DRO: It became high maintenance?

CC: It became high maintenance. Header Flames begins, at first just a Letters to the Editor kind of thing. It's like this weird magazine where nobody reads the features, everybody reads the Letters to the Editor. You know if you pick up a magazine on the stand and you read, "Secrets of the Dead Sea Scrolls Unveiled," you don't even look at that feature, you just look at the letter section, and so that was a pretty interesting phenomenon I felt.

DRO: It also became a rallying point for the nostalgia dragster world, to call people out.

CC: Yeah, just letting people know what the new rules were or what time is. You know, Top Fuel on Friday or whatever it is. Header Flames was really very close to modern in the sense that you've got all these graveyards and first wave, second wave, drag racers who can barely figure out how to check their email using this thing as a sense of community, using this weird undefined thing as a sense of community. So you've got somewhere it's Lions drag strip set in Blade Runner on some weird virtual lake. It's like the bleacher bums of Lions drag strip sitting and kibitzing, but they can't meet at Lion's anymore, it doesn't exist. And you know people were from Kuwait that were ripping with people of Hawaii that were ripping with people of Florida. I'll never forget there was a California Hot Rod Reunion and all those people went to the California Hot Rod Reunion, they've never seen each other but they all knew each other. I remember pointing out to Dave Wallace in the pits at Bakersfield, "Hey that guy's from Hawaii, that guy's from Florida. They've never met," and they're just laughing and slapping each other and having a grand time and Wallace said, "Spare me, it's a goddamn Star Trek convention."

DRO: What ultimately soured you on it or made you want go in another direction?

CC: As I said before, life is about progress, life is about change. The irony of the Nitronic Research phenomenon is that people who had gotten away from drag racing, kind of like I did, kind of came back right at the time the internet happened. So there is an arc and a curve there and people's lives do change and people come together, but you know maybe it's a time that people go apart again. I made so many connections and friendships based on this Internet phenomenon, this drag racing Internet phenomenon -

DRO: That's how you and I met.

CC: Exactly! And there are friendships that I wouldn't trade for anything, but if they're real friendships they will endure beyond the drag racing person on the Internet. I am personally at a phase in my life where I'm not that interested in drag racing again; I mean the spectacle has got such a great whole that you can't ignore that, I mean Fuel cars are one of the greatest things that happened.

DRO: Whether they're front-motored or back-motored?

CC: It matters not to me at this point in my life. But my point is that this sport, I don't know, again maybe it's a reflection of the economy, you know, car counts are down. Everybody is really struggling to maintain what they have and when people struggle to maintain what they have they get very conservative and I don't mean that in the physical sense or the political sense, I mean just in like, "How can I keep my job?" And the last thing you want to do is go off or be interesting. That's what drag racing always was - people that just went off, there were these weirdo individualists. So, we're in another phase where the weirdos are on the fringe again and that's in the nostalgia scene and that's in the big show. There's no room for nut cases and drag racing has always been about nut cases for me, so when you're in a period where there's fewer nuts, I'm just a little less interested.

DRO: There have been a lot of the nuts out there that have predicted that Nitronic is coming back.

CC: You mean the Internet Moonies - the Nitronic Internet Moonies?

DRO: Yes, that you're gonna put the Nitronic Research.com or Nitronic.com on Ebay to sell - what's the future for it?

CC: It's mothballed, it's dead, it's an experiment that failed. Just let there be a monument and I have no desire to sell it to anybody. I have no desire to resurrect it. I'll probably maintain the domain name for a few more years and just keep the epitaph on the gravestone, and I think that's enough.

There's life beyond Nitronic for many of us. If not... man.... whoa! So that's it. You know, it's really weird because it's not something tangible like Super Stock or the original Drag Racing USA or whatever -- like wow, I've got the 1973 version with Gil Fredrick's Rocket Car on the cover with a stunning model and you can hold it in your hand or take it to the bathroom or sell it or do whatever you want with it. So, that's the great irony. Nitronic you can't hold in your hand, which is kind of great about it -- it's truly ephemeral, it's truly transitory, it's truly gone.

Previous INNERviews
John Force, Part 1 — 7/16/03
John Force, Part 2 — 7/25/03
Scott Geoffrion — 6/6/03

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