THE PURSE

After so many bracket races paying big dollars; two this year where the payout to the winner was one-million dollars or more; my question is, “Why can they do it and yet the payouts in the sportsman classes at NHRA national or Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series divisional events be so low?” Of course in NHRA’s defense, with all the issues they have to face this year, this might rank low on the priority list, but…

And naturally as I’ve said so many times before, you have to make up your mind as to what you want to race for; money, trophy, friends, etc. Unfortunately, money does make the world go round. For those who say money doesn’t buy happiness, I quote self-help guru Tony Robbins who once said, “Then you’re not shopping in the right store.”

Anyway, I may not make too many fans in higher up positions with this but it is what is on everyone’s mind, or should be. And I’m certainly not insinuating anything here other than to bring awareness to a fact.

I don’t seem to remember exactly what the payout is for an NHRA national event, partly because it isn’t publicized anymore. Which makes it sort of hard to substantiate any numbers other than going by memory.

However, what I do know is from a payout posted at the inaugural Las Vegas national event in 2000 for the Super Stock class for a total of $14,300. Bear in mind that the three other sportsman classes (Stock, Super Comp and Super Gas) were probably close in purse. Of course this was in the pre-quota days before NHRA began limiting the entries and as was pointed out to me as noted on the payout sheet, “Payout: field of 65 or more cars, starts 3rd round, field of 64 or less cars, starts 2nd round.”

Today that’s all different. With the exception of the U.S. Nationals, the quotas are usually 60 cars and in some cases, less than that. However, in all cases, the payout only starts with a 3rd round loss, which makes even less money paid out. I could be wrong with today’s actual payout, but I know I’m not far off. Twenty years later it’s still only $1,800 to win with the total paid out roughly half of that posted 2000 payout.

As I mentioned, those numbers aren’t publicized anymore, but yet the numbers for a big dollar bracket race are published and they are what it takes to get racers to the track.

Back to those national event numbers. Last week’s Dallas national event where they allotted 60 cars in the four core sportsman classes, the lowest car count was Super Stock with 55 cars. The entry fee is $220 plus $110 as an insurance surcharge (don’t even get me started on that one because they can call it what they want, but to me the entry fee I have to pay is $330.). Anyway, $220 multiplied by 55 cars equals $12,100. And of course that doesn’t even take into account crew passes. Regardless, that’s enough money to pay the purse and put some profit into the equation. Of course, no one should fault them for making a profit. After all, that is what they’re in business for.

Now let’s look at a typical; without mentioning any names or brand; bracket race which would pay $30,000 to the winner. Overall, the entire purse would be roughly $66,000. At this particular race, the entry fee was a reasonable $230, nothing extra for an “insurance surcharge.” At that number, all they needed was 286 cars to pay the purse. As a point of reference, what they got was 550 cars, meaning they too were making a profit; again a profit no one is questioning, or should be.

Getting back to the NHRA race, I seem to remember (there goes that memory thing again) that the first national event I won in 1984, it seems like I eventually received something like $25,000 for the win. Justifiably, the majority of that money came in the form of contingency money from sponsors and not from NHRA, contingency money which has been greatly reduced today for a number of reasons. The NHRA award I think was only, maybe $1,200. Thirty some odd years later, that first place money; the actual cash check you’d receive from NHRA; isn’t much more than that even though entry fees back then were in the less than $100 range.

So what would it take for the NHRA to actually pay some decent purse money? Obviously more cars but they have that capped. The entry fee is certainly high enough and we really don’t need another raise in that area. As a matter of fact, I’d bet there wouldn’t be too many bracket racers who would leave the house for a race paying $1,800-to-win with a $220 entry fee.

So what am I suggesting?

Nothing. And certainly not to boycott any race in particular. But I have always recommended that you know what you’re racing for. Money, trophy, friends, fun, whatever. Just be aware; or beware, however you want to look at it. It’s simple. Make your decision to attend a race based on what you’re really looking for.