Emptying out a cluttered reporter’s notebook

Judging from some of the kind emails I have been getting from racers and fans regarding my decision to close down the Hedman Husler Hedders DRO Nostalgia Nitro Challenge, some of you seem to think I’m breaking out my Hawaiian shirts, plaid Bermuda shorts, sandals, and moving to Florida and a condo at Del Boca Vista. That couldn’t be further from the truth. I’m still the Editor at DRO and I’ll have more time to devote to that job. Truth is I can’t afford to really retire and I wouldn’t if I could.

To paraphrase the John Steinbeck’s Tom Joad character in the book Grapes of Wrath, “Wherever there is Nitro being burned I’ll be there.”

Just for the record, while there were some ancillary contributing factors that led me to end the DRO series after the 2015 season, the primary reason was lack of participation by racers. The series sponsors were all willing to return for 2016, but I knew that averaging five or six cars at an event was going to be the norm next year and I just couldn’t ask the series sponsors, the track operators or fans to buy tickets to see races with five and six cars in attendance.

Regarding the NHRA playoff Countdown, two things. If indeed the U.S. Nationals is the NHRA’s most important race how can it not be part of the NHRA’s six race Countdown schedule? With the 1.5-times points awarded at the U.S. Nationals it would once again be the most important race on the NHRA Championship trail. I’d bet the U.S. Nationals race sponsor Chevrolet would like that as would the fans and elite media and maybe the U.S. Nationals would have the aura of “must attend” it once had. Second, if NHRA management wants to insure full professional fields during the six-race Countdown they should find a way to increase the purses for those races, especially the qualifying pay so the lesser-funded teams with zero chance to win the Championship keep racing in the Countdown. It would be nice if winning Indy contributed to winning the championship.

I have verified that a couple of NHRA national event tracks including Maple Grove want NHRA’s unofficially professional Pro Mod class to add a couple of dates to their current ten-race schedule. The RPM (Real Pro Mods) group of Pro Mod racers not only has to pay the NHRA a pretty large fee upfront for those ten races and NHRA also requires the RPM group to deliver a $40,000+ race sponsor for each race or make up the difference themselves. If history is any guide the NHRA will require the RPM group to pay them for the two additional races plus find sponsors.

The RPM group for the first time has some leverage. They could try to use that leverage and agree to the additional races if the NHRA makes the Pro Mods part of the “official” professional series, negotiate some coverage of the Pro Mods’ first round Saturday night into the Sunday TV broadcast, or at the very least get the NHRA to waive the fees for the two new races. Leverage works both ways in the corporate world of the NHRA.

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