When I was a kid, I had no idea what cycles were and how they worked. Then again, I was just a kid and didn't need to. If I only knew then what I knew today, I might have a different outlook. Almost a teen, I learned to first cheer for a car. I remember as if it were yesterday…a stick-shifted, E/Modified Production '65 Corvette.
As I became more knowledgeable, I focused more on drivers and that became my first clue that these guys, although placed upon an impressionable pedestal in my life, were merely fans of the sport – they had just been around a lot longer.
Of course, the older I got, the more I became intrigued by the challenges of building cars within certain specs and making them run fast, and that led me to become more of a fan of a particular class, which back in those days was Modified Eliminator, which graduated a lot of drivers to Top Sportsman and then inevitably Pro Modified.
Then, I began to see the business side of things and that led me to pull for the IHRA because they were merely an underdog. It's always easy to pull for the winner, but it takes a special person to pull for a lesser cause. Trust me, I've had enough experience with lesser causes by being a fan of the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers since 1976. That leads me to where I am today, a fan of the sport. Essentially I have run the entire cycle of growth in drag racing.
In that time of traveling in the broad circle, it has enabled me to see the big picture on a lot of things. I have learned that winning feels great and losing stinks. People are willing to gamble their lives away just to be a part of the game. Others are willing to make unsound business decisions just to stay ahead of their neighbor. Family time is often sacrificed for the sake of gaining the edge on someone. However, for every negative, I've managed to find quite a few positives.
Absolutely, the greatest positive is the camaraderie exhibited at times when a racer is down. We do have an extended family in drag racing and that's what makes it worth it. I can tell you that both Roger Richards and I, who both lost our fathers in the last year, were overwhelmed at the support of this community through emails, cards and flowers as well as phone calls.
But, as large as we all feel that the sport of drag racing is, we are merely a niche market, drastically falling behind other avenues of entertainment. While NASCAR has scores of sponsors battling it out for their title rights, drag racing is just a few sponsors away from being in deep trouble. You know it and I know it, as much as we hate to admit it. The thing that keeps it going is the fact that the automotive market needs drag racing to account for a large part of its revenue.
The sad part of it all is that we have now launched a custom motorcycle magazine and in two years, it will exceed what it has taken us five years of teeth-grinding work to achieve. If we take the blinders off, we can effectively see that drag racing is one of the lowest pay, slowest pay industries out there. The only reason that this sport has advanced to the point it has today is because of passion – yours, mine and everyone else that has gone the extra mile unpaid and underappreciated. Sometimes I think the passion runs too deep at times.
Case in point, the AT&T Wireless deal. I can remember seeing a post about the company postponing their involvement with drag racing until maybe next year so they can get some things straightened out in their marketing strategies. Maybe it had something to do with the article I read regarding a potential merger with Cingular Wireless, but that is neither here nor there.
The thing that disappointed me is seeing people immediately jump up to bash the company, threatening to take their business elsewhere. Instead of being just thankful that we (the drag racing community) were even considered in the first place, we immediately turned that frustration to anger. Maybe it's a good thing that AT &T Wireless or any potentially large corporation doesn't understand all of the ins and outs of the sport. If they did, they might not give us the time of day.
All the undercutting, back-biting and leg-humping that goes on behind the scenes would be enough to make a major corporation thankful to not be involved. I don't think we truly take the time to consider what it takes to make the deals work. In fact, I don't think we take the time to understand a lot of things.
I love drag racing…with a good bit of my heart. It has been good to me and I will forever be grateful. Sometimes, I'm just disappointed and embarrassed by it. And, I am just as guilty.
What do you think, drop us an email at email@example.com .