I am sure that you have heard by now the rumor that NHRA will be cutting the amount of races that Pro Stock participates in come 2018. We have talked to those in the class that confirmed this is a "done deal".
The details aren't all there yet, but what we have been told by those in the class is that NHRA will drop the double up races that pro stock has. What I mean by that is if they run at the same place twice, it will only be once now. Examples being Charlotte, Vegas, and Pomona. We aren't sure what other races are on the chopping block though.
This shouldn't come as a huge surprise to anyone that pays any attention to drag racing though. While it's a huge disappointment, a surprise it is not. Ever since the NHRA made the switch to EFI in their Pro Stocks, we have seen the fields continue to dwindle. Unable to get full fields in pro classes is a sign of the times. We have seen it in the Nitro sessions this year too. It's not that people don't want to build the cars to come out and compete, it's that the NHRA has done an absolutely horrendous job promoting Pro Stock.
NHRA Pro Stock has some on the best young talent in the world driving those cars. Look at the sheets this year and you see Alex Laughlin, Tanner Gray, Vincent Noble, 2x World Champion Erica Enders, and more. This isn't a bunch of old timers, these are young guns driving some brute force machines. And no longer is it the Summit show with Jason and Greg.
What about dropping some races though, what will that do to the class? There are a lot of people that believe it will help bring drivers and cars into the class, and well they may be right to a certain extent. Here's the problem with the business side of it though. If you are going to remove them from six races over the course of the season, that's six chances for airtime and social media exposure that you will no longer have. So if we look at the math for a second and say that each race is $50k sponsor money, that's $400k right there that you should be losing. So if you were approaching $2M for the season, you don't still get the $2M ask, you'd be closer to $1.6M. Doesn't mean that you are "saving" money, it means that you are spending less.
You have to look at the loss in potential ROI as well. If Pro Stock, which based on the numbers, has the ability to reach 1M fans a week on Fox, and the average ROI across the Pro Stock board is $30k a race, that's a loss of $240k a season spread out among sponsors. Do you really think that Summit, Jegs, Gas Monkey, all want less exposure? Have you thought about how this affects them?
Sponsorship, Marketing, and Branding, is all about exposure, and about exposure to the proper demographics. So what happens when you take that exposure away? There is less of a return based on the principal of repetition. The thought that the more a person is exposed to something, the more likely they are to remember it and apply that remembrance to future purchases. This means that money will, and should start flowing elsewhere. Let's face it, the last thing we want to do is take more money out of the class.
Pro Stock to some people is confusing as the technology in an F1 car. They don't get the high winding, naturally aspirated, shifted cars. The cars don't look like street cars, they don't do big wheelies, they don't have flames, so unless you are a hardcore racing fan, there isn't that "WOW" factor when watching. And slowly the amount of hardcore fans is drifting away.
So what is the answer? The first thing I would say is please stop talking about Pro Mods replacing Pro Stock, It's NOT going to happen! Pro Mod is just fine as is. Larry Morgan and others touched on this over the last two years, and the real issue is the cost. If you look at the week in and week out players in the class, it's just like it is in the Nitro ranks. You have three main players. You have Elite, KB, and Gray Motorsports, then you have the rest. I am not saying the rest aren't just as capable, but lets face facts, the single car teams don't have the money or resources that the big three do. Cost is just one of the factors driving this. Another issue is the lack of new money coming into the class. We need new money to come into Pro Stock, along with other classes. This is a business, whether most of you want to realize it or not. With that business comes the fact that you need people to work with obtaining and gathering sponsors that have the ability to do so in business terms.
Like I said before, to a lot of people, Pro Stock just isn't fun to watch. These men and women are drivers, but we don't show it. Just look at Alex's win last week when he dropped the hammer and had a trip zip .000 perfect reaction time. Pro Stock looks like a class you'd find at LS Fest where it's all Camaros with the same drivetrain. Here's a thought, give a 25-50lb weight break to those willing to not use the Camaro body. While you are at it, take the damn wheelie bars off the cars or shorten them even more. You have got to do things that bring the fan to their feet and say "Wow". How about adding Mountain Motor Pro Stock cars to the class as well? Have the MM competing at all races. That would be exciting as well. Who wouldn't want to see Goforth, Eman, Monteclavo, Powers, or Pluchino taking on Enders and Coughlin?
I for one, from a business standpoint, look at both sides of the coin on the cutback and I think it's terrible. I think that the less exposure that a Pro class has, the one step closer it is to becoming a class with no place in the show. Don't start to halfass your fields. I know that it works with bikes, but that's because you have huge fields at every bike race. Mark my word, if the rules stay the same, this drop to 18 races will do little to nothing for the Pro Stock class, with the exception of adding one more nail to it's already half sealed coffin.