When it comes to drag racing, most racers know that the biggest paydays can come from bracket racing. And over the past few decades, we’ve seen those purses continually increase. A decade ago there were a handful of races in the year that would pay $50,000, and those races were on most racers’ calendar. But these days, you can find a $50,000 race just about every weekend.
When people think of big-money bracket races, they generally think about “the Million”, a race that’s happened for the past 23 years in Montgomery, Alabama. At the inaugural event in 1996, T.J. Tracey took home the first-place check for $125,000, at that time more than anyone else had ever made in bracket racing. They needed 400 entrants to pay the full million dollar winner’s purse, but ended up drawing only 157 cars, resulting in the $125,000 purse. To date, this race has continued to increase in contestants, but they’ve never reached the cars needed to pay the full million. Their 2019 race, coming up October 23-27, states they’ll need 626 or more cars to pay the full million dollar top prize. So even though winners of this race over the years took home a nice paycheck, it’s never actually been a million dollars.
Another well-known big-money bracket race is the Spring Fling Million in Las Vegas. This race started in 2016 and has had hundreds of racers from several countries vying to take home the big check. Luke Bogacki, arguably one of the greatest bracket racers of all time, won this race in 2017, taking home $230,000. Bogacki will forever be known as a “million winner,” and through his more than 300 event wins, he’s actually taken home more than $2 million in prize money, but never a million dollars from one race.
But that could all change next year.
Britt Cummings, known for his work with the annual Great American Bracket Race in Memphis, Tennessee, is upping the ante. On Memorial Day weekend in 2020 he will be hosting the first-ever guaranteed million dollar drag race, the Great American Guaranteed Million. The race will happen May 20-25, 2020 at Memphis International Raceway and will certainly go down as one of the most historic bracket races of all time.
“I’m not sure I ever really thought I would see this in my lifetime,” says Bogacki when talking about the massive payday that one racer will have next year. “This race will be a huge success.”
It’s no secret that bracket racing isn’t a sport that’s a moneymaker. The amount of money that a sportsman racer can win has never really been commensurate to the amount of money they spend on their racing programs, but it feels like that’s starting to change.
So what’s this mean for the future? Will we see even larger payouts? That’s pretty hard to fathom. “We’re living in the perfect storm right now,” says Bogacki. “The economy is strong. The local bracket markets in many areas aren’t super strong or well received, so everyone is convening on these big races. This year we have four really big money races – the Spring Fling, the original Million in Montgomery, the Fall Fling $500K, and the SFG $500K, and so far they’ve had more competitors than ever.”
While it’s hard to imagine racing for more than a million dollars, Bogacki says he hasn’t seen purses back down much over the years.
“In the history of big-dollar bracket racing, since I’ve been involved, the purses have never backed up. We’ve plateaued sometimes, but it’s never gone backwards. So I guess this precedent stands. Who knows what we’ll be racing for in the next five or ten years.”
While there’s no minimum car count for the race, the field will be capped at 450 entrees.
“Capping the amount of entrees is really the only way to go. You know as a racer what you’re getting into, and the promoters can plan around it and have a structure. If it’s a free-for-all, you’d be there for a week and that really takes the fun out it.”
“Britt [Cummings] is a very racer-centric promoter. I have this sense that he’s really onto something here that could take sportsman racing to the next level.
And as far as the competition for the race, Bogacki says it will be a “bloodfest”.
“From a racing standpoint, Memphis is a hard place to win because it’s one of those tracks that is really easy to make good runs,” Bogacki says. “The track is always awesome and the weather doesn’t change too much. There will be great packages everywhere you look. Competition will be fierce. When you look at the results online, you might be glad you aren’t there.”
Pre-entries begin on October 11, and there are three different payment plans for the $3,000 entry. The race for a million will take place over two days, Friday and Saturday. In addition, the event will include a trio of $40,000-to-win races on Thursday, Sunday and Monday.