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 that happening.

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.


Previous INNERviews

Tony Pedregon 12/9/03
Funny Car champion Quaker-States his position

Mike Dunn 11/7/03
Don Taylor

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