IHRA to debut brand new format and classes in 2010 In one of the most anticipated announcements in recent motorsports history, the International Hot Rod Association and Feld Motorsports has announced its plans to completely overhaul its highly...
IHRA to debut brand new format and classes in 2010
In one of the most anticipated announcements in recent motorsports history, the International Hot Rod Association and Feld Motorsports has announced its plans to completely overhaul its highly popular Nitro Jam series while also helping revolutionize the world of motorsports entertainment.
From a completely revamped professional format, to a reduction in the number of days spent at the track and an emphasis on all things entertainment, the IHRA is getting a long-awaited makeover that will carry the IHRA into 2010 and beyond.
"This is an exciting time to be a part of the International Hot Rod Association and Feld Entertainment. We are making wholesale changes that will make the product both more entertaining and financially responsible at the same time," said IHRA President Aaron Polburn. "While we are making changes that will benefit the racers, track owners and spectators, we are also going to retain our identity as the most racer friendly sportsman organization in racing today.
"Nothing will change regarding sportsman racing except for one less day spent at the track. The changes are being made to the professional structure and in the end will provide a nice, tight show run in a very reasonable time frame for a very reasonable price."
One of the biggest changes that will take place in 2010 is the trimming of all Nitro Jam events except for two from three days down to two and the implementation of the "race only" format for professional classes. While sportsman racing will remain exactly the same, the professional categories will have invitation only fields with a new race and winner being named at the conclusion of each day of racing.
"Probably the biggest change will be the fact that there will not be any qualifying. Once you see the race start, whatever category that might be, they will be racing right from the get go," Polburn said. "The main reason for that is twofold. One, to see a professional drag race from start to finish right now you have to invest approximately six or seven hours at the track. There is not a piece of entertainment in the world that tells you that you have to be there for six or seven hours to see the end result.
"We have to cut that down to a manageable level which is probably three hours max. We need to show the fans everything in that short time period, but we need to bring each day to a conclusion. Right now we don't even tell the story until Sunday. Well I want the story to be told everyday. Bottom line is that fans will see every professional class two times each day and they will be in a competitive format with winners each night."
To accomplish that all of the professional classes will be invitation only and will make two runs each day. During the first round all of the professional classes will compete and the winners and runner-ups will get paid a certain amount just like they normally would under a points structure.
During the second round all of the cars will make a second pass with the final two cars down the track being the two lowest winning elapsed times from the first round. That will determine the championship each night.
At the end of each day winners will be determined and points awarded for certain classes and the event will essentially restart and be run again for a separate purse and Ironman on the second day of competition.
Sportsman competition will remain the same with two full days of racing which will begin with qualifying on the first day followed by eliminations on day two. Sportsman drivers also won't have to deal with being interrupted by professional sessions as the sportsman drivers will be featured throughout the day.
To compliment the various professional categories, Top Sportsman and Top Dragster will once again be included as a part of the evening sessions.
The use of the term "nationals" will also be dropped as the series will restructure to help stand out in a crowded drag racing marketplace. The series will be known simply as Nitro Jam and concentrate primarily on nitro burning machines as the core of the show.
"More than anything else we have had a history of looking at what is successful and what is not successful. We know that after looking at other forms of entertainment it is critical that we package a program into a three hour window with the right ticket price while still providing a great show," Polburn said. "If we continued to do the same thing that we were doing we were going to continue to get the same results and those are not results that I am happy with.
"By doing what we are doing I think we can expand our audience, put on a better show in a shorter period of time and work inside of a budget for each of the marketplaces."
Another change that will make each event unique is the fact that each show may not be the same at every track. Prior to each season track operators and IHRA management will sit down and design events to best suite the budget and marketplace of that particular event.
These "designer events" will feature a menu that the track operators can choose from that will feature everything from regular racing classes to various jet vehicles, wheelstanders and exhibition racing machines.
"You have to look at each market as an individual. We are going to create what we call 'designer events' and in the end Edmonton may not look like New England and neither may look like Rockingham," Polburn said. "The reason is that we, meaning the drag racing industry no matter what letter is in front, have always said 'if you want to have this event, here are the expenses and here are the classes you have to run.' Many times we would have an event that would have far more expenses than the historical income that the event would generate. Well that is foolish.
