THE LACK OF FANS

There’s one thing that’s been bothering since this whole COVID thing has begun. Okay, truth be known, there’s a lot of things which are bothering me about the whole pandemic, but that’s another story. The thing which bothers me actually has only begun since we’ve been back racing; and that’s the lack of fans in the stands.

Granted at any bracket race, there are no fans, at least not many who would sit in the stands and watch. Let’s face it, watching bracket racing is almost a bit like watching grass grow or paint dry. Bracket racing is certainly not a spectator sport. You either do it, or you don’t watch it. Of course, places like MotorManiaTV.com which live stream a lot of the big bracket races do a great job to bring the sport into our homes. They tend to average thousands of viewers, but generally speaking, it’s mostly racers who are logging in.

Of course, lack of fans in the stands is becoming pretty common in all sports today. While this year might have an asterisk next to the champion’s name, no one might remember the how or why. So will it really make a difference? A champion will be a champion regardless.

I don’t tend to watch too many other sports but I remember watching major league baseball when they got back started and they have cardboard cutouts of people in the stands behind home plate. Then we have professional football which I do follow. The first game of the season and there’s no one in the stands but yet I hear crowd noise piped in. If not seeing fans in the stands is weird, it’s even weirder to hear crowd noise piped in. What the….!

Now we get back to drag racing. As any editor will tell you, we try hard to never run a photo with empty grandstands in the background. I know I’ve spoken about this before, but it just doesn’t look good for the sport. Unfortunately today, we don’t have much choice. I’m sure photographers in other sports will tell you the same thing. So what do we do? Nothing. We take the shot and hope everyone understands the predicament we’re in today.

Speaking of the NHRA Vs. Coke battle… Yeah we weren’t really speaking of that but now it’s the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series, or it will be for what is supposed to be the next three years. I don’t know what that means on the NHRA Vs. Coke battle but I find it interesting NHRA was able to sign a new sponsor in what seemed to be a short time. I wonder if there had been talks between all parties prior. I actually believe the Camping World “thing” is a great fit due in part to how many motorhomes show up at the races. It would be nice to know that they activate the sponsorship in some way like having services at the races. That to me would be a great fit.

I just came back from two weeks of Fling racing (GALOT and Bristol). A combined 900 some odd entries, most of which were at both events, but the question I have is this: When speaking of what happens on the NHRA front, just how many of those who were at the Flings; or for that matter any of the other big bracket races; how many of them really care about what happens with the NHRA?

While some of that may be true, we still do need big time drag racing to bring awareness to the sport itself. Let’s face it. Bracket racing will never make it on TV even though it is there where a racer is winning more money than anywhere else, regardless of class. And how many times do you meet a person on the street who sees your rig and asks, “Do you race against John Force?” Or, “Is that one of those long skinny cars with the parachutes?”

Either way, I’ve said that drag racing is alive and well, and it is. Just maybe not so much on the professional level, which I believe took a big hit this past year. But the amount of racers showing up at independent races all over the country is direct proof of the sport’s health. And truth be known, if it weren’t for governmental limitations, I’m sure the stands would be packed once again. It’s not for lack of enthusiasm for a sport.