Signs of the Apocalypse abound

Well, fellow drag racing junkies, I had a nice (hopefully) entertaining “Just Wondering” written, edited, rewritten and ready to spring on you the readers today as part of the April issue of DRO.

But that piece of literary eye candy will have to wait, my friends, because a couple of issues have come to light that could in my opinion really impact NHRA and IHRA  drag racing as we have known it for the last five decades.

First let’s start with the IHRA. The press release from the IHRA regarding one of the oldest national events on the IHRA schedule at Rockingham Dragway was a stunner, folks, (see Agent 1320 notes) in that it only contained a couple of lines at the very end to promote any of the drag classes that will be racing at that event. No, my fellow drag racing fanatics, the press release was designed to bring fans to the upcoming IHRA Spring Nationals at the Rock to see a MONSTER TRUCK AND A JET TRUCK do “battle”.

My friends, this PR piece is touting what many of us involved in promoting drag racing over the years have always referred to as a “circus acts” and I believe it is a signpost that indicates that the IHRA management (or new owner Feld Entertainment) no longer believes that professional IHRA drag racing can attract enough paying customers to be worth the effort. And sadly maybe Steve Earwood at Rockingham feels the same way.

Here is an excerpt from the release: “Now, two of the most extreme machines on the planet will do battle in a first time ever event that is sure to leave race fans talking for years about the night they saw Grave Digger take on the Super Shockwave.”

So it’s finally come to this has it? IHRA pres Aaron Polburn and his staff have never had much success promoting IHRA professional drag racing so he has gone back to what he knows will work, fireworks and circus acts.
Perhaps this situation was inevitable. The Canadian tracks may do well financially with their IHRA national events, but the reality for the IHRA tracks south of the Canadian border is different. I’ve been told by more than one IHRA track promoter that their IHRA national event was far from the tracks’ most profitable event but they took a gamble on promoting the race for the prestige as much as the possible profit.

Royce Miller at MIR once told me his IHRA event was his second or third most profitable event year in and year out, but he wanted the prestige of being a “National Event” track. One former IHRA track owner told me that his best IHRA national event cost him $350,000 and at least a month out of his life to put on, and that the total profit (of which the IHRA got half) was $40,000.
I feel relatively sure the owner of the new IHRA track who spent perhaps millions of dollars building a new track and joining the IHRA as a National Event facility did not do it to hold Monster Truck vs. Jet Truck Monster Jams … but I could be wrong.

The point is that promoters have long known that they don’t need a national event to have a successful race with exhibition acts as the draw.

Broadway Bob at Union Grove Drag-a-way had a huge race every year, The Olympics of Drag Racing, on the same weekend as the NHRA U.S. Nationals. He would book in virtually every specialty act in drag racing and it was a hugely popular and profitable race. Scott Gardner’s World Series of Drag Racing at Cordova, Ill., the week before the U.S.Nationals is another example of that kind of event. 

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