Vegas Monday testing
Nov. 17, 2004
THE 2004 NHRA review..............Present and Future (by Dean Murdoch, photos by Guy Van Syckle, Brian Losness, Bill Jeffery Mark King, Brian Losness and Joel Gelfand)
The drag racing message boards and forums were buzzing the week after the comments made by Whit Bazemore which were captured by ESPN (thank god for the job ESPN2 has done this year). Their coverage is in my opinion fantastic, and is not the in-company take on drag racing much like the NHRA's print publication is. Bazmore loss in round one, relegating him to 6th in the standings and showed him going on a tirade to Chief Starter Rick Stewart as to how lousy the right lane was. ESPN2 had it all including some choice lip-synching by a prominent team owner as well, and had the Internet message boards humming in both support and bashing of Bazemore. Some forums even went as far as saying that Whit was fired from Don Schumacher's team. Something that surprisingly has not been denied by Don himself (it is proabalby true based on the resignation of Ron Capps today), who is a regular on these racing forums. Time will tell in that saga. Whit, being very outspoken is either loved or hated by the fans. There is no gray area in this one. Personally I find him to be very passionate and a very good driver for a sport that has enough stuffed drools in the pro classes. In order for the sport to continue to survive, it is very important to have personalities (characters) like John Force, Clay Millican, Whit Bazemore, Gary Scelzi, Scotty Cannon, Warren Johnson, Ron Capps, Jerry Toliver, Doug Herbert, David Grubnic, Gary Densham, Steve Johnson, David Baca and rookie Eric Medlen (too name a few), continue to speak their mind. It gives the fans a sense of their heroes being a real person and not a manufactured corporate image.
I know I'll take heat for this, but racers like Larry Dixon, Tony Schumacher, Brandon Bernstein, Doug Kalitta, Cruz Pedregon and a number of drivers in the other classes could take "Personality School 101". In order for this sport to survive and to grow, it has to be done by way of direct fan support. Drag Racing will never be mainstream to the extent of Nascar, F-1 etc. It is not a 2.5-3 hour experience it is an all day affair, and what network could afford to show a live drag race from start to finish. Drag Racing is the second most popular motorsport in North America and it isn't because of TV. It is because of the entire experience, from the time you arrive at the track, to the time spent in the pits watching your favorite teams do the 75 minute thrash to getting your favorite driver to autograph your hat shirt racer card or body part right in their element, and fianally to the race itself. The sooner some of the drivers realize this, and even the hierarchy realize it as well, the better drag racing will become.
There are many problems with the sport and the fans perception is what should be on the top of the list of ways to keep the sport growing.
#1. The 85% rule and possible further lower will only harm the top two classes. Take a look at 'Nostalgia Top Fuel' racing for example. Those cars (and even A/Fuel) run a full load of Nitro and you can tell. The sound is awesome. I think that if they dropped the two classes down to 95% and reduced the pump sizes, they could of accomplished the same goal they had originally planned. There is nothing like the sound of a full load, especially to the die hard fans.
#2. The Pro Stock Truck lawsuit should be settled out of court and not dragged on. Admit you made a mistake, and settle on a figure so the future of the sport can be mapped out and not have this hanging over their head.
#3. Start to listen to the teams that are responsible for the success of NHRA drag racing (alot could be learned from the likes of John Force, Don Schumacher, Connie Kalitta and Kenny Bernstein).
#4. Increase payouts by a reasonable amount. I realize that NASCAR only has to pay 43 cars, but NHRA only has to pay at most 64 cars in the Professional ranks (48 when PS Bike is on on the schedule). The sportsman classes are self funded with to their entry fees. Having a 1/2 million total purse is just not enough. While I can't say I know what all the cost involved are to put on an event, I can make a rough estimate. The attendance for a national event averages 90,000 per weekend, meaning an approx. gate revenue of 4 million dollars. Add in the charges to venders (concessions and revenues from said venders, midway etc) at national events and you can probably add as much as .5 to 1 million more. I realize the salaries to NHRA employees (don't go there), the fees paid to the tracks for hosting the event, insurance and advertising take a big bite of of the revenue, but to only pay out 10% (550,000 cash for the four pro classes plus maybe 250,000 in contingency which is not their responsibility) of the total revenue for the purse is not enough.
#5. Don't be hell bend on trying to improve the TV coverage of drag racing (Read above). Other than getting pre-empted for live sports coverage, which I understand, but it still sucks (those events generate way more revenue and ESPN is a for profit business I do believe), the coverage is easily heads and shoulders above coverage from years gone by. Marty Reid may be a bit of a weak link, but Mike Dunn, Bill Stephens, Alan Reinhart, Bob Frey, and the others do an amazing job. They get real, and ask the real questions. The actual camera work is excellent. Yes, I miss Steve Evans and D Mac, but it is still an excellent show.
#6. Start to appreciate the sportsman classes. They are still the back bone of the sport and they pay their own way and more. Don't throw executive spins on why you are taking them away from the National events and say it is to enhance the fans experience. Many of the fans of Drag Racing are in fact racers them selves and they know how important the sportsman classes are to the survival and the growth of the sport.
