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At the risk of -- as Bernie Partridge once famously said -- beating my head against a dead horse, I have a few thoughts about the generally acknowledged declining attendance at NHRA events.
First, I must say that the racing we see at NHRA events currently has never been more competitive or entertaining at ANY other time in the history of the sport.
If you take the last three races at Epping, Joliet, and Norwalk as a sampling, the nitro class qualifying ladders are starting to resemble what we’ve seen from the Pro Stock class for a couple of decades. The qualifying ET spread between the number-one qualifier and the sixteenth qualifier is less than two-tenths of a second.
That, my fellow drag race fans, is the “level playing field” that the NHRA management has striven to achieve for decades. In Top Fuel 3.70/325 laps are common. Funny Cars routinely run in the 4.0/320 range. At the last three races the driver often was the determining factor in who won and lost, and that is a good thing.
There is currently no Don Garlits, John Force or Bob Glidden dominating a class, nor is there a dominant tuner like Austin Coil, Lee Beard, or Alan Johnson giving any one driver a tune-up superior to anyone else’s in the sport right now. In my opinion the only dominant figures in the sport currently are the multiple-team owners.
So the question remains, why are the crowds at the NHRA events steadily dropping? I think that Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes character provided a solution. When trying find an answer to a problem he said, “When you have eliminated all which is impossible, then whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”
At all three of the most recent races, the weather was as good as or better than any promoter could expect, especially in the middle of the summer. So we’ll eliminate weather as the problem.
As I have said before, the racing has been excellent by any measure. So that wouldn’t be the reason for the fans staying away.
At all three of those races and all events this season a $50-$60 ticket and expensive food are the norm. So I say the fans have made it clear that they aren’t going to pay that kind of money to sit on an aluminum bleacher seat for four to six hours watching races that take less than four seconds to complete.
The tracks are in a no win situation. The amount of money they have to spend up front to hold a race is forcing them to charge 50-60 bucks for a ticket to have any chance of making a reasonable profit or at least not lose money. They are afraid to gamble on making a percentage of their seats more affordable, hoping to make up the difference through concession revenue.
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