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Last year there was one eighth-mile doorslammer series: the ADRL under the management of Tim McAmis. The hard fact is that it struggled to survive and in the end the owner, Sheikh Khalid Al Thani, decided to sell it rather than keep funding it. Then, to everyone’s surprise (including mine) Kenny Nowling, who had been forced to resign from that same ADRL, bought back the racing series with help from some friends from the same people who had fired him two years earlier.
At the same time Jeff Mitchell and his group of Texas investors -- after having their offer to buy the ADRL rejected despite offering more for the series than Nowling -- decided that if they couldn’t buy it then they would start a clone of the ADRL and call it the X-DRL.
From strictly a business point of view, the facts that Nowling would buy back the ADRL despite knowing the series had been losing money for two years or that Jeff Mitchell and his group would commit money to start a second version of the same series makes no sense to me.
But then again, drag racing as a business often doesn’t make financial sense. The NHRA, arguably the largest and most successful drag racing series, had been losing money for at least five years prior to this year according to their president. But drag racing is a sport often driven by passion first and economics second.
Now you would think that racers, fans and sponsors of eighth-mile racing would be thrilled to have twice as many races for the same classes of cars. Instead of only eight races there would be 16 or more held at tracks all over the U.S. and, as result, professional eighth-mile drag racing would grow. You would, of course, be wrong.
Almost from the moment that Kenny Nowling bought back the ADRL and Jeff Mitchell and his team started the X-DRL, the two series have been at odds with each other. The main reason being that both series are now trying to split up a core of racers, sponsors and fans that history has showed couldn’t or wouldn’t make one series profitable, much less two. Sounds like what happened when the AHRA, IHRA and NHRA all were in competition for the same audience, racers and sponsors...and we know how that war ended and who the winner is.
Right now what we have is two basically identical series trying to divide the same too-small fan, racer and sponsor pie. They are both in essence trying to “buy” the racers’ and sponsors’ loyalty and participation with increased purses and points funds. Again, that seems to me to be illogical.
The X-DRL’s Mitchell has made it clear that he isn’t trying to make money and is willing, at least right now, to spend a lot of money (estimated by me to be around $1.5 million this year) to keep the X-DRL going and has told several people that he is committed to the series for at least three years.
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