Barnstormin’: A Full Drag Strip Is A Happy Drag Strip, But Tracks Cannot Rest On Their Laurels


Barnstormin’: A Full Drag Strip Is A Happy Drag Strip, But Tracks Cannot Rest On Their Laurels

2017 has gotten off to a flying start on just about every level in the sport of drag racing. Since late January I have been at a track just about every weekend and the events at said tracks have ranged from the traditional stuff that many people love, the outlaw stuff that is as hot as molten lava right now, and races like the NMRA and NMCA season openers that really combine both of those worlds into their own series. I have never experienced an early season like this one in terms of the excitement, the anticipation, the performances, or the spectator turnout.

As I told you a couple of weeks ago, Lights Out 8 was complete insanity. Following that was the NHRA Arizona Nationals and that place was a zoo on Saturday and Sunday. Following that was the NMRA race where Bradenton Motorsports Park and NMRA officials literally asked me to announce the fact that we could accept no more race cars and no more show vehicles because every inch of available property was full. They opened multiple overflow parking lots, and the stands were packed to watch Mustangs of all shapes and sizes do their thing in a multitude of categories. The NMCA race the following weekend was (as it always is) smaller in terms of car count and spectators but when I looked out the window on Saturday for final pro mod qualifying, the stands were alive and well with people chomping a hot dog, slugging down a beer, and enjoying an awesome show. (The pro mod show at NMCA was one of the best in that series’ history with 18 great cars all running strong for the duration of the event.)

As you read this I am on the way to Gainesville for the NHRA Gatornationals and a potentially historic weekend when it comes to the size of the crowd that can jam into a drag strip. Gainesville is massive, the second largest seating capacity on the tour, which if you count RV spots and standing room only likely reaches 30,000. The forecast is such that there’s nothing but sun and mild temperatures to look forward to and the Gators always deliver for performances. The pro mod season starts there, the pro stock bike season starts there, guys like Larry Dixon are coming back, the SAM Tech Factory Stock Showdown is happening, it is a horsepower circus of the highest order. If the last couple of weeks are a guide, this one should be banging as well. So, why? What’s the deal?

After the Arizona Nationals race, I stuck a post on my personal Facebook page and mentioned that one version of the sport of drag racing does not have to suffer for the others to succeed. While no one took me up on an argument on social media on that point, I am fairly sure that my viewpoint is not the majority and many people think that if some aspect of drag racing is really popular than the others have to be on the downswing. BREAKING NEWS: Those people are wrong and the last three months prove it beyond a shadow of a doubt for me.

There’s a basic reason that you don’t want the negative viewpoint to be correct and that centers around race tracks. The same places that are holding the radial, no prep, and outlaw pro mod races are also likely holding a weekly bracket program, a jet car show your kids love a couple times a summer, and test/tune nights during the week. If people take the tack that only the thing THEY like can do well and advance, eventually they’ll be disappointed when there is nowhere for that particular style of drag racing can take place near them because the tracks have closed.

There’s another side of this discussion that needs to be had as well and that is with the track’s themselves. While many operators see the trends that are emerging in the sport or that have emerged, many others do not and it is the neglect of today’s environment in the sport that with either be the undoing of their job or the undoing of their business.

There are local and regional series now for virtually every niche of the sport from X275 right up to pro mod, top sportsman, import racing, and more. These series are booming and will continue to boom. Those are roving customers for tracks and those tracks need to treat them properly. What does that mean? It means all the basic things like welcoming them to a facility that is clean, has bathrooms that operate, and most importantly will groom the track to the best of their ability.

If there is one thing that needs to be addressed, handled, or “fixed” in the sport that I have seen and heard most often in the last year, it is the occasional attitude that racers run into regarding the track they will be on. Everyone has an ego and that includes the racers and the guys working on the track. The racers don’t like a crummy track and the prep guys don’t like to be told their track is crummy. Nothing can blow up a potentially profitable relationship for a track and a traveling group of racers than this root issue. Too many people are too afraid to pick up the phone and ask for help in setting up their surface to give the racers the best possible scenario and the fans the best possible show. No, it is not cheap but racers have proven time and time again that they WILL pay if things are on point.

