By David G. Firestone
We all know that when a tire fire starts, it’s next to impossible to put out, and the best way is to just let it burn. Well the NHRA hasn’t gotten the message with Pro Stock, which is a tire fire they ignited. Rather than let it burn, the NHRA has tried to extinguish it, with terrible results.
Earlier this week, the NHRA announced that in 2018, for nine events, Houston, Topeka, Epping, Englishtown, Bristol, Denver, Sonoma, Seattle, and Brainerd, the field will be reduced from 16 cars to 8 cars. For the other 15 events, the field will be a full 16 cars. According to NHRA.com:
“NHRA has been working closely with Pro Stock teams for several years on initiatives to improve fan engagement and interest. Changes have included switching to fuel injection; facing cars forward in the pits so fans can see the teams work on their engines; holding burnout contests and more.
“We hope this change in field size at selected events will help increase excitement and fan interest,” said NHRA president Peter Clifford.”
For some reason, promoting the category, and bringing in sponsors and manufactures doesn’t seem to be on the list of “initiatives to improve fan engagement and interest.” In Pro Stock right now there are two manufacturers, Dodge and Chevy. Dodge’s Pro Stock program is a disaster, whereas Chevy’s program is solid. Why not bring in Toyota? Dodge has one win in two years in Pro Stock, and their big driver, Allen Johnson is retiring at the end of the season.
What is this fear that the NHRA has in promoting Pro Stock? Yes, the nitro categories get more bang for the buck, but Pro Stock gets just as much television time, and the drivers are just as willing to promote sponsors. Sponsors will get everything that the nitro categories get, and the category will get more exposure, thus bringing in more sponsors, and more teams. I fail to see why the NHRA isn’t more involved in promoting the category.
I also don’t see the upside to cutting the field down to eight cars as opposed to sixteen. Granted, it won’t make the category seem empty, but all you are doing is screwing over part-time teams, and lower end full time teams. It doesn’t help anyone except the big teams. There is no upside to this setup, it doesn’t solve anything, and it shafts the smaller teams. Yet, rather than put effort and research into fixing the category, the NHRA has, in effect, placed a small bandage on a major wound. Furthermore, the NHRA seems aware that there is a major wound, but think that small bandages will fix this major wound. It doesn’t work that way.
Pro Stock fans and drivers should be very worried right now. It’s clear the category is in danger, and it’s also clear that the NHRA seems to think that it isn’t a problem, and isn’t willing to put the work needed to save the category. This can’t continue on the way it has for much longer. NHRA, please wake up, and do what is needed to fix these problems.