Drag Racing Online: The Magazine

Volume VIII, Issue 10, Page

Along the same lines on how the era has gone along, how would you compare or contrast how NHRA management has changed, under Wally at first and then Dallas Gardner and now Tom Compton?  I mean, what do you see in there that worked?

DM: Well, to me at least and this is a purely personal point of view, it is the logical progression of business today.  I cannot name you a business that is the same today as it was 50 years ago. It's much more competitive, and I'm talking about business overall, not

necessarily drag racing, but it is much more competitive.  It requires so much more in terms of legal knowledge, governmental responsibilities. You pick up the paper every day and see people indicted for various deals and I am not as upset as some folks are because I think it just is the nature of what's happening.  Do I agree with everything?  No, I don't.  Did I agree with everything Wally did?  No, I didn't. 

Therefore, if you approach it from a business-like point of view, then you have to understand that as you transition from what might be described a small personally run business by the guy that founded it to a corporate structure and a chain of command and this whole type of thing.  I worked for him during a period of time when there was some radical changes in the change of command even under Wally and Dallas.

Was Dallas Gardner a good transitional leader?

DM: I cannot say that NASCAR today is the same as it was when Bill France, Sr. was alive.  It isn't.  Just take a look at it. It's obvious.  Their directions and emphasis in this whole bit to being purely race-oriented to more marketing-oriented and progress in that regard and think that's a natural process in everything that we do.  As I say, in my personal opinion is it good or bad?  Only history is going to tell you.

I remember drag racing in the 1970s when it seemed to be much more a part of mainstream pop culture than it does now.  Where do you think it stumbled, as it has never seemed to fulfill the promise it showed at that time?

DM: That is a very difficult question to answer because I can't, at least, pinpoint any specific cause for that.

Would you agree with that assessment in general?

DM: Well, I think that it is certainly been overshadowed in a lot of ways and I often wonder if memory isn't playing tricks on all of us when we remember "how good it was."  I think at one time it probably enjoyed a stronger cult following.  Maybe that's the wrong phrase, maybe we have the cult following today.  I'm not certain it is of any less today; it may be that everything else has grown more rapidly.  That's kind of my take on it because I think that…you used the word stumble.

 I think one of the great problems that was created coming out of the late '70s was the rapidly escalating cost of a racecar.  Now, I cannot name you a sanctioning body short of the “claimer” racing on short dirt tracks or spec motored stock car series that has had success in controlling costs of racing.  Look at NASCAR, look at Formula 1, and look at IRL.  IRL was founded on the premise that it's going to be cheaper to do.  It would be interesting to see a dollar to dollar comparison to Champ Car today.  So, I'm not even certain that it's possible to put a handle on racing cost because if you did you would by necessity limit performance and sometimes, I think, we may place too much emphasis on performance, and by that I mean numbers and not enough on the actual competition side by side.

Speaking of performance how do you feel about scoreboards that show the speed and ET of every lap?

DM: I'm not so certain, and I may be proven wrong, but if you took off the scoreboards and you went out and sat in the grandstand, I would defy someone sitting there to tell me the difference between a 4.85 pass and a 4.55 pass.  It would be very difficult to do.  You have such a sensor overload from nitro racing it is almost impossible to pick out a time.  Speeds are a little different, you can tell when a car is accelerating in the last 300 feet as opposed to one that's kind of nosed over.  But the point is that elapsed time is very elusive and after watching thousands of cars run down a race track, I can't to this day get really close to what it is.  I can hit it to within a 10th or 15th hundred, but I'm talking about a way to be able to tell a big, big difference.  I don't know any solution to that.  We base this whole sport on numbers. Everybody is saying, look he ran 4.42 or 338 mph or whatever.  I'm not so certain that that is as good as it should be.  There are a couple of things.  The scoreboards, while they are the greatest tool an announcer ever had because you can say other things and the fans still know what is going on, I sometimes wonder if it doesn't detract a little from what should be the deal, which is the side by side race.


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