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The NHRA management led by president Tom Compton did something this year that greatly improved what both the fans at the track and those at home see of the race. They have removed all of the starting line TV cameras and crews and there were noticeably fewer photographers on the starting line. Kudos to the NHRA for that action. I think those fans paying $65 and up for a primo grandstand ticket near the starting line will greatly appreciate that view.
And let’s not forget the safety and track crews that keep the track in immaculate shape and do it very quickly. I remember the “good old days” when a major oil-down or crash could easily result in a two-hour or more race delay, a one-lane race track, and a final round at a national event that went off at close to midnight Sunday. Those things are pretty much a thing of the past at today’s NHRA national events thanks to policies instituted by the Compton management team.
Comparing current NHRA pro classes and national-event drag racing to what we geezers remember from the so-called Golden Age of drag racing is problematic at best. Today’s drag fans don’t want marathon qualifying sessions or race days for that matter. In my opinion they want to spend a maximum of eight hours or so at the track and get home at a reasonable hour. They obviously also don’t mind paying a lot more for tickets and food than what some of us think is fair. The number of fans attending the 2012 Winternationals over four days prove that. The race wasn’t a sellout by any means but these day almost no motorsports event, including the Indy 500 or the Daytona 500, is. The Winternationals had a crowd that any promoter would be glad to have.
I’m not saying that the NHRA is perfect or anywhere near it. Could the management make it better for fans, racers, and the sport’s manufacturers? Abso-freakin-lutely! The fact is that the NHRA has had steadily declining gross revenue and participant numbers over the last three or four years, but those factors do not keep the 21st century NHRA fans from coming to the races, and in the end, those fans decide if the show is worth the price of admission.
Nothing, not even drag racing, stays the same. Change is inevitable and no matter how much we geezers miss the so-called good old days they ain’t coming back. So park your angst at the front gate and put your unbiased butt in grandstand, buy a $10 margarita and watch the drag racing. I think you’ll find that NHRA drag racing is, in ESPN announcer Mike Dunn’s words, “Just a good old drag race” if you can afford the price of a ticket to watch.