Volume X, Issue 10, Page 103

: Let’s talk about the Al-Anabi race teams and sponsorship with the ADRL.

KN: We’ve been talking. I was admittedly ignorant about Qatar and Bahrain and that whole region. I think, like so many Americans, it’s easy to look at someone who’s Arab and think the worst because of what happened on September 11th. We are very sensitive to that piece of our history, but everyone involved with Al-Anabi racing that I’ve dealt with on a personal and professional level are just first-class human beings from top to bottom. I’m thrilled to have their support in the ADRL, and I think we as a drag racing community should be thrilled that someone with their resources are interested in investing in our sport on any level.

So, their commitment to the ADRL from a team standpoint is that we’ve got five, maybe six, guys who will be competing next year throughout three classes that are part of the Al-Anabi Racing team.

The only thing I can say is I apologize for any presumptions I may have made privately. I’m man enough to admit that I may have made the wrong presumptions when they first got involved. I’ve done my homework and I’m glad to have them involved with the ADRL.

: With six teams and a major financial commitment, are they going to have any influence over the racing series?

KN: No, absolutely not. None of our sponsors or team owners do. Not even the National Guard or Dave Wood and Tommy Lipar -- and Dave and Tommy are in a unique position because they own significant stock in the ADRL, but I’ve always had a very clear and defined pact that there would never, ever, be a time when a sponsor’s financial investment would have any effect on rules or administrative procedures or anything like that. I’m sure that question has made its way through the pits as well, but I can give you an absolute, positive “No” to that question.

: Before the Al-Anabi folks even expressed any interest in this, I heard through Rickie Smith and a couple other guys that they wanted to have a race in Qatar. Is that a possibility, have ADRL race there, and if so, would that be a points race?

KN: One of the things we’re discussing -- and it wouldn’t be a points race, it’d be more of a bonus race -- Khalid Altani and I have discussed taking the top four in each class over there during the off season and being part of a specialty race, which the ADRL would sanction. Again, I think it’s just wonderful for drag racing.

If my passion and sport were horse racing and they wanted to get involved heavily in that, I think it would be fantastic. By “they” I mean anyone passionate and with the resources they have. And with the passion they have for drag racing, let’s face it, they could spend their money on anything they choose to, and the fact that they choose to share the same passion that I specifically share, I think that the people involved with the ADRL, and our fans and sponsors should all be grateful. I’ve spoken to a couple of our other sponsors, not to ask for their blessings, but just to get their input, and everyone, including the National Guard, was excited about their involvement.

: What about safety? Since we first talked, we’ve lost Steve Engel, and you and Tim McAmis have started a program similar to John Force’s to try and improve the safety of Pro Mod cars. You want to talk about that a little?

KN: Tim McAmis approached me. Tim and I actually drove up to Engel’s funeral together, and had a lot of time to reflect and discuss this new driver safety initiative. I wanted to jumpstart things, so I offered that the ADRL put up the first 10 thousand dollars, to get the program off the ground.

I think it’s important that we all take a step back, not just in light of the tragic circumstances surrounding Steve’s death, but if other organizations are going to continue to run these cars to the quarter mile, and they’re going to continue to push 2,700-lb cars to the limits of 245+ mph, I just think, and Tim agrees, that while I may not have the technical acumen of Tim McAmis or Chris Bell or the individuals that are involved in that program, what I could do is help to get the word out and help to grow the financial piece so that we can get enough money into the program to make these cars safer.

I also realize that even though the ADRL only runs eighth mile -- and this is a good time to reiterate that we will never, ever change as long as I am president and CEO of this company -- I can say that the speeds we’re starting to reach are concerning me. I look at Motor Mile Dragway, for example. We didn’t have an issue getting these cars stopped even last year at that facility, but now we’re having to talk to them about potentially adding some more shutdown area again, because these cars, even in the eighth mile are beginning to run 190, 205 mph, and that, just in my opinion, is fast enough to get someone hurt. We’ve just got to pay more attention to the safety aspect.

: Are you looking at anything specific about safety?

KN: In my initial talks with Tim, there are just so many different things. Tim brought up a couple of simple fixes as far as just extracting the driver in the instance that they’re in a situation like Steve Engel’s. Steve was obviously a very big man in a small car, part of the issue that they had with him. I’m not saying it contributed to his injuries, but part of the issue they had was just getting him out of the car. One of the things all of Tim’s cars have is a steering column that splits halfway down the shaft and comes off, as opposed to the wheel just coming off. That’s just one small example, and I’m sure that as time goes on and this program sort of gets its feet under itself, I just think we’ll see a lot of improvement in the safety of these cars. And at the ADRL, we want to be at the forefront of that.

I spoke with Carl Olson at SFI, and there are several things we’re looking at doing next season, but I’m also receptive to the fact that we don’t want to have a knee-jerk reaction and create a bunch of additional costs for our racers. As I told Tim, we will only be involved in this project if we not only look at how to make the car safer, but how to do it in a cost-effective manner. I think that a lot of times, there can be knee-jerk reactions by a sanctioning body, and the racers go out and spend tens of thousands of dollars that they didn’t necessarily need to spend on things that didn’t greatly or dramatically improve the safety of the car. So, cost effectiveness is going to be a key element of that.