biggest news in drag racing is that Bruton Smith and his company
SMI Inc. are making a run at buying the National Hot Rod Association.
According to Mr. O. Bruton Smith, he is making a legitimate
effort. According to Jerry Archambeault (NHRA VP Public Relations
and Communication) no such thing is happening. Archambeault
even went so far as to issue a statement aired on the NHRA
2day program March 20, 2005 where he was quoted as saying,
"No NHRA official, including Wally Parks has had any
discussions about any sale to Bruton Smith."
In order to get the straight information about whether Smith
is indeed talking to NHRA or Wally Parks about the possible
sale of the property we went right to Smith himself and asked
if he would comment on the possibility of adding the NHRA
to his motorsports empire, which includes three of NHRA's
tracks (Bristol, Las Vegas and Sonoma) and numerous NASCAR
facilities including, Bristol, Atlanta and Charlotte. What
follows is the interview conducted by DRO Editor Jeff Burk
with Mr. Smith on March 22, 2005.
first thing I have to ask you is have you had any conversations
with the NHRA and specifically Mr. Wally Parks? NHRA has categorically
denied that you've talked to anyone including Mr. Parks about
purchasing the NHRA or that the sanctioning body is for sale.
smith: Really, they said
that? Well, I talked to Wally Parks about 10 to 12 days ago
and he just recently called me back about some things we've
discussed. I've had conversations with NHRA and Tom Compton
and off over the past three years about me buying it (NHRA).
I actually got the impression they were pursuing me. I haven't
met with Tom
Compton specifically about buying the NHRA; I
didn't think he was the person to talk to about it. I hope
that doesn't hurt his feelings.
I have some of NHRA's premier drag racers working as go-betweens
between Mr. Parks and myself. The main issue I had was to
convince Mr. Parks that if I were to buy the organization
I would share and proceed with his vision for the sport
and its growth. I think I've convinced him that I would.
[Editor's Note: DRO made a quick call to the state of California
just to see if a 501C-6 corporation can be sold and indeed
it can be. According to the state of California the NHRA
could be sold by the person or persons who did the incorporation.
The NHRA was incorporated on 3-31-51. We're still checking,
but we guess that Wally Parks' name is on that document.
So it would make sense that Mr. Smith would be speaking
to Mr. Parks concerning a possible sale.]
Smith, how did you get involved with drag racing and have
you ever drag raced?
smith: I've never drag raced.
I initially got involved with drag racing when I bought Infineon
(the NASCAR/NHRA facility in Sonoma, California). It had a
drag strip. I then bought Bristol and I remembered how popular
it was when it was an IHRA track and was called Thunder Valley.
Attending races at that track back then made an impression
on me. Then, of course, when I built the facility at Las Vegas
I also included a drag strip.