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Cleaning Out My Reporter’s Notebook

ARE ‘MIDNIGHT MADNESS’ RACES THE FUTURE OF DRAG RACING?

Over the last five years or so increasingly more track operators have told to me that year in and year out their most profitable special events are what most tracks call “Midnight Madness”. “Midnight Madness” is basically a “lifestyle” event that usually incorporates a drag strip, a drifting track, and a midway that serves beer, burgers, occasionally a bikini contest, and a DJ spinning sides. The truth is until last weekend I’d never been to one of these drag racing “rave” events. I guess old age and ignorance had something to do about that error.

Anyway, Chris Blair, VP at Gateway Motorsports Park, had been telling me how good the events were and invited me to come out to one of the eleven he has on the 2015 GMP schedule this year. Many other track operators have told me that “Midnight Madness” events often attract 400-500 real street car racers who just want to drive their car down the quarter mile next to their buddy. Blair says that both of his first two 2015 events attracted over 400 cars that were teched and made laps. Another 100+ drivers purchased tech cards but didn’t race; they just wanted to be able to bring their street car to the track to hang out with their friends who were racing.

I don't know how many cars were at GMP last Saturday (April 4), but I can tell you the staging lanes were 95% full from the time I drove into the track until the track announced the lanes were closing for the night. I was absolutely amazed at the variety of vehicles -- including new Camaros, Mustangs, BMWs, trucks, and sport compact cars -- that were in the lanes and the fact that most of the drivers appeared to be in that coveted 18-35 age group.

I was also impressed to see dozens of young men in their street cars going to the start line with a passenger (more often than not his girlfriend) and squaring off against his pal and passenger in the other lane. (It’s legal to have a passenger as long as the car doesn’t run quicker than 13.99.) Plus they all had big grins on the faces. Make no mistake, most of the racers I saw were pretty serious about the deal and I saw plenty of aftermarket speed parts in those pits. Nitrous oxide was common. Turbocharged and supercharged cars and trucks abound. Almost all of the cars I saw had some kind of speed part installed.

The point here is that these Midnight Madness events are attracting a generation of car owners and race fans who right now will likely never attend or race at an NHRA or IHRA national event. They won’t be entering or attending a big bucks bracket race either, but they do enjoy racing their car down a drag strip just for the fun of it or lining up next to their friend and racing him or her.

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