Volume X, Issue 8, Page 104

: In terms of Funny Car expense escalating was the Bernstein “Batmobile” part of the catalyst that caused that?

DP:: Well, yeah. You know, drag racing…the beauty of it and what’s made it what it is all these years, is people being innovative. So they come out with different superchargers, and platform grilles, or Garlits goes mono-strut, Garlits with the rear engine car, billet blocks from Jasper, First we had cast iron blocks, and then cast aluminum blocks, and then billet aluminum blocks, and then billet cylinder heads, and billet blowers, and where do I stop? That’s how it all happened, and, of course, along the way we used to do this to make a dollar too. A lot of us still make our living drag racing, but along the way, more people got into it that were financially wealthy, right? And they started doing this as more of a hobby, and put a lot of money into it raising the bar (for the rest of the team owners.)
: What steps should be taken immediately to turn around the costs? Can the genie be put back in the bottle?

DP: No, I don’t think you can. It’s like shutting the door after the cat got out of the house, you know? It’s a little late. If you want to turn the cost around, I think a big step forward is this thousand foot. I’ve got to give NHRA credit for putting their foot down and doing that. I wasn’t a big fan of it, because I wanted to put more restrictions on the engine before things got to this extreme.  And I’m still saying that if we don’t get more restrictions put on the engine, they’re still going to be tearing them up at a thousand feet.
There’s two things that you see happening. There’s fewer cars coming, and they’re still tearing the engines up as we speak. I’d like both those things to change, I’d like to see more cars out there and I’d like to see fewer parts torn up on these cars. We need to find a way to keep that from happening.

: Is there something specifically you can point to?

DP: Well, crew chiefs and all of us, mainly the crew chiefs, they all have a different opinion on how this should be done. And have you ever tried to organize something where everyone has a different opinion on how something should be done? That’s why I never joined PRO or any of these organizations. I haven’t seen it work yet, because they all have a different opinion. They will have to, sooner or later they will have to, and we’ll only do something when you have to do it. If they don’t have to then they aren’t going to change a god-damn thing.

How long do you think it’s going to take to turn this around? Is it going to be this season, next season?

DP: Probably when Obama gets into office, I guess. I don’t know. Like I said, I’m really pleased with the thousand-foot thing. I was pretty amazed they would do that, because that’s been a sacred number, because the sport was built on 1320 feet. I’m amazed how little affect it’s had on the spectators. I’ve not heard one spectator say that it was a bad show because you didn’t run an extra three hundred and twenty feet. ‘Cause when you go out the thousand foot mark, you’re still hauling ass, and you’re popping parachutes, and you’re in the lights, so I don’t think that’s going to hurt anything. And it’s a baby step. It’s not a huge step, but it’s in the right direction, and, like I say, we’re going to have to find a way to stop tearing up the parts, and we’ve got to get more guys out here.

There’s a lot of guys, they can’t afford to buy a new billet supercharger, the latest trick of the day, they can’t afford to buy a lot of these parts. And the top cars, I know guys out here who run these Top Fuel cars out of their own pocket. Millions of dollars! I’m not talking a few hundred grand, I’m talking millions of dollars they spend. You know, they’ve raised the price to race to where the average guy can’t do it. Sure they can do it, but is it healthy?

Is it healthy to have a bunch of people out here racing out of their own pocket, and not having sponsors and so on? Because sooner or later -- and I don’t give a shit who it is -- sooner or later you spend enough dough out of your own pocket, your wife’s going to say, “Hey! I could have bought a new diamond ring with the money you spent!” Sooner or later, they get tired of spending it. I know some guys and real wealthy guys, out of Las Vegas, that claim they’re not going to run their car next year because they don’t have a sponsor, and these guys have got a lot of money.

: One time you told me that Kalitta had more money then God. That’s one of the things that’s driving this. It doesn’t matter whether he has a sponsor or not.

DP: No, it doesn’t matter. But you know Connie’s a good friend of mine, and I wish him all the luck in the world, and I love the guy personally, but when I sit and talk with him and he’s talking about 747s and billions of dollars, and I’m worried about paying my Sears bill, and paying $45 a gallon for my nitro, we’re not in the same playbook, you know?

:  Let’s talk safety a little because you have. What do you think should be done to help the drivers get the cars stopped on the top end?

DP: Well, I think they’ve already done that by shortening up to a thousand feet. I think that’s going to have a great effect on the cars.

: Can you see a time when we’ve got thousand-foot tracks and 1320 tracks?

DP: No. I can’t see a time when we’d run a thousand feet at one track and 1320 at another. That doesn’t even make a whole lot of sense for anybody. You’d just go back to blowing them up again.  You know it’s hard to do these things, these interviews, without being negative. I really can’t see any need to go back to 1320. What I see a need is, is like yesterday [Friday qualifying at Sonoma] not tearing up engines out there. But we probably will push it to the limit. That’s what we do. That’s what these guys are hired for, to push it to the limit.

: If you were 25 years old again, would you get in one of these cars?

DP: If I was 45 again, I’d get in one of them. Twenty-five! Jesus Christ! What, because it’s dangerous or something? No, no, when I retired, I retired. I don’t want to do like Bernstein and second guess myself and come back. I think that’s a bad idea. I didn’t approve of that; Kenny knows it.  I think it was an honor for me to get  the kind of send-off I got, and he got, and I don’t want to go back on that. I’m not that kind of guy.