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Performance & Hotrod Business February '14

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PERFORMANCE (Photo courtesy Aeromotive) NHRA drag racing from the general public The market may be seen as slowly segmenting into under- and over-40 categories, each with specific needs and concerns. (Photo courtesy Aeromotive) Fuel demands are always top-of-mind with racers wanting to go as fast as possible. (Photo courtesy Aeromotive) and car counts are at an all-time high, but attendance at tracks and eyeballs on the media coverage are on a steady decline. In the last couple years, we have seen local tracks closing at an alarming rate. The magic question is 'why?' If we had the perfect answer, we could fix the problem, but it's probably not that simple. "I listen at the shows, the tracks and other events and there seems to be a hundred theories. I'm not sure which applies the most. It's probably a culmination of several," he continues. "There has definitely been a decline in interest in drag racing amongst the general public. NASCAR saw an almost ridiculous, one-hit-wondertype popularity spike in the last few years. But it was an entertainment venue rather than an enthusiast sport. The majority of people in the seats are not true enthusiasts. They don't have hot rods or race on the weekend at the local dirt track. But that's how it used to be." And that's how drag racing used to be, too, he says. "You may not be in a Top Fuel dragster, but you loved to watch and you either raced a Sportsman class or had a bracket car you raced at the local Friday night test and tune. In my opinion, this is the decline." He relates the current situation to hunting—"It's a true enthusiast sport, but most of the time people don't pay high admission prices to watch someone else hunt." The question he asks is if drag racing needs to be promoted as a spectator sport. "Does it need to be a show for a general audience? These statements raise all sorts of ancillary questions. Is hot rodding on the decline? Is that why we don't have more general enthusiasts that might not race, but appreciate the sport and will pay to attend? Maybe. The lack of OE support or the decline thereof could be part of the problem. "Are NASCAR, drifting, diesel drags and sled pulls more relatable? Probably," he adds. "I often wonder if the importance and spotlight placed on Top Fuel has disconnected 26 n Performance & Hotrod Business PHBFEB.indd 26 n and even the casual enthusiasts. It's so far beyond what is achievable (for the general racer) that it's hard to relate that to your own passions. Whether it's a 1970 Chevelle in the garage or a lifted CJ in the driveway, we all want them to look cooler, go faster and quicker. So what forms of racing do we look to achieve these results? What do we have to inspire us or to aspire to?" Moroso's Schroeder also hits on that aspect and some of its effects. "At the very highest professional levels of the sport, the multi-car teams have sterilized the sport and driven the independent racer out to race in other venues," he believes. "But this is true in many forms of racing. This is why Sportsman and similar types of racers should be given more exposure, track time, etc., at these events to keep the sport vital." Making Your Move Lastly, we asked for info on how shops can improve sales to the drag racing market heading into the new year. Powell laughs and says, "I always say the same thing here. Just take an active role. Be a part of the sport that you support, or at least support the events that your customers are attending. If you still have a local track, go out with a couple guys and T-shirts on a Friday or Saturday night. Walk around and get to know people. Show up with some parts and a 10-foot pop-up and offer trackside sup- February 2014 1/3/14 12:06 PM

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