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Going into this event, I found it amusing that many keyboard execs were wringing their hands about the Pomona grandstands not being jammed with rabid drag fans trying to grab any place left in the General Admission seats. After what I thought was a good Thursday and Friday Pomona crowd, Saturday and Sunday were way under capacity.
On the positive side, what a relief we weren’t crammed in like canned sardines in mustard sauce; there was room to stretch out. Maybe it is perspective, but a lighter crowd once the weekend hits makes for better seating of the remaining spectators, not good for NHRA’s coffers, but better for us as spectators.
While on the subject of butts in the seats, I want to guide NHRA Prez Tom Compton and a few of the elite NHRA brass out to the 1,000-foot grandstands, bring them in disguise, but make them sit with their customers to hear first-hand remarks about the unfolding show. It’s another form of guerilla marketing, but would be a cheap way to gauge the reaction of their ticket buyers. NHRA could learn more about their hardcore fans, the ones that are supposedly leaving our sport in droves because of 1,000-foot racing, the Countdown, 90% nitro, etc. I still don’t think that spectators are quickly leaving our sport; it has much more to do with today’s economy.
Speaking of Mr. Compton, please take the time to address the flock with a message for the members of the NHRA in the off-season; a State of the NHRA talk. Frequently during the year, NASCAR President Mike Helton appears on all SIRIUS Satellite NASCAR shows to take random phone calls discussing all aspects of their brand of racing with the public, the ticket buyer. While Helton has a much larger flock and a much bigger cash base, he somehow finds the time to talk with both commentators and John Q. Public often. He has a lot more issues filling seats than the NHRA does, yet Helton, the keeper of the 800-pound gorilla, finds the time to interact publically.
Frankly, I was waiting for Larry Dixon to be crowned Top Fuel Champ and for Matt Hagan to start his Funny Car Championship dynasty at Pomona. OK, batting .500 is just fine in any league. Later at a Sunday evening TV viewing party of the race broadcast, I watched as ESPN treated a lonely, defeated Hagan with dignity, especially good because he is the kind of driver NHRA needs for the future, once John Force retires.
Another driver for the future has to be Finals Top Fuel winner Antron Brown; he has opinions, personality and a champion’s presence. Also I have to confess that it looks like the new-fangled “Countdown” actually made for an exciting end this year.
One last item. Congratulations to NHRA for placement of the vehicles included in the Pomona Golden Corral. The Corral showcased some of the best examples of our drag racing history, gave out info on the Heritage Series, showed off the 2010 Series winners and their racecars, and provided a final destination for many fans before they headed home. The thousands of spectators who came through that area were treated to another dose of nitro from the generous Cacklefest participants and the fans cheered!