Dead on 

$500,000 Guaranteed to win a bracket race!

Not just one race, there are several of them across the USA


It has taken me a couple months to really absorb what I think is going on in what we used to call bracket racing across the country. (I wonder what my old friend Dale Wilson, editor of the old Bracket Racing USA magazine, would think about a couple different bracket races with $500,000 guaranteed to the winner?) He isn’t with us any longer, but he loved this crazy sport. Our Editor, Jeff Burk, is making a major change in what type of events and features this magazine will pursue in the future. He has decided to have the magazine focus on Sportsman racing, ET Bracket racing, both local and BIG BUCKS events. Both Jeff and Dale and many others around the USA have been dedicated to the sport we all enjoy for 50+ years.


Bracket Racing has changed and part of it has become something else. Whether you think it is for the better because of the largest race purses in history or you think it is hurting the local tracks, without a doubt the sport originally designed to give the “little guy” a place to race on a budget by letting them pick their own dial-in vs the early days of class racing has become a LOT MORE.


DRO Editor, Jeff Burk, asked for my opinion on “what it takes” to race for all the $30,000, $50.000, $75,000, $100,000 and now $500,000 guaranteed to win races that are being scheduled all over the USA.


Let’s take a quick look at what has evolved. Let’s call it what it is: “High Stakes Gambling” with race cars as one of the “tools” and the highly skilled drivers as the other “tool” in this high-stakes game. When it comes to choice of “tools” (cars) when it started out, let’s say about 15 years ago, the dragster was the most popular way to increase your odds of winning simply because they repeated better than most door cars at the time and offered better visibility going down the track and at the finish line, making judging the stripe in close races a little easier. Then the door cars simply got better and better and, in my opinion, some are on equal footing with dragsters, but not all of them.


Though not a fact, I would guess more dragsters come out on top at Big Bucks races. You also see most race promoters are keeping door cars running door cars and dragsters running dragsters and guaranteeing a door car vs dragster final round. THAT has created a resurgence in building door cars for the Big Bucks races. Most serious teams will bring at least one dragster and one door car. Simple mathematics say it is a good idea; you can’t run yourself, if you double-enter, if you are on opposite sides of the ladder.


I have been racing for nearly 50 years and the last 25 years I have raced at as many Big Bucks races that I could afford to go to (maybe 60-70 races over $5,000). Compared to a lot of racers, that isn’t very many. I know what my costs were and, trust me, the race car is not usually the most expensive part of the “cost of racing”. Most of my Big Bucks racing was when cars were built at home and so were the engines (Yes, I am that old!)


In my experience the “support equipment” costs far more and usually required more Tender Loving Care than the race car does. Now, if you can afford a motorhome or a big white truck with a nice reliable trailer, pit vehicle, spare transmission, converter, valve springs, rocker arms, fuel pump, starter and realistically a spare engine is likely part of the plan if you race every week or two and maybe 10 months a year you had about $100,000 to $350,000 in the operation. It used to be that the ENTRY FEE was just a small part of the equation. NOT SO MUCH ANYMORE -- entry fees are increasing as purses go up!


Entry fees have easily reached $500 to $4,000 for a weekend of BIG BUCKS RACING, especially if you “double enter” or have to “buyback”! Think the fuel and food was expensive to get to and from the races? How about some of the “Professional Bracket Racers” who lay out $15,000 to $30,000 a year in entry fees alone, not counting the likelihood of $4,000 to $5,000 in “buy-backs”.


These seemingly Professional Touring Bracket Racers have pretty much given up any local racing to pursue the BIG BUCKS and are racing for more money than the NHRA Professional Nitro teams. Think about that. John Force Racing Nitro teams bring about five semis into an NHRA race and the entire team races for maybe $100,000 but spends about $200,000 that weekend on travel, crew, $1,000-a-drum fuel, tires, engines, flying the team back and keeping five semis on the road. Of course, he has sponsors, VERY FEW could race NHRA pro categories without sponsors. (OK, Kalitta probably!)


