I’ve received some requests…to share my thoughts on what will happen to drag racing post this cursed COVID period….

Let me first say I am just like everyone else out there — waiting and wondering — and I don’t have any more of a pipeline to truth then anyone else does.

I do however keep in close contact with many circuit racers and many knowlegeable media and industry colleagues — so it is from there I have developed just a gut feel for what I think should happen.  

Let me also say right now — that I truly hope my opinion is dead wrong — and that my concerns below quickly dissipate (right along with the virus).  But because some of you are asking — here it is.

I will direct this piece to the fate and future of the NHRA drag racing scene — where over the last few weeks or so I am growing more and more concerned about.  The flagship for drag racing sanctioning worldwide is not in a very good place.  

If you can believe some of the information seeping out from Glendora HQ right now — a disturbing high % of their employees have either been let go or furloughed — obviously problematic.   I can reveal that the NHRA Media Relations department has effectively now – gone dark.  Their top Media Relations Manager is furloughed and information flow has stopped.  

I am aware too of that scan document circulating on social media which seems to illustrate a soon to be announced 3rd revision 2020 schedule — a marathon sprint to November that has 16 races in 16 weekends — beginning in early August.  That apparent “plan” is anything but official from NHRA — I don’t think at this point much of it is at all likely.  Honesty, in a best case scenario — a 4th revision with fewer events yet again (?) — might have a higher likelihood. 

Unlike many of the other major leagues out there — some lucrative TV revenue is not available to the NHRA.  The NHRA do have a TV deal with Fox Sports (FS1) — but the harsh truth is that payment is made for their national events to be televised.   That cost has been a point of contention internally within the NHRA itself over the past few seasons – ie: it led directly to some controversial downsizing of people — in order to pay for it.  

So with that being said — the NHRA is highly reliant on gate receipts and therein lies their clear and present danger for the balance of 2020.  

Will fans feel safe enough plus do they have the income to afford to travel to and pay admission to any NHRA events?  With the current state of the economy, job losses  and the threat of virus — I believe it would be a real stretch to believe that NHRA is going to get anywhere near the fan (and racer) gate they so desperately do need.   Factor in also that any planned events apparently would be shortened in length — and that slice of the revenue pie becomes even smaller.

For the racers themselves — no one can deny that sponsorship issues are going to hit hard and often.  Guaranteed there will be an attrition of race teams who will be forced to the sidelines by the reality of their own personal or sponsorship economics.  Despite everyone’s best intentions, participation at NHRA events could very well be only be a shell of what they used to be — and presenting a weak product to a premium paying public – is not a formula for long term success.

In reality and through no fault of themselves, because of all this crazy, the NHRA may now be just too big for their own britches.  Their historical annual event list is most certainly not a good fit for the here and now and aspects of those markets reached and event designs may be in need of some serious rethinking for a future in the post COVID world.

I know you don’t want to hear this (and it pains me to say it) but given the current realities (all conspiracy theories aside) it may be best for the NHRA to do a difficult but more responsible thing — cancel this season outright.  Right now anything else may simply not be worth it.  As difficult as that will be financially, choosing to be patient, with then a hard focus to build a post COVID product that is a better fit.  Use the opportunity (unfortunate as it is) presented to develop a plan which maintains or even improves the integrity of their long term racing product.

Posted by Bruce Biegler