Phoenix Rises from the Ashes
take some time, but I believe we are witnessing
the end of major drag racing sanctioning bodies
of the past. In my opinion, drag racing as we
know it will morph into a more TV viewer-friendly
exhibition for fans that know little of the
history and heritage of Wally Parks vision.
We might still have a Wally trophy to award
our victorious eliminators, but sadly, eventually
few will remember why the trophy was named Wally.
Its likely that Don Garlits will become
a distant memory with sketchy information in
the minds of casual fans about our rich past,
oh yes, I remember hearing about Big Daddy;
didnt he shave his head at a race or something?
Look how some neo-NASCAR fans have forsaken
the current, non-competitive Petty clan while
knowing something of the Petty brand. As we
get further away from Lee and Richard Petty,
that team becomes more of a brand name - like
Kleenex. The same can already be said of the
late Dale Earnhardt as Dale Earnhardt, Inc.
crafts the Earnhardt brand with Dale Jr. Someday
neo-NASCAR fans wont quite remember who
drove that black #3 car.
Now Im talking about a metamorphosis
for drag racing, not the end. The big sanctioning
bodies like NHRA will still have the giant,
national-touring, professional Top Fuel and
Funny Car shows and will probably include an
EFI or Turbo doorslammer class.
Super teams will continue to emerge the way
Don Schumacher has built his drag racing empire.
Good or bad, hes got five competitive
racing machines from fast bikes to spectacular
floppers with TV-smart drivers building a workable
business template for the future. The same can
be said for the Snake with his high profile,
vice-sponsors attracted to legendary performance
of the past bringing younger, TV-marketable
drivers before drag racings brand-loyal
buyers. Because of governmental restrictions,
what other way does Skoal have left to advertise
their legal products to potential customers
besides the print medium?
We are seeing a shift toward the sanitized
TV version of drag racing as more randomly selected
sportsmen classes are denied entry to national
races because of what has been labeled pit
space limitations; clearly the weeding
of the Big Show has begun. As the pro shows
dwindle to less than 16 car fields, the new
sanctioning body will shift to eight car fields
as IHRA has, shortening the already long show
for TV viewers. Clear Channel Entertainment,
the largest media conglomerate, owns and promotes
IHRA, Arenacross, Monster Trucks, and some Professional
Bull Riding venues, as well as huge arena music
concerts. Clear Channels eyes are solidly
on providing TV programming. Might a cash-strapped
NHRA be ripe for a deep pocket take-over by
Many a long-term drag fan is already feeling
separated from what he or she felt was his or
her drag racing series and this is probably
a major factor in the TV ratings slide we have
seen with the ESPN2/NHRA show over the past
three years. Even though some recent cosmetic
changes have come to the ESPN2/NHRA TV show
because of our comments and fan reactions, a
lot of that lost audience wont be coming
back to watch. I believe that ESPN2/NHRA has
already written off these viewers.
But as ticket prices continue to climb, rabid
fans and their families are looking in other
directions for their entertainment. Look around
our world; drag racing is already being reborn
as smaller niche-market shows: Goodguys VRA,
Super Chevy Show, California and National Hot
Rod Reunions, Pacific Street Car Association,
Outlaw 10 Wide, Dixie Pro Stock Association,
National Muscle Car Association, National Mustang
Racing Association, Pro Mod Marketing Association,
Funny Car Reunions, Knights of Nitro, Summit
ET Series, NOPI & IDRC & Battle of the
Imports, even IHRA.
Advertisers with aftermarket and consumer products
are now looking at supporting these niche-markets.
Watch next year as mainstay drag racing advertisers
sponsor more of these smaller racing series
since they connect directly with new customers
rather than utilizing traditional, magazine
or television advertising. In talking with some
advertisers this year, racing series sponsorships
are a less expensive way to get to potential
Look how quickly Nostalgia Nitro Funny Cars
have emerged; racers are assembling Nostalgia
Nitro Funny Cars to have some fun again. Other
off the record comments from racers
have stated that they are fed up with the way
NHRA has sucked the fun out of racing and that
NHRA robbed drag racing of its character sanitized
for your protection. With fun being an important
factor, some successful businessmen/racers want
to recapture those times when they went to the
drags to hang with friends and compete without
dropping a load of cash on every pass.
How long before we see an East -vs. West Nostalgia
Funny Car Chicago-style match bash? Its
probably not far off and probably with a significant
marketing partner for another niche-market.
How long until the fun comes back? As soon as
these guys unload from the trailer or ramp truck,
the fun starts.
While NHRA Marketing MBAs kept their
eyes on NASCARs rear they lost sight of
drag racing. What a shame, but what an incredible