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Buck, Carpenter and Hudson Discuss PRI State of the Racing Market Report, Youth Involvement and More on ‘The Wes Buck Show’

On episode 345 of The Wes Buck Show (WBS), co-hosts Wes Buck, Mike Carpenter and JT Hudson discussed the world of drag racing in all its thrilling forms.

The conversation started off with the guys touching on the PDRA’s much-anticipated return to Norwalk, Ohio, for the Smokies Garage American Doorslammer Challenge presented by Callies Performance at Summit Motorsports Park. This past weekend saw intense competition, including a harrowing moment for 2024 World Series of Pro Mod champion Derek Ward, who experienced a close call on the track. “I was holding my breath there for a minute, but my boy came through,” remarked Wes Buck.

Memorial Day Weekend and the Future of Drag Racing

As Memorial Day Weekend approached, conversations turned to how drag racing could carve out a more significant presence during this high-profile racing period. Traditionally dominated by events like the Indianapolis 500, Formula 1’s Monaco and NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600, drag racing often gets overshadowed. Wes Buck and his co-hosts discussed the potential of scheduling NHRA events on Memorial Day Weekend to capture some of the spotlight. “What do you think about NHRA putting a date on Memorial Day?” Carpenter asked, suggesting that even a Saturday night shootout could help integrate drag racing into this prestigious weekend.

Leveraging Market Share Through Strategic Scheduling

The show delved into the idea of leveraging market share by aligning drag racing events with other major motorsport events. Buck emphasized the power of the “guilty by association” effect, where simply being mentioned alongside other major racing events could boost drag racing’s visibility. “I do think that ‘guilty by association’ component is pretty powerful here,” he noted, highlighting the potential benefits of such strategic scheduling.

Supporting the Drag Racing Community

The podcast also stressed the importance of supporting companies that invest in the sport. “We have to find a way to match that kind of goodwill and excitement and momentum and energy and give them something back for it and create sustainable lasting growth,” Buck urged. This call to action aimed to ensure that the economic benefits of drag racing are reinvested into the community, promoting long-term sustainability.

Addressing Youth Involvement Concerns

One of the most pressing issues discussed was the declining involvement of young people in the sport. The podcast highlighted the need to connect with younger generations through technology and engaging storytelling. “We can’t just go, damn it, kids have changed; we have to go, how can we find a way to connect to these people, not just give up,” Hudson said, emphasizing the need for innovation in reaching new audiences.

The Struggles of Sienna Wildgust

The story of Sienna Wildgust, the youngest NHRA Pro Stock qualifier, was a poignant reminder of the challenges new and young racers face. Despite her achievements, Wildgust has received little support from the NHRA. “It is an absolute crying shame that Sienna Wildgust hasn’t heard anything from anybody about what she’s done in these six races,” Buck lamented. This highlights the need for better engagement and support for emerging talent in the sport.

Embracing Technology and Media

The show underscored the importance of embracing technology and creating more storytelling content to attract new fans, similar to how Formula 1’s “Drive to Survive” has significantly boosted interest in F1. “There are other ways… there’s a way to make the gaming space work for us,” Buck suggested, pointing to the success of similar strategies in other motorsports.

Hudson emphasized the importance of community and support within the sport, stating, “We’ve got to start focusing on these stories and start focusing on these characters and pouring more into that.” He also pointed out the challenges of modern technology, saying, “Kids can sit down and play these racing simulators and everything on their gaming computers; they’re online with their friends at home… that bleeds into going to the track or going outside and working on a motor.”

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Independent Media Growth in Drag Racing

Independent media coverage of drag racing is on the rise, with YouTube channels and podcasts providing more content than ever. Buck acknowledged this growth but noted there’s still room for improvement in mainstream media presence. “Look no further than YouTube in the amount of content creators that are on there creating, you know, telling stories around the sport of drag racing,” he observed.

Economic Impact and Industry Support

The economic impact of the drag racing industry is significant, with a large percentage of companies in the automotive aftermarket participating in the sport. “8.4 billion is the sales of track-use-only parts for motorsports,” Carpenter highlighted from the inaugural 2024 PRI State of the Racing Market Report, indicating the strong economic foundation of drag racing. This underscores the potential for growth if investments are made wisely and reinvested into the sport.

Carpenter discussed the evolving landscape of drag racing and the need for innovation, noting, “I think we have to calculate what the value is… to put the sport in front of new folks and you don’t want to put a pay wall in front of it.” He also reflected on the economic impact, stating, “There’s so much drag racing stuff there that you almost forget that the other Performance Racing industry is even there besides drag racing.”

In conclusion, the discussions on the WBS reflect the state of drag racing and the opportunities and challenges it faces. From strategic event scheduling to leveraging market share and supporting emerging talent, the path forward for drag racing involves innovation, community support, and strategic investments. As Buck passionately put it, “We want to galvanize this sport of drag racing because what I want everybody here to know is that you’re part of a big powerful community.”

This story was originally published on May 31, 2024. Drag Illustrated

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