Drag Racing Online: The Magazine

Volume VIII, Issue 4, Page

  You told me earlier that you added Funny Cars to the program, but you didn't have to raise the prices of tickets. How did you accomplish that?

Polburn: Well, Evan Knoll basically picks up the purse. We (Live Nation) pick up the World Championship funding. He assumed the major part of the financial load, we pick up a portion of the financial load and that's how we were able to do it. But, knowing full well that we have a three-year deal with the Torco Funny Car program, I’ve told every track operator, and I truly believe, that if at the end of three years Evan doesn’t want to continue, we need to be in a position to take over the funding of the class ourselves, or to find some another marketing partner. We really need to take these three years to put ourselves in a position whereby our front gate pays for the purse and everything that goes on. My intention is for the Nitro Funny cars to be part of the program for ever, not just three years.

  Speaking of classes and adding and dropping classes, the rumor running through the pits here is that this is the last year for the Alcohol Funny Cars. Can you comment on that at all?

Polburn:  Well, the comment on that is that we haven't even thought about it. Right now, I'm still of the belief that we need a training ground for the nitro Funny Car drivers.  We've had actually two different companies approach us asking what it would take for them to get involved with alcohol Funny Cars and keep them around. If we could put together that kind of deal, shoot, it would be foolish for us not to have the class as a training ground for the nitro cars.Sure, if I'm sitting there and I have an alcohol Funny Car right now, I'm feeling a little nervous. So, have I heard the rumors, yes; have we made any decisions, not even close.

  Any thoughts about rescinding the rule barring injected nitro Funny Cars? 

Polburn: I haven't given it a thought.

  We talked last year about perhaps, IHRA bringing in turbocharged V-6 power plants for Pro Stock. A couple of the Pro Stock guys I have talked to reacted adversely to that possibility and basically told me that if IHRA did that, they’d quit. So I was wondering if you're still considering incorporating the more modern power plant into Pro Stock?

Polburn:   Change will always evoke a response. Most always, it will be a negative response. So, what's happened -- people saying they are going to quit -- doesn't surprise me at all. I believe our thinking got ahead of our learning curve, but I still believe that it’s foolish to ignore the invasion of the Toyotas and Hondas, the Mitsubishis and so forth into drag racing. They’re going to be a part of our future car culture; we have to find a place for them.  For the eMax series that place needs to be Pro Stock. Now, we can talk all we want to about how allowing those brands into Pro Stock isn’t pure. Well, what's pure about an 850 cubic inch motor? I love the (Pro Stock) class as it is and I've told the competitors that. I've told them face to face and I've put it in print. If we leave everything alone, we lose. The sport has to continue to look at ways to go forward. To go forward means how do we increase ticket sales? How do we bring more attention to the class?  The most attention that's ever been paid to that class as far as I’m concerned was when we announced we were thinking adding the turbocharged powerplants. IHRA had more emails, more phone calls -- positive and negative -- about the subject. Just thinking about doing that raised the public’s consciousness of the class. Everyone took an opinion and that's a good thing for the class, not a bad thing. So, have we given up on the idea? No, not even close.

  Considering the fact that Ford and Chevrolet are closing plants and laying people off while companies like Honda and Toyota are both opening plants and hiring people, adding those companies to the mix makes sense doesn’t it?

Polburn:  From a financial picture, you're absolutely correct, but I look at it not just from the issue of who has the money and who doesn't, I look at the fact there are millions of people who are driving these vehicles and loving these vehicles. IHRA Drag Racing needs to have a place for those people to come and enjoy the sport of drag racing.  Now, people are going to say, Why don't you just create a class for them?  Well, my response to that would be that the various Sport Compact series they have are not doing major business. Also, quite frankly, I think having a foreign car versus an American car competition has a lot of merit and spectator appeal.