PRO Announces Promotional Group

Elite Motorsports team owner Richard Freeman sidesteps six-time champion Erica Enders' burnout - Anne Proffit photo

The Professional Racers Owners Organization, Inc. (PRO) is stepping beyond its original charter and addressing the promotional aspects of big-time drag racing. On the heels of a truly successful initial event, the PRO Superstar Shootout held February 8-10 in Bradenton, Fla., the group has formed PRO Promotions, LLC, which is a for-profit business entity. PRO, founded in 1991 is a not-for-profit (c) (6) organization, where the new spin-off is intended to make money for PRO members.

The PRO Superstar Shootout at Bradenton Motorsports Park was run by PRO and its members, with great assistance from FloRacing, which carried the event live on its streaming service. It ran by scheduling and had only minimal stoppages for the usual reasons: crashes and mechanical issues. The Thursday through Saturday event engaged fans in similar fashion to what is expected on a traditional NHRA weekend: fan access to the participants, easy camping at Bradenton’s racetrack, a full complement of supporting races, the ability to purchase merchandise and, of course, plenty of food vendors at the site.

Elite Motorsports team owner Richard Freeman sidesteps six-time champion Erica Enders’ burnout – Anne Proffit photo

It was so successful that the PRO Superstar Shootout made NHRA sit up and take notice, although the series referred to the event as a “test session” in advance of this weekend’s 55th annual Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals at Gainesville Raceway. Still, it’s unknown whether NHRA intends to take on any of the advantages of the PRO event to heart or if it wants to keep doing things “the way we’ve always done them.”

PRO has stated the purpose of its new pro Promotions LLC is to “create a new platform for its members, so that they may collectively promote the sport of professional drag racing and preserve the long-term sustainability of the sport and its competitors,” said 2023 NHRA Top Fuel champion Doug Kalitta of Kalitta Motorsports.

Kalitta was the Top Fuel victor in Bradenton and took home $250,000 for his win, $150,000 less than he received for earning the 2023 title – after 26 years trying and six runners-up results. That championship-winning amount was 15 percent higher than the 2022 champion’s earnings, while this year’s championship payout for Top Fuel is $500,000 – the same payout given a champion in 1996. Second place paid a paltry $80,000 and third was $40,000. It’s evident the numbers need to increase, as have the costs of participating in NHRA’s pair of nitro classes. In its entirety, NHRA paid out $683,000 to the top 10 2023 finishers in each of its two nitro classes, Top Fuel and Funny Car.

Doug Kalitta earned his $250,000 payday – Anne Proffit photo

The idea of creating an even more powerful medium, one that showcases PRO’s combined strength, using the members’ collective intellectual properties and paving the way to enhance larger partnerships with potential marketing and broadcasting partners, is the goal the group has stated for its start-up.

“The success of the PRO Superstar Shootout cannot be overstated,” declared Richard Freeman, owner of Pro Stock powerhouse Elite Motorsports and one of the larger supporters of the Bradenton event. “The greatest success of all, however, was likely that which happened behind the scenes. Teams united like never before, solidifying the formation of a for-profit, collective entity as our natural next step,” he said.

A veteran and champion of nearly every major motorsports entity in the United States, Tony Stewart, owner/driver at Tony Stewart Racing [Nitro] added, “As motorsports continue to evolve, so must we. We believe there are opportunities on the horizon for the sport as a collective whole,” he said, “and we want to be uniquely positioned when those moments arise.”

An astute businessman when he’s not racing his Funny Car, Paul Lee of Paul Lee Racing explained, “PRO Promotions LLC aims to advance the long-term interests of its members by engaging in promotional relationships and activities with various business entities,” he said “Through the licensing of the members’ collective intellectual properties and other assets, businesses can establish exciting promotional relationships and opportunities with the preeminent drag racing organizations of the world.”

Selected as PRO Promotions LCC spokesperson, Bob Tasca III, who both owns and drives his Funny Car added, “One of the main goals of each opportunity we are looking into, is to create more excitement for our sport, the fans, the teams, the drives and our partners – we will be sure to let everyone know as they happen.”

This first salvo doesn’t say much about the material objectives of PRO Promotions LLC, but it does show that there is an opportunity to grow the sport of professional drag racing and it will come from the parties who are already participating in straight-line racing. It is, of course, those participants that keenly understand the benefits – and the issues – associated with a sport that started more than 75 years ago with the urging of Wally Parks to get racing off the streets and onto tracks worldwide. There appears to be a new need, one that benefits the racers more than the sanction and PRO Promotions LLC intends to be that catalyst for change.

About Anne Proffit 1246 Articles
Anne Proffit traces her love of racing - in particular drag racing - to her childhood days in Philadelphia, where Atco Dragway, Englishtown and Maple Grove Raceway were destinations just made for her. As a diversion, she was the first editor of IMSA’s Arrow newsletter, and now writes about and photographs sports cars, Indy cars, Formula 1, MotoGP, NASCAR, Formula Drift, Red Bull Global Rallycross - in addition to her first love of NHRA drag racing. A specialty is a particular admiration for the people that build and tune drag racing engines.

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