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Here is a dose of cold reality for the NHRA management and pro teams. A vast majority of the FS1 broadcasts of NHRA races have attracted in the 300,000 range of viewers with just a few exceptions. The Street Outlaws TV series have more than FOUR MILLION VIEWERS per episode on the first airing alone. No wonder the biggest draw in the pro pits at the U.S. Nationals was the “Big Chief” and his Pro Mod “street car”.
If the NHRA really wants to bring their brand to a larger audience and get more fans for NHRA drag racing then in my opinion the only avenue open to them is to bring the Street Outlaws into some NHRA national events. Maybe they should encourage pro teams to build a “street outlaw car” and promote an Outlaw stars versus NHRA stars showdown. Why wouldn’t DSR, JFR, Kalitta, Ken Black or Elite Motorsport’s Richard Freeman have a Street Outlaw car too? I’d bet Snap-on, Advance Auto, NAPA or Summit would be glad to see their star drivers sporting their livery in front of potentially 4 million certified gearhead TV viewers.
I’m pretty sure that the fans that would watch an NHRA event on TV to see the Outlaws battle the NHRA drivers would “geek” over Nitro cars with flames over the roof at night and become new fans of NHRA drag racing.
I have one last suggestion. If this is all too much for the NHRA management and pro teams to swallow, why not do this: Why not join forces with the Street Outlaws production team and work a deal to do a one- or two-hour TV show at an NHRA national event similar to the two-hour show the Street Outlaws series staged and broadcast from the Texas Motorplex this season?
And for the bottom-line suits at NHRA and their national-event track operators bring in the Street Outlaws and I guarantee there will be legitimate sold-out grandstands for at least one day or maybe two.
Like it or not, if drag racing is going to have any growth it must reach a much larger and younger demographic. From where I’m at, the Street Outlaw option is the only option the NHRA has. And besides if the NHRA takes the Outlaws off the 405 and onto the track at IRP that’s a public service and a win-win for both sides.
NHRA desperately needs a president with experience as a motorsports promoter
In my opinion the NHRA hasn’t had a president with any real experience or talent as a promoter of drag racing since the late Wally Parks was running it.
Parks and his group were great at promotion but sucked at budgetary matters. People who were in a position to know have told me that on more than one occasion Wally and the NHRA would have to go to the bank between seasons and borrow money to start the new season. That issue is why Wally Parks brought in Dallas Gardner and later bean-counters Tom Compton and Peter Clifford were promoted to the Presidency.
The NHRA as we knew it would not have survived without Gardner and Compton – they did what they had to do. Those two men turned the NHRA from basically a car club on steroids into a money-making business acquiring multiple tracks and installing a highly paid management team. However, they forced out all of the management team members who actually had experience as racers or promoters and replaced them with corporate types who only cared about the bottom line. As long as NHRA was sponsored by RJ Reynolds, who poured millions of dollars into the NHRA with no anticipation of a return on investment, the NHRA was fat.
Then RJR was forced out of the racing business, leaving both NASCAR and the NHRA without their generosity and you can bet a cash-flow shortfall. Tom Compton was able to bring the Coca-Cola people on board but you can take it to the bank that Coca-Cola put significantly less money into the sponsorship than RJR.
Unfortunately for the NHRA, beginning in the 2000’s drag racing fans, competitors, and sponsors found that the NHRA and IHRA weren’t the only game in town. Younger racers and fans abandoned their daddy’s NHRA for Sport Compact and Street Legal racing, something the NHRA tried and failed to embrace.
The NHRA tax returns for the last five years show a steady loss of revenue under both Tom Compton and Peter Clifford despite a wholesale reduction of personnel in the non-management level and the addition of executive level VP’s.
From 2011 to 2015 under Compton and Clifford the NHRA as a business has lost $7.200,000. I would have to say that would warrant a change to something other than a CFO type running the NHRA.