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Eventually, by working at the racetrack, I saved enough money to put myself through college, at Ohio University, where I actually got two degrees: one in communications, with specialization in radio and TV and journalism.

DRO: Did you go straight into racing when you graduated?

Polburn: Well, I graduated from there in '74 and I worked for a company that owned three oval tracks and two dragstrips, including Thompson Dragway. I actually got into the oval-track business for awhile, but we eventually decided that wasn't the way to go and we decided to get into the ownership, or lease-ship, of various and sundry racetracks, and that's how my real career at Thompson started.

DRO: So, have you spent your entire life in drag racing, or have you had other businesses along the way?

Polburn: No, actually, in 1983 we started a business called Concepts Inc. that was an indoor motorsports deal with monster trucks and indoor thrill shows in arenas and stadiums, and that kind of thing. We had it for about 15 years and grew it into the fourth- or fifth-largest company of its kind in the country before I sold that to SFX/Clear Channel.

And at that time I was also a consultant at Norwalk Raceway Park, helping out [NRP owner] Bill (Bader) and at other racetracks around the country with advertising and promotions. So, I dabbled in it for a number of years while I was doing all that indoor stuff. When I sold that company in 1998, it was the same time that Bill decided he wanted to get more involved in drag racing and he and I decided to team up and try this IHRA thing.

DRO: Was your history with SFX and later Clear Channel crucial to their purchase of IHRA?

Polburn: Well, they were partners of mine in various shows for almost 15 years, so yeah, I had a huge relationship there. And as their company grew, so did mine.

I don't know if it crucial to their purchase, but I think there was a comfort level there since we had done business together for so long. They knew me; they knew Bill; they knew how we did business; they saw the successes of the Motorsports businesses that we were already in, so it certainly helped.

DRO: Did you own a piece of IHRA, too, before Clear Channel took it over?

Polburn: Yes. Bill was a majority owner and I was the minority owner.

DRO: What's a typical day like for you back at the office?

Polburn: There is no typical day. We might be working on buying media for the new race at Edmonton for a couple of hours, and then switch over to putting together the next ACDelco program at Virginia Motorsports Park, and then work the sponsorship side of things, because my wife and I also handle sponsorship sales for events and the series.

It changes constantly. And typically, in a single day, you will answer 25 to 40 phone calls and probably as many e-mails just to communicate with racers, and sponsors, and racetracks wanting to know how to do this or how to do that. Like the title says, it's just a lot of stuff.

DRO: What kinds of interaction do you have with the racers?

Polburn: They'll call me with questions on how best to put together a proposal, or we'll work together on a potential sponsor for their race team. In this business, if you don't work together, you're dead. A lot of racers bring us great ideas, and hopefully we can reciprocate and give them great ideas. For them to grow and for us to grow, we all have to work together, or we quite literally will be dead. We talk to them every day.

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