This isn’t something that is directed at one particular group. Obviously radial racers like the surface one way and big horsepower big tire guys another but the point is that both groups need the work put in to give them the best launchpad and safest surface possible. Gaining a reputation as a track that does not follow through and do those things is bad for business these days when global communication is just a few keystrokes away.

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6 thoughts on “Barnstormin’: A Full Drag Strip Is A Happy Drag Strip, But Tracks Cannot Rest On Their Laurels

  1. 383Scampman

    WOW! Right on point and I’m glad to see someone has the courage to post it . Please continue to speak out with a loud voice so that positive changes can be made to move the sport forward . Personally, I no longer attend Nitro races because it is a advertising circus . I just can’t relate to 3 second runs . I’d much rather watch wheelstanding stockers/superstockers, x275 and door car racing . BTW I loved the job you did at Lights out and NMCA . Stay safe .

    Reply
  2. Kent Reed

    I also agree with this post and with 383campman. Nascar is in a panic attack now do to empty seats. NHRA has races that they don’t fill the 16 car fuel fields.And those are big stories on the street . I see it ,like everything else . Big money has got its wishes. However they need to watch what ya wish for. No one goes to any race to see a few hours of commercials .I love the nitro cars .however its not an even playing field now . They have the 16 qualifier race the number one qualifier. There is no longer a pick from the hat . That way the under dog had a little chance . Now days I will travel to tracks hudreds of miles away. But I go to the nastaga and strret car runs . No corporate bullshit and good racing. I am a huge dragrace fan. And the guys I know that race locally here always talk about track prep. What does it cost to spray VHT a couple times ,what $10,000.00 . You would think it does . If you have a full grandstand. You better keep up with the track suface. No one goes to a race to see half passes do to over powering the track.The real thing is Put on a good show. And that will put and keep asses in the bleachers. That’s what you have to have to keep a track open. Racers will always show up .They want to race. Fans will show up for a well run good show .Those both are facts. Bad show ,fans will not show up. .Tracks just need to spend some money on, oh maybe things like decent bathrooms ,and do what they can to have a good track to put on a good show . And fans will be there .You know the quote ” put on a GOOD show and they will come”Corprate money is in the prosses of ruining pro racing.Let it happen,I like a mom and pop. or a couple buddys running a car better now days.

    Reply
    1. OrvH

      ” …Corprate money is in the prosses of ruining pro racing ….”
      amen to that ! Force racing themselves, DHR racing themselves .slow clap .
      Lovin’ all the other cars

      Reply
  3. b

    just curious, when did it become common practice for tracks to use VHT? might it be easier to blame the tracks vs weaker driving and tuning skills? when looking at my local tracks schedule it seems to a wide variety of events, something for everyone at one point or another. the only real black eye thats gonna happen somewhere is at those events where people get to crowd the starting line, like a tragedy waiting to happen.

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    1. Kent Reed

      I was gona wait until maybe bangshift would bring it up .The fact that it is nuts ,that tracks let people stand on the track at the starting line. I am sure that the track insurance company does not know or would allow this to go on. I have been at events where it is totally nuts . You hear the cars see the smoke .Then the lights turn green and 2 cars come shooting out of a crowd . At our local track they even charge an xtra $20 to stand down there.We will all see a news report some evening were 20 spectators or idiots were run over or killed. With this day and age all about law suites I just don’t understand. Every other day I get an email that says some law maker wants to do away with some sort of racing .We should not give them a good reason . I am a huge drag racing fan .But you couldn’t pay me enough to do that. Now with all the ” no prep ” races . And most cars now days making 1000 hp . Its gona happen . Then the idiots and the shit will hit the fan . This really needs to be stopped .

      Reply
  4. David Beard

    My nephew belongs to a local diesel club that would fill the track on street nights. I’m talking Friday night crowds like they hadn’t seen in decades. Then they ponied up $15K for a date of their own, drawing trucks from a 400 mile radius. The track thanked them for the business by jacking up the food prices.

    Reply

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