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There is a old saying that ‘familiarity breeds contempt.' I think that applies to some of the issues that auto racing, and specifically drag racing, is suffering with these days.
It had been a pretty miserable summer financially for the NHRA and their national event track partners until the Western Swing beginning with Mile-High Nationals at Denver. Up to that race, attendance at many events was mediocre to poor with the exception of the Houston race. Then at Denver and Sonoma -- both of which seat around 20,000 fans -- the stands were reasonably full.
Why did NHRA’s fans show up at those two venues and not others? The NHRA and the tracks didn’t significantly reduce ticket prices and the fans saw virtually the same teams they been seeing all year. Maybe the fact that both Denver and Sonoma fans are relatively isolated from other NHRA national events has some impact on fan attendance. One thing is sure, the Midwest and Southeast are saturated with NHRA/IHRA events and tracks.
Drag racing fans in the Midwest and Southeast have many, many options of tracks and events where they can see professional drag racing. Maybe the reason there are more tickets sold at national events held west of the Rocky Mountains is that, unlike the Midwest and the East Coast where the number of national events and tracks has expanded exponentially, the number of national event tracks hasn’t grown much and in fact are decreasing. Maybe there is nothing wrong with the show NHRA delivers or the ticket prices; maybe the problem is too many races and too few new fans joining with the old fans to support 24 NHRA national events and 13 IHRA national events!
I wrote this one prior to the Seattle NHRA national event:
There is going to be a lot of Sturm und Drang in the community about the hose job privateers John Hale (driving for Steve Plueger) and owner/driver Jeff Diehl got from NHRA at the race at Sonoma.
As it was explained to me, there was an issue caused by a glitch in the timing system that didn’t allow either the starter or the tower to activate the tree and allow Hale and Diehl, who were staged, to race. In the end, according to Hale, the lights on the tree flashed and both drivers stepped on the pedal but received no time as the tree wasn’t actually activated. NHRA’s ruling (sans Graham Light, who wasn’t at the race), was that the whole foul-up was similar to when a piece of debris trips the beams at the top end and both cars get “No Time”.
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