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PRO could introduce more events like the Superstar Shootout that drew a large crowd to Florida’s Bradenton Motorsports Park in February. (Matt Butcosk photo)

WADE: What Are PRO’s Intentions?

MESA, Ariz. — Since 1991, the Professional Racers Owners Organization Inc. has served drag racing’s elite teams and drivers as a nonprofit organization that promotes and addresses a specific common business interest among its members.

It has been a liaison between the racers and the National Hot Rod Ass’n, advocating for teams and drivers, the ones who put on “the show” and in most cases, pay more to race than they have pocketed from the exercise.

But PRO recently spun off a new company, PRO Promotions LLC, turning its efforts into P-R-O-f-i-t.

This ambitious but slightly ambiguous enterprise is not to be confused with PRO Promotions Inc., out of Illinois, which describes itself on its website as “a full line of sports services.” It carries out advertising and promotional activities that one suspects the drag racers likewise might tackle.

And it’s not affiliated with Colorado-based Pro Promotions, producer of large festivals and street fairs.

It’s all separate from the business dealings of the NHRA.

Group spokesman Bob Tasca III, a thriving East Coast-based auto-industry business mogul and Funny Car racer, said that’s not unusual: “We have an incredible relationship with the NHRA. We work closely with them on a lot of things. PRO has always been independent of the NHRA, the organization. But we can continue to work every day with NHRA. I mean, obviously our relationship with them is extremely important.”

This step comes in the wake of a PRO-orchestrated specialty race at Bradenton (Fla.) Motorsports Park. It featured a purse much greater than the NHRA’s per-event payouts that, by consensus, seemed to be a welcome variation from a Mission Foods Drag Racing Series event.

“What we did in Bradenton was a huge success. I think the fans enjoyed it. We tried some different things that we didn’t know would work, quite frankly. And some did, some didn’t,” Tasca told SPEED SPORT. “But we just wanted to form a for-profit LLC to continue to explore opportunities to bring excitement to the sport of drag racing. And that’s really all I can elaborate at this point.”

So what does PRO have planned for its PRO Promotions LLC?

Tasca diverted attention from the notion that PRO might be planning more races, maybe even a series of events. Instead, Tasca said the organization’s press release “clearly states our intention at this point in time, and we’re exploring all opportunities to bring excitement and maybe something a little different to the sport of drag racing.”

What exactly does that mean?

Besides quoting him, the prepared statement quoted Top Fuel’s Doug Kalitta and Tony Stewart, Funny Car’s Paul Lee and Pro Stock kingpin Richard Freeman but was missing any remarks from PRO President Alan Johnson. That doesn’t necessarily mean anything. But none of the sources shed much light on specific initiatives or how they will affect fans and/or sponsors.

Freeman, of Elite Motorsports, said, “The success of the PRO Superstar Shootout cannot be overstated. The greatest success of all, however, was likely that which happened behind the scenes. Teams united like never before, solidifying the formation of a for-profit, collective entity as our natural next step.”

How does PRO envision parlaying that into something bigger?

Stewart said, “As motorsports continue to evolve, so must we. We believe there are opportunities on the horizon for the sport as a collective whole, and we want to be uniquely positioned when those moments arise.”

What do these racers want to evolve into? How do they want to see the sport grow?

What kind of and how much control are they seeking?

Lee, who has a law degree and certainly understands business acquisitions and collaboration among companies, said, “PRO Promotions LLC aims to advance the long-term interests of its members by engaging in promotional relationships and activities with various business entities.

“Through the licensing of the members’ collective intellectual properties and other assets, businesses can establish exciting promotional relationships and opportunities with the pre-eminent drag racing organizations of the world.”

So they want to license and control their own intellectual property?

Kalitta simply said the new firm’s purpose “is to create a new platform for the members of PRO to collectively promote the sport of professional drag racing and preserve the long-term sustainability of the sport and its competitors.”

Are they afraid the sport is on an unsustainable path?

It’s not exactly word salad, à la the twaddle out of Washington, D.C., but it definitely is indefinite.

Their intentions are not sinister. Their projects and programs just might improve, even revolutionize, the sport. But no one outside of the inner circle knows what the plan is and what metrics, what yardstick, PRO will use to measure its own effectiveness.

But Tasca said, “One of the main goals of each opportunity we are looking into is to create more excitement for our sport, the fans, the teams, the drivers and our partners — we will be sure to let everyone know as they happen.”

That’s a relief.