Yesterday’s announcement by Al-Anabi Racing that their stateside racing operations have been discontinued was no doubt one of the biggest bombshells to be dropped in recent memory — right on par with Ford and Castrol departing John Force Racing. It’s a move that many knew would come eventually, and perhaps even expected, but that hasn’t made it any easier now that that day has arrived, as the aftershocks can and will continue to be felt throughout professional drag racing for months and even years to come. No matter your opinion on the presence of Middle Eastern money in American drag racing, the loss of Al-Anabi Racing effects each and every one of us that watch, report on, race with, or work for the NHRA.
Following the announcement, we read all of the commentary both here on Dragzine and around the web, and couldn’t help but conclude that many of the opinions being shared just plain miss the mark. Many — perhaps the majority — seem quite pleased to see Al-Anabi go, but they fail to consider the value of what Al-Anabi and the nation of Qatar brought to the table for so many years, and the true impact of their departure.
Let it first be know that despite popular belief, the nation of Qatar is an American ally. There’s a United States Air Force base in the capital city of Doha, and the United States and Qatar work together on Middle Eastern diplomatic missions for security in the Persian Gulf. There are also economic and educational ties between the two nations. Simply put, they’re not an enemy. Now, it is true that Qatar profits greatly from oil production, however, their primary economic resource going forward is natural gas, not oil.
As far as drag racing is concerned, Al-Anabi’s involvement has allowed countless race teams to compete that perhaps otherwise wouldn’t have, at a truly world-class level. That meant a lot of employed crew members, crew chiefs, drivers, and other personnel. Beyond their race team sponsorship, they provided financial support or outright ownership of racing organizations and racing events, and for those reasons, we should all be grateful.
The reality is that sponsors come and go frequently in our sport, and Al-Anabi is no different from Castrol, Budweiser, Miller Brewing, FRAM, or any other brand that decides to pack up and take their marketing dollars elsewhere. By now we should all have learned that no company or organization is required to stay and spend their money in any venue if they don’t want to, and that applies to Al-Anabi, as well. We don’t have to like it, but business is business.
Those critical of Al-Anabi forget the number of hard-working employees who now find themselves without work in an already tumultuous economy. Sure, Alan Johnson and others on his team are smart and in-demand and will land on their feet somewhere, but many more now find themselves scrambling for new employment to keep their families fed. People losing their jobs is nothing to high-five over. Nevermind the loss of two of the most prominent and competitive teams in Top Fuel (and possibly Pro Modified), which will create a void the class may never recover from.
Whether you’re a fan of NHRA’s brand of drag racing or not, we should all be concerned when events like this occur in the sport we love. At a time when teams the likes of John Force’s are struggling to find sponsor dollars and the number of full-time programs are on the decline, there’s just no room to be shouting “good riddance” to anyone who’s been willing to invest so heavily in our sport, even when they decide to ptheir ball and go home.