shows…the things good racing promoters are still doing.

You notice that most of the groups that lived and died off of the free tickets are also the same programs that let the tail wag the dog? If they were giving the FANS what they want, they wouldn't have to give tickets away.

Selling tickets is what promoters do! Being a promoter is about tickets, toilets and trash. And if you do your job right it's also about traffic.