DRO: Before you took the job at NHRA did you attend drag races? Did you like drag racing as a spectator sport?
TC: I had not followed the sport in contemporary times, but as a kid I watched a lot of sports including drag racing and remembered everybody from that era. I didn't know the people and racers in the sport from the 90's at the time. I watched a lot as a kid. I thought then, as now, that it is an exciting sport for the spectators and competitors.
DRO: Where do you see NHRA drag racing's position in the motorsports world?
TC: In the United States by almost every measure we are a solid number two. Unfortunately, the perception is that we're probably number four. I think the public ranks the sanctioning bodies as follows: (1) NASCAR, (2) CART, (3) IRL, and NHRA. The fact is, NHRA is the world's largest motorsports organization in terms of tracks, members, or participants, you name it.
NASCAR is bigger in terms of fans, but by any other measure we are bigger. Perception-wise, though, we're number four and that's what needs to change and I think we are making a lot of progress in doing that right now.
DRO: By number two are you referring the fan base, cars, or participants?
TC: All of those. CART's numbers of venues and attendance, for instance, are public. If you compare the numbers for IRL or CART in terms of participants, tracks, and membership, then NHRA is clearly second only to NASCAR.
DRO: Do you believe that NHRA needs to and will change the perception that fans and corporate America have of drag racing?
TC: Definitely, and I think it is starting to change and that's the good news. We (NHRA) have very consciously done some things to try to affect that change. Most of what we have been doing is trying to build fans awareness that this great sport of drag racing is a completely different experience from anything the average racing fan has ever experienced. It's different on the track and it's different off the track. Drag racing has the fastest cars, the most powerful engines, and a new race every few minutes. Between rounds the fans can go out in the pit area and everyone is treated like a VIP, everyone has a pit pass, everyone can get close to the racers and cars and watch the action. They can get autographs. What other motorsports allows their fans to do that?
I don't think fans that haven't been out here really, truly appreciate the experience of a drag race. I've personally brought out family and friends that haven't been to a race in a long time or have never been and bar none they are blown away. They don't all become core fans but they are moved by it and are very likely to come back and see it.
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