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I have heard more than one of my promoter friends say, and read in recent articles, about their issues with Kenny Nowling’s American Drag Racing League business plan of giving fans “free” admission. Their concerns range from agreeing with the NHRA mantra that lowering the price of admission “cheapens” the brand, to the misguided millionaire racer/promoters' belief that because they have millions tied up in their race team fans will purchase an expensive ticket to see them race. I think the lack of fans currently attending NHRA and NASCAR events compared to five years ago proves that reasoning is misguided at best
The ADRL race at Rockingham had 20-25,000 fans and 120 race cars in attendance for two days of racing. While the series advertises free tickets, the fact is that everyone who came into that event (fan or racer) paid something at the gate. As the old saying goes “nothing is free!”
At ADRL events it cost fans 20 bucks a “car load” to park. I estimate they parked 8-10,000 cars for the two days. Unlike other years when the Nowling’s ADRL kept track of every ticket and knew almost exactly how many fans they had, that isn’t the case anymore. These days after paying the parking fee the fans are ushered into the stands. So a family of four can get into the races for a $20 bill and have money in their pocket to buy food, drink, and apparel.
I wonder how many fans at an NHRA event have money left to buy much after they pay to park and buy each person a $30 or more ticket? My guess is not much.
Although the United States economy shows some signs of improving and the Stock Market is at record highs, the fact is that there are still a lot of people out of work and being laid off (and more to come after the Sequestration) and I would suggest that spending a hundred dollars or more to go to any drag race is going to be a hard sell for most.
So, in about a month (April 6-7) the X-DRL is going to have the first race of its debut season at Todd Martin’s Tulsa Raceway Park. Martin is a savvy, successful track operator who, with his partner, rescued that track from closing. He knows his fan base and at his X-DRL race parking is free but a GA ticket is $25 a day or $40 for both days and kids under 12 are free. So a family of four is going to pay a minimum of $80 for tickets for both days of the event (more if the kids are over 12 years old) to see an X-DRL race where they would pay a max of $40 for attending both days of an ADRL event regardless of the family size to see basically the same show.
My question is this: What difference does it make to a race fan if they pay for parking and get free admission or pay for a ticket and get free parking? For the life of me I can’t see any difference in the business plan of the ADRL versus that of the X-DRL except that it will cost the average fan about twice as much to get into an X-DRL event. The stands at Tulsa, according to their website, have seating for 10,000 fans. If Tulsa’s stands are full or nearly full for both days of their event then I would suggest that Nowling and the ADRl will have to reconsider their business plan and ticket prices.
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