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From NHRA to Street Outlaws: The American Influence on a Rising Star of Latin American Drag Racing

November 01, 2023

By Luiz Carlos Storck Junior

The pioneering spirit of American drag racing carries with it the weight of its enormous influence on other countries. Although drag racing began when the second car in the world was manufactured, as suggested by Niahm Smith (Muscle Car UK), the organization of it as a sport, which happened with the creation of NHRA in 1951, is what initially propelled its growth worldwide.

In Brazil, the sport had its first official race in 1958, on the main avenue of the city of Curitiba, with a distance of 3280-feet (1 km). However, it was only in the 1980s that drag racing began to get popular, and during this time, it had a significant North American influence: quarter-mile race distance, Pro-Mod cars, and the very format of the competition.

It's essential to consider that in emerging countries like Brazil, things often evolve in their own way, explaining the unique nuances of drag racing here—many 4 and 6 cylinder cars, a much smaller number of tracks, few teams with big sponsors, and an aftermarket parts market that initially relied heavily on imports.

In the 2000s, the scene underwent a significant evolution with the advent of electronics in cars, a shift led by FuelTech, a Brazil-based manufacturer. The company developed a unique product when compared to what was seen in the US and other countries, resulting in faster and more reliable cars. Several years later, FuelTech became the influencer in the international market, especially in the U.S., winning the NHRA's Pro Mod series and it was used to set dozens of records and win hundreds of race events.

The expansion of the Internet and social media allowed for much faster exchange of information, undoubtedly favoring this evolving scenario to a point where American influence seemed to have reached its peak. The traditional format of drag racing is seen worldwide, however there was a new type of racing emerging, often featuring street cars. This trend in 2015 exploded in popularity, a television phenomenon arrived in Brazil, and its influence and impact on the segment were unparalleled. Its name? Street Outlaws.

Josemar Hudema’s Chevrolet Opala Blower AWD. An unique creation for no prep races in Brazil.

The outlaw spirit, with rankings, in a head-to-head format where anything goes without limits, captivated Brazilian enthusiasts. Shortly after the program aired, the first races emerged at Area 43 in Londrina, a success that quickly spread across the country. Perhaps the most curious point about the impact the program had here is that, contrary to the name and the vibe explored by the reality show, the races in Brazil always took place on dragstrips and within the law, creating a friendly environment that favored partnerships with brands and the professionalization of the event that followed.

Once the “Area Races” were regularly taking place, the idea of a showdown that brought together all the regions to determine the best area in Brazil emerged. The event was named "Armageddon" and quickly became the largest no prep event in Latin America, with impressive numbers that demonstrate the marketing potential of this phenomenon.

First, let's point out the reach of the audience. The ninth edition received over 10,000 people (the seventh edition holds the record with over 15,000 spectators) over the course of two days. The live broadcast on YouTube registered 38,000 Internet connections, and the recording of the transmission now has more than 370,000 views, an extraordinarily impressive number compared to other major drag races. In total, 128 competitors from 23 regions of the country competed for the largest cash prize ever offered in a Brazilian drag race: R$100,000 (approximately $20,000). The event is going into its 10th edition and has already been held in 6 cities and 5 different states.

Pro-Mods and Street FWD cars head-to-head in the same race: the true spirit of Armageddon.

Regarding sponsorships, there are three types of packages available, gathering over 20 companies. For instance, long-time sponsor FuelTech sees a significant opportunity in Armageddon as it can leverage substantial and diverse audience numbers, creating an ideal environment for branding initiatives, direct sales, and product launches.

Another very interesting fact is that the event was inspired by a TV show, which will soon be on screens in a documentary recorded by Amazon during the last edition in Goiânia.

In conclusion, it's essential to emphasize that the traditional drag racing scene remains strong in Brazil. It cannot be overlooked that it has gained a disruptive sibling, the result of a well-crafted television product strategy whose potential had a significant impact here. "Armageddon" has the potential to grow even more, and as we move forward, one question remains: What will be its next contribution to the segment? Perhaps breaking out of the niche and attracting audiences from outside, increasing its commercial appeal and value delivery to the market. Who knows, but one thing is certain: the prospects are promising, and we can expect exciting times ahead.

*Numbers and data from Armageddon provided by the driver and organizer, Cadu Moreira

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