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Has the NHRA lost contact with its fans?
These are the dog days of summer here in the Midwest and most days and nights it is just too hot and muggy for even the most rabid drag racing fan. It was so hot here in St. Louis that the local dragstrip cancelled a day-night weekend race because the heat index (110) was just too dangerous for fans and racers to participate. So for a drag fan to buy a $50-60 ticket and sit through eight hours of any kind of racing this time of year is asking a lot, especially to watch what has become the increasingly predictable and boring (yes, I said boring) NHRA national event.
This past weekend I attended a two-day race at Cedar Falls Raceway in Iowa. It was a “Night of Fire” deal and as a fan and spectator I had more fun at that race than I’ve had at an NHRA national event in a very long time.
As I was making the six-hour drive from Iowa back to the Phlegm Building here in O’Fallon, MO, I was asking myself why I had such a good time. First was the wide variety of racing the Cedar Falls event offered. A $25 ticket gave the fans what they wanted and more. They got jet dragsters, a jet school bus, a wheelstander, a jet-powered port-a-potty!, a pair of nitro Top Fuel cars, nostalgia supercharged gassers, a couple of door-car series, and a qualified eight-car nitro funny car show. Oh, and $2 tall-boy adult beverages and $4 cheeseburgers. What a deal!
I don’t know how many seats the track actually has but whatever they had were filled by 6 p.m. and the crowd literally stayed until the track had to turn the lights off to get them to go home.
After the show was over the racers pulled their cars out on the drag strip, welcomed the spectators and gave autographs to anyone that wanted one. I was amazed at how many young kids with their parents were hanging around to get autographs from the drivers.
All of this has convinced me that part of if not all of the NHRA’s current problems stem from the fact that the sanctioning body and pro race teams have decided what fans want to see without asking them.
NHRA, their pro racers and team owners all say the right things when it comes to the fans, but none of them seem willing to give the fans what they really want. It is my opinion that today’s drag fans want an affordable and entertaining show. They aren’t getting it and the sanctioning body and racers don’t really seem to understand why.
I think the pro racers honestly believe that the fans are content with seeing the same names and teams winning all of the races. They don’t care if the fans can’t really identify with the cars they see on the track. Despite saying how much they love their fans, the teams continue on a path that for the most part isn’t about entertaining the fans but rather entertaining themselves.