"We need to design events that fit the historical financial history of each of the markets we go to. In the end some classes that run at one event may not run at others. It may be a different mix, but I guarantee you it will be an exciting mix."
While some of the classes will be competing separately at each event, others that are featured at a majority of the tracks will have a points program that will crown a champion at seasons end.
Three of the classes that are being heavily favored in 2010 include Top Fuel, Pro Fuel and Nostalgia Nitro Funny Cars. Pro Fuel will consist of injected A/Fuel cars.
"It all depends on what we and the tracks come up with together. Again this is a partnership where we sit down with the tracks and decide what works best for both parties," Polburn said. "I can tell you that right now it looks like most of the facilities want more of a nitro themed event and I can also tell you that Top Fuel will be at every Nitro Jam we have. Simply put we want to put the emphasis back on the nitro in Nitro Jam."
The menu will feature over two dozen choices. Everything from Nitro Funny Cars, nitro bikes, Pro Modified, Pro Stock, jet trucks, jet bikes, wheelstanders and nostalgia vehicles -- basically anything that can be run on the quarter-mile is a possibility for tracks to use.
Sportsman racing will continue to be the backbone under the new IHRA structure as drivers will be competing for championships and a spot in the Tournament of Champions in the normal format in the Summit Pro-Am tour, the Summit SuperSeries and at all Nitro Jam events.
"We will always have an unwavering commitment to sportsman racing within the IHRA. Everything will still apply. The Tournament of Champions, qualifying rounds, national winners -- basically everything that you see and have seen will remain," Polburn said.
While the new format may appear to eliminate certain professional classes, that couldn't be any further from the truth. Classes that have been a part of the IHRA in the past and in the present will still be under consideration in the future, just in a different role and under a different format.
Spectators can also expect more variety than ever before and more of a show making Nitro Jam a leader in the motorsports entertainment industry.
"I have been asked many times 'why add all of the bells and whistles' and my answer is because it is fun. If we are having fun thinking it up and putting it together then it is going to be fun for the spectator," Polburn said. "If you go to a concert do you want to watch four guys up there just playing music or do you want the music with lasers, lights and pyro. It is still great music, but they surround it with stuff that is cool.
"That is exactly what we are trying to do. We are still going to have great racing, but in a different format that better suites both the drivers and the fans."
One of the unique features at all Nitro Jam events in 2010 will be the inclusion of a side-by-side jet truck race. A rarity in the drag racing world, this captivating extra will help bring each night to a close and provide the "wow" factor Polburn is looking for.
"I have seen it once and it was one of the coolest things I have ever seen in my life. Now fans are going to get to see that at every event," Polburn said. "We know it is spectacular, we know it is something that is going to be unique to us and most importantly it is going to be fun and that is what this is all about."
That fun will also carry over to the pits as the IHRA implements a designated time at each event for Fan Fest. Fan Fest will feature autograph sessions, pit tours and various other extras to help strengthen the fan-driver connection.
"Drag racing says that it is a family show and everyone knows that is just not true. No family is going to bring their kids to a race track for six or eight hours, but they are certainly going to bring them for three hours because that is tolerable," Polburn said. "When our kid counts start going up that is when I know that we are starting to be successful at what we are doing.
"If a kid wants to come to a Nitro Jam event and the parents see that the price is right and they don't have to spend all day at the track then they are going to be more likely to attend. Add in the fact that the kids will also get to participate in all of these fan activities and see a nice, concise show and we are going to win and we are going to win big."
From format and class changes, to a reduction in the number of race days to making the races more fan friendly, cost efficient and most importantly more entertaining, the only question that remains is where does Polburn see the IHRA going over the next few years.
"I will tell you, once this concept is refined we will be able to take it anywhere. I really see us being able to take this format international and I could see other very nice facilities jumping on the IHRA bandwagon because it makes financial sense to do so," Polburn said. "There is always great demand for good, unique entertainment. What we have to do is refine the wow factor. If we refine the wow factor we win. Anyone will pay to be wowed."