The business of drag racing
Where is NHRA’s Pro Stock Motorcycle class headed?
Don’t tell me down the quarter-mile.
Does the division have a direction? A clearly visible path toward a bigger, more popular, and prosperous future?
It’s a legitimate question. Especially since NHRA continues on its “own” with the collapse of its acquisition by HD Partners, and the expected – or at least hoped for – added financial and marketing resources.
The answer: Not that I can see.
Let me be clear: I’m a fan of the two-wheelers. Riders like Terry Vance, Dave Schultz, John Myers, Matt Hines and Angelle Sampey have earned a respected place in drag racing history. Peggy Llewelyn’s run to the Final Four was one of the last year’s best stories.
In our modern media era, however, perception equals reality. And my perception is the motorcycle class lacks direction.
Competition isn’t the issue. (Except for those annoying red lights, and there were only three at Gainesville.) Matt Smith earned last season’s Powerade championship on the year’s last pass, edging Andrew Hines by just six points. There were seven different winners in 16 events.
Even during each of Hines’ three consecutive title runs, from 2004-2006, eight riders steered into 15 winner’s circles. For fans of the brands, it’s Harley vs. Suzuki, a rough equivalent of NASCAR’s Chevy vs. Toyota.
From late in the ’07 campaign to Matt Guidera’s victory to begin ’08, however, bike business buzz was a microcosm of the national economy. The news was so bad, one would have thought all potential sponsors were condo flippers.
The Army ended its involvement, meaning popular Sampey and Antron Brown were out of a job with Don Schumacher’s powerful team. For reasons still not clear to me, Llewelyn lost her ride. Smith struggled to find backing for his Buell so he could come back and defend his crown.
Kenny Koretsky’s NitroFish company did come to Smith’s aid. The colorful Koretsky called the bikes “by far the best bang for your buck.”
That’s probably true. The problem is, not enough companies know it.
If that’s going to change, team owners must get going.
The owners should pool some of their resources. For the common good, they should retain both a marketing and publicity consultant, paid to promote their collective interests.
The bikers – always shuffled to the end of NHRA race reports – need some positive and consistent media coverage. That increased visibility would help bring in new sponsors. And, maybe, keep a few more spectators in the stands instead of using that time to cruise the nitro pits. Too bad. They’re missing some good stuff.
Fair warning to team owners: There are plenty of Big Talkers in this industry, people who promise a lot, but don’t have a proven track record of results. Do your homework, then choose well, and wisely.
You’ll have to be prepared to invest for the long-term. Depending on how sales commission percentages are negotiated, quality representation will cost about $150,000 – to start. Yeah, I just heard that big swallowing sound. Especially since the entire Powerade top-10 points fund is $127,100.
I know owners in the old Pro Stock Truck class tried hiring some outside help. Mistakes were made. That doesn’t mean the idea wasn’t valid.
Don’t be scared-off by the risk of political entanglements with NHRA. In truth, the Glendora management shouldn’t object. It would be nice to think there’s enough manpower and budget to promote PSM like Top Fuel and Funny Car. Only those who breathe-in too many nitro fumes think that’s reality.
It’s not going to take a Donald Trump to build-up the bikes. It will, however, take a proactive leader to get the group fired-up. And working with Compton & Co. to make it more successful.
Will they do it?
How bad do they want it?