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Notes and observations from a four-week road trip

NHRA has backed itself into a ticket pricing corner

I was told at Indy by a track operator that the NHRA has come to the realization that they need to lower the ticket prices across the board to get fans to buy more tickets. Reportedly they told the track operators they would like to institute a ticket price “roll back.”

Evidently there is just one big problem about the proposed price reduction which is that the host track’s cost for putting on an NHRA national event is very high compared to possible profits. The tracks have to risk spending a lot of money they may lose totally on pre-race advertising, increased payroll for the event, and their share of funding the purse.

With flat or declining numbers of sponsors, sportsman entries and paying spectators, don’t look for drastic decreases in ticket pricing unless some other changes are made. The cost of putting on an NHRA national event hasn’t followed the downturn in the economy and until a way is found to reduce the cost for the track operators, ticket prices aren’t likely to go down, in my opinion.

MSD Chapter 11 bankruptcy announcement likely won’t affect product or customers.

To be honest, when I heard the news that the MSD company had filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection I was shocked. I have a long and personal relationship with that company and much of its management team  The announcement wasn’t good news, but it certainly wasn’t a death sentence for the company.

Like every business involved in the aftermarket automotive performance market, MSD has had to deal with declining sales and profits during the recession that began in 2008 and no one is immune to the effects. But many iconic businesses in the sport (Holley being the best example) have taken Chapter 11 relief with positive results.

There is no historical evidence to indicate that won’t be the case with MSD. Every car needs an ignition system of some sort and demand for quality high-performance systems isn’t going to cease.

JFR sponsorship loss after 2014 is over $10M?

I heard from a good source that John Force Racing will lose more than $10,000,000 in sponsor money when the Ford and Castrol contracts expire after the end of the 2014 NHRA season.

I just don’t see how -- given that the economy still hasn’t returned to pre-2008 levels -- that even John Force will be able to find companies to invest that much of their marketing budget with an NHRA Top Fuel or Funny Car program.

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