No, the National Hot Rod Association hasn't jilted Englishtown, N.J., running off into the arms of Epping, N.H.
No, the Old Bridge Township Raceway Park neighbors aren't riled up about noise.
No, the property hasn't been sold. It isn't going to be the site of an appliance superstore. The land hasn't been leveled by a bulldozer.
No, the SuperNationals aren't going away.
Because most Internet outlets have no reliable filter for what is truth, rumors once again have run rampant that the NHRA's traditional early-summer stop at Raceway Park will be off the Full Throttle Drag Racing Series schedule after the 2103 event.
It simply isn't true, said Graham Light, the sanctioning body's senior vice-president of racing operations.
Furthermore, Raceway Park co-owner David Napp said Raceway Park never was concerned about the emergence of the Epping event and even suggested a late-spring or early-summer Eastern Swing to match the traditional Western Swing. He said he's proud of the recent Toyota SuperNationals that saw milestone performances and sold more reserved-seat tickets than in 2011, while sharing the date with NASCAR's biggest race in the region.
"We're not concerned about the false rumors about our event," Napp said. "We have a great deal and bond with everybody at NHRA and welcome New England Dragway. We've got three generations of family in this business, and it's going to continue that way for as long as I can see. Everything is well and good in Englishtown."
Rumormongers do have one fact straight. The NHRA's contract with Raceway Park does expire in 2013. However, Light said a conventional contract with a facility is in the three- to five-year range and that "typically we extend it by letter."
NHRA: 'We're committed to Englishtown'
Light said, "We're committed to the Englishtown market. We've got all intentions of continuing there. There's a lot of history there at Old Bridge Township Raceway. Englishtown-New York-New Jersey market . . . great market.
"We're adding an event next year in New England . . . But that doesn't change our relationship with Englishtown. We're committed to that [New Jersey-New York] market."
The new venue, he said, represents "a different market. Epping is the Boston market. It maybe reaches up into Montreal. Englishtown is New Jersey / New York, a huge market to draw from. And Epping is a few hundred miles away.
Light repeated the NHRA's loyalty to Englishtown and Raceway Park: "We're committed to that market, to Old Bridge Raceway Park, to the Napp family. There's a tremendous amount of history there. We've been there for many years and intend to continue going."
Napp said the addition of the June 20-23 New England Nationals to the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series schedule simply underscores the popularity of the sport and all of auto racing in his region.
Motorsports growing in Northeast
"With the edition of New England, it's just making us stronger as a sport in the Northeast," he said. "So if anyone would think that the addition of the Epping event is something that would make us change our course that we've been on -- it'll be our 44th annual event [next year] -- that's just not realistic thinking.
"Anyone who knows business and has been in this business -- really been in this business and not somebody who has been tossed to the sidelines and there's bitterness -- if you're in any business, you know that New York is crucial to your exposure. Anyone who would buy into or try to create this rumor obviously has no education on what it takes to run a business, because you would never leave the New York market for any reason," Napp said. "We had a great event. To think that NHRA would leave the quickest dragstrip in the country, on top of the metropolitan New York / New Jersey / Tri-State area market, is not even plausible."
Details still are sketchy, but Formula 1 and the state of New Jersey are working to bring a race in that worldwide series to Grand Prix of America Port Imperial racetrack at Weehawken, N.J., north of Englishtown.
"This is a growing area for motorsports, Napp said. "These rumors of us being sold or transferring the business to another organization or not being on the NHRA schedule, they could not be further from the truth. Motorsports in New Jersey is a growing industry. Formula 1 is coming to New Jersey. That just benefits everyone around here, because it just brings in new sets of eyes to the area. With our event being similar in the time of the year [as the Epping race], there's going to be a lot of interest in motorsports in the early summer, and we're thinking that Raceway Park and NHRA hopefully will benefit . . . bringing in new sponsors that will come our way.
"If anything, it's a great time to be a track promoter in the Northeast," he said. "You have to be in the New York market, and anybody who says otherwise has lost any kind of a grip on what it takes to promote and have a successful series."
Napp knows his demographics for the Englishtown NHRA event and said he has no insecurities that New England Dragway will rob Raceway Park.
