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 markets.

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 this season?

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 wait!

DRO: Is there a chance that you might go back and race a funny car ever?

PR: (thoughtful 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 schedule?

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 fish deal.

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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