This will be the shortest Up Front editorial I’ll ever write for CompetitionPlus.com. And I promise to keep it that way.
There is absolutely no excuse for the pit-parking situation at Royal Purple Raceway in Houston this coming weekend, none whatsoever. The blame for this situation falls at least partially on the heads of the track ownership, but more solidly on the seemingly empty heads in Glendora, who clearly failed to think this through before relegating professional competitors to a second-rate pit area on the grass.
In the last five years the amount of pit space relegated to the heavily sponsored fuel teams has been on the increase, and dramatically so. Despite the fact that team owners pay for the privilege of housing their increasingly massive hospitality areas next to their pits, things have gone beyond the point of being questionable and have reached the point of ludicrousness.
One of the primary selling points that NHRA Drag Racing has with potential sponsors is the direct access to the drivers that the fans enjoy. Ours is the only motorsports endeavor in which this is the case and believe me, it’s a very important point. However, when hospitality space increases to the point where those very same fans are forced to walk an additional quarter to half mile to see their favorite driver (and that distance is no exaggeration), it’s time to re-evaluate the whole situation.
In no other form of professional motorsports do the sponsors and/or team owners set up their hospitality areas right next to their race car’s pit area. Yes, we know. Most of the tracks utilized in other forms of motorsports simply aren’t configured to enable pits and hospitality to be side-by-side, so why are we continuing to force this issue in NHRA Drag Racing? Because a few greedy, needy team owners demand it?
NHRA Drag Racing is supposed to be about the action on the track first, and then the fans’ enjoyment of their day or weekend at the races. Those paying fans – and it’s obvious we have far too few of them at present – are what’s keeping this sport going. Without paying people in the stands there won’t be any sponsors, period, so why is NHRA making life so difficult for the fans that we have? And why are they making it so difficult for the very professional racers they profess to love?
At the Summitracing.com Nationals in Las Vegas I overheard four different conversations among fans during which they complained about the extra distance they had to walk just to get beyond the hospitality areas they weren’t allowed to enter in the first place.
If the pit space at Royal Purple Raceway is such that we’re asking professional racers to pit on the grass, something drastic has to be done, and if that means temporarily re-configuring each team’s hospitality area and moving that rather than professional competitors to the grass, then so be it.
If things are this crowded in Baytown, what’s it going to be like at Bandimere Speedway in July? At Bandimere the pits are already so crowded that both Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle are pitted at the far end of the paved pits. So far away from the grandstands, in fact, that every team owner we’ve asked has admitted to getting less walk-by traffic, and giving away fewer handout cards in Denver than at any other event. How can Larry Morgan tout Lucas Oil if no one’s around? How can Eddie Krawiec talk up Harley-Davidsons if there’s no one to talk to?
What happens if a rain shower hits Houston late Friday night, and the grounds are soaked? Does that mean NHRA now expects their fans to walk through the mud to visit Greg Anderson? How will Summit Racing Equipment feel when they find out Greg only gave away 500 handouts instead of his usual 5,000 or more? How is Nick Mitsos going to promote his Mountain View tire stores if no fans make the trek to meet his driver, Vincent Nobile? How is young Anne Hansen, a newcomer in Pro Stock Motorcycle, going to develop a fan base if the fans can’t even find her?
In situations like the one at Royal Purple Raceway, or possibly in Denver later this season, NHRA should demonstrate enough up-front planning so that they’ve notified the race teams that hospitality for this particular event will be relegated to a specific area not in the professional pits.
In all the years I worked Indy car racing it never “bothered” Mercedes or Marlboro that their hospitality area wasn’t next to the race cars, nor has it negatively impacted Mountain Dew that theirs isn’t within 50 feet of Dale Earnhardt, Jr’s. Chevrolet, so why would it negatively impact the U.S. Army if they were separated from Tony Schumacher by a few hundred yards? Is Parts+Plus going to bail on Clay Millican if they have to eat their hot dogs a block or two distant? Not likely, because anyone who “sold” a sponsorship based on the location of his team’s hospitality area made a huge error in judgment. If team owners can’t see that the days of the pit-side hospitality area are numbered, they haven’t been paying enough attention to the very sport they’ve been selling.
The pro pits should be for the teams racing professionally, not for the hospitality areas controlled by a handful of prominent owners and sponsors.
|< Prev||Next >|