Supply and demand?

We are all aware the world’s economy is on the verge of a nervous breakdown with the pending collapse of the PIGS – Portugal, Italy, Greece, and Spain, the problems of the rest of Europe, and our own not-feeling-too-well economy in the U.S.

The supply and demand for natural materials like lead, oil, gold, copper, etc., fluctuates hourly. That is just a fact of life and something that’s understandable when the price of a Big Gulp is no longer 99 cents.

What is not understandable -- and a point of confusion to me, a simple redneck drag strip operator – is how in the hay-ell the price of VHT, arguably the best track compound substance available and certainly the sweetest-smelling, has increased in price in the past eight months from $653 a drum to $821.76 a drum.  And that’s the distributor price. 

With minimal markup and sales tax added, the price to the racetrack approaches $1,000 a barrel.  That is double the price in four short years.

The excuse from PJH, suppliers of VHT, is that their raw materials have increased.  What on God’s green earth has increased 26% in 32 weeks, especially on a product that increased less than 2 percent the previous 12 months?

Track operators I have talked with this week feel the manufacturer, a company that projects a “take it or leave it” attitude, just might be taking advantage of the “supply and demand” model.

Now I didn’t graduate from the Wharton School of Business, but I do know the track can’t absorb this increase and, if we are to remain in business, we have to forward this expense to our customer, the racer.  As a result, a test-and-tune tech card just increased by $5 at our area tracks and one day of private testing just grew by $500.

One option, perhaps, is for the racer to learn how to adapt to “challenging” track conditions. Seems about anybody with enough bucks can compete in any class on a perfectly prepped racetrack. It's when track conditions are marginal that the more talented racers and crew chiefs end up in the final rounds.

During my tenure with the NHRA, if track conditions were lousy you could bet Garlits, Prudhomme, and Glidden would be in the finals because they knew how to adapt to less-than-perfect conditions.  Perhaps it’s time we found an alternative to prepping race tracks perfectly and started placing some of the responsibility on the racer and the race car builders. Just a thought.

It’s as if we are being held hostage by the traction compound supplier and the bottom line is, I’m not sure as track operators that we can continue to spend more on preparing the track for each event when each event draws fewer and fewer participants.