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Time to re-think? There’s more drag racing than just with the NHRA and IHRA
Almost every manufacturer and magazine management person I’ve talked to recently will tell you, if they are honest, that their business or circulation is down compared to the numbers they’ve enjoyed the past 10 years or so, and that includes the Internet. A well respected Internet site (compete.com) that measures traffic for internet magazines like DRO, Competition Plus and NHRA.com show that NHRA.com’s traffic is down more than 60 percent year-to-date, CompetitionPlus.com is down more than 30 percent and DRO is down more than 3 percent.
I think what those numbers mean is that if you depend on just one sanctioning body or race series to drive sales or circulation, as that sanctioning body goes, so goes your business.
I made the decision long ago that no single drag racing series or discipline was going to dominate the content of DRO. As a result, at last count we cover almost 40 drag racing series in magazine; from sand drags to drag boats we cover them all.
I really think there is a business lesson for all of us who depend on drag racers and drag racing to supply consumers with what we have to offer whether it is words and pictures or connecting rods and pistons.
For most of my professional life as a fan, competitor, journalist and photographer, the NHRA was the 800-lb gorilla in drag racing. Racers bitched about the way they were treated (often with good reason), but if you wanted to race at the best tracks against the best racers and get the most recognition, then your only option was the National Hot Rod Association of Wally Parks, then Dallas Gardner and now Tom Compton.
Love it or hate it, NHRA drag racing is the “Big Show.” The fastest cars, biggest names, best sponsors, best in-house magazine, best TV program and the best racetracks have all been locked up by the NHRA for decades.
So, sponsors, racers, manufacturers, journalists and fans all have acceded to the NHRA. We’ve taken what they offer and most of the times kept our heads down and our mouths shut. When the NHRA management team headed by Tom Compton came to power and introduced the concept of “monetizing” the sport, we paid more for entry fees, more for a membership, more for a hot dog and a beer, and lived with a sportsman purse that hasn’t increased significantly recently.
Now it appears that the NHRA as we’ve known it for the past 30 years is going through some drastic changes in order to survive whether they or we like it or not.
For the first time in decades, despite adding $1,000,000 to the pro purses in 2008, NHRA national events more often than not attract the minimum number of entries to fill Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock fields, and often the “field fillers” don’t show up until Saturday.