Volume X, Issue 5, Page 88

: What other tracks did you manage besides Irwindale Raceway?

GIBBS: Managed Fremont for a short period of time and a track in Corpus Christi, Texas, for a short period of time. It was only about a three-year time period that I was running racetracks.

: During your tenure at Fremont I understand there was an event where the Funny Car racers helped you out financially, led by Jungle Jim Liberman.

GIBBS: I kind of got caught in an odd situation where the fella I went to work for had pretty much been evicted from the event and the event was still in progress. So I went on trying to run a race with nobody backing it. Then it ran and it was obvious that I didn’t have a job anymore since my boss had lost his lease of Fremont. So at the end of this event -- which was just a nightmare -- I’d paid the racers all the money I had leftover after I’d paid off a bunch of other creditors. Of course I didn’t have any money, so when it was all said and done, a bunch of the racers gave me a nice little chunk of money just to tide me over. Which to this day I am grateful for; they didn’t need to do that. You’ll not find very many times when the racers will slip some money back to the track operator.

I always tried to be fair with those guys and they could tell that I had a tough situation and they helped me out. Liberman was one of the main guys in that deal, I’ll never know who all the people were who contributed to it, but at that time it was a nice little chunk of money that helped me weather that time period until I got to work for NHRA later in ’69. It was a pretty moving experience and I am grateful.

: Were there any instances where racers went on strike?

GIBBS: The only instance I was involved with was in the early ‘80s at one race in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. I was the NHRA Competition Director when funny cars sat out that race. That’s the only real one that I can cite. Now there have been some conflicting events, like the PRO Race at Tulsa where a lot of racers chose to run there and not run at Indy, but I don’t know if you’d be able to call it a strike, just a choice of venue basically. So I’d say that was probably the closest thing we had, it was a conflict there and a lot of racers did go to Indy and the race went on.

: Wally had a particular philosophy about racer purses, can you tell us about that?

GIBBS: By the time I went to work for NHRA purses were being paid. I never really sat down in a big meeting with Wally, but Wally was a little slow to push the all-out professionalism of the sport – he was more a guy who came from where the races were an opportunity to run their cars and be involved in a motorsports activity and not a total professional operation, but he understood it and never stood in the way as the sport evolved. It was probably going to evolve with him or without him. I think he was a little slow to jump onboard the all out professionalism as we have today. You know it’s still an issue. Wally was a realist too, he understood the way things were going to go. He was more of a car guy than a star guy – that’s certainly not to say anything negative either, I think he was just more comfortable with that kind of approach to racing based upon his background. You know the SCTA (Southern California Timing Association) and the early car clubs and the early, early forms of drag racing to provide a good set of rules, a safe place to race, ingenuity on the cars with not so much “show business”. Believe me he understood it all and he worked with everybody along the way to be sure the sport was primarily secure and insurable and safe. I miss him a lot.

: I’ve heard you characterized as a “dragster guy.” Is that true?

GIBBS: (Laughs)  I have no idea where that comes from; I mean I’ve got friends in all sorts of (racing) categories. The dragsters have been around longer than the funny cars, so I guess I have known some of the dragster guys longer than some of the funny car guys, but they are the same guys. Look, is McEwen a funny car or a dragster guy or Prudhomme or any of those guys? I think it is nonsense to categorize me as favoring a particular category. I like racers, I get along good with racers and I think that over the years I have dealt fairly with all of them. I probably would resent that, with somebody hanging a title like that on me, because it is just not true.