Drag racing sanctioning organizations are changing and so is the sport

With very little drag racing going on this time of year, often the news is more about what the major sanctioning bodies are or aren’t doing.

Since most, if not all, sanctioning organizations operate in a monopolistic manner and generally don’t share much information about their business with their dues-paying members, competitors, or fans, I’ll just have to share with you readers a few facts, opinions and guesses. Besides, who is driving for whom and who is tuning where just isn’t that interesting to me anymore.

So, let’s start with the biggest, most powerful -- and often arrogant – of the drag racing sanctioning organizations, the National Hot Rod Association. Based upon what I’m told by NHRA sources, 2010 wasn’t a stellar year. I’m certain of that if for no other reasons than the amount of rain and resulting decline in attendance. But I’ve just had the opportunity to review their 2009 tax returns (my analysis and copies of some of their returns can be seen in News & Analysis) and I can guarantee you that 2009 was a tough year for the NHRA. A tough year that saw their revenues drop by around $14 million from 2008.

So, what is the NHRA doing to make things better for the 60,000+ dues paying racers and the fans? Well, let’s see. As noted in a previous Blast, they’ve added expensive new safety related rules for nostalgia nitro racers. They’ve also added expensive new performance-restricting rules for most of the Pro Mod class, completely ignoring the 20 years of general failure and grief that other sanctioning bodies experienced when trying to “level the playing field” for the Pro Modifieds.

Meanwhile, the classes that supposedly need so much help, Top Fuel and Funny Car -- classes that former crew chief Dan Olson is paid over $200,000 a year to supervise -- evidently will have no major rule changes forthcoming. This after telling us they were going to cut the cost of nitro racing and after spending a lot of NHRA’s and the dues-paying members’ money testing all kind of new engine combinations. So that class needed no changes or help after all?

Ah, but the Chairman of the NHRA Board of Directors, Dallas Gardner, ($330,000 per year) announced the addition to the Board of a lawyer, Michael C. Cohen, and a former NASCAR executive, Ken Clapp, both of whom are experienced in the ins and outs of track sales and acquisitions.

I’m just making a guess here but I think that Tom Compton is still trying to sell the NHRA. In my opinion that would be the only reason to add a high-powered lawyer and a former NASCAR executive to the NHRA Board. Call me a conspiracy wonk, but that’s the way I see it. 

DRAG RACING Online will be published on the 8th of each month and will be updated throughout the month.

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