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Going to NHRA Atlanta Saturday


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Here is an interesting article a friend wrote about his experience at a recent NHRA race.


Why I won’t be a paying spectator again anytime soon


I went to Las Vegas for the NHRA race as a pure spectator with no intent of writing an editorial about the event and then, because of my experiences at that race, I ended up writing about my experience as a paying spectator.

This rant is nothing more than a statement of exactly what happened to my wife and amyself as fans during our Saturday at the "Strip". If NHRA or Bruton Smith wonders where the drag race fans have gone, this should give them a good idea... if they take the time to absorb it.

Here's how this adventure started. Barb and I wanted to get away, so we looked for the best value for a three-day weekend. Of course Las Vegas came up. Vegas offers great hotel prices andall sorts of entertainment you will never see in Iowa. The entire Fremont Street Experience on Country Music Awards weekend was an added bonus and, oh yeah, there was an NHRA National Event going on at The Strip at Las Vegas as well, just in case we needed a break from the slots, the tables, and the crowds.

A good friend of mine was at the event running his Stock Eliminator car and we decided to make the trip to the Strip on Saturday morning. We arranged for a shuttle ride from the Golden Nugget on Fremont street to the ticket office at the Strip. Our cost was $35.00 each, round trip. So we're $70.00 down before we ever get to the track.

We get the GA tickets for Saturday, which cost $51.00 each so we have now spent $172.00 and we still aren’t in the race. We ask where the entrance gate is and a track employee points out the window and says it's "Right across the street." Cool, that sounded good. All we had with us was a small backpack with four bottle of water in it because the weather guys had said it was going to be the hottest day of the year (84 degrees) and the wind would be blowing 20-30 mph. Sounded like a day to stay hydrated.

We walk across the street, protected from the traffic by four security people (thanks guys!) and head for the first gate. We walked up to the three security people at the gate and they say, "You can't use those tickets here! You have to use the Spectator Gate". OK, I ask them where that gate is and I get three hands with fingers pointing up the hill about 1/4 mile away. I guess it was just too complicated to take the tickets at the first gate and tear the stub off? Not sure.

We hike to the Spectator Gate and their six employees and security people greet us with a, "Let's have a look in that bag." We tell them all that’s in the bag are a few bottles of water. "You can't bring anything in to drink or eat, but you can use the trash can over there." Seriously? We are in the middle of the desert and we cannot bring in two bottles of water? I can see the no beer or alcohol rules, but water? (Later I found out why.) They did say if we were in the process of drinking it she could let that bottle go. Oh, bless her for that executive decision... not!

Well, we didn't use the trash can. The spectator gate was virtually deserted with only twelve or fifteen people coming in while we sat there, so Barb and I each drank a bottles of water and handed the other two out to people coming in, telling them they were OK if they opened them first.

How could you bring a couple young kids to this event and then find out you have to buy them $4.00 a bottle water, plus $7-8.00 sandwiches to keep them alive for the day? Fact is I wouldn't and, by the turnout, I guess that was a common feeling.

OK, now we are in the track. Straight ahead of us are four security people holding stop signs at the pit roads. OK, I have never seen that before so I had to go look. Sure enough, they must have thought people could not see or hear the race cars as they idled and were towed down the Pit Road. Now the track has to babysit the spectators because, what, they might walk out in front of a race car? WOW! I think there were six such Spectator Crossings. They stopped everyone from VIPS on golf carts to crew people to sponsors and everyone just stopped, even if nothing was coming for another 400 feet.

I had not been there long, about five minutes, but that was enough traffic cops for me. We just crossed and, believe it or not, we did not get run over or arrested. Amazing! We walked along pit road and took in some Sportsman cars and some Pro Teams. During this mile or more walk, it sure was nice to see Schumacher and Force only brought out about 22 semis full of stuff. I'm surprised they let anyone else park in the Pro Pits, as it limits their lunch room space. It's actually kind of funny and ridiculous to see that much money spent and know they race for so little. Makes bracket racing look much smarter. (I know, the sponsors give them money. Not sure why though, as nobody is there to see them).

We hiked another 1/4 mile to the grandstands, then headed down towards the far end, figuring that has to be the cheap seats for people like us. WRONG; the gal says our tickets are no good for this side and we will have to take the tunnel under the track near the ET boards to be able to actually sit down and watch the races. Nice, since the grandstands on that side were about 10% filled, maybe less.

We trekked under the bridge and over towards the bleachers on the Spectator side. WOW! OK, at least they have concessions with ice cold drinks and some food. They were calling up the first round of Pro qualifying so we thought a couple ice-cold Coors sounded perfect. "Yo, buddy how about two Coors up here?" $14.00 later for two beers and we were ready to get our Nitro fix for 2012.

We sat there for about 45 minutes. The tractors went up and down the track, the VHT sprayer went up and down the track, the sun was hot, and the wind was blowing sand... PERFECT! Where are the nitro cars? OK, here they come. The burn-outs sounded nice but then that was followed by what seemed to be five minutes of idling and crew chiefs nodding and then a couple one second blasts, up in smoke, and then silence for another five minutes as they coasted through about four seconds slower than the S/Comp racers we had just watched.

I'm not sure how long I sat there to watch the first round of Pro Qualifying. Seemed like a year, but I guess it was probably two hours, and there were a couple decent side-by-side runs but you could count them on one hand. I do know it took $42.00 in Coors Light to get through it, and I found out I should have put on sunscreen like Barb told me to. Yep, she was right again.

The best thing about the Vegas Pro Qualifying, hands-down, no BS, was the Nitro Harleys. WOW! If you have not seen them, you owe it to yourself to get to one of those races. Talk about crazy people! 6.30s at 220 mph... you'd better be hanging on dude!

Bottom line: We (just two of us) dropped $260.00 for about six hours at the track. We bought no souveniers or t-shirts. We couldn't get into the staging lanes to visit our friends or look at some of the great looking cars. We couldn't sit in the nearly vacant grandstands that would have provided some shade. The drinks and food are so overpriced it's stupid. I hope the NHRA and track ownership will take another look around. The seats are basically empty because the quality of the entertainment is poor. Way too much downtime (I know, the motorcycle stunt guy was pretty cool) between runs and especially between classes. Quit grooming the track with those friggin' tractors. If the high-dollar crewchiefs can't figure it out, GOOD! Maybe a different team could actually win a race.

Why not try something different? This isn't working. Two qualifying runs Friday evening. One more Saturday about 2PM, and the FIRST ROUND of the Pros at 7:30pm Saturday so some of it is under the lights.

Lower the ticket prices so people can afford to come out, buy stuff for their kids, and enjoy the day instead of making so expensive far too many are staying home. Full bleachers at less money and the increased concession revenue works. Ask Bill Bader, he has it figured out.

Until something changes, that was my last $51.00 spectator ticket just to watch 70% go up in smoke testing for race day at my expense.

Jok Nicholson

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Have a great time at the race. I haven't been to one of those since 1977. I used to go to the Gatornationals every year when I lived down in FL.

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