"Certainly I think that some of our fans come from the New England area. Is it possible that those fans will attend the Epping national event? It's certainly possible. Raceway Park welcomes new England Dragway into the fold. We think it is a wonderful addition to the tour. It is growing the exposure for NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing in the Northeast, instead of it just being one event at Englishtown and one at Reading [Pa.]. Now we've got the Boston market," Napp said.
"I'd like to see an Eastern Swing. We have the Western Swing. How about late spring or early summer we have an Eastern Swing [with] Englishtown, Epping . . . maybe Virginia, if Virginia [Motorsports Park] were to rejoin the fold," he said. "We look at the addition of [the New Hampshire] event and are moving forward with great promise. We're already making our notes for next year's NHRA event, the SuperNationals."
Rumors? What rumors?
The latest rumors are nothing new, Napp said. He and brother Alex, along with co-owner cousins Michael and Richie Napp, have heard it all.
"We were never concerned. People like to get these gossip things going. I don't know if it was the announcement of New England that sent people into a tizzy. It wasn't ever a concern on our end," Napp said. "We were just kind of chuckling about it, then more and more people started talking about it. And it was like, 'Oh, here we go again.' If I had a five for every time this place has been sold or closed by the neighbors or whatever else they come up with, I wouldn't need to work.
"We never worried a bit," he said. "After our event, we saw it was a very successful event for us. Obviously, when you finish an event and you can say that you're the quickest dragstrip in the history of the NHRA or the sport, we're certainly happy with that. Our race fans who came out and saw those performances saw something that cannot be seen anywhere else. It shows the quality of our facility. I know our friends at NHRA, who are partners in this event, were very pleased. So I don't know what spurred on this sudden rumor, but in the real world, where you don't hide behind a screen name, I'm happy to say -- with my name, David Napp -- that Raceway Park and NHRA have a wonderful history together and a very fruitful future."
The NHRA functions without market-overlap and flagging-gate issues in the Bristol-Charlotte-Atlanta triangle or the Phoenix-Las Vegas-Pomona or even Joliet-Indianapolis-Norwalk regions. Reading, Pa.'s Maple Grove Raceway, which will see the NHRA return this fall for the 28th year, has coexisted with Englishtown and shared a fan base, although the fabled Reading, Pa., track appeals primarily to the Philadelphia market.
Napp -- who said, '.I know I'll be in Epping. I go to Maple Grove' -- is keenly engaged in how fan and media interest progress with the new event 50 miles north of Boston. However, he said it doesn't change what's happening at Englishtown.
"I don't really have concern that the Epping event is going to pull from us. I wish them a hugely successful event," Napp said. "When one national event does well, everyone does well. The series does well. We all win. We all win when a dragstrip has a great event. When one of our colleagues has a terrific national event and gets a lot of media exposure in their market, that's good for all.
"So we'll have continued success and Epping also," he said. "They've got a great team together. They are looking forward to continuing to upgrade as they lead up to their event. They're going to put on a great show."
He said he wouldn’t be surprised at all if many fans attend both Northeast races.
"The drag-racing fan is a unique and loyal race fan. Because of the fan interaction in the pit area and the way that drag racing really makes you feel like you're a part of it, you wind up with people who -- will they choose to go to Epping? . . . perhaps -- but many will attend both," Napp said.
"In this market, there really is a clear break between the New York / New Jersey metropolitan area and the Boston area. This begins, I think, with the Yankees-Red Sox, but I'm not sure," he said with a laugh. "There is a divide. It's not so close to us that we feel that it would really deter someone from attending our event. We have established and loyal repeat customers."
The NHRA has not released its 2013 schedule, but the Englishtown race is expected to keep its early-June date. And Napp suggested that a bit more time might have been ideal but said he'll work his the usual gusto to put on a first-rate show for the fans.
"The timing really doesn't concern us. It is kind of what it is at this point. And we're just going to continue to run the event that we've run. I don't think it's so close to our facility in both location and date that it will affect us in a very big way. I think the performances and the facility that we have are the things that people will continue to come back to," he said.
With teams trying to save money or at least allocate it intelligently, the expected back-to-back Northeast races mean efficiency for hauler drivers and the NHRA as it carries the heavy-duty track-prep equipment and Manufacturers Midway support materials. So maybe the closeness between the Epping and Englishtown events is a smart move.
