Aaron Polburn

Words and photos by Ian Tocher

longside International Hot Rod Association (IHRA) President Bill Bader, Aaron Polburn is a guiding force for the Norwalk, Ohio-based sanctioning body. Polburn, 51, often refers to himself as "Vice President of Stuff," as he handles most of the advertising and promotional programs for IHRA and its national-event tracks, as well as consults with member tracks and racers on their individual programs. He also handles much of the announcing duties during national events and has often served as a TV commentator.

Still, despite spending nearly 40 years around drag racing, Polburn says he's never been an active participant in the sport. "I've taken rides in drag cars, but I've never actually driven one," he reveals. "And I can also tell you that all the times I've ever raced in a promoter's race or a media race, I have never won a single round of drag racing. Never. As a pure drag race driver, I suck."

Polburn lives in Ashland, OH, with his wife Beckie and children Jarod, Summer, Jackson, and Chris, as well as two Great Danes, whom he says really run the household. In March, shortly after the country went to war in Iraq, Polburn spoke with DRO at Rockingham Dragway.

DRO: How did you get introduced to drag racing?

Polburn: Well, I was born and raised in Thompson, Ohio, which is the home of Thompson Drag Raceway, which is actually the first track I ever worked at when I was 12 years old. I had a friend in school whose parents lived right next to Thompson Drag Raceway, so they of course had free passes, and he and I would go over and watch the cars when we were about nine or 10 years old. I thought it was pretty cool.

By the time I was 12, I was already over six feet tall and I was asked by a lady I knew who worked there if I would like to work there, too. She had no idea that I was 12; she probably thought I was about 15 or 16. But the idea that I could actually work at something, and at something that was that cool, was pretty neat. So I took the job and I remember I made a dollar an hour and even had taxes taken out at that time. My first job was painting the class designations and the numbers on the cars with a white, chalky substance, and then passing out E.T. cards in the afternoon.

DRO: What was your first big career step up?

Polburn: When I was 15 all the announcers quit, so the owner came down and asked who wanted to announce. Well, no one wanted to do it, so he just pointed at me and said, "You, come with me," and he literally took me up in the tower and said, "Here's how you do it; you press this button; and you speak in here." And that really started my announcing end of it.

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