News & Analysis

A realistic look at the new ADRL

The biggest story in the doorslammer racing world in 2010 and 2011 revolves around the American Drag Racing League and the major changes that racing series has gone through in the last six months. After two races under the new management, let’s take a look at the “new” ADRL

One significant change is that ADRL founder Kenny Nowling was sacked by ADRL owner Sheikh Khalid Al Thani and replaced by well-known racecar builder and component manufacturer, Tim McAmis. According to my sources, McAmis was the CEO of Al-Anabi Racing USA when he assumed the additional duties as CEO of the ADRL.

The second really significant change that McAmis instituted was to scrap the “Battle for the Belts” program and replace it with a traditional points championship and points fund. As well, he increased the racer payout per event. Both those changes were welcomed by most in the racing community.

Other changes included firing Bubba and Letha Corzine, Race Director and Tower Chief respectively, along with some other staffers. Vice President Jeff Fortune and the sales staff remained with the company.

To say the least, the change in management has not been amicable in any way and there have been a lot of rumors regarding the reasons for Nowling’s departure, none of them complementary or proven. Right now the only people who know the true facts about that situation, Nowling, McAmis, and Sheikh Al Thani, refuse to be interviewed. In the case of the ADRL, they don’t even return repeated phone calls and emails from DRO. 

The public image of the ADRL would indicate that everything is just fine. And the fact is that as long as His Highness is willing to personally finance the ADRL, everything will be fine. But without Sheikh Al Thani and his financial backing, the ADRL, as it currently operates, would probably have a serious problem continuing to do business.
Let’s just review a few facts regarding the ADRL.

First, while Kenny Nowling was still CEO last year, he told me in several conversations that the average cost to produce an ADRL event including salaries, purse, and TV production costs, was somewhere north of $225,000 per event.
Second, currently the ADRL does not sell tickets or charge the professional racers entry fees, so the only apparent sources of steady revenue for the ADRL are parking fees (which range from $20-$30 per car), souvenir sales, and title rights sponsorships.  

Third, the series is without a major corporate sponsor like former series sponsors Flowmaster and the National Guard, who actually funded the series.  

Simple math indicates that an ADRL event would have to park 10,000 or more cars at $20 each to get close to generating enough income to cover expenses. They haven’t come close to those numbers this year, and going to smaller venues like Palm Beach International Raceway and Memphis -- which can’t even seat 10,000 people -- would seem to indicate that making a profit is not part of the ADRL's current business plan. 

To be truthful, the fact that the ADRL has had no major money sponsors in the last two years means nothing as long as Sheikh Khalid Al Thani continues to make up any revenue shortfall the series races may have. 

Aside from now owning the series, the Sheikh’s Al-Anabi Racing and the Speedtech Nitrous company (which I believe is also owned by the Sheikh) directly sponsor close to a dozen teams in all of the professional classes except for Extreme Pro Stock.

The amount of money he has spent with engine builders, car builders, and others involved in the sport is enormous and has made some people wealthy by anyone’s standards. So, if he were to suddenly decide to quit drag racing, it could be devastating to many teams and manufacturers whose premier customers these days are connected with Al-Anabi Racing. 

In many ways, the current situation with the ADRL reminds one of the Evan Knoll/Torco era at the former IHRA. Knoll came to the IHRA and guaranteed the purses for the nitro classes and poured money into the Pro Mod and Pro Stock classes. Torco livery was on many IHRA cars just as the Al-Anabi brand appears on ADRL and NHRA cars. Torco and Evan Knoll even subsidized an online drag racing magazine.
At the time, many veteran observers in the drag racing business world and press questioned whether the Torco business model could support the amount of money being spent and promised. There were people asking where the money was coming from.