While we were in prep mode for the 60th World Series of Drag Racing at Cordova, news was coming out regarding the short and long term future of one door slammer drag racing league. The ADRL and XDRL have been at loggerheads (whether they want to admit it or not) all year with series essentially competing for the same racers, the same audience, and the same dollars from fans and sponsors. The bad part is that neither of them seem to be attracting much from any of those categories. The XDRL has seemingly had it worse in 2013 or it has done an inferior job of deflecting its shortcomings than the other series has to this point in the year.
It was no big secret that the XDRL was in trouble shortly after the first couple of races in the 2013 campaign. With the very fruitful purse that the series had to cover along with all of the other expenses, XDRL needed to gets its legs under it in a quick fashion and that simply never happened. Spectator counts were dismal. It has been surmised by several racers and sources that we trust here at BangShift that the paid attendance at the St Louis ADRL meet was less than 900 people for the weekend. Even if it was double that, when one looks at the hard numbers, the weekend would rank near the top of all time financial disasters in the history of a sport that has had more than its share. Jeff Mitchell, the owner of the series has made statements in the past to the likes of Drag Illustrated Magazine and others that there was enough money in the till to support the XDRL though a weak financial season. With the number of racers who are currently awaiting purse money from multiple races (even after a water company stepped in an promised to cover the purse at the Maryland race, which apparently did not happen) those statements appear to be dubious.
The other shoe dropped on August 23, when the XDRL posted a pair of statements on their FB page. Here’s the first:
“While we understand the power of open communications and acknowledge its importance in today’s digital world, our industry does struggle to attract new corporate money, followers and fans when this power is used in such a negative way. It can cause certain companies to avoid the relationship for fear of being attacked for aligning themselves with the sport. Racers, race tracks and all promoters have a hard enough time finding new resources to operate on without this added distraction.”
We will continue to press on and look forward to a time soon when the low lights of inaugural season are behind us and can once again look forward with the excitement and enthusiasm that is The X-DRL.
While we can’t be 100% sure who this statement was directed towards we can say that there have been a growing number of cat calls from unpaid racers around the internet, raising hell that they have not received their paychecks from races that they finished “in the money” at. We know of at least one mountain motor pro stock racer who is owed several races of pay and who was depending on the money to keep his operation on the race track. The chances of seeing that are slim to none, especially after this second statement was released on the XDRL FB page the same day. Here’s the second statement –
We would like to thank all of the racers, fans, sponsors and track partners who have continued to support us as we work through these un-forseen financial difficulties. We continue to work on completing our financial restructuring through our financial partners and sponsorship partners that will allow us to pay all past obligations, inclusive of all racer payouts and vendor payments, and move forward in a positive manner. In the meantime, regrettably, we are canceling Thunder at the Heartland scheduled for September 20-21 at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis and Southern Slam scheduled for October 4-5 at Montgomery Motorsports Park. We are hopeful that we will work through these issues and be able to finish the season with the World Finals in October at Charlotte.
This may be the last gasp we actually hear from the XDRL. Reading this statement, several things are clear. Financially, they are in shambles. They don’t have the money to pay the people they owe, they don’t have the money to host the next two races on their schedule, and they’re pretty much done. It seems completely insane to even consider the running of their “World Finals” in October because the other races have been such horrendous failures in both car count and spectator count and because they have such ill-will from the pro mod and doorslammer racing community built up, the most intense action could be happening in the race control room with stiffed drag racers demanding payment for events they won or placed in months ago!
We’re not reveling or celebrating the XDRL’s implosion. We’re not playing “I told you so,” and we’re not taking a side. It is a newsworthy event when an organization starts up, announces a nationwide series, and then suffers the fate that the XDRL is apparently suffering right now. It always seemed like a strange plan from the get go because the ADRL’s pay for ticket structure over the last couple of seasons was largely a disaster and these guys were doing virtually nothing different from that. The ADRL, which has gone back to the free ticket deal isn’t exactly filling places like they were in the old days either and rumors swirl about their ability to cover the huge payouts at the upcoming Rockingham race.
All of this leads to an important question. What in the hell happened to pro mod? For most of the 1990s and well into the 2000s it was the most explosive and exciting class in heads up drag racing. Seriously, the ADRL’s first go-round was less a drag racing series and more a cultural revolution. We all saw the photos and heard the stories of tracks literally having to shut their gates to people because they were blown out to capacity. Rockingham’s Steve Earwood famously called the ADRL Kenny Nowling “Champagne Kenny” for the huge crowds he’d bring to the track. Those days seem to be largely over for everyone who isn’t promoting a nostalgia funny car race.
Was the complete division and diaspora of the class over the drag racing landscape enough to water it down so far that no one cares anymore? When it was the IHRA owning the class and match races elsewhere, the guys running in the front were rock stars. Scotty Cannon, the Stotts, all of them. Today? Not so much. The cars are running harder and faster than ever before and they’re doing it in front of “crowds” that would be unhurt if bazooka practice took place in the bleacher next to them.
So it looks like the XDRL is gone. Cry not for them….cry for the complete lack of interest in pro mods these days. How does that get fixed?