Well Hello 2016…… 2015 was overall a good year. The downside was that we lost too many family and friends. I don’t go to church much; it would probably burn down if I did go. I do believe when you pass away, you really aren’t gone. I believe that for those who have passed, their spirit lives on in many ways. When I lost my mom at 20 years old, I did some very stupid stuff. Trust me, I look back and wonder how did I make this long? I know the answer to that is that my mother was watching over me. The signs are there that they are watching and giving us direction. With so many gone I feel I have to fight to keep their legacy alive and do what I love to make them proud.
2016.It just has a different ring to it. For me, I am looking forward to the New Year and a new start. We won the 2015 IHRA Pro Mod Championship but not the way we wanted to win it. We have been busy working on our program and at the same time adding new partners. Just like many others we aren’t highly funded, we aren’t millionaires so we watch our budget closely. It’s a tough sport but where else can you go to be part of the biggest family of people around.
So many things are going on in the world of racing today. NHRA has a new President, new TV package, ‘New’ Pro Stock cars, New TV announcers, Pro Mod on TV….. I know, I know I’m talking NHRA, not the sanctioning body we currently run. But you have to give the new guy credit for making changes. Some changes may not be liked by all, but this change is bringing a new direction for the sport. We still need a lot more to attract new marketing partners and fans. Time will tell.
IHRA has made many changes as well. A new President coming in soon. A new CEO and CFO for IRG are in place. They have a lot of work to do in a short period of time and like NHRA the changes are going to affect many. Will you see full fields this year? Personally, I don’t think you will. They certainly have some big plans for the 2017 season. The new CEO is going to rebrand the IHRA for the better. We all have to give him the support in doing this, including myself. I just hope it all works out for everyone.
PDRA has a new Marketing team as well for 2016 and hopefully the fans will be in the seats this year. I went to the PDRA world finals. I’m sorry to say, but it took entirely too long to run just one round of qualifying. I hope they can shorten this show up as it really has one of the best car counts as series go, and the racing is highly competitive. You know this year is going to be even faster and more exciting!
As for us, we are working hard on Stella. Dina named her after her grandmother, a stubborn Red Headed Italian. Sorry Stella but this car needs to eat some pasta, have a glass of Vino and start being cooperative. We struggled so much last year that we wanted to walk away. But we don’t quit. Dina and I built this team together from the ground up, we cannot see walking away even at the toughest point. Our long range plans are still to return to being a two car team in the future. Who knows maybe we will change it up all together. Time will tell.
This winter we pulled everything apart (with Stella) and found the issues that had been plaguing us. It was a breath of fresh air but also a kick in the teeth, but at least we found them. We also sent Stella to Chris Cline Race Cars for a ‘Spa Treatment’ and they did an amazing job.
As ‘The Rumors Turn’:
It seems the ‘Kitchen Bitch’ session has already begun this year. Being an Ex-Corporate Monkey I know how big companies work. (Dina loves Corporate America, LOL.. not so much) We love IHRA. But truth be told, IHRA has been a mess for years. When you have a limited budget, minimal sponsors, your expense is higher than your income, among other issues it is time to sell and move on or make changes. That is what so many owners have done in the past. Have you ever attended a ‘Monster Jam show? It’s packed with people of all ages. Dina and I went to one and holy crap It was fun. Even when the trucks stopped running they had ENTERTAINMENT. Not just shooting shirts into the crowd or trivia time. This show makes a ton of money and keeps the fans happy. They cater to the fans. IHRA needs to take notes from Monster Jam. Great racing CAN be incorporated with a show atmosphere. Are they going to turn this around? If they put the right people in place and have a plan of action with dollars behind them, it can be done. How do they fill the stands and bring in the fans? The same way other sports do; provide an ENTERTAINING show. Not every fan wants to see a race car, some like motorcycles some dragsters. You get the picture. Wally Parks had a mission and I am sure he isn’t happy with what he sees. Ok, I am getting off course here. My damn Italian-ness is getting the best of me. So back to the ‘Kitchen Bitch’ Session. In 2015 IHRA had been ‘re-named’ It Has Rained Again. (IHRA) due to mother nature’s wrath. Then came the management changes, and even more management changes. At the PRI show back in 2014 racers were excited. Excited that Pro Mod was back and were wanting to make plans to attend. But the payout to win was not what teams had expected, ultimately nor was the exposure. Many teams decided not to attend. I have learned there were other reasons, but those seem to be at the top. The teams that did attend, all raced hard and put on a great show for the fans.
