New & Analysis

Shakeup at the ADRL

In a totally unexpected development Kenny Nowling, who invented the American Drag Racing League six years ago and then with the help of Texas businessmen and drag racers Dave Wood and Tommy Lipar made it into the most successful start-up drag racing sanctioning body since Larry Carrier started the International Hot Rod Association, has stepped down as CEO of that organization.

Nowling, who started both the American Drag Racing League and the Arabian Drag Racing League and has been the driving force behind the eighth-mile, all-doorslammer racing series, told me on Wednesday, November 17, that effective immediately he will have no role in the future operation of the American Drag Racing League.

Nowling has taken a new position for the country of Qatar to increase the presence of auto racing on a large scale in that part of the world and specifically the Arabian Drag Racing League, which is headquartered in Qatar. He will also oversee the building of a premier multi-use racing facility.

Look for a press release in the next 24 hours from the Al-Anabi Racing group that will explain the change in the management of the ADRL and explain Nowling’s future job.

Currently the day-to-day operation of the ADRL is being handled by the CEO of Al-Anabi USA, Tim McAmis. In the meantime the best information available from ADRL sources indicate that current ADRL Executive Vice President Jeff Fortune will soon assume duties as the CEO of the ADRL. Apparently the 2011 ADRL schedule will remain intact with the series returning to all of the races that were on the 2010 schedule.

There have been rumors circulating on the internet that Nowling’s departure from the organization that he started from scratch and built into arguably the second largest series in drag racing was due to improprieties by Mr. Nowling, but conversations with my sources inside the ADRL say there is absolutely nothing to those rumors. The fact that Nowling has signed a new contract to work for Sheikh Khalid Al Thani in developing a huge, mega-dollar, all-purpose racing facility in Qatar would indicate that there is no truth to those rumors.

It also appears that a majority of the present employees including Race Director Bubba Corzine and the rest of the ADRL staff will remain in place.

What the future of the ADRL will be remains to be seen. The hard fact is that the ADRL had no corporate Series sponsor in 2010 and currently has announced no corporate series sponsor for 2011. In the past, companies like Flowmaster and the National Guard filled that position and, although no figures were ever released, the assumption is that the series sponsors were paying in the seven-figure range for the privilege. That money now has to come from somewhere, and so far the economy is not cooperating.

In past years partial owners Wood and Lipar helped fund the operation until those two men sold their shares to Al-Anabi Racing USA, at which point the series was funded by that organization. That same organization also sponsors many of the ADRL’s Pro Nitrous and Pro Extreme teams, as well as the Al-Anabi race teams in the NHRA.

The concern of most ADRL racers and race promoters is how long and with how much money will Sheikh Al Thani continue to support both the American Drag Racing League and the Arabian Drag Racing League.

Without a major series sponsor, all of the operating capital will have to come from Al-Anabi Racing USA.

For the time being it appears that Sheikh Al Thani will continue to support the American Drag Racing League, and there has been no indication to the contrary, with a smooth transition from Nowling as the CEO to former Pro Mod World Champion racer turned racing businessman Tim McAmis and former VP Jeff Fortune taking over the helm of the company.

Business as usual seems to be the attitude of everyone I have talked to connected with the ADRL, but traditionally in business, and especially in the business of motorsports, a change in leadership generally means changes in the way the business is run.

One thing seems sure; businessmen such as Sheikh Al Thani generally separate their hobbies from their businesses. The Sheikh’s hobby and passion is drag racing and he surely expects no return on investment from his hobby. On the other hand, the ADRL is a business and I believe he expects his businesses to, at the least, not lose money.

The ADRL is the most popular new racing series in drag racing to come along in three decades. It has a large group of fans, racers, and sponsors who support it. In the end, any sanctioning body has to be able to support itself. That is the major task the new regime at the ADRL must deal with. Drag racing, and especially the fast doorslammer classes such as Ten Wide and Pro Stock, needs the ADRL.

DRO will be doing an exit interview with Mr. Nowling and it will be up next week.