Separating the National and Divisional Series for the alcohol cars
Promotion of alcohol categories is a topic very near, both to my heart, and many other racers’ hearts. While we all agree we want the class to improve, getting a majority of racers to agree on a particular idea is tough. Different racers race for different reasons. Some racers run for a national championship or chase national points. Others try to make a strong divisional finish. Some go to the track to go fast. Some do it just to get out of the office and have some fun. NONE of us do it for the money.
Given the current situation, chasing the national championship is a very difficult proposition. It’s very hard to win a national championship without going to seven or more divisional events, not to mention at least seven national events.
We’ve spent several of these columns discussing the divisional situation. I enjoy the laid back atmosphere of a divisional as much as anyone, but on paper, these races are very tough on the alcohol racer. The payouts are horrible, ranging from $600 to qualify, up to $2500 to win. Given current fuel prices, the price per run on a competitive alcohol car is over $1500 a run on the most conservative budget. You do the math.
Like I said above, different racers race for different reasons. If you’re interested in running national events, you have to run divisional events to get the grade points to enter the nationals. If you’re chasing national points, you have to run divisionals to stay in the points standings. If you’re primarily interested in running local events, mainly divisionals and a few close nationals, it isn’t that bad of a gig for you. If you’re hoping to get a sponsor, unless you’re going after a racer oriented company, or an independently wealthy individual with a company that’s not too terribly concerned with return on investment, having to go to divisional events really hurts your chances.
Why? We’ve also used a few of these columns discussing ways to better promote divisional events. Today’s divisional event is designed to make money from entry fees. A few divisionals still try to draw a paying crowd, and a few more do giveaways to get people in the seats. NHRA has repeatedly iterated the measuring block of success for the Lucas Oil Series is car counts, not spectator counts. Until this philosophy changes within the organization, nothing will ever be done to change it.
With no fans in the stands, a divisional event has little value to a sponsor unless the sponsor’s target market is the racers at the track. With little sponsor value and little payouts, it’s very difficult to get sponsorship funding close to the operating expense. Most sponsors want you to run for points, so divisionals are a fact of life. If you sell a sponsorship based on television time and big national event crowds and you charge them the same amount for a no crowd divisional as you do for the national, you have a good recipe for a short term sponsor deal. However, they usually cost the race team the same, so it really throws a potential sponsorship vs. expense budget off.
If you go to an all national series, it will make it very difficult just to compete because getting in a national event field will be much tougher. However, the marketing value would be much greater. If you can tell a sponsor that you’ll be racing in front of a national event crowd and the potential of television coverage at every event, you stand a much better chance.
I’ve brought this up before, and after looking at the feedback from racers over this past year to different ideas I have presented in this column, I think the best option would be to separate the national and divisional series. If you’re a racer chasing national points, now you don’t ‘have’ to go to the divisionals. If you’re trying to fund your racing with sponsorship dollars, you have a much better chance as you don’t have to attend divisionals that throw the budget off as mentioned above. Not to mention, the ‘relatively’ increased payouts help offset expenses as well. Many racers just enjoy racing on national event surfaces where they can try to go fast.
If a racer primarily enjoys racing regionally at divisional events and select nationals close to home, this configuration doesn’t hurt these guys and girls, either. With the big teams not needing to attend the divisionals, it stands to reason that the little guys can get into divisional fields and have a better shot at going rounds.
If the series were separated, the national championship could be determined by the best 8 of 12 nationals. Instead of going to 16 or more events to chase the points like racers do now, there would now only have to attend 12. While traveling expenses would increase due to losing some local events, the reduction in total events should offset most, if not all of the increased travel.
The divisional points system doesn’t need any change. The current 5/8 system that is in place now would work fine.
Obviously, if we were to separate the two, the entry system would have to be changed. We could spend a whole column discussing different methods, but it shouldn’t be that hard to devise an entry system removed from divisional grade points.
This would allow racers to go the direction they want with their programs and make an alcohol team more attractive to potential sponsors. If a racer wanted to primarily run nationals, they wouldn’t ‘have’ to go to divisionals. A racer that primarily runs divisional events wouldn’t notice much difference besides some of the heavy hitters not being at as many divisional events. The little guy would have a better shot of making a divisional field. A weak division would never decide a national champion again.
If we can get enough racers behind it, this has a legit shot at becoming reality. Separating the two series is only a press release away from reality. No new events or structure like the proposed ‘mythical’ regional events. Just separate the two points series.
Now that you’re on the tire, go forth and spread the good word.
Once you’ve read the column, drop us a line. Also, feel free to drop in and comment on my website www.InsideTopAlcohol.com. If you follow Comp Eliminator, visit my site www.InsideCompRacing.com and if you follow Top Dragster and Top Sportsman, visit www.InsideFastBrackets.com.