NHRA founder Wally Parks used to marvel at the resourcefulness of hot rodders, lauding their know-how not just when it came to building their racing machines, but also in finding ways to pursue their high-octane dreams, and it’s a trait that continues 60 years later.
A recent study has determined that despite a struggling economy and astronomical fuel prices, car counts through the first five NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series events of the season have increased nearly 5 percent over 2011 numbers.
Through the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals in Charlotte, a combined total of 2,050 racers in 15 classes competed at the events, up nearly 100, or 4.9 percent, from 2011’s tally of 1,955 competitors.
“The Full Throttle classes [Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock, and Pro Stock Motorcycle] are all pretty stable,” said NHRA Senior Vice President-Racing Operations Graham Light. “Last year, we averaged 19.7 cars in Top Fuel -- you have to go back to 2005 to find a year that averaged more – and this year, we’re already averaging 19.6. Funny Car is up 4.2 percent, and Pro Stock is up 2.1 percent over last year.
“The numbers are especially encouraging in the Lucas Oil classes from Comp through Top Sportsman, where the numbers have increased 8.3 percent in an apples-to-apples comparison of Sportsman classes with equivalent schedules between the two years.
“The teams have maintained their numbers despite the downturn in the economy, which is surprising considering the cost to run those cars and how dependent they are on sponsors, and it speaks volumes for the value of NHRA Drag Racing and their ability and resourcefulness to find ways to pursue their dreams. We’re not only maintaining our numbers but seeing some growth in some classes, and we’re seeing existing sponsors getting more involved in activating their sponsorships.
“To have an overall 5 percent increase … well, there are a million businesses in this country that would love to have a 5 percent growth.
“This is a tribute to the teams in all classes and their abilities to get funding to continue to compete. We know how expensive it is to run these cars and that the cost of moving down the road – fuel costs and hotels and so on -- is the same no matter which class you’re running.”