“We have more members and more sanctioned tracks here in North Carolina than anywhere else in the country,” Polburn said.
Polburn added, for this reason, with such a large number of fans around the area, Rockingham Dragway was the perfect venue for two national IHRA events - this weekend’s Spring Nationals and October’s World Finals.
“We have a strong base that we feel can withstand us coming down here twice,” Polburn said. “Plus, from the beginning of the IHRA, we originally ran in places like Darllington, Bristol and Rockingham. They were considered the triple crown of the IHRA. We really kind of established our roots here.”
Even though the IHRA’s headquarters are in Ohio, Polburn understands how the sport has more members and tracks in the Tar Heel state.
“From the number of Sprint Cup tracks in the state to have events like across the street (Rockingham Speedway),” Polburn said. “If you go up North to Ohio, football is king. Here, auto racing may be first and second, even third.”
Polburn is optimistic about the attendance for the weekend, despite the economic cloud which hangs not only over his sport, but its fans as well.
“We had a meeting last November with all of the track operators talking about the economy and making adjustments,” Polburn said. “We saw what was happening and wanted to get ahead of the curve.
“We’ve made it easier for the sportsman racers to compete for and win a championship. And we are keeping an eye on the teams. It has always been a battle, but now it’s really an on-going battle.”
Polburn admitted the IHRA looked at its own budget and found a way to save nearly $150,000 a year. While he believes his sport and its teams will be successful financially in the end, he is still a bit cautious.
“Am I nervous? Oh yeah,” he said. “But I’m also pretty optimistic. I believe we will weather the storm and come out of the other end, much stronger.”
He points to the Great Depression for his source of optimism. While all of the other industries in the country were struggling to stay afloat, one industry was booming - entertainment.
“People want their diversion of all the bad news they see on CNN,” he said. “They just want to get away from their stress. We think we can provide that needed relief.”
According to Polburn, ticket sales at the first IHRA national event this year exceeded expectations and he expects the same at Rockingham Dragway because of strong marketing and promotion strategies.
“The attendance at the first national race was a good one in Baton Rouge,” he said. “There are coupons out there - if you really want to come to the races, you can find a coupon for it.”