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Surprise, Surprise, AHRA twitches and stirs

In a rather surprising (to me at least) development, the virtually moribund AHRA not only issued a new press release this afternoon, with the very upbeat pronouncement that “AHRA is extremely pleased with the track’s progress in assuring a safe, first-class facility for their racers and spectators”, stated Troy Moe, AHRA C.E.O. Who, what, where, and most of all, WHY? Read on and find out.

Even more surprising, actually amazing, it appears the association paid a bill for some event posters promoting the first of three events scheduled for Ashcroft's Eagle Motorplex. This first race is scheduled for July 10 - 11 and promises the Rollin Thunder jet funny car of the AHRA Director of Operations for Canada, Brad Janishewski, fields of outlaw doorslammers and blown alcohol cars, a two-car blown alcohol flopper match race and a big buck bracket race.

Quite an ambitious undertaking, with a potential total of $32,700 in purse money, plus the appearance fees for two alky funny cars and a jet (probably another $5,000) and a gamblers race on the first day, for a grand total of nearly $40,000 in payouts. On the surface, impressive indeed. Without going into too much detail about the feature attractions, other than naming the jet, it still comes off as a go-to event. Especially for the bracket bashers.

But there are a few problems with this promotion, starting with the date which is in direct conflict with NHRA's one big annual Northwest show at Seattle's Pacific Raceways on the same weekend. Yes, I realize that virtually none of the racers attending Ashcroft's race would be eligible to compete at Seattle, but many racers and fans from B.C. circle the Seattle date on their calendars nearly a year in advance, make plans and come heck or high liquid, make the pilgrimage to the nitro grail at Pacific Raceways.

Just how much impact this conflict of dates will have on the Ashcroft event is open to debate; it may range from negligible, to minimal, to moderate. You can keep it in mind, but on reflection I'm not sure it will really have that much impact. Let's suppose that the Ashcroft race doesn't lose much to the big show down south, and the racers show up in serious numbers. And crew members. And spectators.

The generous payouts to the bracket racers, the booked in racers and the free-entry blown alky cars and outlaw doorslammers add up to a substantial financial investment by the AHRA. The Eagle Motorplex is taking no risk as the track is being rented to the AHRA for this event and the track is virtually guaranteed at least a small profit, no matter how well (or poorly) the event does.

You don't have to look too close at the event poster to see one large caveat in full-size letters: based on 80 entries, based on 64 entries, and based on 32 entries. The phrase "purse pro-rated" (based on 80, 64, or 32 entries) isn't stated, but when the purse is based on a number of entries, then it's a certainty that it will be pro-rated downwards if the entry minimum isn't reached. How much is open to conjecture at this time.

For the sake of argument (and this piece is almost guaranteed to start at least one) let's assume that the minimum number of entries is reached in each bracket. That would leave the AHRA with a gross profit of $5900 for the bracket entries. Enough to pay for the feature cars or the blown alky and doorslammers, but not both. So there still is a bit of risk on their part. However, once the entry minimums are exceeded, every additional entry is pure (gross) profit for the promoters after all the purses are paid, and as noted above, there's still a bit of a gap (about $5 - $6,000) before the entry fees become all profit.

There are other "profit centres" for the promoters. For instance, crew pay $25 for the weekend with only the blown alky and feature cars getting their crewmembers in free. And the spectators are coughing up $15 per day or $30 for the weekend (gee, some discount for the weekend pass, eh?) and if the weather isn't too extreme (hot or wet) then the show should attract a pretty decent crowd. Add in the concessions and you've got the makings of a possible winner for the track and the American Hot Rod Association.

One more profitable area, and not noted on the event poster, but on the website is the $25 insurance fee per car charged by AHRA for racers either not licensed by them, or not "regular" racers at Ashcroft. That surcharge will surely lead to a few hard feelings and more than a bit of grumbling before the event is over. Oh, and I just noticed the addition of Street Eliminator, Motorcycle/Sled and Jr. Dragsters to the show, without any prize money listed on the event poster, so surely there's some profit lurking in those categories.

My purpose in writing this piece is definitely not to knock the track, as the Eagle Motorplex is trying to do their best for the racers and fans in the southern interior, and after years of neglect by NHRA, turned to what appeared to be a viable and nearly locally-run association. I'm certain it hasn't turned out as well as they hoped, but they are doing their best to put on an event that could be a win-win-win-win for the racers, spectators, track and AHRA. And I, for one, hope they do succeed. For all parties concerned, I sincerely hope they do.

While the long-term (and to some extent, even the short-term) future of the AHRA is in doubt, the next three weeks may go a long while to determining whether they make it through this re-inaugural season or fade into oblivion. Let's just sit back for a week or three and see what happens. If I receive any more information (pro or con) about this event at Ashcroft or the two races scheduled for next weekend (La Rue, Ohio and Toronto, Ontario), I will bring you the news and my opinions about them. Trust me on that one.

To see previous updates go to the What's Old page