#7. Make the right decision on rules changes by way of talking to the racers. I have contacted hundreds of teams over the years and almost to a tee, every driver has stated they, contrary to the NHRA rules committee saying they have used racer's input, have in fact barely contacted them in determining rules. They haven't used and have very seldom asked for input. The NHRA has done what they perceive to be the best decision's for the classes. Yes, it is their playground and if you want to race year, it is by their rules. But most businesses in the free world rely on input from the employees (yes, the racers are the employees much like mainstream sports athletes). The decisions made in a number of cases have done nothing but have a negative impact on the classes. TAFC took four years to recover from their OD rule change. In TAD, the BADs are not being given the chance to compete against their quicker injected rivals. And the A/Fuelers in the last three years are being expensed out the ying-yang. The reasoning is allowing new technology is going to put too big a burden on the teams, when they are sportsman classes, not professional. Well what happens when you have to rev an engine past the optimum too compete. You spend more money on parts breakage and you cause delays in the running of a race because of the fluids on the racing surface.
#8. They have not done enough to get new sponsors into the sport. When non-automotive multi-million dollar companies like Oakley, CMKX and Schick see the value of drag racing, NHRA marketing should perhaps be assisting some of the up and coming teams to get sponsors. Instead, what has happened, a number of new sponsors in the sport have been signed on as NHRA corporate sponsors. Now it may be by their own (these corporations) vocation that these corporations have become NHRA marketing partners, but NHRA is a not for profit organization, and I don't see the need to have every team sponsor (new ones anyway) end up a marketing partner for the association as well.
#9. The list goes on, but I am sure you get the drift. Use the people in the ranks to help in making the right decisions. Don't make arbitrary decisions on the people that make this sport what it is, a live spectator driven spectacle.
#10. Don't get me wrong, there are many things the NHRA has done recently to make this a great sport. They have kept it fan friendly, particularly in the pits. They have brought back the cars and racers of old, by way of the 'nostalgia cackle-fests' and 'anniversary festivities'.
#11. They have brought back the Sportsman Nationals (and it will be expanding) which can showcase the classes left out in the lurch at the big shows.
#12. They have made the right decision to keep Pro Modified as an exhibition class. It is one of my three favorite classes in drag racing, but it should not be a class that could perhaps replace one of the TA classes.
In conclusion, keep the interests of the stars of the sport as one of the priorities, from Top Fuel all the way down to Stock eliminator. Keep the fans as the other priority. Make sure the fans experience continues to be enhanced.
Nov. 16, 2004 NHRA POWERade champs saluted at awards ceremony
RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif.
In a special moment during the ceremony, the late Darrell Russell was honored with a moving video tribute as those in attendance remembered the personable young Top Fuel driver. Russell died as a result of injuries sustained in a racing accident in June in St. Louis.
Schumacher, who raced to a category record 10 victories in his U.S. Army dragster, received a check for $400,000 for his second Top Fuel world championship from NHRA President Tom Compton and POWERade representative Katie Bayne, senior vice president of integrated marketing for Coca-Cola North America.
Pro Stock driver Jason Line headed the list of special award winners with the $20,000 Automobile Club of Southern California Road to the Future Award, which recognizes NHRA's rookie of the year. A distinguished panel of auto racing journalists selected Line, who won four races in eight final-round appearances and claimed two No. 1 qualifying positions en route to a second-place finish in the POWERade Pro Stock points standings behind the wheel of his KB Framers Grand Am.
The Drag Racing Association of Women (DRAW) was presented the Blaine Johnson Award for the organization's continued efforts to provide financial and emotional support to the drag racing community.
Pontiac was awarded the NHRA Manufacturers Cup for the eighth time, and the Newark (Ohio) Advocate was presented the NHRA Media Award.
The future stars of the sport, drivers in seven categories in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, also were recognized as 2004 champions: Mitch Myers (Top Alcohol Dragster); Cy Chesterman (Top Alcohol Funny Car); Dean Carter (Competition Eliminator); Larry Stewart Jr. (Super Stock); Lee Zane (Stock Eliminator); Lyndon Rutland (Super Comp) and Jonathan Womack (Super Gas).
Points are below
Nov11-14 AAA World Finals, Pomona is here
Oct.28-31 AC Delco Nationals, Las Vegas is here
Sept.30-Oct. 3 Carquest Nationals, Chicago is here
Sept. 23-26 O'Reilly Fall Nationals is here
Sept. 8-10 Lucas Oil Nat's, Reading is here
Sept. 1-7 Mac Tools US Nationals is here
August 20-22 Memphis Mid South Nationals is here
Aug 13-15 Brainerd Lucas Oil Nationals coverage is here
July 30 - Aug 1 Autolite Nationals coverage is here
July 23-25th Carquest North West Nationals coverage is here
July15-18 Mile High Nationals coverage is here
June 25-27 Sears Craftsman Nationals coverage is here
June 17-20 K & N Filters Supernationals coverage is here
June 10-13 Pontiac Excitement Nationals coverage is here
May 27-30 O'Reilly Nationals coverage is here
May 20-23 Chicago Route 66 Nationals coverage is here
May 14-16 Southern Nationals, coverage is here
April 30 - May 2 Thunder Valley Nationals is here
April 16, 2004 O'Reilly Spring Nationals is here
April 5, 2004 Summit Nationals, coverage is here
March 19, 2004 Gatornationals coverage is here
March 10, 2004 CSK Nationals coverage is here
February 29, 2004 Winternationals coverage is here
Point standings to November 14nd, 2004
01 Tony Schumacher 1994
Pro Stock Bike
2003 NHRA Zone
Jan.04 NHRA Zone
Feb 04 NHRA zone
Mar 04 NHRA zone
Apr 04 NHRA zone
July 04 and earlier NHRA zone