ZYLA: The Racing Briefcase

Ron Capps (inside) battles John Force during Sunday's NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event at Bristol Dragway. (HHP/Garry Eller Photo)
Ron Capps (inside) battles John Force during an NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event at Bristol Dragway. (HHP/Garry Eller Photo)

Sometimes, the business of motorsports is just as exciting as the on-track action. Specifically, there has never been a period I can recall where NHRA and IndyCar were more consumed in business situations and announcements that are making big news.

Let’s start with NHRA.

As the premier drag racing body, NHRA issued a release reporting the immediate retirement of Tom Compton and then named in-house executive Peter Clifford as its new president. Certainly, we wish all parties well.

As for the business side of NHRA, it’s no secret the sanctioning body is dealing with numerous concerns in the professional and sportsman classes. Purses are low, sponsorship dollars for its top teams are drying up and the days of easily filling 16 car fields are in jeopardy. As noted in a telephone conference with Clifford, a new television deal is awaiting announcement.

With “health” concerns as to the strength of NHRA’s Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Bike, along with its fifth “is this a professional class or not?” Pro Modified division, there are so many pieces on the chess board for Clifford to move I can honestly say he’s got his work cut out for him. Much has to do with cash flow, or lack thereof, sportsman racer involvement and how to put together a show that entails close to 600 cars if all classes participate.

My opinion? Maybe it’s time NHRA visits the possibility of a pay-per-view deal with DIRECTV, Time Warner, Comcast or Dish. NHRA should make it easy on the viewer, (perhaps $25 for the entire three day event) and make sure not to throw big money into the production end as the NHRA public address announcers are some of the best.

Just allow the cameras to roll and with perhaps five or six stationary cameras and talented director/production people in a TV truck, it could become a reality and be an enjoyable outlet for fans who want to see sportsman racing in addition to pros. And it’s all LIVE! Oil downs and all with no excuses.

As for any other national TV deal that can still be a separate function of the national event presentations and not impede those who purchased pay-per-view viewing rights. If NHRA pro and sportsman fans know they can turn on their TV at any point during a three-day event for one low price, I believe in time NHRA would generate enough extra cash to help the pro and sportsman racers.

Of course, NHRA would need to oversee income distribution with perhaps an advisory board made up of drivers and/or team owners who agree on payouts. The PPV monies, if successful, would be a real shot in the arm for an organization that deserves to thrive, regardless of its professional and sportsman racer participation and payout concerns.

Now let’s visit another idea.

I’m wondering just how difficult it would be for NHRA to share a weekend with another sanctioning body in need of a big infusion of fans in the seats.

The recent California Verizon IndyCar race, (a very scary event I may add as pack racing in Indy cars is just tempting the grim reaper) took place in what seemed like no more than 7,000 people in the stands.

My opinion? Since IndyCar needs fans in the seats and the organization currently delivers some of the best racing going on, how about an NHRA/IndyCar doubleheader? I know IndyCar likes to do “doubleheaders,” so at least discussing the possibilities of introducing these two demographic fan bases to each other might deserve some consideration. I’ll let the logistics and fan movement from quarter-mile to Indy race course up to management, but I know I’d be the first to buy a ticket to see a 16-car field in four professional classes with a companion 400-mile Indy car race on the same weekend.