ADRL Consistently Attracts The Crowds
Let me say right up front – I like Pro Modified racing. Simply put, in my opinion it is the single best class overall in drag racing – period. It’s outrageous variety of body styles, high technology, and colorful drivers embodies what drag racing is all about. It is because of those reasons that I have been, and continue to be somewhat mystified by the attitude of some drag racing sanctioning bodies towards the class.
Enter the ADRL. Within what has seemingly been a very short period of time, the (American Drag Racing League), co-founded by David Wood and Tommy Lipar, and driven by President Kenny Nowling, has risen from rather humble beginnings to a very formidable new force within drag racing. The circuit, which specializes in “door slammers” provides its audiences with fast-paced and almost non-stop action, has become quite a phenomenon.
During the summer of 2008, while meandering between major NHRA POWERade and IHRA national events, I was privileged on a couple of occasions to also attend some ADRL races. To say that I was impressed by what I witnessed is an understatement.
The chemists behind the brewing of the ADRL have hit upon quite a successful formula. Their event presentations are concise featuring a limited number of categories, an easy to understand racing format and some very innovative approaches to attracting and then keeping spectator interest.
Showcasing the Pro Modified class is certainly the primary focus of the ADRL. While the IHRA has largely squandered that potential (evidence ever dwindling car counts) and the NHRA continues to treat it’s Jegs Challenge as exhibition racing only, the ADRL sees things very much differently. They have instead decided to seize on the class potential and have evolved and created two distinct eliminators for Pro Mod class racing.
Supercharged alcohol burning cars run Pro Extreme (P/X) and nitrous-injected cars run Pro Nitrous (P/N). The ADRL’s growth (beginning in 2007) has also included the addition of Super Street 10.5 cars (widely regarded as a stepping stone class to Pro Mod) known in ADRL as Extreme 10.5 (ETF), and also Pro Extreme Motorcycle (PXM) – formally IDBA Pro Mod Motorcycle. During 2008, the ADRL rolled Mountain Motor Pro Stock competition into it’s equation for the first time. While currently still regarded as experimental, the ADRL has so far seen significant participation from IHRA Pro Stock regulars in that category.
All ADRL events are 1/8th mile affairs. All class categories are head-ups and Pro tree. To a man, every circuit racer I talked to confirmed that the 1/8th mile events are very attractive, helping both to keep costs down and the racing safer. That is reflected clearly in racer participation – it is not uncommon for an ADRL event to attract 60-70 Pro Modified cars.
The ADRL’s cut-to-the-chase and easy to understand approach has also been very appealing to racing fans and in particular to the “new fan” base which they specifically target. In that department, the ADRL certainly thinks outside of the box compared to NHRA and IHRA managements. Instead of being charged exorbitantly at pretty well every turn, ADRL race fans instead benefit from free tickets which are vigorously given away. Attending fans are then charged only minimally for (some) parking leaving disposable income for track concessions and racing souvenirs. The end result is that ADRL events are seriously (and I mean seriously) jam-packed affairs. Those consistent overflow crowds are what keeps it’s major title right sponsors like Flowmaster and the National Guard as happy customers.
Since first coming out of the gate back in 2004 with what had been initially expected to be a one event wonder (Dragstock One) the ADRL has evolved into a multi-event circuit traveling across much of the U.S.A. They hosted 8 races in 2008 and expectations are for further expansion next season.
“The ADRL was conceived out of Dragstock One, not the other way around,” said President Kenny Nowling. “Dragstock was going to be an event we hosted once a year. But after it our sponsor Flowmaster (Richard Small – VP Marketing) was so excited and we both knew we were on to something. That was a defining moment in the ADRL’s history. I’m literally living my dream because Dragstock was a success.”
While the big picture for the ADRL is impressive I also like some of their subtleties. My favorite is a (NASCAR like) ruling that contact with the outer guard wall (not the centerline) is not an automatic disqualification. Thus even with a glancing blow off the wall a racer can still potentially recover to earn a win-light. ADRL racing features very high-powered cars and drivers with various degrees of skill. Some are absolute experts while others may or may not be over their heads. That is sometimes very apparent during ADRL events and helps to keep fan interest at a peak.
The way the ADRL crowns it’s series champions is also creative. Their season-ending event, which in 2008 took place at NHRA’s Texas Motorplex near Dallas, featured a special “Battle for the Belts”. This is a winner-take-all elimination showdown including the top eight season points earners in each category. That format maintains and ensures a very high level of drama right to season’s end.