It’s the Nitro Stupid

I got an email the other day with a link that directed me to an ad for the NHRA’s Winternationals. The new buzz words in the ad asked the potential ticket buyer to discover their “Nitro Gene” -- and by the way, that word is trademarked. I guess some new marketing wizard or agency hired by the NHRA had a revelation.

The NHRA nitro-burning race cars and classes are the engines that drive ticket sales. That’s not to say that there aren’t other classes (both professional and sportsman) whose fans also buy tickets, but almost everyone I’ve talked to at a management level agrees that nitro classes sell the majority of the tickets.

That got me thinking about the declining attendance at NHRA national events (a fact proved by the drop in revenues NHRA’s past few tax returns document) and the declining TV ratings. I wondered, if the classes with nitro-burning cars are what both the casual and hard core fans that buy tickets want to see, why has the NHRA added non-nitro burning classes such as Pro Stock Bike, Pro Stock Truck (gone but not forgotten) and Pro Mod to the menu instead of new nitro classes? 

I think part of the reason is the pressure from the Funny Car and Top Fuel teams for the NHRA to not add another class based upon their opinion that another professional nitro class might siphon off potential sponsorships they might otherwise get. And the NHRA management’s loyalty to their top nitro racers and race teams.

Unfortunately, the fact is that the NHRA’s gross revenue has dropped from a high of more than $120,000,000 in 2008 to around $104,000,000 in 2010 and I’ll bet that the 2011 return will show another drop in gross income for drag racing’s premier drag racing league.

I think any reasonable person can agree that NHRA drag racing desperately needs to offer its old and possibly new fans what they want: MORE NITRO!

I’ve thought about this and I believe adding more nitro classes would translate into more fans, ticket sales, and corporate involvement with the NHRA and teams. 

So here are some suggestions for adding a couple of nitro classes to attract more fans and make for better TV without completely revamping NHRA’s current program or costing them any money!

Let’s start with the return of the Top Fuel Bike class. I can remember when both the Winternationals and the U.S. Nationals had a huge contingent of fans, many of them riding Harleys, attending those two events to watch the Top Fuel Bike class. These days Top Fuel Bikes are a huge part of the European and Australian drag racing scene. The Top Fuel Bikes has a huge following in the U.S.and Europe.

So, why not add the class to the Winternationals, a national event on the East Coast and U.S. Nationals as an additional professional nitro class? Invite some of the primo teams from outside the U.S. to compete. Many of the European and Australian teams have corporate sponsorship. Award points and decide the NHRA Top Fuel Bike World Championship at the U.S. Nationals.

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