Drag Illustrated Issue 169, June/July 2021 - Page 10


Looking at the sport of drag racing through the lens of the last 18 months – a time during which our country ( our entire world ) was ravaged by a global pandemic , businesses closed , racetracks struggled , events were rescheduled or altogether canceled – it ’ s difficult for me , personally , to do anything more than count my blessings .

My business ? Still here . My team ? Still here . Most importantly , my family and friends ? Still here . Happy and healthy . It ’ s an incredible feeling of victory and , honestly , it ’ s a sensation that I shamefully feared I may never experience again in the spring of 2020 .
Truth be told , on the evening of Sunday , March 8 , 2020 , I ’ d never in my life felt a more significant feeling of success . We ’ d just finished the winner ’ s circle photos for the inaugural CTECH World Doorslammer Nationals presented by JEGS – the largest combined payout Pro Stock / Pro Mod drag race of all time – and we ’ d been blessed with great weather , a tremendous crowd and incredible on-track action come race day . The feeling I had was euphoric , and by all accounts things had never looked better for my business , my career and my family .
Within three days , however , news was spreading like wildfire as to the novel coronavirus and the risk people would face in the days , weeks , months , and possibly years to come . Events were being canceled or postponed left and right , people were panicking . NHRA postponed the Gatornationals . The NBA called players off the court prior to the start of a game and asked fans to leave the arena . It felt like the world was coming to an end . Rumors were swirling about Disney World closing .
Inside of 72 hours , I went from overflowing with hope and optimism about the future to , admittedly , sheer terror as to whether or not my business could survive such a tumultuous environment and uncertain time .
By the grace of God , as well as the faith and willingness to forge forward despite every opportunity to give up , Drag Illustrated remains , as does this unbelievably strong sport of ours . Truth be told , I don ’ t know that things have ever looked better than they do right now . COVID-19
absolutely hurt my business , but it also helped us refine our operation , make decisions that had been long overdue and remind us of the value this group of people provides to the drag racing industry and community . I believe our future is secure , and sometimes it takes something like a global pandemic to show you what you ’ re made of .
Taking the temperature of this sport right now , in the summer of 2021 , as we do every summer in our annual State of Drag special issue , is extremely challenging for me . I find myself so overwhelmed with gratitude that dragstrips are even open right now – that tracks are having major events drawing significant crowds , with fan and racer support seemingly up across the board – that it ’ s difficult to look at drag racing with the critical eye necessary to spur growth and positive conversation . Let ’ s be honest – we ’ re not that far removed from facilities like Summit Motorsports Park in Norwalk , Ohio , choosing to stay closed for an entire season . Some tracks haven ’ t yet reopened , and may not ever fully recover .
Regardless , we recognize it ’ s our duty , as well as honor and privilege , to kick-start conversation
Wesley R . Buck Founder & Editorial Director in the drag racing community and resist the acceptance of the status quo .
With reality television shows like Street Outlaws and No Prep Kings keeping drag racing visible in pop culture , national and regional series from the National Muscle Car Association to the Professional Drag Racers Association and Northeast Outlaw Pro Mods to Mid- West Drag Racing Series all expressing across-the-board growth , independent bigpromotion drag races like Funny Car Chaos , Lights Out and even our own CTECH World Doorslammer Nationals presented by JEGS drawing massive crowds and paying big money , as well as the seemingly never-ending stream of bracket races paying as much as a million dollars to win ( guaranteed ), it appears to me that our cup runneth over . Our sport ’ s major-league – the National Hot Rod Association – is flying the colors of a new title sponsor in Camping World , enjoying something of a drag racing dynasty in Steve Torrence , a Pro Stock rivalry to beat the band , and reporting best-ever ratings and viewership numbers on freaking FOX . It ’ s an exciting time . That ’ s not to mention the number of companies in our industry that are reporting double-digit growth , and what that increased revenue represents for the sport ( new consumers ).
There are concerns , though . Car counts in Top Fuel and Funny Car are lean , with an everincreasing number of regional journeymen racers filling the fields . What was once perhaps the brightest spot within the NHRA – the E3 Spark Plugs Pro Mod Drag Racing Series – lacks the buzz of recent years , and participation . It ’ s likely been a decade since the eliminator could barely occupy a 16-car ladder . A case could be made that the sheer volume of big-money bracket races on the schedule annually are making it virtually impossible for local points series or holiday weekend-level payout events to move the needle .
We believe it ’ ll be discussing these issues and exploring these subjects – openly and honestly – that will provide the solutions necessary to propel our sport to that ever-elusive “ next level .”
Again , I ’ m grateful to see drag racing thriving in 2021 , but I know there is more for this motorsport . We just can ’ t settle . DI
I invite you to email me at wes @ dragillustrated . com and follow me at facebook . com / wbuck and wesbuckinc on Instagram .
10 | Drag Illustrated | DragIllustrated . com Issue 169