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Cruz Pedregon performs a burnout at Virginia Motorsports Park during the 2022 NHRA campaign. (NHRA photo)

WADE: Two-Day Format Is New For NHRA

MESA, Ariz. — Tyler Crossnoe is in a unique position as the NHRA is on the edge of seismic change.

In addition to being vice president of Virginia Motorsports Park, Crossnoe is the series director of the Red Line Oil PDRA Drag Racing Series. And, as his track in Dinwiddie, Va., prepares to host the NHRA’s first two-day Mission Foods Drag Racing Series event June 22-23, Crossnoe brings valuable experience in orchestrating the condensed format.

To the NHRA’s credit, it is responding to fans’ suggestions and the success of February’s PRO (Professional Racing Owners Organization) Superstar Shootout at Bradenton (Fla.) Motorsports Park by trying a two-day event. The Saturday schedule calls for three qualifying sessions, with eliminations Sunday.

“We are interested to see what stems from this in the future, but the only way you learn and get better is by trying new things and getting outside of the box,” said Crossnoe, an admitted fan of the fresh-to-NHRA format.

It’s all about the cost-to-profit ratio, because drag racing is a business every bit as much as it is a sport. And that’s also something Crossnoe understands, in part because he saw the decision Virginia Motorsports Park owners Tommy and Judy Franklin had to make a few years ago.

VMP was on the NHRA schedule from 1994-2000, 2006-2009 and 2018-2019. It missed the 2020 and 2021 lineup because of the pandemic, returned in 2022 and then opted out of the 2023 season.

“When we stepped away from the national event schedule after the 2022 edition, there was a considerable financial loss tied to each national event since the return in 2018 that forced that decision to essentially save ourselves,” Crossnoe said. “NHRA reached out to us mid-season in 2023 about a possible national event return, and we all came to new contractual terms.

“We never wanted to leave the schedule in the first place, but when the financial aspect was so damaging to the overall facility, we had to back up and try to gather ourselves. In 2023, we had a successful season, and we want to continue that trend in 2024 so we can continue to reinvest in not only the Virginia Motorsports Park facility, but our PDRA series and drag racing in general,” he said.” We are excited to be back on the NHRA tour. And we are excited to bring the quickest, fastest and wildest motorsport back to Virginia in 2024 and, hopefully, for many years to come.”

Crossnoe added, “The definition of a successful business model, in our world, is raise income and lower expenses. This is true for not only a series or a motorsports facility but also for race teams that fill the pits in which fans are buying tickets to come meet and watch. In looking into this format change for numerous reasons, I believe the NHRA is hoping to lower expenses for all involved while hoping to raise the atmosphere level and bang for the buck for the fans who attend on Saturday to see three qualifying runs and on Sunday to see four rounds of final eliminations, creating a different vibe.”

In the far corner of the country, Pacific Raceways President Jason Fiorito, whose facility hosts the Northwest Nationals in July, isn’t lobbying for that to be an across-the-board change in the NHRA schedule.

“I just don’t know if that would play in our market as well as it’s playing in other markets,” Fiorito said of the two-day race. “Every market is different. I would never second-guess anybody in their market.”

He argued that the travel time and distance to his race track play a key role in whether it’s a worthwhile idea: “We’re a very, very long pull. Our market is an important one. But it’s also much different in geographic location and maybe in population base and demographics, as well.”

Fiorito doubled down, even adding a Friday night session for the first time in his nearly 25-year tenure at the suburban Seattle facility.

“Getting rid of Friday does mitigate some of the expenses, certainly both in prize money and staffing,” he said. “But in our case, I think we’re going a little bit in the opposite direction.”

The economic impact, strong or unfavorable, will be more definite once the Virginia experiment unfolds.

“I can see both sides from a promoter’s point of view,” Crossnoe said. “On one hand, I see potentially one less day of food and beverage sales, lower ticket sales for Friday (when sportsman racers compete) and potentially for weekend passes. Does this also affect suite sales and RV camping sales? Nobody knows, at this day and time. I also can see lower expenses for the opening day in multiple aspects, along with some strategic logistical planning to find more savings, as well, if all the stars align.

“I am a fan of the two-day format, with final rounds under the lights on Saturday evening. Saturday is historically the easiest day for fans to go to the races and then having Sunday as a reserve in your back pocket in case of weather or other factors,” he continued. “I am anxious to see how the NHRA format translates to a two-day show for the professional classes on Saturday and Sunday and how that affects other categories in competition. There is one thing for sure — we are all going to find out together on June 21-23 at Virginia Motorsports Park.”


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