The NHRA, which becomes the NHRA Mission Foods Drag Racing Series in 2024, is on the back end of a long-term TV deal.
The racing series has been with FOX since 2016, and according to an NHRA spokesperson it's a deal that runs through 2026.
The FOX contract, while great for exposure, is not a big revenue generator for the series or the teams.
NASCAR's new TV deal is music to the ears of NHRA teams.
The multi-layered TV deal announced this past week includes four different broadcast partners sharing rights to Cup Series races, yet another network handing the NASCAR Xfinity Series, and new streaming partners that are getting into live motorsports for the first time.
The reported $7.7 billion package that kicks in for the 2025 NASCAR season is a 40% annual increase over its previous deal. The new deal was struck in an era of high inflation and corporate cutbacks, and many predicted NASCAR would be lucky to match its current deal.
NASCAR clearly hit a home run, and the deal shows that there's still an appetite for motorsports programming.
That could be great news for the NHRA.
The NHRA, which becomes the NHRA Mission Foods Drag Racing Series in 2024, is on the back end of a long-term TV deal of its own. The racing series has been with FOX since 2016, and according to an NHRA spokesperson it's a deal that runs through 2026. The FOX contract, while great for exposure, is not a big revenue generator for the series or the teams.
Just ask the teams.
When contacted by Autoweek this week, the NHRA declined to discuss details about its current TV deal or offer updates on progress toward its next deal. A spokesman did offer that an announcement regarding a post-2026 TV deal is expected to come as soon as next summer.
In a March interview, NHRA president Glen Cromwell told Autoweek that the series was hoping that its next TV deal could be a game-changer for the series. This past week's NASCAR news only adds nitromethane to those hopes.
"That's what we're all working for," Cromwell said. "We talk internally here about getting a TV deal that is going to be lucrative enough that we can funnel some of those dollars back into the race teams and race tracks. That creates health.
"We think right now, our partner with FOX, we're extremely happy with them. They've done an awesome job, and we hope we stay with them for many years to come. But, come 2026, and obviously before that, we'll be negotiating in the best interests for the NHRA and their stakeholders."
"I've talked to the race teams, the race tracks. It's a common conversation for us as a sport. We'd love to get to a position where we're getting a rights deal, one that we can funnel those dollars back into the sport, to help create healthy race tracks healthy race teams, for sure."
NHRA teams hope that the sanctioning body is taking notes of NASCAR's deal, at least in terms of how any TV revenue will ultimately be divided.
NASCAR's current contract with its chartered teams—which includes 36 cars in the Cup Series—calls for TV revenue to be split between the tracks, the teams and the sanctioning body. Now, that breakdown is 65% for the tracks, 25% for the teams and 10% to NASCAR.
Those percentages could be changing. In the Feb. 13 edition of his podcast Actions Detrimental with Denny Hamlin, veteran NASCAR driver and co-owner of 23XI Racing team Denny Hamlin said that the teams were asking for "nearly double" their current piece of the pie.
“So cars cost what they cost," Hamlin said. "The travel is what it is. We can’t negotiate our hotel rooms. The labor is what it is. The tires cost what they cost. There’s nowhere else for the teams to cut, okay? And so, what the difference is, and while we have said that the teams need more share of the revenue is because sponsorship over the last decade or so has gone down.”
No one is expecting a NASCAR-like deal for the NHRA, but there's new hope that there will be significant TV money funneling down to the teams. The NASCAR deal that includes a pay streaming service—remember, you need to subscribe to Amazon Prime to be able to access the video service—means that there are potentially more broadcast and streaming partners who could be interested in the NHRA product.
The Professional Racers Owners Organization (PRO) is a group that includes NHRA Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock team owners. PRO is well aware of NASCAR's deal and how the next TV deal could help NHRA teams.
"For a lot of years, we've watched what NASCAR has done, evaluated and learned from it," said Ron Capps, a three-time NHRA Funny Car champion and team owner of Ron Capps Motorsports. "Right now, it's a different world then it was even five or six years ago with all the streaming. We've watched what's coming out of NASCAR. We're very aware if it."
NASCAR's new TV deal includes an a' la carte element to it where the 36-race season will be split among four broadcast partners—FOX, NBC, Amazon Prime Video and TNT. A total of 14 races will be on FOX, 14 on NBC, and five each on Amazon Prime and TNT. It's a model that opens up even more possibilities for NHRA.
"I think NASCAR's deal is great," Capps said. "I know I had an ear-to-ear smile. I think it's just a matter of time. It opens the door for a lot of different things for us."
Capps added that unlike NASCAR, the NHRA has yet to establish any percentages of distribution for TV revenue to its teams or even identify which teams would potentially benefit financially from the next TV deal. Would teams that race part-time in the series get a slice of the pie? Would multi-car teams receive more than single-car operations? Would all four pro classes—Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock, Pro Stock Motorcycle—get equal shares? What about the Sportsman Classes?
"NASCAR understands where its bread is buttered," Capps said. "And that means sharing with the teams."
"I don't think I've seen the level of communication of so many people in the same direction. I've never seen it as strong as it is right now."