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Beating my head against a dead horse

The above title is my homage to the late, great NHRA announcer Bernie Partridge! It is not an exact quote, but it pretty much describes the way I feel regarding the state of big time drag racing and the paralysis that seems to inflict those in charge of the major series these days.

It should be obvious by now to even the most ardent fan of the NHRA that they have an attendance problem, both in regards to competitors and spectators.

This past weekend at Bruton Smith’s fabulous facility "The Bellagio of Drag Strips" at Charlotte, his team did everything in their power to put butts in the stands. They did a huge amount of advertising (including in DRO, thank you), they had the unique 4-wide race as an added attraction, and for at least one day they allowed children under 13 to enter at NO CHARGE when accompanied by an adult. And still they were lucky if the event filled 65 percent of the seats over the three days of racing.

I will say that they probably had as many professional entries for this race as they wanted, but there were just over 400 sportsman racers in nine classes including just 46 in Super Gas and 50 in Super Comp. The fact that there were just under 100 total entries combined for those two classes certainly indicates a problem. Think about that for a moment. There were fewer entries in the supposed entry level national event classes of Super Comp and Super Gas than there were in either the Stock or Super Stock classes. If that doesn’t raise a red flag in Glendora, nothing will. My feeling is, unfortunately, that it won’t.

I believe that the root cause of this issue is simple. The cost of attending an NHRA national event as a sportsman competitor or a spectator for many is too high! The cost of gas, food, and lodging when traveling is certainly part of if not the main issue, but it is not the only problem. For fans, the cost of simply getting in the gate is too much and then the price for parking, reserved seats, cold drinks, fries, or a track burger is simply overwhelming to many.

The price of a single ticket on Saturday at most NHRA national events is $50 and up.  Most of us can take our wife or girlfriend to a first run movie, buy them some popcorn and a soda, and maybe a cocktail afterwards for $50. Take your wife/girlfriend/buddy to an NHRA national event on a Saturday and it will cost  a Franklin and friends just to get in the gate, and that doesn’t count what it might cost to park or upgrade to a reserve seat.

Currently, the solution that the major sanctioning bodies have come up with to make up the shortfall in revenues is to keep increasing the financial burden on their ever-dwindling manufacturer, racer, and fan base by raising or adding fees.

The general opinion is that instead of trying to find ways to attract more fans, booths on the Manufacturer’s Midway, and racers and increasing revenue that way, the management just charges those folks more and more.

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

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