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Performance & Hotrod Business February '14

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PERFORMANCE Catching Up with IHRA There are some exciting changes going on over at the International Hot Rod Association as it gears up for the 2014 racing season. Scott Gardner, president of IHRA Motorsports, shares a little bit about the association's renewed efforts to connect with racers and expand its reach, while maintaining an exciting show for fans. Performance & Hotrod Business: Tell us a little bit about the big changes going on over at IHRA. SG: There are a lot of exciting things happening right now. Professionally, we are thrilled to be bringing more competitive racing back to the IHRA. Over the past few years, the IHRA has focused a lot of its efforts on generating more entertainment value for the fans at our national events and, while that is still a top priority for us to bring the best entertainment possible to each market we visit, we are also looking to bring more competition and tradition back to the series. (Photos courtesy IHRA) That includes the return of traditional eliminations in our professional categories and a return to such classic classes at Mountain Motor Pro Stock, Nitro Harley and, of course, one of the most popular categories in drag racing right now, nostalgia Nitro Funny Car. We'll be taking what we've learned over the past few years and blending it with a more traditional competition to create the best of both worlds for our fans. As part of that, we will also be returning our national event series to several classic IHRA tracks and markets such as Maryland International Raceway, Rockingham Dragway and Cordova Dragway. And for fans of all of the fire, jets and just plain excitement, that is where the Sonic Rush Tour comes in. In addition to our great Nitro Jam Drag Racing Series national events, the Sonic Rush Tour will travel to more than a dozen markets in 2014 with a focus on packing in as much "wow" as possible. PHB: We understand there's also more of an emphasis being placed on local racers. SG: Of course, while our professional series is very important to us, the real heart of the IHRA lies in our Sportsman racers and member tracks. Over the past year we have seen the IHRA reach new heights in terms of racer memberships and member tracks. Currently we sanction over 100 tracks in 35 states and five countries and have simply the best racers in motorsports. 28 n Performance & Hotrod Business PHBFEB.indd 28 n We are also excited by the continued growth of all of our Sportsman programs including the Summit Pro-Am Tour presented by Amsoil and Summit SuperSeries presented by Amsoil, both of which saw increases in participation and events in 2013. Sportsman racing is, and always will be, the central focus of what we do here at the IHRA and we look forward to continuing to build on the programs that exist while continuing to create new and exciting opportunities for our racers around the world. PHB: Why are you and your team excited about the long-term prospects of drag racing? SG: I am excited because I see a lot of growth potential at all levels of IHRA drag racing. Our Sportsman programs are growing each and every year, which in turn allows us to go out and create even more opportunities for our racers. One area in which that growth has been most evident has been with our Summit SuperSeries program. This program rewards racers at the local levels with an opportunity to compete against their peers and eventually reach the big stage at the Summit World Finals to compete for a national championship. The program, which began in 2002, has seen major growth each and every season, which in turn has allowed us to grow the prize package and pour everything back into the program for the racers. Just this past season we gave away two brand-new dragsters that were built primarily on contributions from manufacturers around the country. These two pristine dragsters were part of a very large and very exciting prize package put together by Summit Racing Equipment, resulting in this program being the pinnacle of local, ET bracket racing. PHB: Are the fans still into it? SG: In addition to the Sportsman growth, I also feel there is a lot of potential for our professional touring series. While motorsports across the board has seen significant decreases in attendance over the past few years, we have actually enjoyed growth in our attendance numbers simply by changing the model. That model has given us the base on which to build our two biggest professional series—the Nitro Jam Drag Racing Series and Sonic Rush Tours. I think there is still a lot of potential in drag racing—it just has to be done right. Sitting idly by hoping for change isn't going to cut it. We need to be proactive and find what the racers and fans want. If you do that, I think you have a real formula for continued success. PHB: How does drag racing at the highest professional levels affect local racers and the shops that serve them? SG: It is a cycle. Professional racing certainly grabs the attention and the headlines and it is appealing to large audiences, and that helps drive racing at the lower levels. It expands the opportunity to get new racers into the Sportsman ranks, which in turn creates new opportunities for manufacturers and shops to service and sell to those race teams. February 2014 1/3/14 12:07 PM

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