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Drag racing adapts and changes
I’ve always contended that the main attraction drag racing has for me is that it is constantly changing and totally unpredictable. I’ve never felt surer of that than I do today. I’ll give you a few examples.
Who would have ever believed they would see the day that the National Hot Rod Association would be challenged for the title of drag racing’s most popular and powerful sanctioning body by a Midwest-based sanctioning body called the American Drag Racing League, which caters strictly to doorslammer racers and fans and only races eighth-mile tracks?
If I had written a story in DRO three or four years ago that a former repo-man and bracket racer turned promoter would start his own sanctioning body that featured doorslammer racing only, free admission, no charge to the racers to race, would actually attract bigger crowds at tracks that host NHRA national events than the NHRA races and would have a major non-racing series sponsor, most of you would have been asking yourself what the hell I had been smoking and drinking to cause that kind of grand hallucination.
Yet today the American Drag Racing League and its president and founder, Kenny Nowling, with help from race team owners Dave Wood and Tommy Lipar have turned the ADRL into the second most powerful series in drag racing … and they aren’t done yet.
How popular is the series? Well consider this scenario. Last weekend (Aug. 7-8) at Gateway International Raceway the ADRL event attracted so many fans on Friday night that the Illinois State Police quit letting cars and spectators enter the racetrack.
“It’s full, no more spectators allowed,” the patrolman told Racing Net Source Production Manager Marissa Gaither as she tried to get into the track after waiting in traffic for an hour and forty-five minutes.
In the prior 30+ years of drag racing national events under the AHRA, IHRA, and NHRA sanctions that has never happened before. And the same thing happened on Saturday. And it has happened at other tracks that have hosted NHRA and IHRA national events when the ADRL holds races.
Make no mistake, the ADRL is challenging the NHRA for sponsor money, fans and racers. The fact that the ADRL has attracted the National Guard as a series sponsor and major food chains such as Hardees and Pizza Hut as race sponsors hasn’t gone unnoticed in Glendora, CA, and Norwalk, OH.
The NHRA’s team owners are paying attention too. At the St. Louis race one of NHRA’s most important team owners, Don Schumacher, came to the race and spent the day. He had no comment regarding his being at the event but Mr. Schumacher doesn’t attend races where his teams aren’t involved for pleasure. He was there to see what kind of business opportunities the ADRL might offer.