Drag Racing Online: The Magazine

Volume VIII, Issue 12, Page

What are some of the things that get you up on the tire about the NHRA?

WB: I just want, honestly, what's best for the sport and I've been around it for a long, long time. When you look at some of our (track) facilities and certain elements of our sport, someone isn’t getting the job done. The NHRA determines my value in the sport. The job they do determines the value of the teams and the value of the team determines how much are we worth to corporate America. The more money we're worth, the more money we can potentially make, so it's up to the NHRA. That's their job, to make the sport have a certain value -- the television package, the marketing, track attendance, etc. When they do their job right, then all those numbers go up and we're worth more, and when those things aren't done right then sponsors leave and people have a hard time making a living doing this.

Okay, on an A to F grading scale, after looking at the sport over the last decade since the Tom Compton administration has come to power, what grade would you give the management of NHRA?

WB: (Long pause) Well, number one, let me say this, I've worked hard to repair my relationship with them because to do what I do, I have to have a good relationship with them and I can't afford to (tick) them off all the time. So I’ll just not give them a letter grade, but on a pass/fail grade they pass.

Could you talk about some areas you’d like to see improvements made?

WB:  Well, one area that I've discussed with Jerry (Archambault, NHRA VP, Public Relations & Communications) is the TV package. When the race comes on an hour and 20 minutes late, it’s a huge, huge mistake; it's not acceptable. And they have all these reasons and this and that. The bottom line is that if you are a racecar driver and you red-light all the time, it's not acceptable; your performance is not good enough, you need to get better. And that's how I feel about that. There are things about our sport that are not acceptable and they hurt us with corporate America and there's just no denying the fact.

Is there any other area you would like to see improved?

WB: Promote the racers at all levels of the sport more. Make them more valued by giving the sportsman racers more attention in the broadcasts. One way perhaps would be to

have sportsmen race on different weekends.  I would definitely like to see NHRA make alcohol classes more important.  Those classes are where most of the new Top Fuel and Funny Car drivers should come from, and right now it's just not set up that way. The fact is that alcohol racing is not looked at aggressively as a breeding ground for stars of tomorrow as it could be. 

It's not like ARCA or the Busch series is to the NASCAR Cup Series, so I think there could be a way to make it where it would be feasible for the Don Schumacher's and the John Force's to maybe have an alcohol team, a drag racing version of a Busch team and have drivers and crew members come up to the fuel teams from there.

As a driver, do you think NHRA handled the incident at Pomona with Tony Schumacher and Alan Johnson correctly?

WB: I don’t know. I will say as a driver Rick Stewart is going to be compared to Buster Couch, it's just the way it is. Just like Jack Beckman was compared to Whit Bazemore. It's just going to happen.  Ashley Force is going to be compared to John Force, so she better be good, but you know, if Buster told me to do something on the starting line, I would never question it, never, never, never. I would never doubt his input and I can't say that would be true with Rick Stewart because he's their (NHRA’s) guy up there. I've seen him make decisions often times, that I personally didn’t think were right. When someone makes what you perceive as wrong decisions, then you can't trust their decision making. I will say this about that situation though, as a driver you want your crew chief to tell you to shut it off, as a driver you really want that. 

Just to play the devil's advocate a little bit, even though you disagreed with Stewart's decisions, if Buster would've made those same decisions, would you have felt the same way?

WB: I'm just talking about my personal experiences as a driver here, but if I was on the starting line and Buster said, shut it off, I wouldn't question his reasoning. Someone else other than my crew chief, like Ray Alley or Dan Olson next year, I wouldn’t question their decision.

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