That is what surprises me a bit with the Big Bucks travelling bracket racers. There simply doesn’t seem to be any corporate backing, just deep personal pockets and probably “support” from friends or family business. Yet, these guys are racing for more than the Pros even dream about. $500,000 to win a bracket race. One day, nine rounds and $500,000! Talk about a life changing experience! Now, I realize 99% of these $50K-$75K and now $500K races end up with the purse being “split up” as racers usually negotiate somewhere around the final 16 cars. Even then you could get to eight cars and probably take home $15,000 to maybe $50,000 and you weren’t the winner.


So, when will the well-financed Pro team owners put together “Bracket Racing Teams” with corporate backing? I think it will be sooner than we think. What new “science” will they bring with them? Or will they just bring four to six identical $80,000 dragsters and door cars? Time will tell.


Here is my take on the entire MEGA-BUCKS Races, BIG BUCKS Races, whatever you want to call them.


1. If they are organized, operated fairly, rules are published on event flyer, make an effort to follow a schedule with reasonable entry fees, no driver goes down the track in the same car twice per round and no car goes down the track more than twice per round, Buy-backs run Buy-backs to get into the second round, and GUARANTEED PAYOUTS. Their reputation as a promoter will draw the cars. I wish them only the best in the future. Those are races I would attend.


2. If the event or track has a reputation for being a “mess”, nothing happens on time, some racers show up after the lanes are closed BUT…still get the time run (because they are buddies with track owner or promoter), racers don’t seem informed as to who has the bye-run or how they got it, how did the ladder get generated? Racers are “double-entering or triple-entering” in every car they can buy their way into. Payouts are “pro-rated” according to number of entries but nobody seems to know HOW the purse will be pro-rated. Those events I am going to take a pass on. Rather than all the confusion and 80% of the racers leaving mad, I will stay home.


3. Local Big Bucks races. I encourage racers to support local track Big Bucks races as often as they can if for no other reason than to help keep the track open. Again, the same things apply. Sometimes a local track can only guarantee $2,000 or $5,000 to win because the promoter has not seen the car counts big enough to support more payout. Attend those races, build the track owner’s confidence. A track can have a $10,000 to $15,000 profit for the weekend and that should be GREAT NEWS for you, the racer. Track owners have a lot of money invested, their goal is to make that investment payoff. To do that, they need a lot of local support.


4. That brings me to the final point.  Are MEGA-BUCK races hurting local tracks? I used to think they might be but in recent years I have changed my mind. The really good bracket racer who has the budget to always have the best parts and takes racing seriously is a tough guy to beat locally. When they go to MEGA-BUCK races it literally opens the door at local tracks for the racer who does not travel to go a few more rounds or even get a first win. That will encourage other bracket racers who are tired of getting beat up on by extremely consistent “near professional operations”. I know it sounds like “Why doesn’t the local guy just get better?” It comes down to money and then skills in my opinion. Always having fresh tires, fresh converters and a professionally built engine in a well-maintained chassis is a distinct advantage, in most cases, over the racers who are trying to get the last possible passes on old slicks because they cost $700 a pair or their converter is OK but this is season three with it. They are trying hard, but it will come down to family, current job, available funds and most important “SPARE TIME” and how it is used to improve their race operation.


Will the MEGA-BUCKS races survive? Are there enough racers (usually it takes about 400-500 entries for these promoters to make a profit) with the extra cash to keep spending $700-$3,000 for a weekend of bracket racing? Could it be the MEGA-BUCKS races will replace the NHRA LODRS events? Money-wise it is a no-brainer to me. If I am going to have the equipment it takes to compete at LODRS events, add the travel and the entry fees, and in the end get a payout that is only a couple thousand dollars for a win, then I am going to look long and hard at the Kyle Riley SFG Races (including the $500,000 guaranteed in Michigan), the Loose Rocker events, The Biondo/Siepel “Fling” events, Folk’s “The Million”, the Mid-Michigan $50K, the $100K in Byron and there are literally $10,000 and $20,000 to win bracket races every weekend.


If you can wheel that car of yours to .00 reaction times and crush the dial-in, there has NEVER been a better time to Bracket Race for Serious Money, period!

Good luck to all of you; hope to see some of you at CFMP $50K/$20K, Byron’s $100K and hopefully the $50K in Michigan.  


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