Tradition means a great deal when it comes to certain activities.  That first pitch by a celebrity or politician at a baseball game.  The coin toss before a football game.  The grand entry parade at a rodeo.  In drag racing it’s the firing of the first pair of fuelers following the national anthem, among other things.

Tradition can obviously take many forms, and not surprisingly, some national event venues are actually tied to tradition, with National Trail Raceway (NTR) outside of Columbus being one of them.  In light of the seemingly insurmountable problems that have (here’s that word again) “traditionally” impacted the facility, including but certainly not limited to its two-lane access 
road, the fact that the track has grown “shorter” as the cars have gotten faster, a county road that restricts expansion of the shutdown area (along with the land opposite that road that NHRA’s been unable to purchase), and the very configuration of the track’s property that “encourages” flooding under the right circumstances, one wonders why NHRA purchased the facility in the first place.

Without getting into that discussion, let’s just say that some years back NHRA was presented with a very viable “out” when three entrepreneurial individuals proposed building a super track to the association’s specifications at the junction of two Interstate highways 70 miles west of National Trail in Dayton.  There was considerable support for the move from middle management, but not at the top of the NHRA food chain.  There “tradition” reared its head, with those in charge voicing their view that leaving Columbus would be a negative for NHRA drag racing.  Clearly, that thinking no longer rules the roost.

Using a 150 mile radius as the starting point, within that circle National Trail Raceway has the potential of reaching 4.6 million TV households.  Norwalk Raceway Park eclipses that with a TV household reach of 5.4 million.  The Norwalk numbers represent 5% of the nation’s total population, while the NTR numbers represent just 4%.  Newspaper circulation within that radius is about 2.4 million for NTR, almost 400,000 less than it is for Norwalk.

If that radius is expanded by 25 miles Norwalk Raceway Park continues to have a greater impact than does National Trail Raceway.  For but one example, NTR reaches 6.2 million TV households, NRP 7.3 million.  Norwalk’s reach is now 7% of the U.S. population, while NTR’s is more than 1 million fewer, or 5.6%.  NRP’s newspaper circulation is about 4 million, while NTR’s reach is 600,000 smaller.

Critically important to this decision is that Detroit is within 125 miles of Norwalk, giving the facility an impact in three of the nation’s Top 50 markets.  Detroit is considerably further from NTR, and even though the distance may not be that much, in terms of demographic studies it might as well be on the moon.

It might  not fit into a true demographic study, but another point in NRP’s favor is the fact that there are more than 500 motel rooms within 10 miles of the track and a total of 5,880 rooms in Erie county.  This doesn’t begin to include the literally hundreds of campsites in both Huron and Erie counties.

Canceling a national event at a facility wholly owned by the NHRA had to be a difficult decision, but clearly, demographics played a significant role in that decision.  Remember, NHRA pockets every penny from events at National Trail (as well as from Gainesville, Atlanta and Indy), and will be forced to make some kind of split with Norwalk Raceway Park following next year’s national event.  Obviously, NHRA must have figured that even with a split the  potential profits from a race at Norwalk Raceway Park will exceed their total take from National Trail Raceway.

And just as importantly, by abandoning NTR NHRA avoids the headaches the race invariably generated.  Just ask an NHRA official what it’s cost them over the years to use tractors to tow cars out of the spectator parking lots.  Or the cost of buses to bring the fans in from remote parking lots when those nearby farmer’s fields were rain soaked.  Or better yet, ask them about the parking 
lot full of VIP visitor’s cars they were forced to pay for not too many years ago when flooding left a field full of brand new GM cars with water up to their windows.


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