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atchel Paige, the late, great Negro Leagues legend, originated that line about looking ahead, instead of dwelling on the past. As he played through the innings of his wildly varied life experience, Paige was always able to focus on what lay ahead of him, and how he could best get the most out of it. That's not a bad approach to take, be it on a personal, professional or corporate level. It speaks to the need to grow, change and evolve as circumstances dictate.

Depending on who you talk to, drag racing is A, in great shape and ready to break out, B, on a plateau and searching for the "next big thing," or C, wobbling and in danger of falling off the edge of the Flat Earth. There are no absolutes in life, and drag racing's state of affairs is no different. But the 800-pound gorilla is still out there, and it may be the 8000-pound gorilla before long. I'm speaking, of course, of NASCAR. And before I go any further, when I say drag racing, I'm saying NHRA national event drag racing. That is what drag racing is when it comes to the national awareness, like it or not. In light of NASCAR's ever-expanding presence on the nation's network and cable / satellite programming outlets, it may be high time for the people in charge to reevaluate how national event drag racing is conducted and how the sport is delivered to the folks in TV-Land.

It wasn't that long ago when NHRA drag racing had no home for its televised product, cable or otherwise. When the Nashville Network dumped them, NHRA had to scramble to find anyone willing to take them under their wing. I have little desire to go through all the changes that followed -- they are well enough known. Suffice it to say, NHRA's current deal with ESPN 2 is at least as good as any they have ever had. You want to carp about odd telecast times, or waiting for the Little League World Series game to conclude? Think Wide World of Sports twice a year and SHUT UP!!

No, the real question NHRA faces is this -- how much money and air time can the NASCAR Gorilla eat up? And the answer is -- no one knows. The other pertinent question that can't be answered is this-at what point does ESPN2 yield to the temptation to convert NHRA programming slots into yet another NASCAR theme news show, or Best Crashes of NASCAR, or the Wives of NASCAR or whatever?

There is a contract in place, and the corporate speakers are always saying the right things, but there is another well known saying that applies here -- the only constant is change. It would behoove NHRA to start looking ahead, a lot further ahead.

Here's a question for you. Why are all twenty-three NHRA national events on television? Looking at the recently released ratings numbers, it's clear that some events don't generate much of an audience. So why spend the money to produce them? Why not pick the eight or twelve best events, in terms of their proven track record of generating ratings, and do whatever it takes to put those races on NETWORK TV? The open wheel racing groups have gone that route, and have made some sizable gains. This can't happen overnight, due to the tremendous lead time it take to get a slot on a major network, but it can be done. Hey, if those guys at CART and the IRL can do it, surely NHRA could too.

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