News & Analysis

The ADRL - Al-Anabi dust-up is a classic drag racing drama

The 2013 eighth-mile fast doorslammer drag racing season was a disaster both from a financial and public relations point of view.

First, the fledgling X-DRL failed miserably, owing money to a lot of their racers.

Then, at the ADRL’s last race of the season, a few racers were paid but most weren’t for the Battle for the Belts at Rockingham. Some racers reportedly got NSF checks, although to date no racer has been willing to go on the record as holding a bad check from the ADRL.

Reacting to massive criticism, ADRL president Kenny Nowling sent out a press release last month (November) saying the reason for some of the Battle of the Belts racers not getting paid was that a sponsor (which he did not name) had failed to deliver money as promised. In the press release he threw himself on his sword, acknowledging that he owed the racers the money. He committed to getting them paid and said he was working to raise the necessary funds to pay them. That first press release from the ADRL was widely circulated in the media, including DRO.  

Evidently that press release struck a nerve with the unnamed sponsor, as very shortly thereafter Donald Greenbaum, CEO of Al-Anabi Racing USA, sent a statement (exclusively to Competition Plus and Drag Illustrated and not printed in DRO because it was not sent to us) claiming that all funds promised by Sheikh  KH Al-Thani to fund the ADRL and the Battle for the Belts race had been delivered to Kenny Nowling.

That statement from Al-Anabi Racing USA proved that there indeed was some kind of financial agreement between Kenny Nowling and Sheikh Khalid Al-Thani.

So now the two parties are waging a very rancorous and public fight, but doing so without furnishing the media or the public with any real proof as to what kind of deal Nowling and the Sheikh actually agreed to regarding funding the purse structure of the ADRL and the Battle for the Belts bonus race. There appears to be no signed contract.

DRO did not print Greenbaum’s letter because he did not send it to us and we chose not to publish Nowling’s second press release since there is nothing to prove what either party claims. In the news business it is called a “He said, she said” situation. It may keep the chat rooms buzzing, but it has no place in professional journalism until there is some verifiable proof one way or the other.

What caused this fiasco is both very interesting and classic.

You can make a case that  ego -- the bane of motorsports in general -- is the driving force that has caused a rift between former friends and partners, Kenny Nowling and Sheikh Khalid Al-Thani, and may have led to Nowling being fired from the ADRL after it was sold to Al-Anabi Racing USA and being replaced by car builder Tim McAmis.

When Al-Anabi Racing USA eventually shed itself of president Tim McAmis, the ADRL was put up for sale and, despite reportedly higher bids from other buyers, was bought by Nowling and his partner Jack Switzer through their business, Fight Hard MMA LLC. At the time of the sale a group headed by Texas investor Jeff Mitchell and some former ADRL employees announced the formation of an eighth-mile series, the X-DRL, that would be a direct competitor with the ADRL. It was obvious to almost everyone except the X-DRL group that there are not enough eighth-mile doorslammer racers, money, sponsors, or tracks for two identical doorslammer series to exist at the same time.

Nowling says the Sheikh wanted the ADRL to be the winner of this battle and one way to help that happen was to significantly increase the series purses.  According to the second press release from Nowling, that was done on Sheikh Al-Thani’s word. That increase in the event purses was in addition to a supposedly guaranteed $500,000 purse for a Battle for the Belts at Rockingham.

Now that the season is completed, the two principals have descended into a bitter fight, mostly waged through press releases and accusations on various message boards and chat rooms. We have racers berating and making accusations directed at the ADRL and Kenny Nowling but refusing to go on record about the matter.

The end result so far is that all parties concerned have done nothing but tarnish their own and the ADRL’s reputations and credibility.

So the question is, what facts do we actually know in this mess? Neither the ADRL nor Al-Anabi Racing USA have produced any written proof (contracts) to prove their claims against each other.

We know that the ADRL has received $630,000 from Al-Anabi Racing USA or its owner. That fact has been verified by both parties.

We know that the ADRL so far has paid out in excess of $1,000,000 in purse money to racers in 2013. Nowling showed DRO the cancelled checks.

ADRL president Kenny Nowling has publicly acknowledged that he still owes some ADRL racers money for the Battle for the Belts purse, some racers purse money for the 2013 ADRL Houston event, and the 2013 Championship points fund.

The ADRL is absolutely not for sale according to Nowling. There is a 2014 ADRL schedule with signed contracts, verified by the track operators.

The result of this mess is that in one season eighth-mile doorslammer drag racing and its principals have gone from being professional drag racing’s only successful and growing series to one more failed series (X-DRL) joining other failed series like the old IHRA, UDRA, and AHRA.

As for the future of the ADRL and eighth-mile doorslammer racing, it will all depend on the ability of Kenny Nowling to return that sanctioning body to the success it had when he originally ran it. It was a series that had a branch of the U.S. military as a primary sponsor, corporate America associate sponsors, and a series that the operator of every premier track wanted on their calendar; a series that was a powerhouse in professional drag racing that actually made the suits at the NHRA nervous with its success.