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Notes scrawled on my napkin from Sneaky Pete’s Steakhouse in LeClaire, Iowa

No one should be surprised that Sheikh Khalid Al Thani is cutting back on racecar sponsorships and personnel. Not counting his NHRA Top Fuel operation, he had practically enough cars, teams and personnel on his payroll to stage his own race. Even for a billionaire, the cost was probably getting out of hand.

He owns a racing series that pays tremendous points funds and race purses to the racers. They don’t charge the teams to race and don’t charge fans admission. The cash flow for the series is miniscule at best because of that business plan. So consider the cash outlay required to pay ADRL race and championship purses and add to that the additional money required to support the absolutely first class Pro Mod teams that remain on the Al-Anabi payroll and you could see why some teams were released. It’s just a matter of economics.  

Remember that when Sheikh Al Thani bought the ADRL from Tommy Lipar, Dave Wood, and Kenny Nowling, the ADRL had a two-year sponsorship with the National Guard that put more than three million dollars a year into the series with a third year on the table. The series had several other money sponsors in place at that time. Since the Sheikh bought the ADRL and basically turned it into his own private drag race club, he has had to personally make up for the lost National Guard money.

Additionally, the ADRL itself has a PR problem because it is wholly owned by a Sheikh from Qatar and gasoline cost per gallon is hovering around  $4.00. Whether Qatar actually exports oil or not doesn’t matter to a lot of U.S. businesses. They just don’t like the idea of supporting a billionaire Sheikh from an Arabian Peninsula country where he is regarded as royalty. 

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I hear and read where people think that all the ADRL would have to do to survive, should the current owner decide to bail, is simply start charging spectators for a ticket and race teams to race. Evidently those folks have forgotten that the reason that the ADRL started giving away tickets in the first place is that they couldn’t sell tickets to any of their races and the only way they finally got people (not necessarily racing fans) to come to an ADRL race was to give them free tickets.

All auto racing series are having a hard time selling tickets these days, and the ADRL wouldn’t be any different, As far as charging the racers to enter, the last I checked the ADRL has around 100 race teams per event on average, not 300-500 like an NHRA event. So charging 100 or so racers to race probably wouldn’t bring in enough cash to fund the points program, race purse, or operating costs. The ADRL must have a benefactor of some sort to survive, in my opinion. 

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