D . I . COLUMNIST The Real Deal with Tommy D ' Aprile
How many of you remember the days of match races , long , smoky burnouts , hyped-up announcers bringing you to your feet , and mounds of people packing the stands ? I ’ m not talking about an NHRA national event , but at a local track that had a special event . It has been a long time since I have seen such a race , and I am sure for many of you the same rings true .
I remember not too long ago when we had a hard time just getting into the staging lanes because of the crowds that attended some of these races . It seems like fan attendance has slowly declined . I mean now you can livestream on your phone and get instant results of any race at any time while you sit on your couch . Most of our spectators now are other teams that have already been eliminated and have nothing else to do but watch the race . This pattern seems all too current in our days of local non-national event tracks . “ Going , going , gone ” sums up many tracks across the country in this day and age , and excitement has long passed .
However , on March 3rd , 4th , and 5th of 2023 , something amazing happened at Florida ’ s Bradenton Motorsports Park . Call it what you will , but on these days , the excitement of drag racing came back to this racetrack . The World Series of Pro Mod – WSOPM – put on by our own Wes Buck , became one of the biggest and most exciting races of all time .
As a racer who has experienced a lot , not much excites me about our sport anymore . You pretty much know what to expect , and as I said earlier , the excitement level of our competition is pretty much the same . Now I ’ m not saying the cars themselves are not exciting and awesome to watch , but fan attendance and lack of atmosphere and excitement has dulled it for many . The stars lined up for this race , though . We had 32 Pro Mods separated by five hundredths of a second in qualifying , Mountain Motor Pro Stockers , Top Dragster , imports and even a bracket race .
So , what made this so exciting ? Well for one , the payout of $ 100,000 is awesome , then you had a $ 10,000 bonus for No . 1 qualifier , then if you didn ’ t make the show they put on a consolation race paying another $ 10,000 . That ’ s more than most Pro Mod races pay in the main event , period . Pro Stock paid $ 25,000 and Top Dragster $ 10,000 to win .
Going into that last qualifying session , it seemed as though no one in the Pro Mod field was safe . That brought back memories of the old IHRA days where 50-plus cars were trying to get into the 16-car field , and boy , was it exciting .
The WSOPM staff was nicely dressed and friendly , and race day produced amazing races and even a No . 32 qualifier victory . Racer hospitality and appreciation was evident , as well as a huge fan turnout . I can ’ t remember the last time I saw that many people there , and on Sunday the stands were still full .
If that ’ s not enough , we had Al Tucci on the mic bringing the house down . I was watching right next to the starting line and could still hear Al announcing . I mean this guy is just the best at what he does and can get you excited watching a crew clean up an oildown .
People were able to buy VIP starting line access and it was always packed . Fans ’ hats were blowing in the burnouts , and they were cheering so loud . There was loud music playing and the vibe was a steady pulse of excitement for all .
It ’ s hard to describe how exciting all of this was to witness . There were probably so many other exciting things happening that I didn ’ t get to see , but what I did witness was greatness . Greatness by a staff that had the faith and talent to bring back what we have been lacking for so long . I know racers are racers , but we need to realize this is an entertainment business , and if we continue not entertaining , we will lose the sport we love .
This race had all aspects of what a race should have . Racer appreciation , fan appreciation , and an excitement like none other . All of these aspects together made nothing less than one of the most spectacular shows , period . I believe WSOPM could be a series of its own and would be very successful .
This race should remind us that it ’ s not over , folks . With races like this , it could be the new beginning . We should support the efforts of excitement and push the envelope to bring people back . As always , the choice is ours to make ! DI
Email Tommy at tommyd @ dragillustrated . com
May / June 2023
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