News & Analysis

NHRA tax return 2009: The returns are in

The NHRA’s 2009 tax returns are now public record and in the musical sense you’d have to say that last year’s record is a solid, gut bucket Blues number as opposed to the normal upbeat Rock and Roll tune the NHRA’s has been releasing the last five years or so.

In 2009 the NHRA remained at over $100,000,000 in annual revenues. That’s the good news. The bad news is that NHRA revenues dropped from just under $122,000,000 in 2008 to just a tick over $108,000,000 in 2009! That a $14,000,000 drop. To put it in drag racing terms, it has about the same effect on the NHRA as did the NHRA forcing Pro Mod teams that use superchargers to reduce their overdrive from 20% over crankshaft speed to 14% over crank speed. Both the racers and the NHRA will have to develop a new combination to return to their previous performance. Somehow in 2009 NHRA management had to find a way to make do with around $14,000,000 fewer dollars than they had in ‘08. And I’m guessing they had a similar problem in 2010.  So, let’s take a peek at some of the spending numbers for 2009 compared to 2008 found in NHRA’s tax returns for those years.

In 2009 the NHRA Board of Directors were paid just about $1,750,000 and in 2008 that total was just about the same at just a tick over $1,750,000. It should be noted that all of the board members had their pay reduced in 2009. NHRA president Tom Compton took about a 10% pay cut, as did the rest of the members of the Board and other execs. Tom Compton and the rest of his staff deserve some praise for that move.

The exception to that trend was the senior director of sales and business development, John Siragusa. His salary went up to about $423,000 in 2009 from $356.000 in 2008 because he worked his tail off and sold more.

In an effort to improve the bottom line for the company, total salaries dropped from $20 million plus in 2008 to $17 million plus in 2009.

In 2008 ticket sales revenue was $52 million and in 2009 the number dropped to just $42 million. Membership dues in ’08 amounted to $4,557,000 in 2008; in 2009 that number was down slightly to $4,400,000.

The National Dragster, which has long been a cash cow for the NHRA, took a big hit with revenues dropping from a reported $8.5 million in 2008 to $6.7 million in 2009.

As we all did in 2009, the NHRA had to tighten its belt. Almost every line item on the 2009 NHRA return showed the results of Tom Compton’s successful cost-cutting measures to compensate for the decline in attendance, advertising revenue and sponsorships for the NHRA.

One NHRA executive asked me privately why my readers and the racers were interested in their tax return and did I think it was any of their business? I replied, “When you force competitors and team members to join the NHRA and they send the sanctioning body around $4,000,000 at year with no control over what is done with that money, I think they have a right to know where their dues are being spent.”                   

I hope you agree.

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