Drag Racing Online caught up with James during
qualifying at this year's U.S. Nationals, where
Scott Kalitta was making his return to the NHRA
Top Fuel battles in a Mac Tools/West Coast Choppers-backed
DRO: How did your
involvement with Kalitta Racing come about?
John Aden, the president of Mac Tools, and I
are doing a lot of things together like my TV
show, Monster Garage, and we were just kind
of kicking around ideas about stuff we could
do and we said, "Let's just start another fuel
We thought we'd do it with the Kalittas, since
Mac Tools was already working with them, but
we didn't know who we'd get to drive until he
said, "I think I can talk Scott into driving
again," so we talked to him. Connie was into
it, Scott was into it, and we did it.
DRO: Did you have an interest in drag racing before getting involved as
James: Oh yeah, I've followed it ever since I was a little kid, going
to Orange County and seeing Funny Cars and Tom McEwen and all those guys
DRO: So you were
aware of the Kalittas and everything they've
done in the sport?
James: Yeah, Connie
was always kind of a hero for me growing up
and I remember Scott when it seemed like he
was winning every race. But I think Scott was
almost at the stage where everybody had kind
of forgotten about him. But now, this is kind
of jogging everybody's memory, like, "Oh man,
I forgot that Scott was like the baddest driver
DRO: You could
say he was like the Larry Dixon of the mid-'90s,
where if you went up against him, you were probably
going to lose.
James: Well, I
think he's a little bit better than Larry Dixon.
I know Larry Dixon and my money would be on
DRO: As a designer,
did you have any input into how the car would
James: Yeah, and
they kind of freaked out when I sent them the
paint schemes for the tractor-trailer and the
car, but I guess we won best-appearing car of
the event, so I guess it's okay now.
I noticed the car has very unique front wheels,
too. Did your shop make those up?
James: No, the
Kalittas did that. They thought it would be
pretty cool and I thought it was a great idea,
too, because they always show the cars breaking
the beams and there's nothing ever different
about any of them, so I think it's a cool place
for the logo.
DRO: How does
it feel seeing your name and your company on
the side of a Top Fuel dragster at the U.S.
James: I don't
know; it's a little weird. I was talking about
this earlier with someone. It feels like just
last week I was getting kicked out of the Winter
Nationals for sneaking my own beer in, and now
I've got my own car. It's a little surreal.
But it's pretty cool. I think it's kind of taking
the corporate sponsorship out of corporate sponsorship.
You know, I'm just a welder-fabricator and kind
of a smart-ass who's willing to put my money
where my mouth is.