What's the real state of the Motorsports industry today? And when I say the real state I don't mean what the media and the PC side of everyone says it is, I mean what's really going on.
Yes, I know that this is a little different from the other blogs that I have written, but what you need to know is that for the past 20+ years I have been involved in Motorsports in one way or another. I have been a fan of racing since the first time I saw Tony Christian's '57 Chevy at great Lakes Dragaway in Union Grove, WI. Back in the days when you didn't have 10 crew guys traveling with you to every race and you just brought a couple of guys, a jack, and tools.
Today's society has changed a lot since those days. the technology has greatly improved, the coverage of races is almost instantaneous, the cars are much more expensive, and the companies getting involved are much more politically correct than ever. The Motorsports industry has never been one that has worried about being politically correct.
Take a minute and look at the history of NASCAR and NHRA. Those two organizations are two of the largest racing bodies in North America. Their history is not one of PC. NASCAR begin from the art of moon shining. Drivers that would transport shine and try to outrun the police. then look at NHRA, that was started by the great Wally Parks. The reason that NHRA came about was to get racers off the road and on the track.
That brings us to the current conditions of today's racing industry. With shows like Pass Time, Pinks, & the newest one being Street Outlaws. All three are or were great for the industry in some form or another. While there are those (including myself) that don't always agree with certain programs, I am also well aware that the publicity they bring can be great for the industry as a whole.
Here is the issue though, it's the misconceptions that these shows as well as others are the same thing that actually happens at an organized event. the lack of education that is provided to the general viewing public is too insufficient regarding the difference between street racing and drag racing. Street racing is exactly what it sounds like, it is two or more vehicles racing head to head on public streets. Drag racing is the exact same thing, but is performed at a race track on a surface that is meant to be raced on.
Too many times, your mainstream media wants to lump the two together and try to give legitimate racing a negative name. My dream is that these media outlets would actually educate themselves in what the differences are when they report these things. stop calling it drag racing when it's actually street racing.
And what about the financial conditions of racing, especially drag racing in 2015? Over the last 8 months we have all heard of the struggles of teams like John Force racing to land a large money sponsor. If you have been paying attention you know that NASCAR is also looking for a title sponsor in the coming years when the contract with Sprint is done. So what does it say about Motorsports when the face of NHRA has a difficult time landing sponsors and when one of the largest spectator sports in North America is searching for a long term partner?
The money issue has always been one in Motorsports. With the exception of F1 Racing, there has been money shortfalls across the board. The problem is with our media age teaching people what they should like and why they should like it. Racing product is just as good, if not better than most other professional sports in my opinion. Mainstream media though treats racing like some redheaded step child of all other sports. Is it because we are a bunch of dirty car mechanics? I don't think I have ever seen a football play as exciting as a Dwayne Mills wheelstand. I certainly haven't seen a dunk that drops my jaw as much as seeing Kevin Fiscus making a 5 second Pro Mod pass. Sure haven't seen a soccer goal as amazing as seeing Keith Berry and David DeMarco running low 4 second passes on drag radials. So what's the attraction?
Race marketing and sponsorship is now dealt with by people with MBA's that don't always have their pulse on the real potential for ROI in our sport and when they do, I still think it's not always landing in the right places or the right hands for that matter. There is nothing wrong with the business aspect of racing, it is a business after all. When you have series, promoters, etc all fighting over the same pot of gold, the pot starts to become very shallow. Everything has become about boardrooms, PDF's, PowerPoints, etc. It's no longer about the gut feeling you get about having a working relationship with someone. Until we get back to that or at least a modified form, a happy medium of sorts it's going to keep going down this road.
Ask yourself this also, why is it that we as a society love football and basketball? Look at the media surrounding these sports. All we hear about are players getting arrested for drugs, fighting, shootings, beating their wives, and yet cooperate America still pays billions to show us these sports on TV and encourage our youth to look up to these men. Society would rather have your kids look up to these men than to enjoy a sport that teaches discipline, hard work, engineering, science, physics, and so many other useful life teaching things. Look at the hard working drivers and owners in drag racing. Look at the family owned companies. Look at the dedication these men & women give to their sport. Show me a sport where you can bring your 9 year old son and 7 year old daughter for a weekend and they can see men and women compete on an equal paying field, going heads up against each other.
The responsibility really falls on all of us in the industry to educate people from age 5 to 85. Until we make the effort to educate our fans and the general public about the greatness of our sport, we will continue to have a tough time finding the money to continue at the levels that took our cars off the streets and out them on the track. I ask all of you that love racing, no matter what form, to spread the word.