A BALL OF CONFUSION
For a while there, this was starting to look like an unusually orderly drag racing season. Everything was going along pretty much according to Hoyle, with racers of all persuasions chasing their respective "world" championships, servicing their contracts (if they had any), and doing their part to stimulate the drag racing economy. As of late, however, the do-do has decidedly hit the fan.
Let's start at the top. And that would be Winston. We are talking about the business side of drag racing. Like 'em or otherwise, Winston has been the biggest financial player in modern drag racing, bar none. For sure, Winston's involvement with drag racing represented the biggest advertising bargain they ever could have hoped for. No, I don't pretend to know how much money the RJR folks poured into the 1320 sport over the years. In times where the tobacco industry took more shots from all comers than any legitimate business in U.S. history, NHRA drag racing stood ready and willing to provide a highly visible venue for Winston to spread it's message through. It has been the kind of support and access Winston could not have bought from many sources, regardless of how many dollars would have been offered. That's what I mean by saying "a bargain for Winston."
Ever since the Tobacco Agreement came about, most of the smart money was on Winston dumping drag racing for Winston Cup and NASCAR. So it should have surprised nobody when that is exactly what happened. The most widely held assumption was Winston would leave because they "had" to, not because they wanted to. That well may be true, but written references to the voluntary nature of compliance with the Agreement persist, leaving the cynical among us to question recent developments. Given the great value drag racing supposedly delivers, let's hope that RJR did indeed have no choice but to pour all of it's sports marketing budget into NASCAR. Because if they did leave when they could have stayed, that does not bode well for NHRA's search for new significant and long-term corporate investors. You and I will never know the hard core truth on this subject, but the business world probably already does. The clock is ticking on NHRA's search for a new alliance, and the drag racing community is waiting.
Next subject. Pro Stock Trucks. Oh wait a minute, there aren't any! At least there won't be any next year. This subject makes certain people happy, although I can't for the life of me understand why. Oh, I'm aware a check of the DRO archives will reveal me as one of many who didn't like the trucks. But my objection to them was the instant elevation to Pro status, without a real trial and error and education period. I felt NHRA was making a knee-jerk reaction to NASCAR's success with their truck series. Looked like an apples to oranges deal to me, then and now. If the truck thing would have been a little less like C Altered and a little more like Pro Mod, for instance, it might have worked out.
But once NHRA made the commitment to host a truck series, they should have stuck with it. Two years isn't a fair test of anything in the business world. Whether you like the trucks or not, consider these facts.
Fact #1 - An awful lot of racers dropped an awful lot of money on parts and pieces. They did so because they wanted to step up and be considered Professionals. They most likely are not enchanted with the prospects of returning to the land of a thousand indexes, or a 96-truck/car round one in Super Gas. Once one thinks of himself as a Pro, it is a bit unrealistic to expect that person to retreat to the sportsman ranks.
Fact #2 - There were no short fields in Pro Stock Truck's short history. That translates into a lot of entry fees and pit passes. A quick dose of math shows that NHRA is apparently willing to kiss off a six figure income generated by the Pro Stock Trucks -- that's every year, sports fans! All of this well may be a big "so what" to other racers and fans involved in other eliminators, but just you consider this. If NHRA is willing to 86 a group of racers who showed up, spent tons of their own money to do so, and put on close, competitive racing, what makes you think YOU couldn't be NEXT! Really, you have to wonder what the real criteria for inclusion actually is. If you figure it out, tell the Pro Stock Truck guys the answer.
I guess what really gets me upset with the truck thing is NHRA's stated reason for doing so. Their overriding reason seems to be to free up more TV time for the other Pro categories. Come on now, fellas! You must think we don't watch televised drag racing. On the average broadcast, Pro Stock Trucks barely register a blip on the radar, in terms of how much time they get. And how much more time do we really need to interview Connie Kalitta fer chrissakes! (Just kidding, Mr. Kalitta, your name just popped into my head.) No kidding, if this is the big sticking point, the whole issue needs to be rethought. Even at this late date, the truck contingent would probably come back, God help em! It's not like they have a lot of viable alternatives at the moment.
And now for some closing thoughts on the recently departed ADRA. You know, the nostalgia racing group that never was. Or at least not for long. Without a doubt, the worst part of the failure of this business entity, save for the money all the racers and investors lost, is the loss of opportunity for the drag racing fans to see the work of Dean Papadeas. He had been slated to provide the television coverage of the ADRA tour, but with no tour happening, not to mention no payment for services rendered, that ain't gonna happen. And that is a certified shame.
I did have the opportunity to view a rough cut of Dean's work at the Fallon, Nevada ADRA event, and it would have been good, maybe great viewing for all drag fans. DP's reputation is well established via his Main Event videos, but it would have been interesting to see his particular visions and talents applied to a full coverage drag racing TV show. Maybe that will happen for DP someday, maybe it won't. If it doesn't, the drag racing public will be the poorer for it!
Oh by the way, I am shopping around a deal to run a Top Fuel car next
year. Yeah, I know, nobody who actually knows me can believe it either.
Some of the responses I have received from corporate America have been
interesting, to say the least. Actually, to get any response at all
is encouraging in its own insane way. Anyway, if there is anyone out
there who has lost their mind and has some (lots) of money they no longer
need, I am available. To run a Top Fuel car, that is. More details to
follow, at a later date.