If you are a Corporate CFO and CEO you look at bottom line. Is the income in the Red or Black? All Corporations do this. You can’t run in the negative for ever, so changes are required. From what we have all been told, in 2016 very few if any changes will be implemented but 2017 will be like a grand re-opening (for IHRA). Now, here is where I put my Corporate Hat on.I am sure I will get into trouble for this; but you can’t wait to bail the water from the ship when the ship is already sinking. If you have the funds to improve staff, infrastructure, marketing, sales and sponsors do it NOW. I worked for a Fortune 100 company and was hired to redesign their failing Global IT department. I had 120 Days to put a project in place, present it to the board and act on it after it was signed off on. It was a $19 million dollar project that initiated on my 5th month of employment with that company. And yes, that project was successful. If a company has a problems and has the funds to fix the problem, they need to fix it now. Not wait until it’s too late. I am sure the boss will put me on notice for writing this but it needs to be said. What IHRA needs to do is a create publicly written plan of action for all of the members to review. These members support them by paying their membership every year, not to mention the investment made by participating therefore members should be entitled to disclosure. Wouldn’t it be nice to see financial statements, action plans, new ideas, from IHRA? Wouldn’t it create a feeling of security and trust in the organization? I could go on and on, but I have said enough. Time will tell what will happen with this organization. I for one DO want to see it succeed.
Whew! That was long! Another topic that really gets my Italian up and the only sports venue really doing this correctly is… NASCAR. Yep.Driver Promotion. Who drives the 24 car? I bet you know! Most the teams in NASCAR have the same looking car, of course with different sponsors. They are referred to by their number, yet you know their name. Why? Because they are promoted correctly as a driver. Ya Ya They are on TV. Big deal.The biggest deal? The fans are in the stands AND NASCAR is promoting the drivers outside of the race itself. Go look at their Web Page and then look at any racing web site. NASCAR’s has apps where you can listen to the drivers and crews talk. The disadvantage? The fans can’t go into the pit area. The venues (and series) need to promote our drivers (not specific drivers) all of our drivers. The only way we can grow our sport is through marketing and promoting our drivers and personalizing it for the fans. NASCAR relates drivers to car numbers. You know who they are. The drivers are the stars. Drag racing relates drivers to what? When you watch NASCAR the winner drives into the winner’s circle and has a great celebration. The fans are involved. The teams are involved. The winner in Drag Racing is at top end with 3 camera people receiving the championship trophy with a bit of pyro. WOW. Alert the media. How exciting. Makes me want to go out and buy a ticket. NOT!! Look, I know what everyone has to say about Kenny Knowling, but the man knew how to market the sport. We attended ADRL and the stands were packed and payouts were great. Why? He marketed the drivers as well as the event. He utilized local stores, radio and the internet. I learned a lot from watching him over the years about how to market. Who is the most famous Soccer player you can name besides Pele? David Beckham right? He has 55 Million people on his FB. Why is he so popular? He is a good soccer player, but not the best. He was marketed geniusly. That is the world we live in. In today’s times it is hard to have fans come to a race and keep them entertained. We do know that fans will come to a race to support their favorite driver. Both the series sponsor and the sports venue have to do a better job at marketing and entertaining as well as promoting drivers. We have the best sport at our fingertips, with fans of all ages and we are not capitalizing on it. In Drag Racing, fans are entitled to come into the pit area to talk with drivers and the crew and see the cars up close. Each driver is a potential ‘David Beckham’, the crews are the refs and line guys. Beckham scoring a goal is like a racer winning the round. Our winning dollars suck but we love the sport more than we love money. I don’t care if you race a Junior Dragster or a Top Fuel we need the series and the venues to assist in promoting the drivers. Drivers ARE the sport and they bring the fans.
Well, I best get back to work. The boss will be checking my progress and once she sees I didn’t do much I will be promoting my resume to the job boards. Enjoy the 2016 season.
See you all at the track!
Andrew ‘Bam Bam’ Parise