The apparent demise of the IHRA brand of drag racing has sent an unfortunate shockwave throughout North American drag racing….

Let me say first of all that I have been a huge fan of IHRA drag racing and it really does pain me to paint this picture of it’s new reality.

I have very fond memories of what the IHRA used to be and for all of the drag racing event experiences I had there for as far back in my editorial career I can remember. It really does not seem that long ago that while attending it’s giant World Nationals event in Norwalk Ohio – I had the impression that that level event was in fact at a near par with or a serious rival to that of NHRA’s iconic U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis which was scheduled the subsequent weekend.

Let me confirm too that I do not have the answer to why such a once prominent drag racing sanctioning body, which in fact originated such signature classes as Pro Mod, Mountain Motor Pro Stock, Top Sportsman and Top Dragster, has now shrunk to such a minuscule level within the motorsports industry.

It’s unfortunate that cool stories like Larry O’Brien or Tim Boychuk winning at a national event in Canada – are now a permanent thing of the past.   ; (

I am personally too very appreciative and fully recognize what the IHRA did for Canadian drag racing was truly remarkable. After NHRA’s super controversial antics when they removed the NHRA Molson Grand Nationals event at Sanair using truly “fake news” for the time (bogus leaded fuel ban argument), it was the IHRA that ultimately stepped in to give Canada not one but in fact a series of three IHRA national events (held at Grand Bend, Cayuga, Edmonton), first starting in 2000 and running for a decade and a half or so after.

Few will deny however that the IHRA began a long downhill slide during the later 00’s. Their once very “full on” national events gradually shrunk to only a shell of what they once were with Pro classes seemingly being eliminated one by one on almost a yearly basis. Most astute fans agree that once they went to more of an exhibition event format (i.e.: more show then go) the writing on the wall really became apparent.

The IHRA did curtail the remaining remnants of it’s Pro classes at the end of the 2015 season, and have now just recently affirmed that all of it’s traditional Sportsman classes – i.e.: Top Dragster/Sportsman, Super Stock/Stock, and down through it’s three Super index classes will no longer continue. Instead they will in 2018 go with an all ET Bracket racing format (details of which are outlined in their official release below). While some regional ET bracket racers may benefit from it, that event format will be exactly a zero-starter for maintaining or increasing any fan base.

Sadly – even traditional Sportsman racing classes like Top Sportsman and Super Stock – will now no longer be part of IHRA….!

I guess it might be fashionable to use the current Twitter term being famously circulated by a certain very controversial indivdual right now = SAD!  I’m in no position to cite any facts, point blame or provide a solution for this astonishing demise of the IHRA. But I believe it’s de-evolution lies somewhere within a combined consequence of economic times, deep debt, highly ineffective marketing and poor management. It’s really eye opening and a shame that despite all those waves of change that the IHRA tried over the last decade or so, no one was able to catch it’s fall.

I suppose there remains some hope that current parent company for the IHRA (Florida headquartered IRGSE) can turn the future tide. But regrettably, in all the time since their takeover there really hasn’t been an indicator like that — and in fact the reality has been the exact opposite — suggesting that a tipping point has already passed.

Posted by Bruce Biegler

IHRA – Goes All Bracket Racing in 2018

The International Hot Rod Association (IHRA) sportsman program will be moving to an all-bracket racing format for the first time in the organization’s history in 2018. The IHRA will produce both the Summit SuperSeries and the new Summit Sportsman Spectacular programs next season.

The very successful IHRA Summit SuperSeries will return for a 17th season and will continue to be the leading bracket racing program for Top, Mod and Junior Dragster competitors in North America. This program is hosted by nearly 100 member tracks and has over 8,000 active and specifically registered participants. The program recently secured a multiple-year renewal from title sponsor Summit Racing Equipment.

The major change in the IHRA lineup will be the switch from the class racing-based Summit Sportsman National Championship series to the newly-created Summit Sportsman Spectacular. The new bracket racing-based program consists of 20 races over ten weekends. Summit Racing Equipment will support the program through a new multi-year sponsorship.

The change to an all-bracket racing program is a result of input from racers, partners, and tracks and comes after a five-year effort to improve participation levels in IHRA class racing. The previous touring series saw multiple format changes all aimed at keeping the series viable for the racers, host tracks, and sponsors. While there continues to be a core group of dedicated class racers who supported certain events, there simply hasn’t been enough entries to make a series work.

The new Summit Sportsman Spectacular bracket events will be targeted to Top, Mod and Junior racers looking for a value-oriented and fun double-race weekend. The series will work in conjunction with the Summit SuperSeries to provide tens of thousands of grassroots bracket racers new opportunities and events that are designed to provide maximum value for the participants.

Full details of the Summit Sportsman Spectacular will be released as soon as the event dates are confirmed.

Posted by Jeff Birchfield

DragRaceCanada File Photos