DRO: That brings
up a good point, though. How much does/will
Clear Channel influence the future of IHRA?
Peaco: The director
of motorsports for Clear Channel, Charlie Mancuso,
oversees the IHRA and the monster trucks, motocrosses,
and all the other properties, and he is very
interested in IHRA. He sees IHRA as not having
reached its potential yet -- as we all do. I
think just lately with the restructuring Charlie
sees what will come out of it and looks at the
people involved. He already had faith in the
people that they could do the job, but probably
never quite saw how it was going to get done.
I think Bill presented him with a plan for the
new IHRA and Charlie is very excited about it.
Suddenly there is a renewed vigor in the IHRA
property. They are very interested in IHRA and
have some lofty goals for the division. If we
are all working as a team and if we all do what
we're good at there is no doubt we'll get to
where we need to be. Clear Channel wants IHRA
to be more than drag racing. We're a division
of entertainment, a portion of Clear Channel,
and that is what excites people. Entertainment
is what sells tickets.
DRO: Doesn't that
make some racers nervous about maintaining competition?
Peaco: It does.
They think we're going to do away with all the
classes and jump motorcycles over the grandstands
or something and dismantle the organization.
Really, it's again that deal where you sit at
home and look at these changes and can't even
fathom what's going on because you are not behind
the scenes. But behind the scenes, nobody has
any interest in dismantling IHRA or not racing
for points anymore or booking in all the cars.
Nobody has any interest in that. We want to
continue to run races.
DRO: But monster
truck racing started as a much more competitive
series and now we all know it's just an exhibition.
Peaco: Don't get
me wrong; the show is important. Folks that
show up on Saturday for the Night of Fire and
pay their $30, they don't want to see Top Fuel
oildowns and Pro Mod oildowns; they want to
see a show, to be entertained. It's kind of
neat because there are a lot of folks that I
would say are drag racing fans, and there are
some who just heard about it on the radio and
they know there's going to be fireworks. But
they're going to see the rails, and jet cars,
and wheelstanders, too.
It's all about creating a balance between what
the racer wants, what the fan wants, what the
track wants, what the sponsor wants, and what
we want as a sanctioning body. I don't see us
ever doing a deal where our Top Fuel cars are
racing for the same money or we're not really
keeping track of points. I really don't see
DRO: Could we
see some Clear Channel musical acts perform
at IHRA events?
Peaco: That is
not out of the question. Clear Channel is a
huge company with a lot of diversity. They are
into music and all kinds of different stuff.
We're not going to turn the quarter mile into
a concert when we're trying to run Top Fuel,
but that doesn't mean I can't see a point in
time where we are running our competitive racing
like we know it, but we're also adding on that
entertainment. And I'm saying the entertainment
might not even have to have wheels on it. It's
going to be what people are coming to be entertained
by. Maybe it is a concert, maybe some kind of
a stunt, or something altogether different.
That's what IHRA and our national event operators
have already started thinking about. What do
we have to do sell our places out?
DRO: What personal
mark do you want to make on IHRA?
Peaco: I want
to improve IHRA in 2004 as I'm looking ahead
to 2005, 2006, and 2007. I won't be making any
changes just to feel like I'm doing something,
and I don't want it to become just like NHRA.
Both sanctioning bodies have unique identities
and it's really important to me that we maintain
the look and feel of an IHRA event.
I'm not dreaming. I know some folks are not
going to be happy with some of the decisions
that will have to be made, but I hope they let
me know their opinions, good or bad.