I wonder what the NHRA suits thought would happen when they started allowing racers to bring in enough of their own rolling stock to open a used truck and trailer sales lot? I don’t know what the solution is but I’m sure that when the number and size of tow vehicles and trailers cause sportsman racers to not be able to race at national events something is drastically wrong.

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Tuesday, March 27: Looking for some encouraging racing news, I made the three-hour drive to Wheatland, MO, to attend a press conference at Forrest Lucas’s fabulous multi-purpose track near Kansas City. All of the Lucas Oil-backed motorsports series were represented and Forrest himself spoke and answered questions from the press for about an hour and a half.

And there was some good news. One of the things Mr. Lucas told us was that he had convinced the CBS TV Network to broadcast selected races from all of the motorsports series that Lucas Oil backs... with the exception of two. Unfortunately, those two were the Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series and the NHRA Full Throttle Series.

My question to Forrest was how he convinced the CBS Network to air broadcasts of much smaller race series at specified times each week while the best deal the NHRA could get from ESPN2 was “whenever we feel like running the shows.” ESPN2 will evidently use any excuse to pre-empt the NHRA shows on Saturday and Sunday, often putting them on the air extremely late in the viewing day. A recent example was the 3 a.m. Sunday morning airing of the Gatornationals qualifying show.

The answer from Lucas was he had to show CBS how doing so made good business sense and he delivered a show that his company packaged and the CBS brass liked. He did say that it would cost the NHRA much more than they currently pay ESPN for a similar deal with CBS.

A source of mine in the TV production industry (not connected with Lucas Oil) is of the opinion that CBS probably would have charged the Lucas Oil drag boat series around $300,000 to air a 90-minute race show in 2011. Of course that price wouldn’t include any production charges. That made we wonder if, with Forrest Lucas’s help, maybe the U.S. Nationals could be broadcast on one of the “Big Three”  major networks (like CBS) as the Daytona 500 and the Indy 500 are.

It would appear from their tax returns that the NHRA paid ESPN about a half-million dollars per weekend to produce and broadcast qualifying and race-day shows in 2010. Maybe a deal could be worked out between NHRA, ESPN and CBS. There is precedence for this kind of cooperation.

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Speaking of the NHRA and their ESPN broadcasts, I wonder, when ESPN ran the Saturday Night qualifying show from Gainesville around 3 a.m. Sunday, if there was any rebate to NHRA or their sponsors considering the lack of viewers that show got at that time? Tom Compton should have demanded some restitution if none was offered.

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One of the highlights of my trip to Wheatland was a boat ride on the 4,000-foot boat drag track/man-made lake built on the property by the Lucas team. While NHRA drag racing faces some popularity and money issues, drag boat racing seems to be enjoying a renaissance thanks in large part to the investment of Forrest and Charlotte Lucas in that sport. 

I like drag boat racing as much as any other drag racing, but for many years it was something of a bloodsport with all of the fatalities. Now, thanks to the enclosed driver compartment that is mandatory in all of the sport’s top professional classes, it is safer for the driver than it has ever been in the past.