DRO: Can you comment on the departure of Top Fuel Harley from the IHRA mix? Was that a sponsorship issue?

Polburn: Yes, that's exactly what it was. The class was essentially funded by the Harley-Davidson Motorcycle Company and the Screamin' Eagle brand, and everything was going
fine, but the bottom line, just as all these other companies are having economic problems, so did they and they needed to find some cash and said that they were not going to renew the program. So it's pretty simple; if you don't have the funds to renew the program, you don't have the funds.

So, we went out and scrambled to find other sponsors to pick up the class, but were unsuccessful in doing that. And again, did it slam the door on the Nitro Harleys? No. If we can find the funding to bring them back we certainly would. But from an economic standpoint, it would be impossible to make up the money that Harley-Davidson put into the program.

DRO: Was it a blow to IHRA to lose the class after bringing it to a higher prominence in racing?

Polburn: Well, again this is me, Aaron, personally talking; to me, it was a helluva' blow. I'm a fan. I love the class; I like the people involved. But did it affect IHRA as a whole? Quite honestly, very little. The outcry has been staggering by its lack.

DRO: In one of your recent columns in Drag Review you questioned why NHRA announcer Dave McClelland refused to mention "IHRA" when Top Fuel champ describing Clay Millican's achievements.

Polburn: It's interesting because just a couple of days ago I actually got a letter from [NHRA founder] Wally Parks, and Wally Parks essentially said that Big Mac was not given any orders from anybody to do that; he did that on his own volition; he was wrong; he apologized; and he felt that he thought Clay Millican should be recognized as the IHRA Top Fuel world champion, and that IHRA racers should be given their due. He wished us the best of luck, liked the column, and that's typical Wally. Truth be known, he's one of my heroes and always has been.

DRO: What's the overall relationship like right now between IHRA and NHRA?

Polburn: It's a business relationship. It's a competitive relationship. The big misnomer is that we hate them and they hate us. I think the word would probably be that they tolerate us and we tolerate them. We're going in two different directions. I actually have a lot of very good friends inside NHRA and I know they have the same in IHRA.

DRO: Do you feel the relationship is better now since you and Bill took over the reins of IHRA in 1998?

Polburn: Probably not, and I'll tell you why, because back then I don't think they thought we could do what we did. So perhaps we're a little more threatening now than we were in the very beginning. Back then, I don't think they cared. Now they care.

DRO: You obviously still enjoy your job and you're nowhere near retirement age, but how long do you expect to stay in racing, and with IHRA in particular?

Polburn: It's a good question, and I don't know. I think what you said is correct, and as long as it's fun I'll be here. When it ceases to be fun, I'll be gone tomorrow, but right now we're having a ball. Right now it's still a challenge; it's still growing; I still enjoy coming to these things; I still enjoy promoting these things; so, God may have other plans, but I don't see the end.


Previous INNERviews
Sports Compact racer, Marty Ladwig — 4/7/03
General Motors' Fred Simmonds
— 3/7/03

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