DRO: What are the biggest challenges facing IHRA today?

Polburn: No question, the biggest challenge is the combination of the economy and the war. At no time over the last 30 years have we faced these kinds of conditions. We've gone through three or four different recessions before where I've been involved, and we've been able to overcome all of them. But I've never been in a situation where we faced war and a recession at the same time, so it adds a new challenge to us.

This is a time when you actually increase your presence. You have to spend even more money to get your word out. You become more customer-service oriented than you ever have been before in your life. If you think you were the best before, you have to be even better now, because the public will buy a ticket to an entertainment event, but they want the A material. They want to know that they're buying a ticket to see the best there is, so it's up to you to create that show and go after it.

At no time during these types of conditions can you back off. You have to pour it on, so we're actually working harder and spending more money to probably just maintain the same audience we had before. And it will turn; these things are actually pretty cyclical. They cycle about every five or six years and right now we're at the bottom part of that cycle. If the last 35 years are any indication, it'll cycle back up and we just want to make sure that when it does, we're in a position to knock 'em dead again.

DRO: You mentioned the Edmonton race earlier. Are you at all concerned about its success, considering the grumbling from some professional racers about having to travel so far?

Polburn: Well, this is just Aaron talking, but the only concern I have is with Pro Stock. Top Fuel, no; Funny Car, no; Pro Mod, certainly no; because there's enough of all those cars and classes throughout the United States, but there's only one IHRA Sunoco Race Fuels mountain-motor Pro Stock, and most of those cars are based in the east. So there aren't any out west and they are going to have to make the commitment to go out there. Right now, as we stand here, I believe we will have pretty much 16 cars. It could be less, and that's my concern, simply because they don't grow them out there.

So that's my concern, but it should be just a fabulous race. Advance ticket-wise, the Reeves family are just tremendous promoters, and we do need to have a great partner going into one of these races, so in that respect I'm not worried at all. The race will be hugely successful and I'm sure the fans out there will absolutely love the end product.

DRO: Once the first race is out of the way, will that make it easier to go out there, or will it always be a challenge?

Polburn: Yes and no. It will always be a challenge simply because of the geographics of it, but as IHRA continues to grow west, we'll start to grow Pro Stocks out there and we'll start
to grow Top Fuel cars out there. The West Coast Pro Modifieds is already a tremendous association, and they have a great Alcohol Funny Car circuit out there, so the difference to me will be in how they're treated.

When you see how the Reeves family at Budweiser Motorsports Park treats people and how the entire Edmonton area is supporting this race, I look at it as a destination race. The area is beautiful, the people treat you like gold, and I think people are going to have a tremendous amount of fun there and will come back and say, "Yeah, it was a few thousand miles away, but it was the best few thousand miles we've spent going to a race," and that'll be the way it grows.



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