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News & Analysis
A fundamental and monumental change in the world of professional drag racing took place over the weekend of the PRI Show. For the first time professional racers, the Real Pro Mod (RPM) group of NHRA Pro Mod racers and a group of Mountain Motor IHRA Pro Stock racers, agreed to pay a national drag racing sanctioning body to add or continue a professional class.
And, for the first time, the racers/businessmen in those groups didn’t try to hide the fact they were paying the sanctioning bodies to host their class and give them a professional and stable organization to race with. In the case of the Pro Mods, they committed to deliver the NHRA reportedly a half-million bucks in sponsorship to have a 10-race schedule and then ponied up an additional $150,000 for a TV series that will air after their season is over. At approximately the same time, a Mountain Motor Pro Stock contingent, led by three car owners, paid the IHRA $300,000 to fund a 10-race schedule but haven’t opted to pay for a TV package yet.
In doing this those two groups of wealthy hobby racers insured they would not only have a place to race but that they would race with the two premier sanctioning bodies in the sport of drag racing. After all of the drama this past week involving the Pro Mod sanctioning organizations known as the ADRL and the newly formed NDRA, the racers that head up the Pro Stock and NHRA Pro Mod classes are looking pretty intelligent.
What was so different in the negotiations between the professional door car racers and the management at the NHRA and the IHRA was that the racers knew that they had absolutely no leverage and the sanctioning body held all of the “face cards” and had all of the power. And let’s be clear, both sanctioning body presidents or their management teams made almost no concessions to the racers. The sanctioning organizations made it clear that they, not the racers, make the rules, decide when and where the teams will race and everything else that pertains to having those classes as part of their program.
The NHRA Pro Mods continue under the “separate but equal” program. The class is not part of the Mello Yello professional class structure, they will not be part of the national ESPN2 broadcast, and they were not guaranteed they would start their eliminations on Sunday instead of Saturday (although it is understood that at some of the races eliminations for Pro Mod could begin Sunday morning instead of Saturday night).
Also, the number of entries allowed at each NHRA race and IHRA is up to those sanctioning bodies, and unlike the other professional classes, NHRA Pro Mod racers are limited to between 24-31 entries and entrries must have a to be determined number of grade points to be allowed to enter an event, restricting the number of new racers for the class. The IHRA will limit the Pro Stock field to a maximum of 12 issues.
The important thing is that the Pro Mod RPM organization put together a program that insures Pro Mod will be part of the NHRA Big Show for the next three years and that was what the goal the members of that racer organization wanted. That group should now use the next three years to convince Tom Compton and his management team that Pro Mod will make the NHRA money, attract sponsors and increase the NHRA’s fan base.
The Mountain Motor Pro Stock teams got a similar deal from IHRA management. The IHRA is allowing a class they invented back into the fold for a price and the IHRA, not the racers, will be in complete -- and I do mean complete -- control. There will be an eight-car qualified field with a limit of 12 total entries at any of the IHRA events. The IHRA will make the rules, payout and race schedule and they, like the Pro Mods in the NHRA, must convince the IHRA ownership they are an asset to the Series.
The upside is that for the first time in years there will be Mountain Motor Pro Stock racing on the quarter mile at good tracks and the teams will be racing under the International Hot Rod Association brand, which has forty years of history.
Unlike the NHRA Pro Mod deal, the IHRA Pro Stock racers will be one of that association’s major professional classes and the only professional doorslammer class in the IHRA. I would have to say that the Mountain Motor Pro Stock group got themselves a better deal than the NHRA Pro Mod teams did.
For the drag racing cottage industry of engine builders, chassis builders, and parts manufacturers, who need a stable professional Pro Mod and Pro Stock racing program, and for the fans of Pro Mod and Pro Stock racers, the IHRA and NHRA deals are great news. There is now a three- to five-year window of stability for those classes with two of the sport’s premier sanctioning bodies. And who knows, there may be a third if the eighth-mile fast door car war between the newly formed NDRA and the ADRL is resolved.
These two deals have set the standard for what other “professional” drag racing classes (regardless of past history) must do if they want to race or even continue to race with major sanctioning bodies. One way or another they will have to “pay to race” and their cost of doing that is going to continue to get higher and higher -- of that there can be no doubt.