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I’m getting more than a little concerned that NHRA drag racing is becoming less and less a sport for the average drag racer and more an elitist hobby for the rich and retired. It is painfully obvious that the days of anyone but millionaires being competitive in any professional class is almost impossible. (Pro Stock Bike racer Matt Smith might be the only exception to that rule.)
I think it is way too late in the game for any changes that could make the nitro, Pro Stock and Pro Mod classes accessible to the average racer, but I do think that the NHRA could make some small changes in policy that would increase interest and participation in NHRA drag racing. (I did come up with this idea while discussing this issue with Gateway Motorsports Park VP Chris Blair.)
One of the great experiences I’ve had as a drag racer was when my brother and I flat-towed our D/S Ford Galaxie from Amarillo, Texas, to race at the World Finals in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1968. It was a life changing experience that hooked my brother and me on drag racing for life. In those days racing at an NHRA national event was available to almost anyone who wanted to go.
Sadly, that isn’t the case anymore. Racing at an NHRA event requires spending lots of time, effort and money just to be eligible to enter.
In today’s NHRA World most local racers who race at a national event track or one of the tracks in the same NHRA Division have almost no chance of being eligible to enter when that track holds its national event. The sportsman classes generally are filled with NHRA professional or semi-professional sportsman racers, leaving almost no room for the local weekend racers to compete. And therein lies the real problem.
The NHRA national events ought to be gateway events for local rank and file racers and should afford the local racers, their families and sponsors a chance to enjoy the NHRA national event experience.
When the NHRA came to my current home track of Gateway Motorsports Park, only a very small percentage of racers from the St. Louis area even tried to go to the race. I asked some of the racers who live in my subdivision why they didn’t enter the race. There were two reasons that most of them cited: 1) They didn’t want to pay the $300-400 entry fee, get just two qualifying laps and then have to race a professional sportsman racer, and 2) They didn’t have enough NHRA points to qualify. So most of them and their families just opted out of going to the NHRA national event at all. That is a shame.
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