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I’ve been talking to some of my friends on the manufacturing side of drag racing and they almost all have the same concern. They can tell from their sales that drag racing today just isn’t the growth sport it once was.
It used to be that successful manufacturers of drag racing products significantly increased their sales and production yearly. They were very profitable companies. That is why a decade or so ago investor groups that knew nothing about the sport went on a buying binge and acquired iconic drag racing manufacturers like MSD, Holley, B&M, and others. They were great investments with the perception that they would make the investors a significant return on their money.
From what I can tell, that simply isn’t the case anymore. Now, any company that shows year-to-year increase in sales that merely matches the rate of inflation is considered a stellar performer by many.
The question I’m asked most by my industry friends is what do I think is causing the stagnation and what do I think can be done to turn it around. God knows why my friends think I might have the answer, The fact is no one knows positively what the industry/sport is going to do in the next 12 months, but I do have an opinion on what the root cause is and how, as an industry, we might stir the stagnant economic waters.
My opinion is that the sport of drag racing on almost every level has just become too expensive for the current generation to think about taking up as a hobby. It is especially hard for today’s young men and women, who are much less car oriented than any previous generation. Getting a car as soon as you can get a drivers license is no longer the big deal it was when I was growing up or even when my kid was growing up. Drag racing is no longer the “cool” activity it was to the generation of the ‘60s and ‘70s! From TV ratings to magazine sales, the numbers are going down. Even National Dragster cut the number of magazines it publishes by 50%.
One thing is an absolute fact: the manufacturers of speed equipment depend on drag racing’s weekend hobby racers to buy a majority of their products and, unless the number of drag racing participants grows, neither do their sales. Drag racing is in need of a participant injection in the worst way.
From what I have observed, to get involved in drag racing at any level from Jr Dragster to the local bracket classes is a seriously expensive hobby that will eat up a lot of disposable income with little return, either monetarily or ego-wise. A state-of-the-art Jr Dragster, which is supposed to be the quintessential entry level class, can easily cost $20,000 and up. That is a mind-numbing amount for someone whose parents are going to foot the bills. And if the Jr Dragster driver doesn’t or can’t work on his or her car, if all they are trained to be is a driver, how does that hook them on the sport or make them appreciate building their own race car?
Although there are some track operators who really try to attract a younger crowd with Midnight Madness races and the occasional High School Drags, the pool of regular weekend hobby bracket racers is dwindling, as demonstrated by the leveling off in sales revenue by the companies that build parts for the weekend warriors.
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