Reasons to be giddy about the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series
Okay, so the pandemic that has plagued the world for the past two years and pushed so many companies into boardroom discussions about sustainability, protocols and Plan Bs isn’t exactly in the rearview mirror. .
On the other hand, let’s hope the pandemic at least starts to creep into our blind spot as we do our best to overtake it on the freeway.
That’s perhaps the best way to describe how racing, especially the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series, is approaching the pandemic as another season gathers pace. This weekend, the NHRA is in Pomona, Calif., for its traditional opening. That in itself sounds so good.
NHRA Chairman Glen Cromwell sat down with Automatic week before the Pomona weekend and said that, like the rest of us, he and the rest of the NHRA can’t want to return to some sense of normalcy. And that includes the normalcy of a race weekend.
momentum is one thing
“We have tremendous momentum in 2022,” said Cromwell, who has been in the offices of this NHRA since 1997 and in the president’s chair since 2018. “At 40,000 feet, for me momentum is the gaining the NHRA racing community coming together in 2020 and 2021. It starts with our fans who support the NHRA and our riders.
“Go back to when it all stopped and basically mid-March of 2020, and we came back to July of that year with these events at Indy. And our fans came out and supported our drivers and our teams. Our sponsors stayed with us. track partners, all of our tracks, worked together. For me, the real benefit of everyone coming together and working together is what you see – the excitement, today It’s a great story.
“I think all properties, sanctioning bodies, to be successful you have to work together, you have to communicate, you have to be open, you have to be transparent, collaborative. Those are the types of things you have to do to be successful. .”
The NHRA weathered the first year of the pandemic as best it could have imagined. After starting his 2020 pre-pandemic season with two events, he put together nine more national events after the March shutdown and handed out series championships that at least felt legit. The NHRA’s Lucas Oil Series and grassroots events that involve thousands of NHRA members went live again in June of this year.
In 2021, the series was back with a 20-event schedule and the return of its countdown to the championship playoffs.
This year at least feels like we’re going full speed ahead and back thinking about growth and positives instead of just surviving and progressing.
We see you, NASCAR
A good example is the recent NASCAR event at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. He turned the NASCAR Cup Series’ traditional Busch Clash season-opening exhibition into a one-ring circus that’s hard to miss and almost as hard to hijack. It was must-see TV, as they say.
An event like the Coliseum had to have every marketer and every race meeting room in the world throw ideas at the wall and see if they could come up with something that would stick. The NHRA was no exception.
“Hats off to the guys at NASCAR, their president Steve Phelps and everyone there,” Cromwell said. “It was a big, big event. We support NASCAR, IndyCar, F1, USAC, all races. All races have to grow together. We’re happy for NASCAR when they do things like that.”
No, the NHRA is not yet going to open a drag strip in the sands of Daytona Beach or launch a row of cement barriers about half a mile along both sides of the Las Vegas Strip. But the NASCAR show is turning the wheels.
This year, the NHRA has a special event on a slightly lower scale on its schedule (hey, hard to top the Colosseum), and one that should create a bit of a buzz in drag racing circles at least. This year, the NHRA is hosting the Pep Boys NHRA Top Fuel All-Star Callout and the Pep Boys NHRA Funny Car All-Star Callout. It’s a Saturday event that will feature the top eight Top Fuel drivers and the top eight Funny Car drivers in a special non-points display.
The Top Fuel Callout will take place in Gainesville, Fla. on March 12, and the Funny Car Callout will take place during the US Nationals weekend in Indianapolis in September.
“They’re going to see who’s the baddest on the track,” Cromwell said. “It’s going to be something a little bit different. Where in the past when we had the Bud Shootout, Skoal Showdown, Traxxas Shootout, 1 would run 8, 2 would run 7, etc. in brackets – we’re not going to do that.
“For the Callout, the No. 1 seed can take the stage, and he or she – Steve Torrence as 2021 Top Fuel Champion gets the No. 1 spot guaranteed, he can choose who he wants to run with. S ‘he chooses the No. 2 to race against, for example, No. 3 will choose the one that person would like to race, and so on. This will create controversy and create excitement in these races. I know that we’re excited, the race teams are excited. So we’re doing different things.”
But wait, there’s more. Imagine a drag race on the Vegas Strip or even Detroit’s famous Woodward Avenue hot rod, perhaps? After all, Cromwell is from Michigan.
“Could we in the future take a dragstrip to a city and do something similar to what NASCAR did?” said Cromwell. “We’ve had discussions internally about doing different things like that.”
Place your bets
Another avenue where the NHRA might be a bit behind other major racing series — NASCAR even has a sports betting general manager on its payroll — is on the sports betting front. The NHRA would seem like a natural fit for the sports betting community and a way to get more eyes on the series overnight.
After all, what could be more sporting than betting a few bucks that Brittany Force will knock out Steve Torrence the next time they line up for a Top Fuel elimination event? Imagine betting on every elimination that will air live on FOX TV on a Sunday afternoon.
“It’s a discussion we have here,” Cromwell said. “We are working and talking with various companies at the moment. Nothing has been finalized yet, but we are going down this road. We hope to have something here in the near future. We are perfectly aligned for something like this. That’s two cars falling, and you have a winner and a loser. It’s a perfect setup”
Hi marketing guys
And, in case Cromwell and the marketing team at NHRA’s new office in San Dimas, Calif., need more gear to work with in 2022, there are some exciting new ownership groups and the return of a all time great. Three-time NASCAR Cup champion Tony Stewart formed Tony Stewart Racing and became an immediate championship contender with drivers Matt Hagan in Funny Car and Leah Pruett (Tony’s wife since November) in Top Fuel.
Ron Capps and Antron Brown broke away from Don Schumacher Racing to put their stamp on things with their own teams as well. Eight-time Top Fuel champion Tony Schumacher is back full-time at DSR.
It’s Stewart, however, who brings new blood, fresh eyes and, ultimately, new ideas.
“It will be awesome,” Cromwell said. “Tony is a superstar. He has great business acumen. We’re really impressed with what we’ve seen so far. We’ve spoken to him many times, and he’s asked a lot of good questions and challenged the NHRA.
“Hey, let’s grow this sport together. I believe he’s going to help, and we couldn’t be happier than to have Tony join the NHRA. It’s great to have him part of the family and the team. .”
And, for now, as the season kicks off in Pomona, the NHRA seems like one big happy family.
“We’re all excited,” Cromwell said. “It’s new owners, new cars, new teams, a lot of good things are happening with the NHRA. I think a lot of people want to watch it, see it, consume it.”
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