Volume X, Issue 8, Page 106

: Okay, let’s talk a little about the “Countdown” championship that Tom Compton installed. Has the NHRA, the teams, or you benefited from the Countdown? 

DP: Yeah, I think the Countdown’s been a good thing. It depends on who you ask. I guess if you asked Tony, what’s his name, Tony Schumacher, he’d rather keep going. He’d be way ahead right now.

:  Does it make a difference to your sponsors?

DP: Yeah, I think it’s made a difference. All the sponsors are looking at you to be in it, and there’s only ten spots. So yeah, it’s made a big difference. They want to see you in the Countdown for sure. So, when you get to September, instead of knowing you don’t stand a chance, if you’re in Countdown, you have a chance of winning the  championship.

:  Does the announcement of 1.3 million dollars in purse increases make any difference to you or your team, or is that strictly for outside interest? I mean, you don’t race for purses.

DP: No, it doesn’t mean a whole lot to us, (but) it’s certainly a help. I’ll tell you who it means a lot to, a whole lot to, is the crew members, ‘cause they get bonuses, so it’s a big help to them. I mean, will it make or break our organization? Probably not. But it’ll really help those guys. They appreciate it a lot.

:  You’ve been in the Funny Car class almost from the beginning and had stock-looking cars. Do you actually like the way today’s Funny Car bodies look?

DP: Today’s Funny Car bodies? What, compared to the seventies?

: Compared to something that can be recognized without a nameplate across the windshield.

DP: You know, I don’t really mind them at all, because I can’t recognize a NASCAR Chevy from a Toyota, or anything else until I read what it says on it. They look more like cookie cutter cars then ours do. I think our cars look differently enough. I can certainly tell what they are when they pull up to the starting line, but I can’t tell a Cup car, whether it’s a Toyota or a Chevrolet.

: Unless it’s got a  badge on it.

DP: Right.

: You don’t officially have a two-car team but you have announced that your team has an affiliation with Tim Wilkerson’s Funny Car. Has it benefited you?

DP: I think it’s benefited both of us, yeah. I think he would have done just as well without us, but I think in some ways, the cooperation and talking and the information they share with teams, I think it’s been good for us too.

: Has the idea of an exclusive fuel supplier to NHRA for nitromethane benefited the racers or, now that we’re headed probably towards $2,000 a 40-gallon drum, hurt them? Was giving a supplier a monopoly the right thing to do? Should it be a free market item?

DP: You know, that’s a good question. I was pretty close to the whole situation in nitromethane, because I was one of the first guys to run it many years ago, and I’ve seen how it’s been handled and manufactured and so on. Angus Chemicals out of Louisiana, that’s where we got our fuel at a reasonable price, and they came a few years back and said they didn’t want to sell it to racers any more. I don’t know how many people are aware of that.

It’s not just one simple answer: “Yeah, no, yeah.” You gotta look at why, how we got to the way it is. It didn’t happen overnight, the fuel thing didn’t happen overnight either. They (Angus) came to us, and they were scared to sell us nitromethane because it wasn’t controlled enough. They’re a very responsible company and thought it wasn’t controlled enough, because other companies were out there selling Chinese nitro, and you could basically order it through the mail and that scared them to death, and they didn’t want to be any part of that, so they dropped out of selling the fuel to us for that reason. Because you know and I’m not sure how many people do, nitromethane is the product that was used in the Oklahoma City bombing when they blew the f**king building up.

So, NHRA had to pick a company that they felt good enough dealing with, and that was VP. They picked VP to be the official supplier, and VP had to show them how they would handle it and be responsible and the insurance and all that. So (NHRA) elected to use them as a supplier. And what happened, there is a company called Wego out of the East Coast, they got involved somehow with another fuel supplier. I don’t know, they all started battling between them. Bottom line is, NHRA picked a supplier like they would pick an oil company or whoever it might be as the official fuel supplier, just like NASCAR would pick a 76 or Sonoco as official fuel suppliers.

But all of a sudden and unbeknownst to all of us -- and I don’t know whose fault this is really, probably VP’s more than  anybody -- they shut the nitromethane plants down in China. I was watching the news the other day, getting ready for the Olympics, and they were talking about the air quality over there, how it’s in the toilet, and how all these plants are shut down, and there’s no new construction, trying to get all the cars off the highway in China, and clean the air up. They got caught up in that, so there’s a fuel shortage, just like in this county, right. There’s a fuel shortage and the price goes up.

: What do you feel should happen going forward with the nitro shortage and the price issue?

DP: So I don’t want to see that for any length of time. When they get things up and running in China and we get our shipments, I want to see our fuel costs come back down, and I’m going to be one of the guys out there voting to have two fuel suppliers out there, battling between themselves. But right now, they have no competition, so I could go on and on. But I understand why it’s at where it’s at right now, but I don’t want to see it this way in the long term.