Drag racing, fueled by the John Force craze and side-by-side competition that startles the senses, has become one of motor racing's fastest growing and most entertaining facets. Sponsorship, the lifeblood of motor sports, and spectator response, the lifeblood of those sponsors, are increasing while many other racing organizations are struggling in a sagging economy.
But you ain't seen nothin' yet. Here comes sport compact drag racing.
Imports, primarily from Honda, Toyota and Mazda, dominate sports compact racing, but domestic vehicles from Chevrolet, Pontiac, Dodge and Saturn also compete. As in other forms of drag racing, there is a variety of competition classes.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday October 18, 2003 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 0 inches; 32 words Type of Material: Correction
Drag racing -- In an article in Sports on Friday, the National Hot Rod Assn. reported that the sport compact car industry was a $25-billion industry. The figure is actually $2.5 billion.
According to the National Hot Rod Assn., the sport compact market has grown into a $25-billion industry. So, quite naturally, the NHRA is tapping into it with a program tailored specifically to compacts -- separately from its long established Powerade series.
And so have a number of other racing organizations hoping to become part of this latest motorized phenomenon.
The NHRA has been named the No. 1 sports organization in a category labeled "Offers Good Value for the Money" in a survey conducted by SportsBusiness Journal. The survey took in 14 sports bodies, among them the NFL, NBA, NHL, PGA Tour and Major League Baseball.
Among four major auto racing sanctioning bodies, the NHRA was first in eight categories, including "coordinating programs between the league and teams," and second only to NASCAR in seven others.
"NHRA is one of the best-kept secrets in all of sports," said Tom Compton, NHRA president. "But it won't be for long as people realize what NHRA can offer, particularly as it relates to sponsor values, return on investment and the overall relationship between the sanctioning bodies, the racing community and the sponsors."
Southland drag racing followers who can't get enough of quarter-mile bursts of explosive speed should get their fill in the next month with three major events scheduled, one at California Speedway and two at the Pomona Fairplex. Two of them will be all about sport compact cars
* The Mopar NOPI Race Wars World Finals, final event of the NOPI Drag Racing Assn. season, will be run this weekend on California Dragway's new launch pad, located south of the grandstands at California Speedway. The NOPI (Number One Parts Inc., a distributor of sport-compact automobile accessories) events combine professional compact car racing and a car-oriented party with bikini contests, burnout contests, loud music and other activities geared to a 16-25 age-group audience.
* The Mazda NHRA Sport Compact World Finals, final event of the NHRA Summit Series, will be held at Pomona Raceway, on the Fairplex grounds, Oct. 25-26. One thing the two series have in common is a desire to keep youngsters from racing on the streets. Both have special bracket events in which the public can compete.
* The 39th annual Auto Club of Southern California NHRA Finals move into Pomona two weeks later for the final event of the Powerade national championship series, Nov. 6-9, featuring Force and newly crowned champions Larry Dixon in top fuel and Greg Anderson in pro stock. If you can't wait, the Adelco Las Vegas Nationals are scheduled Oct. 23-26 on the strip by the Strip.
"The main difference [between the sport compact series and mainstream drag racing] is that we have more fun," Michael Meyers, president of NOPI and NDRA, said from his headquarters in Atlanta. "We started out producing a show-car event in Atlanta for compacts and it became so successful that we decided to add drag racing to our program. We bring in entertainment as well as straight-line racing, so we attract a young crowd that is addicted to racing."
Among the favorites are points leaders Jojo Callos of Long Beach in pro 4-cylinder, and Erick Aguilar of Torrance in pro stock.
NOPI held its West Coast event last year at Los Angeles County Raceway in Palmdale, but when the track was unavailable this year, the races were moved to California Dragway. The two-day event has a $140,000 payout and race officials say they expect crowds of 20,000 to 25,000. NOPI is also holding a drifting contest.
And if three major meets are not enough for hot rodders, there is always Irwindale Speedway, where side-by-side sports compact drag racing is held every Thursday night on the eighth-mile strip.
Mesa Marin Raceway in Bakersfield will be the center of stock car attention this weekend with three days and nights of racing on the high-banked, half-mile oval. The climax will be the $102,000 Lucas Oil 150, a NASCAR Winston West race, Sunday afternoon.
Saturday night's card includes Featherlite Southwest Series and late model races. Tonight there will be two truck main events and two supermotos.