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In 1999 we had our first race in Bristol Dragway. That track is unique in that most of the stands (about 90%) are on one side of the dragstrip and the pit area is on the other. The pit area is a very important part of the drag racing experience. We have to make them convenient for people to get there. We built five tunnels and two different configurations to let people get to the pits and watch at Bristol.

In Vegas we've got the sky box seats on one side; there's a new innovation. We've got some plans to combine the aspects of all those innovations at tracks in the future.

At Seattle, the owners are going to take over the property at the end of the coming year from Jim. We may have plans to upgrade the Seattle facility. The list goes on from a facility point of view. There are probably more projects in the works for the next five years than in the complete past history of NHRA.

DRO: What are you doing to educate the fans and make the racing better?

TC: We try to do a number of things to inform the first time drag racing fan and those fans who aren't familiar with NHRA drag racing. We have information packages for fans called 'NHRA 101.' It explains the basic terms, how the sport works, and we now have a guest services program with information booths placed around to answer questions and help the fans anyway we can.

Last year we did some things to try to make the show a little more concise and compelling. We made some changes designed to speed up the program so that the fans would not have to spend an entire day at the track to watch two Pro qualifying sessions. We instituted a 75-minute between rounds rule and put in the 90% nitro to try and cut down on engine explosions and oil downs. Both seem to be working well for the racers and fans.

This year we are taking it a step further. We feel, again, that if someone is going to come out for their first time, they may not be willing to make a six-, seven- or eight-hour time commitment. So qualifying, which used to be at 12 and 4 PM, depending on the situation, might be at 2 PM and 4 PM instead. That way a new fan can come out and watch a professional show in a lot less time.

We are trying to appeal to the hard-core fan that really enjoys every aspect of the sport and also get some new people out to try it. It's going to be fairly difficult to get someone to come out here and spend $62 on Sunday that has never been here before to see if they like it, so we are doing promotions with sponsors for discounts to buy tickets for qualifying days, or a 'buy one get one free' program - things like that. You've got to get people out here to see the sport in order to make them into fans. You've got to have quality of show, customer service and facilities so when people actually do come here, they want to come back

DRO: NHRA is generally perceived as a big, money-making company with a lot of money. Would you talk a little about that?

TC: Last year NHRA was more affected by weather than any year I have seen since I came to work here. It affected our ability to make money. NHRA is a reasonably large company, we have 225 full time employees and 3,000 part-time workers. We have involvement in supporting 140 member tracks; that's a big deal. We've got over 80,000 NHRA members, we've got racing series backed by Winston, Federal-Mogul, Summit Racing Equipment, Castrol, and the Summit Import series. It's a pretty big undertaking. NHRA also has five major race track facilities and we publish a weekly magazine. NHRA has a lot of different types of business, so it's kind of a complicated program.

As far the question about making a lot of money, the answer is "No, but I hope we do someday." We (NHRA) are a tax-exempt organization and as such all of the money that we make has to go right back to the sport. We don't have an owner. It (money) doesn't go in my pocket. I don't have shares in the company. If we make X amount of money, I don't get a percentage. Unlike most companies of our size, there are no stock option plans, there is no ownership, there is no equity. We in management have no direct stake in the company.


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