BROWNSBURG, Ind. (AP)– Two-time Funny Car world champion Matt Hagan heard the stories throughout the pandemic-forced shutdown.
Furloughed team members sought out tasks to pay costs. Some of his teammates began driving cement trucks. And Hagan thought of how his dad, an automobile dealer owner, continued paying employees in spite of losing millions throughout the economic downturn that struck in 2008.
Eventually, Hagan concluded, the world’s premier drag-racing series should return to work.
” A great deal of people, like my wrench people, they do not have anything else,” Hagan stated as the NHRA cranked back up in Indianapolis last weekend. “So I appreciate the NHRA taking the steps required to keep these guys employed and say we’re taking a step forward, toward getting back to normal.”
With their series shut down for 138 days, NHRA officials spent months modifying schedules, grappling with how to bring fans back and reassuring sponsors it would be safe– even with the potential of another shutdown if the current spike in favorable COVID-19 tests continues.
After the first 2 reboot strategies fell apart, last weekend went efficiently as fans grated about Lucas Oil Raceway over three sun-drenched days. The series returns to the very same venue for Summernationals this weekend.
NHRA President Glen Cromwell acknowledged roughly 75%of series’ workers went on furlough and those who didn’t took pay cuts.
The most glaring distinction last weekend was the absence of John Force Racing in the middle of speculation the team had lost a lot of sponsorship dollars to complete. Team spokeswoman Sara Slaughter declined remark.
Still, Cromwell firmly insists the series is in a strong position since none of its primary sponsors walked away.
” I think sponsors at all levels are assessing their investments, but I believe that speaks volumes about the NHRA and a great deal of the race team sponsors that they stuck by us,” he said. “They think in the sport. The NHRA remains in a stable position, and I believe we remain in a good place.”
At the grassroots level, drag racing may be in the greatest position of any racing series.
While just about 20%of race places in the U.S. and Canada are drag strips, Tim Frost, publisher of National Speedway Directory site, quotes 250,000 of the approximately 400,000 American racers are dragsters.
The factor: It’s more affordable and draws bigger fields, which leads to bigger purses.
Can the NHRA continue to draw huge crowds under the new guidelines?
Fans should pass temperature checks and use face coverings prior to getting in and ticket sales have actually been restricted to 10-15%of Indy’s capability, which generally seats 30,000 to 40,000 for U.S. Nationals in September.
A minimum of it’s a start.
” It feels good, it feels truly great to be back doing what we do and the fans have actually been so helpful,” said Antron Brown, a three-time leading fuel world champion. “You see them out here, coming near you to reveal their assistance. It simply feels great to come back and provide some action.”
Some die-hard fans couldn’t wait to experience the holler of the chest-thumping 11,000- horsepower engines or breathe in the inexpressible mix of burning rubber and burning fuel.
Organizers did not announce an official participation for last weekend. According to sportsmediawatch.com, an uncommon NHRA appearance on the FOX broadcast network drew a ranking of a 0.46, or 689,000 audiences, below a 0.6 ranking and 920,000 audiences from FOX’s very first telecast last season.
Series officials are hoping for better results in Colorado, Minnesota, Kansas and Atlanta before going back to Indy in early September for the U.S. Nationals and the rescheduled All-Stars competition.
And with payments and tasks on the line, the NHRA needs larger crowds, better tv ratings and constant sponsorship to remain on schedule as it tries to thrive in a sports world starved for competition.
” We need to have fans at the race due to the fact that they pay the handbags and we require to have sponsors to run these cars,” Hagan said. “There comes a time when you have make a decision about what you’re going to do. No one wants to lose lives. However it’s almost like if you don’t do this, it gets to a point where starving to death is a lot more frightening than catching the virus.”