Notes scribbled on my bar bill from Mike Shannon's in St. Louis

I went to my first PDRA race in more than a year, attending their event at Gateway Motorsports Park outside St. Louis, and I'm happy to report I was very impressed by almost every aspect of the race. The race ran on time (weather permitting) and according to the schedule. Of course racers are treated in an exceptional manner. The pits were full of the quickest and fastest door cars in the sport. The cars all are professionally painted and maintained, the crews all uniformed. There is a very well attended food court and a manufacturers' midway where a racer could actually buy race parts. The whole PDRA staff, from the ticket takers to the starting line crew, did a very professional job.

I would not have a problem spending $20 for a spectator ticket to one of these events. The only issues the series have are (1) an inability at most venues to attract a ticket buying crowd and (2) although the racers love it, track prep still detracts from the fan experience and is often done when all the crowd wants is to see racing not track prep.

Still, overall I would have to give the series a grade of A.


Today's drag fan wants more than just a whiff of nitro and tire smoke when they pay $45 or more for a GA ticket. It seems to me that many track operators spend a lot more of their budget catering to the needs of their racers and much less on creature comforts for ticket-buying fans. For example, track owner/operators can spend millions of dollars paving the pits, grinding and re-paving the racetrack, installing state-of-the-art timing equipment, and anything else that will appease the racers and increase back-gate entry and ticket sales. In the meantime, the fan that pays to be entertained often is forced to spend hours in the hot sun sitting on aluminum or even wooden bleacher seats during a national event drag on.

At a majority of NHRA and IHRA national event venues, fans are expected to buy an expensive ticket, sit on hard aluminum bleacher seats, put up with overused Porta-Potties or nasty track bathrooms, then stand in line for an hour to buy an overpriced beverage or burger. Some promoters seem to think they are doing their ticket-buying public a favor when they build reasonably nice restrooms, food courts with seating, or a PA system that actually can be heard.

Note to track operators: clean, modern bathrooms and comfortable seats aren't a perk for a fan that might spend $200-$300 or more just getting into the track. Neither are PA systems that can be understood or clean, well-stocked food courts. Virtually every professional sports stadium I have been to, whether it was to watch Monster trucks, pro baseball or music acts, have seats with backs as well as convenient and adjacent restrooms, bars and food stands for fans the buying a general admission ticket.

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