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While I was out of commision for an extended period of time I watched a lot of sports, including auto racing on TV, and had time to think about the sport of drag racing. I made a lot of notes so it’s time to empty out the old notebook.
Unless the X-DRL gets a massive infusion of CASH I just don’t see how it can survive. Even if the start-up series does get the cash to solve their immediate problem of paying their racers, it won’t solve their main problem and that is the series is simply not generating enough cash to sustain itself. Despite the best efforts and intentions of all connected with the X-DRL, they must have a business plan that generates enough income to at the very least pay the racers. The fact is that isn’t happening with the X-DRL. And one more thing how can the X-DRL add a ten-wide class when they evidently can’t pay for the classes they currently run?
The NHRA opener at Epping looked really good on the TV broadcast with the grandstands full of folks, but realize that when the IHRA raced there it had 8,000+ permanent grandstands and even if they added 5,000 temporary seats for the race and filled them every day that still isn’t a big crowd by NHRA’s past standards. The question I have is can the car club owners of New England Dragway actually invest the multi-millions of dollars to upgrade the facility to the level NHRA has required from its other national event tracks? Evidently the NHRA was so anxious to have a presence in the Boston area (which is the fifth largest media market in the U.S.) that they made a lot of concessions to have a race at New England Dragway.
As I was watching the NHRA events from Topeka, E-town, Bristol and Epping I was struck again by how the races are all alike and predictable. I also noted that it has been a very,very long time since I have seen an NHRA national event (or for that matter any motorsports event) on TV with really full grandstands like we saw in the 1980s and ‘90s at Pomona, Indianapolis, Englishtown and others.
That isn’t to say that some NHRA venues like Norwalk and Gainesville still don’t attract huge crowds, but overall for the last five years attendance at the races, TV viewership of NHRA national events and corporate sponsorship has steadily declined. NHRA president for life, Tom Compton, admitted as much when he acknowledged in a Sports Business Journal article earlier this year that the NHRA has been losing money for the past couple of years. at least partly because of the previously noted reasons.
I will be very surprised if the NHRA tax return for 2012 doesn’t show another drop in gross revenue and we see even more cost cutting from the management at the National Hot Rod Association and perhaps the long overdue overhaul of the National Event program since it is obvious that something has to change
The number one question I get these days when talking to track operators, series officials, sponsors and team owners is how I feel about the future of drag racing.
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