NHRA World Finals Ruminations

A pox on mainstream print and electronic media editors and program directors!

No matter how compelling a story an NHRA race might have, the execs that decide what makes the sports section of the papers and the rundown for ESPN’s Sports Center shows apparently aren’t going to cover it unless there is a bad crash or injury. The lack of coverage in major newspapers and on network TV sports programming of the recently completed NHRA World Finals was the last straw for me.

The NHRA’s professional class World Championships for 2012 were all decided at the final event of a 23-race season and were held in sports-crazy Los Angeles. The Funny Car and Top Fuel champions weren’t determined until the second to last and last rounds of the season respectively.  On top of that, the Top Fuel Champion is the first African-American in the history of the NHRA to win a professional class World Championship. 

The race had all of the elements a great sports story by anyone’s standards.  Yet the iconic ESPN Network’s Sportscenter 10 PM and 11 PM broadcasts that I watched Sunday night here in St. Louis didn’t even mention the NHRA World Finals, which had been concluded several hours prior to the broadcast.

ESPN -- the network that gets paid by NHRA to broadcast all NHRA national events -- gave no coverage or mention of the World Finals!  However Sports Center  did have the time and interest to devote two segments of the Sunday, November 11, 10 p.m. broadcast to that day’s NASCAR race, including extended coverage of a pit brawl that happened after the race.

I just cannot understand, from a career sports reporter point of view, why the mainstream print and electronic media continue in large part to ignore drag racing. Again I say the NHRA World Finals had it all: an incredibly dramatic ending to a 23-race nationwide series, an extremely quotable and popular first time African-American champion in Top Fuel, and distaff racer Courtney Force (a Force!) in the final round against Hispanic racer Cruz Pedregon, a former World Champ, yet the genius program director of Sports Center at ESPN ignored the race as did most of the major market daily newspapers. My hometown paper, the St. Louis Post Dispatch, founded by Joseph Pulitzer and once one of the best newspapers in the world, only ran raw results (agate) and absolutely no race story -- and this city hosts one of the NHRA’s 23 national events. I call that sloppy journalism!

Just for grins I called a fellow editor in the Atlanta area to see if the Atlanta Journal Constitution ran anything about the race. The answer was NO! Isn’t Atlanta the home of the Coca-Cola Company, the series sponsor?

I wonder why any hardcore drag racing fan or business continues to spend money with or cater to national networks and newspapers? In view of the treatment the NHRA is getting, I wonder why NHRA, instead of continuing to extend their contract with ESPN, doesn’t at least shop the series around to some other network (can you say the new NBC Sports Network) that might actually give drag racing the coverage it warrants?

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