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It is a stone cold fact that all of professional auto racing has lost a great deal of their fans’ interest. It’s not like either NHRA or NASCAR, the two largest auto racing sanctioning bodies, are in danger of going broke, but they are selling fewer tickets on race days and fewer fans are watching the TV broadcasts of their races. They are trying to remedy that situation, but their problem seems to be that the folks in charge aren’t quite sure what is broken and how to fix it.
In my opinion the reasons for the waning interest by the fans are relatively obvious and are the same for both racing series. (I’m including NASCAR as part of this diatribe because I believe that the popularity of drag racing and NASCAR, at least in the media, are tied together.)
Here are a few of the things that have caused the shrinkage of both NASCAR and the NHRA’s core fan base, and some suggestions on what they can do to fix the situation.
There are simply too many races and too many TV broadcasts for most fans. The drag racing landscape is saturated with “big” races with seemingly a major event on every weekend, which is, more often than not, televised. There are more televised drag racing-based shows (not necessarily race coverage) on the tube than reruns of Seinfeld.
There’s a “big” race almost every weekend during the spring, summer, and fall. These days, the drag racing season is ten months long with 23 race dates for the NHRA. During that period TV viewers are seeing the same faces and winners week in and week out.
Even a contrived “Chase” championships points programs didn’t generate a lot of excitement. Like having ice cream or a good steak every day can get old after a while, so can having a drag racing “national event” every weekend. Drag racing, at the least, needs to cut back on the number of national events that are televised. If fans can’t watch a race on TV, then chances are better they will buy a ticket to watch it live. NFL football learned that lesson years ago. Besides, I don’t think the NHRA track partners either contribute to or get revenue from the TV broadcast.
Now is the time for the NHRA to reduce the number of races, or at least the number of races that are broadcast. Make attending or watching a drag race on TV something special again. Back in the 1970s, Bill France eliminated seventeen NASCAR races between seasons and NASCAR went on to a long period of growth. Maybe drag racing would benefit the same way.
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