The Prudhomme Story: 1 of 5

        ROCKY'S ROAD            


The Prudhomme Story:  Pt. 1 of 5.

In the winter of 1993, I attended the annual National Hot Rod Association Track Operators’ Meetings which were akin to the Winter Baseball Meetings for that other sport. Usually held at some popular tourist city in the west, there is several days of agenda presented by the NHRA outlining plans, problems and directions for the upcoming racing season. The annual gathering, usually three days in length, allows all the National event-level track operators to share their successes, ideas and meet any new NHRA personnel.

Those meetings were really pretty much cookie-cutter as the plans and direction were all laid out well before the meetings took place. An individual track operator could agree or disagree with a certain concept but things seemed to continue on forward as previously had been planned by the NHRA. Different than the baseball owners, we really had very little input into the guidance of the NHRA tour. I mean very little input.

There were often graphs comparing all the events to each other which allowed us to see what the other markets were doing. At that point, the NHRA Nationals at SIR had just finished its’ 6th year and comparing it to a similar sized market across the USA was very important to me. I always knew that the Seattle facility had such a terrible physical layout and what worked in a similar market might not be feasible for the single-entrance at SIR. I always gained some knowledge by attending the NHRA directed meetings but, as mentioned, the possibility for assisting the NHRA in their agenda was so very limited. As always, they had a plan and they pretty much stuck by it. 



Better yet, to me, the best part of the meetings always seemed to be in the evenings when the operators got together in a suite for open discussion which was always without the NHRA. That was the place to learn what others were doing in their respective markets. There wasn’t any place for me to go for Race Track 101 so discussing the latest ideas with those in the know was where I always wanted to be. The knowledge I gained from those evening meetings was priceless and certainly helped me as I learned more about what worked and what didn’t work at different race sites around the country. Hours and hours of discussions with John Bandimere of Denver and the late Vinnie Napp of Englishtown, two of the best, would guide me along the way and direct me into new ideas and certainly, helpful hints. I can’t thank the two of them enough, along with several others, for their guidance and their honesty in business. These guys “lived in the trenches” of being a track operator and were well respected within the industry. The impacts they had on my career in the sport were huge. Learning by trial and error can obviously be very expensive.

I wanted to be conservative in my approach to new events but I had a major market in the Seattle-Tacoma-Vancouver, B.C. area to draw from and I needed to take advantage of that wonderful situation. There are a lot of race fans between those three cities and the right type event would be ideal.

The political side of the sport never existed in those suite meetings with fellow track operators. It was the free-flowing of plans, thoughts and ideas. To me, it was a wonderful venue to speak openly about your business and know that everything that was said was the truth. What worked well at one track could be shared by all of those in attendance.

The business side of the motor sports is often learned by trial and error. With the weather in the Northwest the track operator can produce an event that totally gets canceled but the media side of the proposed event  continues onward. Those costs can be devastating....and quite frankly, a disaster for the financial side of the business. There is a lot of risk with producing major drag races in the Northwest.

I never had the resources to back me up so I had to be smart on what I did. No bank anywhere would loan me anything for my company so I had to be really cautious and very protective of the financial end of the business. A bad move could put me right out of business.


Next Rocky Road: The Winter Meetings with the NHRA continue with a surprise coming up.