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With such a large payday, though, will ticket prices bear the cost?

Howard: I’m glad you mentioned that. There will be people at Huntsville Dragway as a spectator that can’t go to Atlanta, or Bristol, or Memphis to see a national event for one reason or another. So I’m doing something that I do every week at my racetrack. If you show up at our race for the weekend, Saturday and Sunday, it’s $55 for an adult. But if your child is under 12 years old, they get in absolutely free because I realize that some families simply cannot afford to pay for mother and dad and two or three kids to go to a special event like this.

We have a family atmosphere here at Huntsville and I’m going to keep it that way. I want the kids here; eventually they’re going to get old enough to buy a ticket from me one day, but they’re always going to be a part of it.

Another thing I want to do is let all active military people in free. If you show up with your military I.D., you’re in free. I want to do that because I’m a veteran, I went to Vietnam, I know what it’s like, and these people are probably the most underpaid in the world that work hard and lay their lives on the line for us. We have a lot of military people in our town, but it doesn’t matter where you’re stationed, whether you’re from Columbia, Missouri, or Seattle, Washington, if you’ve got that military I.D. I want you to come on in as our guest. That’s just my salute to the soldiers.

What kind of reaction have you had from Top Fuel teams? Are they enthused or skeptical?

Howard: A lot of the racers have almost been over-enthused. I spoke to Virgil Hartman and he said, ‘Man, I’m glad someone’s stepping up to the plate and doing this for us,’ but you know, some of the bigger teams—not all of them—they couldn’t care less. They say they don’t race at places like ours, and in my opinion they’ve forgot where they came from. And I think they were the ones who were crying the loudest about the purse at NHRA. But here’s how I look at it; evidently their sponsors are paying them too much or they have too much of their own money if they can afford to turn this down.

Which drivers are you expecting?

Howard: I’ve got a list right here: Clay Millican, Morgan Lucas, John Smith, Josh Starcher, Tim Gibson, Mitch King, T.J. Zizzo, Bruce Litton, Scott Palmer, Joe Hartley, and “Turbo Tim” Cullinan. Right now that’s who we’ve got pre-entered. It’s going to be two qualifying shots on Saturday and we’ll qualify an eight-car show for eliminations on Sunday.

And I want to say out of fairness to some of the teams that are not coming, this race was not on the schedule at the first of the year for anybody and some of them had planned some time off. The biggest Top Fuel team in my opinion out there, the owner said they had already made plans, but he thanked me for posting this money and if it would’ve been on the schedule earlier he would’ve had at least one car here.

 
 

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