Virginia Motorsports Park ends relationship

Virginia Motorsports Park Announces End of Five Year Relationship with IHRA Virginia Motorsports Park has scheduled a press conference today to announce the end of its five year relationship with IHRA and that it will once again fly the NHRA ...

Virginia Motorsports Park Announces End of Five Year Relationship with IHRA

Virginia Motorsports Park has scheduled a press conference today to announce the end of its five year relationship with IHRA and that it will once again fly the NHRA banner. The announcement was not unexpected, as the move happened before IHRA's ACDelco Nationals at Viriginia Motorsports Park in May.

The following is an interview with IHRA President Aaron Polburn about IHRA's reaction to the announcement and the future of IHRA regarding Virginia Motorsports Park's announcement. This decision by VMP isn't really a big surprise, is it?

Aaron Polburn: It's no surprise. They actually signed their deal before we had our national event there and Bryan (Pierce) told me about it. NHRA had been pitching their program and I pitched our program. It ended up being a business decision. In this kind of situation, was there really nothing either side could do because it simply boiled down to dollars and cents?

AP: It really does. We were never able to, and when I say we I mean VMP and us together, we were never able to meet our financial goals for that race. As it ended up, out of our 12 national races, financially that ended up being our 12th biggest. It had nothing to do with VMP or the IHRA. We had a great first year and had three crummy weather years after that. For some reason we were never able to build momentum into the thing and, financially, it just never worked. When you look at some of the other IHRA tracks, Tulsa and Pittsburgh Raceway Park in particular, tracks that go crazy for Night of Fire and Mr. Gasket Pro Am events, it isn't like IHRA has no other national event options, is that correct?

AP: Sure, we will eventually have other places to go. We aren't going to go somewhere and have an event just to have an event. We'll go somewhere where the track is ready and it is financially feasible to host the event. I've made it very clear we need to be in Tulsa. It's not a matter of's a matter of when. When Dan Gutterman gets all the pieces and parts put together we will be there. There are also other markets we'd like to go into. As far as VMP we have Royce (Miller) at Maryland International Raceway to the north, Steve (Earwood) at Rockingham to the south and Richmond Dragway sitting right there in Richmond. As far as the Mid-Atlantic Region, we have it covered. It's sad to lose a venue like VMP, but overall it is a bucket of sand on the IHRA beach. We don't live and die by national events. That is just one piece of what we do. We have Kumho Street Warriorz, we have the Night of Fire and have the Mr. Gasket Pro Am Tour. We have all these other properties we are doing very well with. Is it sad? Sure. That's what it is...sad. Next year's Hooters IHRA schedule, did you have a tentative plan in place and are you ready to make any announcement about it?

AP: I got a call from Dan Gutterman at Tulsa last week. There is a possibility he will have all the parts in place for us to go there as early as next year. If he doesn't we'll wait. If it has to be an 11-event schedule for next year, so be it. We aren't going to force an event just to have 12 events. We'd be doing that for all the wrong reasons. Another thing, our contract with VMP ends December 31st, so we're still going to have the bracket finals there and anyone who signed up for the Summit SuperSeries or the team finals...everything remains the same. >From a sportsman end it will change starting January 1st. >From a geographical standpoint, the racers down there in the middle of VMP, MIR and Rockingham were kind of at an advantage because of the travel, weren't they?

AP: They were. In retrospect we had too many races in one geographic area, so in a way this is kind of a relief. We were in no position to pick and choose where we went when we first signed VMP up. We were very proud to have VMP there for five years and this is an amicable break-up if you will. We still talk all the time and exchange information all the time, so this isn't a Hatfields and McCoys thing by any stretch of the imagination. What do you want to say to Bryan Pierce and everyone down at VMP?

AP: Good luck. If they are able to put the funding package in place to do the improvements they have to do to attract this NHRA race it was a good business decision. They made the right decision if certain things happen. We appreciate everything they have done for IHRA, and when they announced they were switching to IHRA five years ago it was a big deal. We were floundering at the time. Well, we're not floundering anymore. We're going full-tilt ahead. We appreciate everything they have done for us. With the other IHRA properties and everything going on, this is kind of a win-win situation for everyone, isn't it?

AP: To me it is. There is no question when I would sit down with Bryan and everyone else down there and talk about the national event, we had a problem. None of us could figure out how to get over that problem and figure out how to make that event better. It was just there. On a risk versus return we had to make it better, and none of us had the answer how to do that. There are probably better opportunities for us to make more money elsewhere than at VMP. That gave NHRA the chance to get into the Mid-Atlantic and present their form of entertainment. They fill the void and that will give us a chance to fill our void elsewhere. In an odd sort of way it is a win-win. When you look at the team finals and the Mr. Gasket Pro Am races that were at Virginia Motorsports Park, they could be a real shot in the arm for some of the other tracks down there, wouldn't you say?

AP: Sure. I have to think Richmond Dragway is sitting down there right now thinking this is a real bonus for them. Plus the other tracks we have sanctioned in the area. As far as the Mid-Atlantic region IHRA is not going away. We just aren't going to have four national events all in the same cluster.


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