Volume X, Issue 5, Page 99

Sportsman Council:
Pick Your Battles Wisely

s many of you sportsman racers may know, when former NHRA Sportsman Liaison Len Imbrogno left the fold, he was replaced by the newly-formed Sportsman Racing Advisory Council.  Instead of having one person as a go-between, each type of sportsman class now has one rep per division.  With no precedent in place, expectations of the board’s purpose and results it may achieve are all over the board.  Make no mistake, the uncertainty is on both sides of the meeting table.  I’m sure NHRA is wondering how this project is going to work out as well.

In talking to many racers and seeing some of the feedback on my message boards, expectations range from one extreme to the next.  Some think that the inmates finally are running the asylum, while others have little expectations and think this is nothing more than a backslapping committee, more for show than anything else.  In the short run, the racers have more to gain and lose based on the success of this council.  In the long run, NHRA must be careful to keep up with the times to maintain car counts and keep that revenue coming in.

Plain and simple, its politics and some flat out don’t want to deal with it.  After all, this is a hobby to most, albeit a serious one, most racers have enough politics to deal with at their job, and the last thing they want to deal with is more on their ‘fun time.’  I speak that from experience of trying to start my own Pro Sportsman Association in 2001, and assisting Shelly Howard and Bruce Bowler with the now-defunct Top Alcohol Racers Association. 

That is why the current representatives on the board must pick their battles wisely.  I say battles as a figure of speech, but the last thing this council needs to do is try to wrestle a major issue right out of the hole.  On the other side of the equation, tackling trivial issues only does little to get the faith of the racers behind this council.

Much like a representative in congress, these reps are elected, and hold a vote on issues pertaining to their category.  However, I have to believe their votes are more on a ‘subcommittee’ level rather than a final vote.  Make no mistake about it, NHRA will have final say on all issues.  That’s why the council members need to build a good rapport with NHRA and start off with some issues that are realistic to get some progress.  For instance, TARA was able to get the number of restricted area passes for alcohol teams increased from eight to twelve.  A small gain, yes, but that shows a measurable progress that can open the door to some of the bigger issues facing the sportsman classes.

Another thing to keep in mind is that while these representatives are in place to respond to feedback from racers in their division, when an issue does come to vote, don’t think for a minute a rep is going to vote against their own interest.  Without an electronic method, much like online entry, the last thing we want is for a rep to have to get a vote from each racer in their division, and then act on those votes.  That would be a full time job.  In my opinion, it ultimately led to the end of TARA.  Sadly, when Shelly died, nobody had the time or the fire to keep it going.  That wasn’t the only issue, but as big of a ship as TARA was to keep afloat, trying to keep the entire sportsman contingent as a voting committee would be a monumental task.  So, while we all want our voices heard, if we want anything done, the reps must be able to act with feedback in mind, but not having to wait for an internal vote from their division.

The first thing that comes to many racers’ minds is payouts.  That’s an issue that needs to be addressed somehow, but if that’s the first thing this council takes to the table, NHRA is going give little credence to the council.

Here are some issues I think the respective councils should take a look at as winnable battles:

TAD/TAFC: Hospitality and souvenirs.  As it is taking more and more money to run a competitive alcohol team, teams are having to rely more and more on sponsor dollars to compete.  Unfortunately, alcohol racers are not guaranteed the option of being able to buy an extra hospitality pit space, if desired.  Hospitality can be a huge function of delivering ROI to a sponsor.  While pit space is a concern, we’re talking about 20 teams buying up $2,500 hospitality areas.  For planning purposes, there could be a deadline associated with reserving a spot.  Also, teams should have the option of selling souvenirs.  If NHRA would just allow one sportsman souvenir trailer, I’m quite a sure a collective of racers could be developed to fund the trailer going to all the races.  Again, souvenir sales could mean a lot to an existing or potential sponsor.

Comp: Judging from some discussions on InsideCompRacing.com, adjusting the altitude factor seems to be a winnable battle.  It’s not hard to prove the factors are off, and there are several people working on equations to fix the factor. 

Top Dragster/Top Sportsman: Right now the Top Dragster and Top Sportsman classes are featured at only one NHRA national event other than sports nationals: the Dart Top Sportsman Shootout in Atlanta.  Granted, it’s going to take finding the sponsors to underwrite such shootouts, but I think this is an issue everyone can agree on.  What the council needs is permission to set something up.  Maybe NHRA says “Okay, you can have a TD shootout in Dallas if you come up with X dollars.” 

One thing all the sportsman classes need to push towards is better promotion of their classes.  Based on some recent correspondence I’ve had with NHRA, they are very willing to accommodate this.  NHRA is currently open to doing some informative spots on the Motel 6 Vision on each class to educate drag racing fans to what they’re seeing.  This would be great for the sportsman ranks to get fans informed.  An informed fan can become an avid fan, and everybody wins there.

Well, now that you’re on the tire, go forth and spread the good word.  Don’t forget to drop us a line, or stop by one of my websites at www.InsideTopAlcohol.com, www.InsideCompRacing.com or www.InsideFastBrackets.com. 

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