DRO: As the sport has gone more mainstream, is that spoiling things? This sport was built on rebellion. This is almost the last bastion of defiance.

Ace: I think that's probably correct. At the tail end of my driving career, (announcer Dave) McClelland or (Steve) Evans would say, "You know, you guys get out there at the other end and everybody compliments your competitor and how great they are. We need some controversy." I said, "For 20 years, you guys have been on my ass for getting into it at the other end. Now you want a fight down there, like we used to have. What do you want? Make up your minds."

DRO: Does that kind of wear on you, too? If you genuinely dislike the other guy, great, but isn't it a pain to have to manufacture hatred?

Ace: Yeah, but we can't anymore. I'm not the hothead that I used to be. But there's a still a button you could push that'll get me there. But when that happens, I can't control that. I've
learned to control it way better than I ever have before, but when it comes right down to it, it happens and then I get in trouble. It's lawsuits, and it's fines, and it's all of that. Well, screw that.

DRO: That's what I can't figure out. In this age of excess, of extreme sports and on the edge, in-your-face TV and films and our culture in general, why haven't the mainstream media caught onto drag racing?

Ace: That's an ongoing question. We talk about what we have. We look at corporate people to come in here and they go to the starting line and they feel something that they've never felt before. Why hasn't that caught on? You go to a Cup race and they come in their limo and they parade through the garage and they go to their suite and that's all well and good. I know we'll never be what that is. I know we've made leaps and bounds. Why it hasn't caught on more, I don't know.

DRO: It's the vicious cycle, though. You do need Corporate America to keep investing so teams and more teams can afford to race.

Ace: I told Jimmy Prock years ago, "I'm glad I'm not you." He looked at me funny and said, "What do you mean by that?" I said, "You're young. Your entire life is in front of you. This is what you do. You've got to put up with NHRA's crap the rest of your life. I've only got to a few more years." In one respect, probably the things I used to go off on -- track preparation, different issues I used to raise all kinds of hell about -- now I look at it and I say, "Nothing I can do about it." It is what it is. I can raise hell. Is it going to change it? No. So I make my adjustments, whatever it is I got to do, and go on down the road.

DRO: Look at Rob Bruins. He didn't win one race the year he won the title in 1979. And 20 years later, in 1999, Tony Schumacher won just once on his way to the championship.

Ace: That's not my desire. I look at the big picture. We're No. 1 -- that's not real. Do I want to win a championship? Yes.

DRO: Still, it could be a matter of money.

Ace: At this point, and again, we're just getting started, as far as funding holding anybody back, I can't use that for an excuse because there is nothing that Doug wouldn't buy or spend if I said, "We need this to do better." So whether it's Schumacher or Prudhomme, do they have something that we can't afford? No. Prudhomme doesn't have a blower dyno. Doug does. Flow bench, all the stuff you need, Doug's got it.

DRO: So technology-wise, you and Doug have as much as the Schumachers?

Ace: Yes. Now there's a little bit of difference, probably . . . we haven't used that equipment to its fullest potential yet. But we will.

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