1_21_2009_asher.jpgGreat article. It is amazing that everyone but the NHRA understands the current economic situation. A few empty race tracks and short fields will hopefully open their eyes! - Matt Genette





1_21_2009_asher.jpgGreat article. It is amazing that everyone but the NHRA understands the current economic situation. A few empty race tracks and short fields will hopefully open their eyes! - Matt Genette

Jon, I could not agree with you more.  Anyone thinking the economic crisis was caused by NHRA leadership has really missed the mark.  Conversely, those saying that the leaders have done nothing in this difficult time also have missed the mark.  They raised ticket prices in select areas, gave themselves a raise(bonus), increased fees for hospitality and added a fee for not using "company" catering.  They have been very pro-active! On a side note, the high priority sky boxes and additions to office space projects are moving along nicely as well.  Anyone saying the leadership is out of touch must not be paying attention. - Mel Smith

You’re absolutely right. I own my own company and had to take pay cut to keep things going forward but I will bet the top brass at NHRA and many others won't. - Brian Browell

You make some good points but I think in at least one aspect you are missing the forest for the trees.

If the upper management had their game in order they would have previously and certainly now be working and have implemented some kind of rule changes such that it wouldn't take so much money to sponsor a team.

Even prior to the current national economic difficulties sponsors weren't exactly beating down the door. What they will soon learn is that coming out of hard times a lot of companies figure out what they can live without and if the cost of sponsorship is too high they can live without it forever.

For the charity sponsorships i.e. those with no expectation of ROI, things will return to normal. The well run businesses will seriously reevaluate their expense allocations. It happens after every recession. The job of the NHRA management now is to put the changes in place to make the sport a decent bang for the buck for non charity sponsorships when the economy turns around.

Although ROI in advertising is a somewhat subjective measurement it would seem to me a lot of companies have concluded they are net losers when sponsoring a car/team at the current financial levels. There is just no other way to explain the exodus of beer companies, oil companies etc. along with the almost complete absence of non-traditional sponsors which do business with NASCAR, IRL, F1 etc.
Apparently in those venues they feel they get bang for the buck. If you can't equal the bang you just have to require less bucks. The ratio remains the same. - Ronald Burke

Jon, as usual, gets to the heart of the problem.  NHRA started going downhill when those with the racer mentality left Glendora and those with the Wall Street mentality came in. 

It took NHRA clear to the middle of January to even admit there were any problems.  Their solutions are almost an insult to the fans. - Pat “Ma” Green

I have stated this before...Jon Asher is not only one of the most gifted photographers in Drag Racing; he is also one of the most prolific writers in the sport today.  His grasp of the current situation at NHRA is profound and his understanding of their internal thought process is above reproach.  That being said, his current article is correct, unbiased, and frankly hit the proverbial nail right on the head. Nothing more can be said that he hasn't been stated already. While NHRA and Tom Compton were quick to note on their e-news letter that the fields were full for their upcoming Winternationals, and it was a good time to come to the races, that will not be case as the season progresses and the tour begins to stretch out limited professional budgets. Will they passionately promote all of the races on the tour as they will their own races? Only then will the real impact of the national economic problems on drag racing be known.  The success or failure of this NHRA Administration hinges on the "gate" at all of the upcoming races. 
Several years ago Mr. Asher noted that due to lagging ticket sales at some venues, the NHRA was disguising some of the fans to look like aluminum benches.

The Management Team at NHRA should keep the positive spin PR guys tuned up ... they're going to need them. - David Gutierrez

"....I can’t recall a single instance of the leaders of the NHRA suffering because of bad decisions or weakened business conditions. The sacrifices have always been made by the racers and fans."

Truer words have never been spoken, Jon.  Considering the salaries and perks these guys get, I don't think it's too much for them to give back to the sport and at least provide some lip service that they're doing their part and won't take bonuses or their full salary until the economy evens out some.  Heck, most of the corporate CEOs that they're begging money from have already done this! If they did that, imagine the publicity and rise in their stock they would gain from us fans and racers.

Frankly, I'm tired of all the rhetoric and I'd like to see NHRA and IHRA follow guys like ADRL to get butts in the seats.  Do something to lower admission for sure, regardless of track ownership.  Plus, by deleting a day/session from each race, I think is a good solution and something to be investigated.  I think you'd get a better show packed into fewer days and I think the racers who are "little guys" would benefit immensely and hang around for a few more races. 

Seeing all of the guys and gals parked now, if something isn't done to keep them around, even if it's on a limited basis, those cars and teams are gonna disappear  and never return.  Not good.

Great column and one I hope that all of the major sanctioning heads evaluate use to make it good for all of us! - Scott Heinrichs


Since that Up Front column appeared a couple of things have come to my attention that should be noted.
First, while NHRA is accurate in stating that they’ll have full fields for the Winternationals – and we’re all thankful for that – it’s important to take a thoughtful, careful look at that list of entries and consider their history.  More than a handful of those racers are regional, West Coast competitors who are unlikely to travel any further east than Phoenix or father from home than Seattle this summer.
Unless other regional competitors come out of the woodwork – which is a reasonable expectation – there will probably be short fields at a few races.  This means that unless cars based in the Southeast compete in Gainesville and Atlanta, and some Texans come out for Houston and Dallas, and Midwesterners come out for Norwalk and Brainerd, the qualifying show could suffer, and we sincerely hope that’s not the case.
Sixteen cars racing on Sunday is what the fans expect to see, but since Saturday has become every national event weekend’s biggest day at the gate, it’s important for everyone that the more cars who appear to attempt to qualify, the better the show is going to be on Friday and Saturday. 
The reality of the current financial crisis (another 500,000-plus applied for unemployment benefits for the first time last month) is that at least some professional competitors will see how many cars are on the grounds on Friday, and if there’s not enough to fill the fields they may make one run to insure of being in the field on Sunday, and then park their cars until eliminations begin.  That doesn’t affect their fixed costs of travel, food and lodging, but it certainly impacts their per-run costs, and that’s significant.  Remember, racers from Whit Bazemore to Paul Smith and the Creasy Family have followed this plan for years, and they can’t be faulted for doing so.
Secondly, I have heard directly from several track operators who have said their advance sales for this year’s events are markedly down.  Those who have an almost personal relationship with their fans have polled them to find out why and have been told the fans are holding on to their money now in case they need it later due to lost jobs and the like.  All of those fans have indicated a strong desire to be at this year’s races, but they’re reluctant to make the investment in tickets now when they might need that money for house payments later.
Some of them are probably waiting to see what their local national event facility may offer in terms of a “fan-relief” program.
There seems to be to widespread agreement among the so-called “experts” that we’re at the beginning of the financial crisis, and are nowhere near even the mid-point, and we all need to keep that in mind. – Jon Asher

I don't always agree with Asher, but he's certainly got it nailed in the last paragraph or two. As to the notion of allowing free market forces to distribute the nitro, that goes against the grain of NHRA, having it's "official" suppliers of (everything) and blocking free enterprise at every turn. - Gary Smrtic



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