Fan friendly? Nascar could learn from NHRA!

SREMP_Crowd_01 This past Friday I spent the day at the NHRA Summit Racing Equipment Nationals at nearby Norwalk, Ohio. To be honest, and as hard as this is to believe by many that know me and my involvement in motorsports, it was my very first time to be at a NHRA event! How that happened I have no clue since I did once live and work in Indianapolis where the U.S. Nationals are held every year.

Conversely, I’ve been to many Nascar races at such places as Daytona, Indianapolis, Michigan, Phoenix and Talladega.

One touts itself as “fan friendly.” (Nascar) The other (NHRA) doesn’t pound its chest and says “Look at me!  I’m fan friendly!” It’s Nascar that can learn from NHRA what fan friendly really means.

“Nitro Alley” is where all the teams set up shop around their haulers.  No special credential is needed to enter.  Let me say that again, NO SPECIAL CREDENTIAL IS NEEDED TO ENTER. You purchase a ticket and you have up close and personal access to all the competitors.

I spent most of the day with the John Force Racing team as I also in fair full disclosure, do freelance work for Ford Racing.

P6250010 I saw the 14-time NHRA Champion time after time go to the ropes and sign autographs and take pictures with fans whenever he could. He’d even stop sometimes while on his famous scooter and sign and autograph or two on his way to watch daughters Brittany and Courtney compete in the Top Alcohol Fuel dragster class.

P6250033 Defending NHRA Funny Car Champion Robert Hight obviously learned from his boss and father-in-law John Force. Hight also hit the ropes time and time again signing autographs and posing for pictures.

These two weren’t the exception.  I walked up and down Nitro Alley and everywhere I went I saw fans talking to crew members along with the drivers.  Autographs were abundant and if cameras still used film, Kodak would have made a fortune.

Nascar limits access to both the garage area (their Nitro Alley) and pit road.  You can BUY passes to both.  Your ticket only gets you a seat, not access.

I’ve also watched Nascar fans line the fence near the garage area hoping to get the autograph of their favorite driver only to see that driver give as wide a berth as possible to those fans when walking by.

I realize that Nascar is a much bigger series than NHRA but fans are fans everywhere.  They have an emotional link to their favorite drivers.

How many of those fans that were at Norwalk and got an autograph or a picture with their favorite driver went back home and told family and friends about the experience they had? How many also told those same people that they need to go to a NHRA event? How many of those people will heed that advice?

While I see more and more seats empty at Nascar races, NHRA is packed with fans. Maybe it’s time for Nascar to stop thinking how to squeeze another buck out of the race fans and reconnect on a grassroots level to the people that really make the sport possible.

It’s time for Nascar to just not talk the talk but walk the walk when it comes to being “fan friendly.” Hats off to NHRA for doing both.

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ARCA-The “little” series that can!

ARCA Logo I make no apologies. I am bullish on the ARCA Racing Series presented by Re/Max and Menards. Part of it is that I’ve gotten to know many of the officials and drivers in the Michigan headquartered series but a big reason is that the racing is exciting with a ton of great young drivers.

This past Friday I saw the series in action at MIS. Although Craig Goess, the winner from the previous week dominated, a late caution during green flag pit stops put him a lap down and allowed Mikey Kyle to gain his first victory.  Ironically, it was Goess that had beaten him just 8 days earlier at Pocono.

kilevlmis10 For ARCA, Kyle was the sixth different first-time winner in the 8 races run so far in 2010. Besides Kyle and Goess, Justin Marks, high-schooler Dakoda Armstrong, Chris Buescher and Steve Arpin also gained that first victory.

Arpin has already raced in the Nationwide Series for JR Motorsports and the others may not be far behind.

DaytonaDanicaPatrick-1.jpg Danica Patrick made her stock car debut with the series at Daytona in February bringing media attention to the series that is still paying off with increased television viewing.

piquet jr The son of three-time Formula One Champion Nelson Piquet, Nelson Piquet, Jr. is racing in ARCA and is beginning to show he will be competing for a victory soon.

But while the series is drawing more attention, it hasn’t lost that Saturday night local track feel.

You can talk to the drivers and crews in the garage area and I’m not just talking about the media but also the fans.  They willingly sign autographs just about anytime.  It’s a family atmosphere that embraces the best of auto racing. 

Ron Drager Ron Drager is the President of ARCA and his staff along with all the teams are showing you don’t have to be the “big boys” to have great racing and be ultra fan friendly.

Why not find out for yourself about ARCA?  If they are in your area, go to a race.  If no races are close, catch them on one of their Speed broadcasts.  I think you’ll be hooked once you do!

**Note-ARCA President Ron Drager was a guest on Pit Pass USA with Larry Henry Tuesday June 15th.  You can hear that interview by going to www.PitPassUSA.com and clicking on the archived show for that date.**

Happy Birthday to us!

image

n113908675882_1748-Big It isn’t actually my personal birthday but today does mark one year that has passed since the beginning of the PowerUp Motorsports Channel and Pit Pass USA being a part of it.

The channel was the brain child of Stefani Paulus. Stef, who has been around racing a long time (but not that long as she’s only 29!) went to Jeff Spenard the head man of Voice America and got him to commit to what has been our journey to this point establishing the PowerUp Channel as one of the top destinations for all forms of motorsports.

Larry with Dale Jr-1 I had one hell of a debut show last June 2nd. Newly crowned Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves, “Dr. McDreamy” Patrick Dempsey, and the big one Dale Earnhardt, Jr. just hours after it was announced that his cousin Tony Eury, Jr. was out as his crew chief. You can listen to that interview by clicking here.

I can’t even list the different people that I’ve interviewed for Pit Pass USA during the last year but some of the ones I’ve enjoyed the most are the “little guys” of racing. That to me is a major part of what I try to do with this show.

Larry with Helio Castroneves Yes the big names are great but there’s a hell of a lot more grassroots racers out there than are in Nascar or IndyCar or NHRA or any of the major series. I hope I never forget those people because if I do, I will lose touch with the real racing in America.

 

I want to thank all of you for listening and supporting Pit Pass USA each and every week.  Because of your support, we’ve been able to grow and just a few weeks ago we were able to broadcast live before the Nascar Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Speedway.

Larry with Kyle Petty You are now following us on Twitter (@PitPassUSA) and going to our Facebook Fan page. (Pit Pass USA with Larry Henry) Many listen to the show in our archives at www.PitPassUSA.com or subscribe through iTunes. (Click here for feed)

Most of all, I want to hear from you.  Either drop me a note on the Facebook Fan Page or directly via email at LarryHenry@PitPassUSA.com I want this show to reflect your interests and not just mine.

If you have someone that you feel would be a great interview and the audience would enjoy hearing them, email me!  I want you to be my eyes and ears out there not only across America in racing but the world!

Larry with Chip Ganassi Indy team Tonite to kickoff the second year of Pit Pass USA with Larry Henry and the PowerUp Motorsports Channel I talk with now two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Dario Franchitti, 2009 NHRA Funny Car Champion and winner of three events in a row Robert Hight, and Fox/Speed Nascar analyst Larry McReynolds.

It’s been a blast doing this past year and I look forward to many more here as part of the PowerUp Motorsports Channel.  Thanks again for making us one of the fastest growing spots on the internet and remember, The Best is Yet to Come!