DRO: Can you tell
us why your sponsor CARQUEST came to NHRA from
IHRA with their sponsorship dollars?
PR: CARQUEST wants
to penetrate some new markets. We have been
in twelve real good markets for CARQUEST in
the past with IHRA, but there are a lot of markets
where we haven't had a change to be in. For
example, we are here in California (at the Winternationals)
and we've never had an opportunity to come to
California before, so it's penetration of new
DRO: Would you
compare the level of facilities in NHRA to the
facilities in IHRA?
I think you've got to take them one at a time.
NHRA has a number of facilities that are better
than others, same thing in IHRA. You know you
can call them A, B, and C facilities, NHRA has
A, B, and C facilities and IHRA has A, B, and
C facilities no question about it. Now, does one
have more A's than the other one, yeah it could
be, but the both have some really super facilities
and they've got some that aren't as super.
DRO: Several teams,
like Virgil Hartman, have talked about also
running some IHRA events. Is there a chance
that you could show up in San Antonio or Rockingham
PR: We've talked
about it, but we have not made that decision,
we'll just have to see. It is not part of our
schedule, our schedule with CARQUEST is for
23 NHRA races and we have one match race in
Salt Lake City with Doug Herbert and I can't
DRO: Is there
a chance that you might go back and race a funny
pause) Yeah, there's always a chance, there's
been a little talk of that, but right now I'm
focused on being with John Mitchell's team and
it's a dragster deal and I love racing diggers.
Funny cars are a lot of fun too though, there's
no question about it. I love driving cars that
have the motors in front... I love driving.
Somebody asked me if I wanted to be involved
in drag racing in a different level besides
driving and they couldn't understand why I didn't
want to. I said wait a minute, you've got to
understand something...I don't like drag racing,
I like to drag race and there is a big difference.
DRO: And you don't
want to be a spectator?
PR: No, if I was
a spectator I'd be fishing.
DRO: What do you
like the most about returning to the NHRA series
and when was the last time you ran the full
PR: This is the
first time I've ever run the full NHRA schedule.
Don't get me wrong, IHRA has been very good
to me and I think I've been good for IHRA, too.
So it's been a good thing, truly you have to
view it as "stepping up to the bigs" and this
is the big leagues and I'm no different than
a kid that played double A ball and got a chance
to go to a farm team or got a chance to go to
the bigs. I'm the same way just a little older.
I'm just as thankful as I can be just to be
here, I'm proud to be here.
DRO: Do you have
a sense of the difference between the media
coverage at NHRA and IHRA?
PR: Sure there's
much more over here at NHRA, it's a bigger show
that touches more people. The people that are
over here have more notoriety in the motorsports
world, that drag racing is a part of. It's back
to the big pond - little pond syndrome. You
can be the baddest guy in IHRA--and its not
putting IHRA down--but in the motorsports make-up,
which is a huge pond, nobody knows you. If you
can be the little fish over here in NHRA and
perk up once in a while, then they know you.
I have a lot of friends that are in other forms
of motorsport, IRL, World of Outlaws, and so
on, they always call me and say, "Hey I saw
you were doing an NHRA deal," but nobody calls
me to say, "Hey I saw you won the IHRA championship
again. Not that it ain't tough, not that I'm
not proud of it, but it's a big fish - little
DRO: If you win
the NHRA championship this year, will you retire
and go bonefish fishing in Florida?
PR: I will retire
from drag racing when three things happen. That
is when CARQUEST decides to do something else,
because I'm so comfortable with those people
that it would be tough for me to go out and
find another sponsor, although that could be
a possibility if that happened. The other thing
is when it is not fun for me, I'll go fishing.
But the third thing is, and this is as important
as any of them, when it's not fun for my family,
then I'll go fishin'. It's a family deal and
I've got to go get kitchen clearance.
DRO: You're 56
years old and you've been racing for a long
time, yet you still seem to have the same fire
that Dixon or Schumacher have. How do you hold
on to that?
PR: It truly is
a mental game and that's why, shoot, Shelly
Anderson, look at Rhonda, look at Shirley...
You can be skinny, fat, strong, weak...it's
a mental thing, got nothing to do with physical.
When I decided to come back racing in 1995 I
was going to go run sprint cars again and I
just thought at that age, I want to be able
to do this for a while. In sprint cars I used
to get beat-up and you break your collar bone
all the time and you heal right up, and I thought
if I want to do this long-term I'm gonna get
beat-up and I'm not going to heal fast enough
and that ain't going to be fun.
I decided to go back to running Top Fuel just
for that reason, because I wanted to continue
to do this as long as it's passionate for me.
That word is way overused, but here's what it
boils down to: I really like racin' them young
guys and I really like whippin' up on the young
guys. Once in a while it happens and I think
the reason why is 'cause I want it bad. When
I'm done, I want it bad. If I cut a light on
somebody, in my estimation I just wanted it
worse than he did. That's the whole deal.
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