All is Not Well: NHRA Top Fuel Racer Issues Dire Warning About Series' Future

Susan Wade
·3 mins read
Photo credit: RON LEWIS
Photo credit: RON LEWIS

From Autoweek

NHRA Mello Yello Series Top Fuel owner-driver Doug Foley qualified in the top half of the 66th Denso NHRA U.S. Nationals lineup and sixth at the Indy Dodge event just before that—impressive for a part-time team with not one full-time crew member.

While Foley, 56, is is proud of that, he’s anything but proud of the way drag racing is headed. Truth is, he was concerned about his sport even before the pandemic hit. His forecast is partly cloudy at best for the NHRA, unless series leaders address a handful of issues.

“Maybe they'll have nine full-time cars next year, but it will be single digits of how many full-time dragsters there are running the tour next year,” Foley said. “I predict there will be about six races next year that will have 11 or less Top Fuel cars next year. That's the beginning of the end. As soon as you've done that, you basically put the 'CLOSED' sign up.

"As soon as you prove to the world we don't have enough cars, we're screwed, just telling the world, ‘Hey, listen, we're now a little mom-and-pop organization. We're more of a car club than we are a national sanctioning body.’ So we have to do everything we can in our power to prevent that from happening.”

Photo credit: NHRA
Photo credit: NHRA

He said this shaky status happened because of “not enough attention paid to the teams."

"It's like us and the sanctioning body and none of us are together," Foley said. "None of us are on the same side. We have to get together because they're going to have nothing left. I can't strive for 23 races. That's like me waking up in the morning saying I strive to go bankrupt. If we go away, they've got nothing to sell. We are their product. The problem is you have a sanctioning body selling a product that they don't own any of the assets. Without these people, they have nothing to sell. Zero.

"Anybody who thinks that we're not in trouble now is a fool. But if we're going to save this sport, it's going to take these groups of people sitting down together and saying, ‘How do we fix this? How do we make it better? How do we get more butts in the seats? Because that's what we need.

“I think the problem is there's NHRA and there's the racers. I can't honestly say the last time we were actually invited as a group to sit down and discuss that. Almost 10 years I was gone from the sport. Never once did they ever call me and say, ‘How do we get Doug Foley back out here?’ Never once. Don't fill that room with (multi-car team owners) Connie Kalitta and Don Schumacher. You have to put some of those part-time cars in there to discuss what we're going through, what would make our life a little bit simpler, what would make us attend more races. If they don't start having these meetings and these conversations, this sport five years from now is going to be totally different,” he said.

“We have to have an uncomfortable conversation with some of the teams. Those sponsors that come across and are just willing to help us, you have to be fair with them, too. You have to give them what they paid for. So it's a full-circle deal, and the only way we're going to fix it is there needs to be some conversation. There needs to be ‘How do we get together and try and listen?’ he said. “We need big change.”