POLITICS PUTS THE KIBOSH ON DIXON’S GATORS SPONSOR
Just because the Presidential election is complete doesn't mean politics aren't still in play. Just ask multi-time NHRA champion Larry Dixon, who isn't running for political office but learned Friday at the NHRA Gatornationals politics are very much a part of sports.
Dixon, who is running his first race with Larry Dixon Racing, learned the hard way promotion of a race closely affiliated with another race series is not allowed in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.
The direct competition was The World Series of Drag Racing, an event hosted by Cordova Raceway Park, which is owned by the International Hot Rod Association.
"It was brought to my attention this morning that the sponsor that I had on my car was a direct conflict with the sanctioning body, and it needed to be removed," Dixon confirmed on Friday.
Dixon ran in Friday's qualifying with the decal covered by duct tape.
Dixon said he was taken aback by the edict handed down by NHRA officials because in his estimation he didn't see the promotion of the event as a direct competition to the NHRA, which is idle on the August 25 - 27 date.
"I don’t see it as a conflict, and that’s the only reason why I did it," Dixon said. "I spent my whole life in this sport, and everything that I have I owe to the NHRA. I put together a deal to run the match race at Cordova this summer, and I was able to basically get some of the money up front.
"Because the amount of money that we spent to be able to get to his point, from the Winternationals when we decided that we wanted to come to this event, I spent over $100,000 on parts. Had a trailer, had cars, all that stuff, but everything, the people, all that stuff to be able to put it together, we don’t have a lot, but that’s how much it took.
"So anything that I could get from anywhere is digging us that far back out of the hole. So, it wasn’t to try and do anything bad, it was just trying to get us further out of debt."
Dixon figured since there were no IHRA logos, the agreement was fine.
"It’s like we kept it really plain and simple and all that, but it wasn’t plain and simple enough," Dixon said.
Dixon wouldn't say this was a petty move on NHRA's behalf but did say NHRA has allowed other race series promoted on race cars in the past.
Former Funny Car racer Tony Pedregon once ran logos for the American Drag Racing League, which billed itself as a sanctioning body but in reality was an ASO series which ran on both NHRA and IHRA sanctioned tracks.
"The World Series of Drag Racing is not a sanctioned race; it’s not a points race, it’s an exhibition race," Dixon said. "It’s no different than the Night of Fire that Bill Bader puts on."
NHRA's comment on the situation pointed out Section 11 in the 2017 NHRA competition rulebook stating the sanctioning body reserves the right to refuse to display any sponsor decal on a racecar or rig it deems as detrimental to the organization.
All was not lost for Dixon though, Chris Vandergriff of Hedman Hedders stepped up with associate sponsorship to cover the lost revenue.