The 2020 pandemic season is the gift that keeps on giving.
In the latest blow to major league drag racing, NHRA series sponsor Coca-Cola has opted not to continue their sponsorship, which was to run through 2023. It is uncertain if this withdrawal affects the 2020 points fund purse.
“Recently, Coca-Cola had a change of heart, and told us they would walk away from their agreement to sponsor our professional series — not at the end of 2023, as promised in their agreement, but now, after being with us since 2002,” NHRA President Glen Cromwell. “We’re deeply disappointed that they’ve taken this position.
“NHRA has always treated our sponsors as part of our family. Family sticks together when times get tough. But it seems The Coca-Cola Company is using the pandemic as an opportunity to break their promise. We can’t let that stand. We owe it to everyone who makes the NHRA so excellent – all our employees, teams, tracks, fans, partners, and sponsors – to hold Coca-Cola to its promises.”
NHRA apparently intends to hold Coca-Cola to its contract and has filed a lawsuit against The Coca-Cola Company in the United States District Court for the Central District of California.
“We have never filed a lawsuit like this in our history, and we never expected to be forced to take action against such a longstanding partner,” Cromwell said. “We value relationships with our sponsors. We do not take this action lightly. But we are unwavering in our belief that we have no other option to protect our rights and the interests of our racing community, especially the racers whose purse was funded in large part by this agreement.”
Cromwell said despite what is going on, the series stands strong for the future.
“Like many organizations, the pandemic impacted our finances,” Cromwell said. “For example, without fans in the stands, we were forced to reduce purses. The good news is that our overall financial health remains strong and we are excited to gear up for our 70th anniversary in 2021. We are taking a bit more time to announce the 2021 national event schedule so we can have fuller information and more certainty. The schedule might look different than before – it might start later and it might start on the east coast – but it will be packed with what everyone expects from NHRA racing.”
In the end, Cromwell defends NHRA’s actions to keep the racers, race fans, and business associates safe by putting the series on hold.
“2020 is a year we will never forget,” Cromwell said. “As the country and the world paused in the face of COVID-19, NHRA, like other sports sanctioning bodies, canceled and postponed events. We had to do our part to protect public health and our decisions were based on evolving governmental and public health guidance. We worked with our entire racing community, government authorities, and experts to return to racing in a prudent way. Now, we are one of the few sports anywhere that’s successfully returned to operating with spectators, with protocols in place to support those operations.”
Cromwell believes it’s time for NHRA to keep forging ahead.
“Thank you for all you have done these past few months,” Cromwell said. “We will continue to work with the greatest sponsors in the world, and together, we will cross many more finish lines, stronger than we have ever been before.”
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— Competition Plus (@competitionplus) September 19, 2020