Volume X, Issue 2, Page 51


It’s no secret that things are bad in big-time professional drag racing. Television ratings are in the toilet. The NHRA’s “Countdown” playoff system – a contrivance designed to correct plummeting ratings -- imploded with indifference and, ironically, facilitated further decline in ratings rather than staunching the broadcast bloodletting. Apparently, funny car chassis are unsafe at any speed and the mandated 11th hour fixes are worse than the problem. Meanwhile, the prime patrons of the sport – General Motors, Ford, and Mopar -- are hanging on by their teeth, nails and talons as their stock prices plummet and are jettisoning marketing dollars across the board, the draconian measures making the mavens of motorsport wonder: Is drag racing next? And when it comes to whatever discretionary foldin’ money is lying around, some hillbilly Howard Hughes with a MySpace account promised two dozen race entries barrelfuls of free money and then became the mother of all Injun’ givers, canceling checks quicker than Ken Lay on crank, leaving dozens of professional racers in the lurch and in search of non-existent corporate coin, all the while scratchin’ their noggins with the furiousity of a fleeced WorldCom employee. Worse yet, the contract of broadcast anchor Paul Page – the mastodon of the malapropism -- was renewed.

But Paul Page or Paul Page, the most punishing blow to Big Time Drag Racing is the high-finance hanky panky of something called HD Partners – the publicly-owned tax dodge who was supposed to buy the professional divisions of the NHRA and four of its drag strips at fire-sale prices. Instead, HDP pulled the plug on the deal that was hawked as “taking drag racing to the next level,” quicker than Alan Greenspan can mutter “irrational exuberance.”

In the words of Paddy Chayefsky (as voiced by Howard Beale): “I know things are bad. Things are bad everywhere. It’s a depression.” Well, if drag racing ain’t in a depression, it is certainly in a sub-prime mortgage crisis.

All of which leads us to POWERade and funny car racer Tommy Johnson Jr.’s spiky haircut.

With Rome burning and Nero sawing away on horsehair, the most pressing drag racing dilemma has naught to do with countdowns but couture; not with HDP but with hair gel…

To wit: after visiting Tommy Johnson’s blog on the NHRA website and an accompanying photo showcasing the driver’s latest hairdo, a friend alerted this scribe to a real conundrum. He wrote: “How does Tommy Johnson Jr. fix his hair back up after putting on his helmet? If he goes four rounds in one day does he have to fix his hair with ‘product’ four times daily as well? That's my biggest question going into this new season…”

His concerns are grave and valid, of course. But I am thinking the Tommy Johnson dilemma engenders solutions… In other words, as per bad hair days at the drag strip, I'm thinking lemons beget Lemonade. Or more specifically, POWERade. i.e., if TJ Jr. “goes
Rounds” this year, afterwards, while being interviewed by Gary Gerould on nat'l teevee, he can kill two birds with one magic marketing bullet by spiking his hair with POWERade. This gesture opens up some promotional angles for Coca-Cola Corp (PA's parent company), who can reposition and re-focus the PowerAde brand to a broader and less-athletic demographic.

As it stands now, in advertising, when trying to make the rather pushed comparison between Tony Schumacher's 6500 hp Top Fuel car and "extreme" amateur athletes (who supposedly drink this stuff, yet none of whom know a dragster from a doughnut and are too busy surfing a lava flow or riding a bicycle up Mt. Kilimanjaro to sit still and watch drag racing), the POWERade disclaimer has to read: "POWERade does not increase strength. It provides carbohydrate fuel."

That means POWERade is colored sugar water -- which is behind only egg whites and Torco Oil in effectively manipulating human follicles to stand up like porcupine quills. I say TJ Jr. should shill in some new non-athletic, pompadour-centric marketing campaign, with new promotional spots that can read: "POWERade: For Helmet Hair." Or "POWERade: The Drag Racer's Dippity-Do." No disclaimer needed.

My guess is AquaNet's sales will plummet as motorheads flock to the new en vogue sticky stuff, and that this will logarithmically increase POWERade's Return On Investment and may very well inspire Coca-Cola Corp to spend more dough on our sport and thus save NHRA drag racing.

Who needs HDP? 


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