Dead On: Jok suggests taking a cue from Street Outlaws. What?!
Jok suggests taking a cue from Street Outlaws. What?!
I have an idea; think it could work? Look, even if you are a diehard drag racing fan, race where the pits are full all the time and you think national events on TV still have some level of interesting content, how about this:
You have to agree that the Top Fuel and Fuel Funny Car classes are nothing but a "corporate outing", right? Teams all dress the same with black pants, imprinted fancy shirts they put on for the sponsors, dining area next to the pit areas with A/C in the tents, catered food, etc. They all do the exact same things to their cars and in most cases they all get their parts and pieces from two or three huge teams that supply the parts. No personalities, no "outlaws", no verbal challenges, just smiles and styled hair and a list of sponsors to mention. OK, it is what it is, a corporate outing in front of a very small TV audience.
What about this idea: (I am leaving the pros out of this idea because I think it too late for them to change.) We all know the auto manufacturers have "bought in" to the idea of making a limited number of bad-ass muscle cars. Why not make those some of the featured cars at the national events? There is some work to do but if you want fans paying to watch and the entire sport building excitement, then look no further than to what "Street Outlaws" has accomplished. (I want to thank a close friend who "lit my fire" about this opportunity I think we are missing. I won't mention his name but thanks, DG!)
We need a new Factory Outlaw class that has the baddest factory-built cars of each brand running the other brands of cars. We need car names and characters to build fan appeal with cars that look exactly like young and old people can buy at a dealership. Current year Mustangs, Camaros and Challengers.
We need "characters" and "car names" for identity and to build a fan base with like "Boston Strangler", "Snake Venom", etc. and names people will remember like we remember Garlits, Prudhomme and others that established what we are watching today being wasted away right now. We need open match races at national events and local tracks. No wheelie bars, no traction control and no bullshit; just head-to-head racing with mandatory burnouts across the line, T-shirts for sale at the race car trailer, and people crazy enough to make the effort to save drag racing.
Sure these cars are Stock and Super Stock cars so what? Stock and Super Stock was just fine before the $150,000 cars came onto the scene and we started watching 9-second Stockers dragging the brakes to protect their horsepower rating and 8-second Super Stockers with a basically stock bodied car!
Change the class and make them a featured attraction. It will be up to the car owners to lose the "corporate look" too. The drivers or owners need to challenge each other to match races -- social media will be a huge part in this. They have to travel more to smaller tracks and run with no track prep on occasion. Local tracks have to be part of it as well.
I can see a couple Ford Cobra Jet guys challenging a couple of the COPO car owners in a best of three grudge shoot-out. Live streaming over young people's iPhones, laptops and maybe local media will jump in there as well. Make these match races a two-hour show for $20 admission and spend some time getting sponsors to host the “Production Car Challenge Series".
Bottom line -- will it work? It isn't up to writers and dreamers like me. It is up to the car owners, the auto manufacturers and the drivers to get some "attitude" and become interesting again. Just because you have a fast Cobra Jet doesn't mean anybody cares. Now if you got on Social Media and challenged a couple COPOs to a match race, say at Muncie Dragway, Friday night after racing is over for the day at the U.S. Nationals ... you might see a string of headlights pouring into Muncie like a "Field of Dreams".