in the world of drag racing
The latest update as of September 21, 1998
It seems that I'm rapidly developing the reputation of a "s--t disturber" and that my focus is only on what's wrong, at the exclusion of anything good or positive. With so many negative things happening lately, it's hard not to report it or comment on it, oftentimes at the exclusion of the good news stories. Today's update is fairly tame, so if you've come looking for the latest salvo from our "big guns", then maybe you should just go visit the real Matt Drudge website until I've had a chance to reload the howitzer.
Before we move on, I've received some insider information about how business is conducted at a certain dragstrip and believe me, if the story is true, heads should roll. It's way too sensitive and "litigation-friendly" to even hint at here, but as Larry Pfister indicated a while ago, the matter will eventually come to the surface. At that time, I'll let you know as much as I can, but for now, it's got to remain under wraps.
Speaking of Mr. Pfister, he's just put up a brand-new look for the "best damn drag racing site on the web" at Horsepower Heaven 3 and you must go there for a look. HEY, after you've seen how good it is, don't forget to come back to this little homemade effort!
Another bad news story occurred at Union Grove, Wisconsin on the Labor Day weekend at the annual Olympics of Drag Racing. See my original posting on the subject in the September 7 update. Within hours of the incident a series of photographs were posted on a website showing the aftermath of the fatal accident. I debated whether I even wanted to mention it here, and have followed the arguments pro and con on the newsgroups, but in the interests of education here it is. If you want to see the photos, go to Union Grave Crash photos for a look. No, there's no blood or body parts, but it's pretty ugly and depressing stuff just the same. Most amazing, after seeing the remains of Rocca's "Iron Horse" is that he wasn't injured (or worse) in the catastrophic accident.
Department of Corrections: An update earlier this month referred to an incident at the Labor Day Pro Mod show at Mission Raceway. Unfortunately, the original posting referred to "starting line and staging lane personnel". That was incorrect, as the individual who performed the Nazi imitation was in fact employed as "security". My apologies to the dedicated, hard working individuals in staging and starting, especially Steve Manning and Al Starchuk. Wish I could talk more about the "security staff" at MRP, but our legal department has advised me to keep my big mouth shut until the whole situation is exposed elsewhere.
Local racing news: North Vancouver comp eliminator ace, Howie Stevens is looking at different options for his 1999 racing program. Seen here checking out Roy Hill's Pro Stock Truck at Seattle's Northwest Nats, Howie remained noncomittal about whether another Ford (truck) was in his future.
Not so great news is late word that North Vancouver's other comp racer, Rob Harison has windowed his one-of-a-kind six cylinder block and won't be running anytime soon. After waiting nearly three years for some of the parts to arrive for the current engine, let's hope he's not out of action for anywhere near that length of time. The 7-second potential shown by his Don Ness Beretta with Ford Six power was downright awesome.
"Big Time" Drag Racing News: The hot buzz on the internet this week concerns the cancellation of the NHRA Today show on The Nashville Network. Rumour has it that TNN is tired of footing the production costs, and when NHRA was asked to step up and pay for their "infomercial", the bean-counters in Glendora said NO, it's not worth the cost. Despite all its faults (and there are many) the show did provide current information and for some of us (without ESPN, ESPN2, etc.) was our only televised source of drag racing on a regular basis.
Sponsorship cancellations are coming in on a regular basis now. First to feel the bite was Whit Bazemore who is being dropped from "Team Winston" for the '99 season. Gary Scelzi and Angelle Seeling were renewed however. No word yet on a replacement, or even if there will be one, for Mr. Bazemore. The next deal to evaporate was the brother and sister team of Randy and Shelly Anderson whose Western Auto deal is over at the end of '98. This was cause by the sale of Western Auto to a new owner, and a subsequent "refocusing and redirection of marketing efforts".
I hope that these sponsor-less racers are able to secure new ones for next season, and also that there aren't too many more of these bad news stories still to come as the season winds down. The reasons for pulling out of sponsorships can be many; ranging from lack of performance or non-performance of contracted commitments by the racer, to a redirection of marketing dollars by the sponsor.
The whole field of sports marketing and sponsorships has become a much tougher battlefield in the past few years, and only promises to get tougher in the future. There are simply too many sports chasing a finite amount of money, and with shifting demographics and tastes by the general public, auto racing may find itself fighting a losing battle in the sponsorship wars in the coming years.
Unfortunately, drag racing does not have nearly the stature or impact of the more well-known and promoted programs put on by CART, NASCAR and F-1. With the apparent shrinkage of television time for NHRA drag racing for 1999 --- not only the loss of NHRA Today, but less "live" coverage of events, the situation can only get worse. Love it or hate it, television is the holy grail of marketing these days. It has more impact and more consumers than any other form of communication. Without TV, an event or sport simply does not exist in the minds of the public. And without TV, the selling of sponsorships becomes that much more difficult for racers. And with more marketing dollars going into event and series sponsorships, it leaves that much less for the racers to fight over.
Tune in again later this week to see the long-promised photos of our new NORTHERN THUNDER Top Alcohol Dragster. In case you've forgotten, the race car was the main focus of this website, but a lack of money has kept progress to a minimum, and that's why there hasn't been much "Thunder" news lately. My meeting tomorrow afternoon with the friendly loans officer at the credit union will be "make or break" time for the car and our downunder invasion plans for the '99 season, so come back and see the results.
PS: If you find a blank page where this one was on your next visit . . . you'll know the results of the meeting weren't what we expected. Till then, cross your fingers, and keep a tight grip on your wallet.