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For the last decade or so NHRA’s management team has been very resistant to changing the status quo when it came to the core components of the series. There was good reason for that as under Tom Compton’s direction the NHRA ledger sheet showed positive numbers for the last decade when other major motorsports series were having problems just staying in business. The primary way that Mr. Compton was able to achieve that feat could be credited to his team’s dedication to cutting the company’s operating costs to the bare minimum and extracting the maximum revenue from their customers. Give Tom and his crew credit. Despite one of this country’s worst and longest recessions he was able to keep the NHRA profitable by cost cutting and staffing reductions. Interestingly he and the rest of his management team have received base salary increases almost every year since he took over the company.
But I believe that in 2014 the obvious decline in paid spectators and paying participants at NHRA national events over the last few years far outstripped the budget-cutting measures of the NHRA. Plus, I suspect there is very little waste left to cut out of the NHRA’s operating budget.
It appears the NHRA management has come to the realization that to reverse the reality of fewer spectators, participants and corporate sponsors, and less revenue they had to make some changes.
The current NHRA administration has taken the racers’, sponsors’ and fans’ loyalty and patience for granted for many years. Now, I suspect, due to loss of revenue from all sources they are changing their philosophy.
This year they returned some of the luster the U.S. Nationals has lost by adding bonus championship points for qualifying and winning at Indy. After years of abusing its customers (according to the customers) for the Manufacturers Midway and the lack of attendance and support on the Midway, at the Winternationals this year they called a meeting with current and former supporters to see what can be done to bring back the manufacturers. But it will take more than that to restore the U.S. Nationals to its former status as a “must attend” event for all motorsports fans, racers, and media.
Late last year the NHRA changed a rule so older Pro Stock cars are allowed to compete and that kept three or four teams racing. They changed the format of National Dragster so that sportsman instead of the pros get the majority of the editorial package in an effort to get advertisers they have lost in the last few years to come back.
It will be very interesting to see what the NHRA gross receipts were in 2014 and how many more concessions the NHRA makes for their fans,racers and manufacturers to restore the NHRA to its former glory.
After decades of being squeezed for every possible penny by their landlord (the NHRA) the denizens of Manufacturer Midway -- sponsors, manufacturers, and racer souvenir trailers -- that once jammed the area, it appears that group has had enough.
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