Discuss anything to do with modern day drag racing here

Moderators: timetravel, ukdrn

 #38724  by ahensman
It would seem that the economic challenges of running the NHRA tour are beginning to show.
For the past few races, there have been bye runs (and more than one bye in the same class) in all NHRA professional classes except for Pro Stock Bike.

Earlier this season, Bob Vandergriif closed up his two car top fuel team at a moments notice. He stated it was due to personal reasons as a result of the owner of his primary sponsor passing away, but his sponsor was in the US oil field service industry which has taken a major hit since OPEC decided to flood the market with crude oil, thus making it uneconomic for US oil production.

However, two less top fuelers doesn't explain why NHRA is struggling to fill a 16 car field in both Funny Car and Pro Stock, and that's even with "local yokel" drivers being contracted in by NHRA to ensure a full field.

So it looks like NHRA drag racing has some serious economic hurdles to overcome if they wish to maintain or expand their fan base going forward.

Personally, I have attended the Mopar Mile High Nationals in my adopted hometown of Denver for the past dozen or so years, but after looking at the entry list for this year, I'm hesitating before making any plans. Unlike other years, I have not booked my ticket ahead of time and with only 10 regular fuelers, 12 regular funnies, 12 regular Pro Stockers and 13 regular bikes entered, I might just sit and watch the highlights on the telly this year.

How is the racing economy over in UK?
 #38730  by ahensman
Ironically, there is a post on today from the new NHRA Vice President of Public Relations & Communications (Terry Blount) outlining what the organization sees as a successful new marketing plan.

The report highlights a 72% increase in television viewership, but makes no mention as to if actual fan attendance is up or down. It could simply be that 72% of fans have switched from attending the races in person to watching them for free on their TV. When you watch the TV coverage and look at the stands, there's a lot of empty seats in the stands, even the more expensive seats at the start line.

Maybe the fact that ticket prices have increased by over 20% might be a factor in that TV increase. Last year, I paid about US$60 per day to attend the Mile High Nationals. This year and thanks to additional fees added by the track owners, the same daily ticket is about $85 which (to me) is not a good deal when you consider the shrinking entry list.

A 20+% price hike to watch 20+% less racing just doesn't sound like a good deal to me. Especially when I can watch the races on TV in the comfort of my air conditioned home. For those who haven't been to Denver in July, typical temperature in the stands is a shade-less 100F (38C) and no clouds. Plus the Bandimere seats are Aluminium which scolds your bum every time you sit down.

Anyhow, the NHRA posting makes interesting promotional reading even if the organization appears to be in denial about the shrinkage in the number of racers.
 #38733  by ukdrn
I don't know the official entry figures but things seems to be okay.
I know Santa Pod are having to come up with new ideas all the time to get people through the gate.
The venue has changed over time and now features more shows and things like monster trucks etc.
The Easter drag meeting meeting has now become the festival of power and has many different things going on like drifting.

Entry wise the recent Summer Nationals a sportsman meeting had a decent entry of 275 competitors.
Many things effect meeting attendance over here, the main thing being the weather.
 #38742  by ahensman
One more shrinkage!!!

Kendall Oil sponsored Pro Stock owner and driver V Gaines announce his immediate retirement from the sport, stating that the "fun has gone out of it".
He has been a regular on the NHRA tour for 20 years and it is hard to see him decide to move on.

This years Pro Stock car class has probably become the most un-interesting of all the classes with Ken Black's two car Summit Racing team winning every race.

Clearly, NHRA's decision to move to fuel injection has had an effect even though they claimed it is advancement. All Ken Black did was go out and adopted Bo Buntner into his team because Bo had been running fuel injection on his gas powered cars in lower classes. Have money, will win. It's amazing what a casino cleaning company (Ken Black) can achieve, huh?

The whole US Pro Stock situation reminds me of how the Brooklyn and London Heavies killed off the fledgling class way back in earlier UK racing history, and they weren't even proper Pro Stocks but rather very fast American built Super Stockers that obliterated the home grown racers such as Kevin Pilling, Keith Harvie and adopted Brit Gary (El Go-Go) Goggin.
 #38745  by torment
Pro stock is a can't knock kb racing for winning.they got the best guy first.
Pro modified is more entertaining for the fans.
 #38746  by ahensman
There's a saying here in the States, "What goes around, comes around" and Torment's comment about Pro Stock being a joke echoes former Pro Stock superstar Warren Johnson's comments at the time he and his awesome development shop pulled out of PS racing a few years back.

WJ had become so disillusioned with the class and the restrictions placed by NHRA upon innovative development that he pretty much declared the class a joke. His point was that if a racer did something innovative, then he was compelled to let everyone else know what it was which (in turn) meant large speed shop companies (who just happened to be power hungry major NHRA sponsors) would manufacture that new technology and sell it to anyone who could cough up the greenbacks. In short, WJ decided enough was enough when it came to winning by shelling out big bucks. In essence, the class had become one big corporate joke.

