NHRA – Now will sportsmen get some attention?
The hot topic on Internet forums, press releases and publications is all about the sale of the professional part of NHRA to a group of investors. The word out of NHRA is for everyone not to worry and everything will be fine. The NHRA says no big sweeping changes will occur. THAT’S TOO BAD! I was hoping it might make for some sweeping changes, especially when it comes to the Sportsmen racing they could focus on now.
The NHRA will put about $110 Million into the bank on this deal and the reason they will have this money is because of us, the sportsman racers. Who kept their doors open when the national events were nothing more than a pretty good regional event? Who sends in the membership fees, license fees and support sponsors more than the sportsman racer? Nobody. Wally and the original group of guys had a plan that was timeless: Provide the means to organize local racers, offer them a sanctioning body that could provide safety guidelines, rules and produce events that would allow the NHRA to keep its doors open for the good of the sport.
WHAT HAPPENED? Over the last couple decades the NHRA has changed from a fantastic group of people who had a passion for drag racing to a group of management types that only know drag racing as they see it at national events. Guys like Darrell Zimmerman, Wally Parks and so many others poured their soul into the sportsman end of the NHRA. They knew that is where it had to start and that is where the future would be. You have heard it before but the sportsman racer is the heart and soul of NHRA and hopefully this change will allow NHRA to return to that.
How could NHRA really do more than it’s doing for sportsman racing? I bet everyone has a different opinion. I feel the Sportsnationals events are a great start. I would like to see one or two of those events in every division and let NHRA use their marketing team to make them into spectator events. I can’t believe you need the nitro cars to draw a crowd. Regional events don’t require 10,000 people to make money. Most tracks only seat 1,000 to 2,000 anyway.
Why not use thousands of free or discounted tickets from event sponsor outlets to get spectators? It is grassroots marketing and if the admission price is low people will come to see it out of curiosity if nothing else. This is a great opportunity for NHRA to join forces with local and regional tracks to see if people might actually come to the drag races. The local drag strip near me used to get 1,200 to 2,500 people on Sunday afternoons to watch drag racing. What has changed? Where are the people? Can marketing partners and dollars help get them back?
There has to be a joint venture between NHRA and their tracks to make it happen. NHRA can buy regional advertising or co-op with local tracks so they can reach more people with their advertising. NHRA can partner with national sponsors and those sponsors can use regional marketing dollars to make it happen.
Most things in today’s world always seem to come down to the dollars. Drag racing is no different. It costs a lot of money to build racecars and get reliable tow vehicles and trailers. It also costs a lot of money to buy a dragstrip and operate it correctly. (I know; I did both for 15 years).
NHRA has the opportunity to establish several programs for local tracks that would benefit the member track and the NHRA member racers. Set up a cash contingency program for local races -- NHRA could market local track points fund bonuses or contingency awards. The tracks have to help and each track has to earn their reward. Same goes for the racers; if you are not an NHRA member you won’t get the contingency money or points fund bonus. The options in front of NHRA are many. How they handle the $100 Million to help their membership will be interesting. I hope it isn’t in salaries and bonuses to management.