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I gotta say that if you haven’t engaged in a conversation like this over the last season or two of NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing, you either don’t get out much or you left the Big Show fold a long time ago.
In my opinion, the NHRA Big Show is on life support while being run by marketers who are still stinging from the missed opportunity to “cash out” when the Eddie Hartenstein HD Partners deal crumbled a few years ago.
You remember Eddie… in a homespun press conference he told us that he and his buddies used to sneak into the Pomona Fairgrounds to watch drag racing while he was going to college in Pomona (nudge, nudge, wink, wink). However, the golden parachutes for Compton & Co. failed to open on the Big Show Deal of the Century, and I doubt anyone will ever see ol’ Eddie around the Fairplex again.
The NHRA suits, under the (in my opinion) misguided and sometimes confused stewardship of Tom Compton, have managed to suck the fun and glamour out of the “Big Show” and they are struggling to conceal that. In December, NHRA’s Media Department excitedly proclaiming a milestone moment when they broke through the 300,000 LIKE mark on the NHRA Facebook page. I don’t believe that event will translate into more ticket sales.
What I see is an NHRA being run for the most part by passionless, never-been-drag-racers whose only real trips down a dragstrip were behind the wheel of a Pontiac GXP on what they used to call Media Days.
After failures like Pro Stock Truck, country music stars singing the National Anthem, the NHRA Sport Compact Series debacle, and last year’s dismal debut of the NHRA Unleashed series, it is clear to me that the oft talked of “next level” the Compton regime touted at every press conference at one time was attained by hitting the down button on the elevator rather than the up. I say 1,000-foot racing and the homogenization of professional drag racing’s top professional classes delivers to the fans and press a sanitized-for-your-protection motorsports removed of all innovation and individuality.
Maybe it’s time for us dues-paying NHRA members to, in essence, “Occupy NHRA.” Let’s send a petition to Glendora’s suits demanding that they assemble an Oversight Board made up of longtime NHRA members -- a ten-member board that includes some retired racing veterans to be added to the NHRA Board of Directors -- voting on issues that affect all of NHRA drag racing, from Professional through Jr. Dragsters.
Today’s NHRA is broken and I don’t believe that a contrived (or actual) Alexis DeJoria –vs– Courtney Force ROY dust up this year is going to reverse the NHRA popularity plunge and return it to a prominent position in motorsports. That turnaround will require the NHRA suits to make drastic changes in the way they do business, and I don’t see that happening. Not as long as the core management executives at NHRA keep getting their bloated six-figure salaries.