I agree that Pro Mod is far more entertaining and exciting, especially as it harps back the drag racing's roots of "Take a basic car recognizable to the average man in the street, stuff an overly powerful, but not overly expensive power plant into it and make it go fast". Wasn't that the original concept of Fuel Altereds?

The question is, "How long will Pro Mod last in its present format before corporate interference ruins it?" Already, we are seeing Pro Mod costs escalating in leaps and bounds and unless restrictions are put in place it will price itself out of the market.

Even Nostalgia racing is getting expensive. It's extremely popular with fans and the original concept of taking the original car and racing it again was great. Now, Nostalgia cars are just modern day, purpose built cars with a Nostalgic body on top and are called "Tribute Cars".
 #38748  by torment
The problem is racing takes money. The more you have the better bits/people you can can it be kept on a level most can afford..? When your on a big budget you can have spare engines and the like...wish I could..

Nostalgia racing is big news now..big news pulls in big budgets.guys want to do the cool thing and are prepared to pay for it.
 #38749  by ahensman
torment wrote:The problem is racing takes money. The more you have the better bits/people you can can it be kept on a level most can afford..? When your on a big budget you can have spare engines and the like...wish I could..

Nostalgia racing is big news now..big news pulls in big budgets.guys want to do the cool thing and are prepared to pay for it.
Oh yeah, I remember that little equation, "big budget =equipment+ parts + ability to travel".

Back in the last century, when I started on a 500cc comp bike we looked at the economics and concluded that stock parts and high octane fuel (nitro) was cheaper than a fancy specialized engine and cheaper fuel. Back then, we were purchasing complete 500cc Triumph parts bike (and the like) for as little as 50 quid. We'd pull the engines and carry them to the track as spares while accumulating a huge pile of unwanted frames, wheels etc. around the back of our shop (otherwise known as the barn on the farm I grew up on). Oh how I wish I had all those old frame parts now. They would be worth a small fortune. I took them all to the dump when we sold the farm, mainly because no one wanted them at that time.

The comp bike frame was Norman Hyde's old 350/500 record holding sidecar bike (still with original sidecar mounts but no sidecar) that drove all the way from Bedford to Norwich and bought from Mr. Webb. I gave that for free to a motorcycle parts shop in Rushden.

After a short stint on a blown pre-unit 750 Triumph we changed our tactics and I got hold of a turbocharged Z1000. We ran it competitively on cheap alcohol, but I sure had a lot of bent and broken stock Triumph parts to send to the smelter when I cleared out the shop. That was when racing was really fun.
 #39530  by ahensman
Just took time to read back through these comments and replies that began in June 2016 and it struck me how prophetic it all is.
NHRA is now struggling with the demise of the Pro Stock car class that has rarely (if at all) had a full 16 car field all season. Even when the numbers were up, it was because part-time or local sportsman racers were paid to fill the field to make it look full. The ultimate was last year when a part time local Seattle racer made it all the way to his local final which was postponed due to weather. He finished up racing in the postponed final that was run during the 2016 Nationals at Indy (4 weeks later) but someone paid his costs to get their. Rumor has it NHRA footed the bill.

Only today, we hear that the owner of the Vincent Nobile driven Mountain View Pro Stocker pulled the financial plug on the team, because it didn't merit continuing into the championship countdown since the car didn't qualify for the countdown. Makes total financial sense to me, plus the owner had a buyer lined up so the car will not be idle as it is already sold. It has been claimed that by pulling out from the last 5 races of the season, the Mountain View team has saved $250,000 (about 185,000 pounds) of their budget which they plan to use to initiate their 2018 program.

A couple of weeks ago, Angelle Sampey and Cory Read parked their Pro-Stock bikes after failing to qualify for the championship countdown. They claim they only did it to do required engine maintenance, and will be back out as soon as it is completed, but let's see if it takes them until next season's opener to get the work done???

To owners and sponsors alike, the 6-race countdown just doesn't make financial sense unless you (both) qualify and win the championship.
As we used to say when I raced, "Coming second means you lost", but we can't even say that now with Bruton Smith's attempts to change the sport forever to four vehicle races.

Is NHRA over-thinking their issues? Have they ever considered changing the format of the racing?
By that I mean they always run Top Fuel first, then Funny Cars followed by Pro Stock cars then bikes. As soon as the last Flopper race is done, over half the spectators leave the stands until the next round of Top Fuel is about to start.
How about sandwiching the Pro Stock classed between bookend Nitro races?
Both spectators and TV coverage (the main reason sponsors pay so they get their name on TV) would have to stay put if they wanted to see the fuel classes. With Fox Sports doing many more live race coverages, they would have to give more coverage time to the gas classes.
Plus the 65 minute turn around time for fuel cars wouldn't be so critical.

Another format change that might help is in the "extra competitions" such as the Shoot Outs.
Instead of the normal fixed format ladder system, how about re-setting the ladder each round using the previous round's times as if they were qualifying times. So a racer could qualify number one for the 8-car first round, win his/her race, but be the slowest of the winners. That way, that racer would be reassigned the number 4 spot in the next round. Even better if it were a 16-car first round.

Just thoughts and observations