Matt Hagan and the National Hot Rod Association will not race for the next 30 days with the hopes of restarting the series on April 17-19 in Baytown for the NHRA SpringNationals at Houston Raceway Park. (file photo)

Pandemic leads series to suspend races 30 days

The National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) announced Tuesday it was suspending all drag racing events for 30 days in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

This suspension includes events at all NHRA-owned tracks and any NHRA-sanctioned events such as the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series and the Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series. 

It also put its SpringNationals event in Baytown at Houston Raceway Park Powered by Pennzoil into question, although it is currently still on the race docket pending review.

“We intend at this time to resume the original schedule on April 17-19 in  (Baytown), and continue thereafter, subject to developments in the interim,” the organization announced via a press release. “The spring Las Vegas event is postponed with new dates to be determined. Please go to LVMS.com for information if you have purchased tickets for the postponed event. We will continue to monitor the situation closely, to listen to experts, and to be transparent as to when we believe we will be able to resume racing.”

Seth Angel, Houston Raceway Park’s vice president, said he expects the SpringNationals to be run.

“We will look at this in 30-day increments and the plan as of now is to come back to racing at the NHRA SpringNationals as scheduled,” Angel said. “If we feel that if in the next few days or next week or two weeks that it’s not a realistic goal and plan to extend that out even further, we will communicate with our partners at NHRA about a contingency plan to run the race at a later day.”

The NHRA made the decision to suspend racing with “heavy hearts as we see the effects this pandemic is having on the world, the country and our NHRA family,” citing social distancing is a recommended way to deal with this situation during these times.

We look forward to the time when we all come together again in person to celebrate the most extreme sport on the planet,” the NHRA memo said. 

Angel is confident that the race will go on.

“Sometime in 2020, we will run the race,” Angel said. “We will find a weekend if it comes to be we can’t run it April 17-19.

“I know we won’t wait until the last minute to postpone this. We should know within a week whether we can stick to that 30-day window or push it out to a 60-day one and work within that time frame.

Angel concedes that if the race would be cancelled, the financial hit would be massive for the raceway, NHRA and the communities in and around Baytown.

“There is the hotel and dining aspect of it and the trickle down effect of having so many people coming down that weekend,” Angel said. “It would be hard to put a number on it, but I would be comfortable in saying that it would be many millions of dollars in economic impact loss.

“For that reason alone, we will find the best weekend we can to run it if we can’t run it (in April). But as of now we are running it then. We still have people calling and buying tickets today and we are still mailing tickets out today. It’s full speed ahead, but we are going to make the right decision I can tell you that.”

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