susan_01.jpgKasey Coler, the NHRA’s vice-president of track management and operations, wasn’t about to guess when drag racing would get the green light to resume. And he was non-committal about how likely Gainesville Raceway, which he oversees, is to get the Gatornationals completed by its June 5-7 date on the revised schedule.

He said, “The health and safety of our fans in the communities that we visit for each race weekend has been and will continue to be our No. 1 priority. We’re working with great care and extensive input from local, state and national health officials and government authorities in hopes of hosting a safe race weekend for our fans, competitors and staff. The fluidity of the environment is one that we’d never want to speculate on, because ultimately, the decision might be out of our control for the currently scheduled weekend, or any date that might serve as a back-up.”

But what if the NHRA took a cue from Eddie Gossage, Texas Motor Speedway president and general manager? He is working with NASCAR and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to host a race at his facility near Fort Worth, even with no spectators.

Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) tweeted Monday, “Just spoke to NASCAR leaders.They;re working to return to Texas Motor Speedway very soon. I hope to announce the exciting details in the near future. To prevent the spread of COVID-19, it will be without fans. But they will put on a great show for TV.”

Gossage followed with a statement: "Texas Governor Greg Abbott has given NASCAR the green flag to race, and our sport is eager to get back on track. Texas Motor Speedway will work aggressively with the sanctioning bodies and TV networks to give American society, as well as people around the world, a positive distraction during this crisis. A non-spectator event is not perfect, because in our sport, the fans come first. But circumstances are such that this is a novel answer for the return of the sport for now. We are now working on a hard date.

"Our sport is unique because the competitors are inside the race cars with no body-to-body contact like most other sports. That is a distinct advantage over other sports and why you will likely see auto racing as the first live sport returning to action. We appreciate the Governor’s support for the return of racing at Texas Motor Speedway very soon. He's been to the races here before and has been an admirable leader throughout this crisis."

We have no proof the NHRA leadership isn’t making the same case about bringing back drag racing. Neither do we have confirmation that the sanctioning body is considering such a move.


Coler said, “Our fans, and our competitors, are chomping at the bit to get back to the racetrack, but again, it all comes back to safety. We’d love to sit here and tell you we know the answer, but no one does. There isn’t one league or facility in the world that knows what to expect due to the current challenges and what the new normal will be. That said, we do know that when we’re back at the track, our fans will continue to get the best access and experiences in all of motorsports.”

Why wait? Why not forge ahead and carry out the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series events – with ample caution and with no fans in the stands, just a FOX Sports audience?

Yes, money definitely is a factor. Without the front gate, the NHRA would lose precious (not being sarcastic) revenue. However, racers could fulfill their obligations to sponsors. Televising the action with no spectators present would be weird, as well.

But the NHRA might consider the long-term advantage: gaining fans. Americans are starved for sports programming on TV right now. It’s guaranteed that huge numbers of sports fan would tune into something – anything – live right about now. Drag racing might turn out not to be for everyone, but it might hook a few hundred-thousand new fans – maybe many more. If the NHRA broadcast could convey the fact that the sport is by far the most fan-friendly, that every ticket is a pit pass, that drivers welcome interaction with their fans, it might be an eye-opener for new viewers. The telecast could highlight the diversity of the sport and the personalities that shine at every event. Announcers Brian Lohnes and Tony Pedregon and their on-camera team could emphasize that drag racing is a sport any licensed driver can participate in at the local strip. The appeal could spike.

So why not move in that direction and be proactive instead of reactive?  Maybe the executives at Glendora, Calif., would be motivated less by editorials and suggestions than music. So start your home karaoke party with this sure-fire Grammy nomination.  

With apologies to the late John Lennon, here are the lyrics to our drag-racing version of “Imagine” –

Imagine no spectators.
Think outside the box.
No one in grandstands.
The nation under locks.
Imagine all the people watching live on FOX.

Imagine there’s no Countdown.
It isn’t hard to do.
No tricks at Indy.
Not just the chosen few.
Imagine all the racers vying for the crown.

You might say I’m a dreamer.
But why not, NHRA?
I hope someday you’ll be bolder
And gain some more fans along the way.

Imagine such a setting.
I wonder if you can.
Racers still get credit
For speeds and time they ran.
Imagine all the sponsors sticking with the plan.

You might say I’m a dreamer.
But why not, NHRA?
I hope someday you’ll be bolder
And gain some more fans along the way.