Drag Racing Online: The Magazine

Volume VIII, Issue 5, Page

  Well, let’s leave the U.S. Nationals for a little bit.  Since you’ve been there since the inception, is there any one particular event in your career with Hot Rod Magazine and as the head of NHRA that you are most proud of or has stuck with you?

PARKS: Yeah, every successive one.  I hate to think how many times I’ve said, this is as good as it can get and we’ll never match this, and then come back another year later and blow it out the door. Because it does continue to get better and better and more costly, you know, and much more complex and all that.  But I can’t think of anything offhand.  I think one of the milestones that I am still most impressed with is the introduction that we made in Detroit in 1959.  It was the first time the auto industry paid any attention to us.  We had Ed Cole from Chevrolet and Colvert from Chrysler out there track side, betting on whose car was going to run what race, and we had our first big press conference downtown to focus on the sport of drag racing. And along with that we had our first Petersen Publishing Company introduction that focused attention on the magazine as well.  We launched our advertising program there.  So, I think that was the most important steps forward that we ever made, when we took the thing to Detroit.  I’m looking forward to the time that we will be back there.  In time. 

  Knowing that you are going to say they are all memorable, out of all the racers that you’ve known through the years, what racer did you deal with that has affected you the most or that you feel has affected the sport the most?

PARKS: Automatically, you think of Garlits when you get in this category because he asked a lot of questions and was the most innovative guy in this thing, and despite clashes, we were friends. I think this is a difficult one for me because I see unsung heroes out here that have just been contributing and doing so much over the years.  He was an

antagonist on so many of the safety things that we were trying to put into effect.  He opposed an awful lot of things, but he also got the notoriety for doing so because eventually he would comply. 

All that aside though, is there one guy that has probably had the most overall influence on the thing? I don’t know of anybody that compares with him.  I really don’t.  He’s been the focal point, the center of attention for so many years and he’s time after time come up with new things, some thing he wasn’t the inventor, but he took it and made it work.  He wasn’t the first guy to run the engine on the back by any means, but he was the first guy that went out and won and that’s what gets the attention. But I would have to say he’s also been one of the worse detractors over the years.  But that’s the game.  I have a whole drawer full of clippings on bad mouth stuff.

  You’ve had lot of business dealings with a lot of people in Detroit and various promoters around the country.  Any particular promoter stick out in your mind as somebody that really made some unusual steps to bring people to the race track and to increase the popularity of the sport? Maybe not the way you would have liked to see it done, but the innovative kind of person? Mr. Hart?

PARKS: Absolutely, through all those pioneer years and the years after.  He and I were not always on the same side of the fence.  He’s the guy that taught me how to build a three-log fire, I know that.  We had different objectives on the thing.  We were both going in the same direction, trying to achieve exactly the same thing, but I was in one position over here in publications and club activities and more social hobby things, and he was over there on the practical side, putting things together and making it work.  We were going the same direction, but I can say some of the things. 

We weren’t ready for things the promoters wanted to do and I think the biggest obstacle was we’re down here in a very non-commercial world trying to maintain a solid foundation and grass roots thing.  These other people were putting practical business applications that we weren’t ready for, so consequently we resisted those things.  Some probably for good reason, others, probably because we were naïve.  The problem was, that like any sanctioned body or racing organization, you always know that your rules are the best and the other guys should conform to them; that keeps a lot of things apart.  I don’t think there was ever a time that we didn’t have mutual respect and appreciation for each other.  The only thing I didn’t like about C.J. was I thought there was one place I could go down and run my car without a scatter shield and I went down there to play and they turned me down.

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