It’s time we look at the future of the motorsports industry, specifically drag racing. Are we doing a good enough job at keeping the younger generation involved in the sport?
I have been involved in drag racing as a fan, driver, crew, and now media since the early 90’s and I can tell you first hand that times are changing and I am not sure they are for the better. I see plenty of kids in Jr. Dragsters walk away from the sport once they are too old for Juniors. They go off to college, get a job, great a boyfriend/girlfriend, etc. That is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the issues that I see within the industry.
Drag racing has, since the start of time been a male-dominated industry. Whether it be in the pits, in the driver’s seat, in the tower, or on the wall with a camera. So then I ask myself why that is, do we not make enough of an effort bring women into the industry? There is a reason that one of the Co-Founder’s of this company is a woman and the reason that our Social Media Director is a woman as well. They are amazing at anything that they do, from taking photos, to working on cars, to owning the room at all times. So why is it that I don’t see more women in stronger roles within drag racing? It is something that we need to get better at within the industry. Our problem isn’t just the younger generation of kids, it’s also about getting women more involved and playing a much larger role with the industry. There are changes happening, they just aren’t happening at a very decent pace if you want my opinion. But for now, I will digress on that part of the problem for another day. Maybe I can get both Ellen and Courtney to address women in drag racing. In the meantime, I want you to ponder ideas of getting women more involved in the sport.
For the past twenty years we have continued to see a decline of shop type classes in middle schools and high schools. We have seen this huge push in the mainstream media, which is influencing parents, that you have to send your kids to a four-year college for them to be successful and that the trades are where you go if you aren’t smart enough or skilled enough to go to a University. When I was growing up in the late 80’s and early 90’s we had shop classes and technical classes. You weren’t a 17 year old kid driving a $40k vehicle to school. All that has slowly pushed kids that have interests in racing, or even technical skill sets to the outer fringe. Too many people now have the notion that working on cars is a dirty, unskilled job for people that aren’t as “smart” as the rest of the world. There in itself lies the first issue with where we are going wrong.
Politics. Everyone knows that your local government has made it more and more difficult to enjoy the car culture. It is not something that is embraced like it was even fifteen years ago. While yes, you have the boom in weekly and monthly car shows, the lack of having a place to go cruise with your friends on a Friday or Saturday night, has given way to sitting on your ass and playing video games all weekend. Politics, and unfortunately my generation, have slowly attempted to destroy drag racing. They find every reason to close down local dragstrips, instead of making an effort to enjoy them. How about getting off your dead ass on a Friday or Saturday and head to your local dragstrip? The same dragstrip that employs people from the community, that brings money into the community, and at the same time is a small business owner that is doing more for the community you live in than you ever will.
Social media has also played a negative roll in all of this. No longer are the younger generation out in the garage working on something, or dreaming of ripping down the street in a badass hotrod. No, they are too bad busy seeing if they got more friends, more likes, more of everything. And that’s not even just the kids, the adults are just as bad. While social media plays a large role in the business side of it, it also has a way of absolutely destroying everything around it.
Do you really want to know what the saving grace of drag racing has been over the last 5 years or so? I will tell you exactly what it has been, but first I will tell you what it’s not. It’s not NHRA, it’s not overpriced weekend tickets to a big event, it’s not events that drag on until one or two in the damn morning. No, the saving grace and the thing that has kept the masses, and I am not talking about the core group that already know and love our sport, I am talking about the casual that we need to bring out to the races, their saving grace has been TV. It has been Street Outlaws and No Prep Kings. Love it or hate it, I see kids treat these guys like I treated baseball players back in the 80’s. Figures like Daddy Dave, Ryan Martin, Jeff Lutz, Shawn Ellington, etc. And the fact is that they are not only on TV in front of the kids, but they are amazing with the kids at the track. Along with that, you have the fact that women are on the forefront of those shows, whether it be Lizzy Musi, Kayla Morton, Tricia, Precious, or others. I see just as many little girls who know these drivers as I do little boys. So we’d all better start thanking their asses for keeping the masses interested.
There will be a lot of promoters out there that want to talk smack about me saying that, and I have no issue with that. The fact is that the promoters in drag racing are better than promoters in any other sport hands down. I could go through a list of ten right now that I am humbled to call my friend. What they do is put together amazing races, amazing series, etc. But it takes everyone, including the TV stuff to bring the masses into the fold. People who are going to No Mercy or World Street Nationals or Snowbirds are drag racing fans and most likely have been for a long time. People that are going to No Prep Kings this weekend at PBIR are not only drag racing fans, but they are bringing in people that love the show, and we all hope they get hooked on the best damn sport in the world…drag racing.
Listen, I am not saying that I have all the answers or any of the answers for the matter. What I do know is this…drag racing is a tough industry no matter what part you partake in. One moment you think you have all the answers, all the friends, and all the accolades, and the next minute you are left with nothing. It’s just like any other sport in that manner. The key to being a driver, crew, media, promoter, or fan, is to do what you need to do for the long haul in this industry. So let’s make sure that everyone is getting involved, whether it’s NMRA. NMCA, PDRA, MWPMS, NHRA, No Prep, Street Outlaws, DuckX, OSCR, YellowBullet, and so many more organizations and races. Get to the track and enjoy the sport we all love while we try to keep it growing the best we can.
What are your thoughts on where drag racing as a whole is right now?