"We've got to think of everyone," Napp said. "NHRA is our partner in this. We've got to be considerate to their needs, as well. They need to let the race teams know that the tour will be as efficient on them as possible. They try not to zig-zag them all over. That's good for the nitro fields to have full fields. I think it's really the only viable option to go to the Northeast in one smooth kind of roll.
"The date is a little close," he said, "but it's just another challenge for me. We say, 'These are the conditions of the field.' Sometimes the football field is plush, green grass; sometimes it's muddy. But you play with the conditions. So we're just going to do what we do, put on a great event, and hopefully sell lots of tickets."
Many positives eclipse gossip
He could do without the continual pot-stirring and rumor-waging. It's more annoying than it is anything else, he conceded.
"If anything bothers me about these rumors, it's that it's a cyclical thing. Every year or so someone thinks we've been sold or closed by the neighbors, that it's going to turn into only an airport. It's so far from the truth. I don't know why it's persistent," he said. "It becomes a running joke around our office. If anything upsets me, it's that I have to constantly deal with it. Internet chatter is what it is. It takes on a life of its own. If anybody ever has a question about Raceway Park, call me. Call me. I have a phone, and it works. You can hear directly from me."
He said if a change were to have come, Englishtown racers and fans would have heard it straight from the Napp family first.
"We've always tried to pride ourselves on being as loyal to our customers as they've been to us. So if there was ever going to be anything changing in regards to this facility, the first people to be informed would be our fans, our spectators. They deserve nothing but our utmost respect," David Napp said. "Anything that trickles out of the Internet and doesn't come from us, that's total hogwash.
"I think, for the most part, you have a lot of good journalists [whose work is on the Internet], but unfortunately it's the squeaky wheel that gets the grease. Of all the great, positive stories that came out after our event, with all the performances -- and all the kind emails that came in with people thanking us and saying we had a great event, so much good, so much positive about NHRA, the racers -- for some reason, it’s the negativity that stands out, that captures everyone's attention," he said.
Scuttlebutt that the Raceway Park lanes were not up to snuff circulated, but NHRA's Light helped knock that down.
"Saw some pretty good numbers," he said. "Of course, coolness, overcast, nighttime helped. But you don't see great numbers on a crappy track."
Said Napp, "Again, if I had a five-dollar-bill for every time Raceway Park was closed, bulldozed, sold, whatever, I'd be a very rich man. You just kind of get used to it and try to put those negatives to the side."
Napp said he sees plenty of positives on which to focus. He said rumors that swirl around Raceway Park prove the facility is important to the racing public. Ticket sales were up this year in a still-unstable economy. And Englishtown this month only added to its already-rich racing lore.
"In any form of entertainment people have to have an opinion or you really are insignificant," Napp said. "Some people like Englishtown. Some people don't like Englishtown. At least they have an opinion. At least we're on their radar. So even if someone is not a fan or feels the choices that we make do not benefit them, whatever their opinion of Raceway Park is, and I hope it's a favorable one, people have an opinion. We're on their radar, which means they care. And the Englishtown race fan is a unique one, because they do care so much about the sport and about our facility.
"We've always been a facility -- and this came from my father [Vinny Napp] and my uncle [Richard Napp] -- that always reinvested in our facility to keep it top-notch, to give the racer and the fan the best facility," he said.
As for his gate, Napp said, "We depend somewhat on walk-ups at out event, but our presale tickets were up slightly this year. And in this economy, that's great. So for us to be selling more reserved seats prior to the event than we had in the previous year, that's great.
"It should be noted that we went up against the NASCAR Dover race, the same week as us. Less than 150 miles away from us was our area's biggest NASCAR event. It didn't really affect us," he said, "because a drag-racing fan is going to come to Englishtown. Englishtown is a Fenway Park-style venue for drag racing. It's where Sox and Martin ran against Grumpy and now it’s where Schumacher and Massey go head to head. It is something that is truly nitro-generational. If anything is nitro-generational, it's Englishtown."
And it seems certain that will remain true for future generations.
All articles and photography published in CompetitionPlus.com are protected by United States of America and International copyright laws unless mentioned otherwise. The content on this website is intended for the private use of the reader and may not be published or reposted in any form without the prior written consent of CompetitionPlus.com.
|< Prev||Next >|