The old saying in drag racing about hurrying up and then waiting is as old an adage as their is in our sport. But like high-button shoes, it’s a thing of the past. With that, the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) is marching head-first into making sure their programs move fast enough for television. What is it their doing? How about 50 minute turn-arounds during eliminations. Yes, you read that right – the NHRA wants Top Fuel and Funny Car teams to make 50 minute turn-arounds from the time they run one round to the time they run the next round. And we thought 90 minutes was tough.
The reason is clear: The NHRA will be offering live shows on ESPN starting with the Spring Nationals event in Houston in late April. The NHRA wants the nitro teams to be ready for 50 minute turn-around times to accommodate live television. Just a quick note: When we say live, it still may or may not be taped … but, hey, the show was live when they taped it!
I’m okay with live event broadcasting because those in the know have said for years that if drag racing wanted to move into the big leagues, it had to be live. Also, television does better ratings-wise with live events over taped. And that goes for advertisers too. A smart, successful and very informed man of marketing once told me that drag racing would never make it as a major sport if it didn’t figure out how to have live broadcasts with a quicker pace.
But – and you knew there had to be a but – pushing teams to do a 50 minute turn-around may backfire. The 90 minute turn-around really has become a 75 minute over the last few years and then when things go awry recently, the NHRA has reduced it to 60 minutes. However, pressuring the pit crews to do more in less time doesn’t sound like a good thing. I’ve never had to be a part of such quick work in the pits but having been associated with and having done tear downs to get a car ready is nerve-racking and hard to do the same day and get a car back out for another round, without demanding it be done CORRECTLY, and not blow something else up. It goes without saying that when the anxiety rate goes up, so do mistakes.
Again, I’m sure everyone is in agreement that we need live racing and if shorter turn-arounds is the answer then, that’s what must be done. Personally, I haven’t heard how they’re going to handle the Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle but those teams don’t need as much time as the nitro teams do because and let’s face it, they don’t have nearly as much to do as nitro crews do. Plus, most eyeballs are concerned and interested in nitro more than the Pro Stock classes anyway. In other words, like it or not it’s tough sh** if you’re not nitro.
Yes, the NHRA has dabbled in live event coverage before but these broadcasts are going to become the norm – even if they aren’t all “live” – plus, it makes it easier for television because they don’t have to sit and wait to put a show together. How this works with the smaller teams also concerns me as I’m guessing the big-time teams will just have everything set, no matter how many engine assemblies need to be complete and ready to go. Time will tell, but ready or not … drag racing is going live.
Daryle W. Hier
- From Hawaii To The Top (nostalgiadr.wordpress.com)