Volume X, Issue 9, Page 76

: Who’s Jessica? It was her idea to give the tickets away?

KN: Jessica Alcoke, my assistant. It’s a story that’s been told many times. At Memphis, back in 2006 when we had 112 people show up on a Saturday, the wind was certainly out of our sails, she just made an off-hand comment, that we should just give the tickets away, and then at least we’d sell merchandise. She was our Director of Merchandise at the time. Now, at 23 years old, she’s probably the youngest executive in motorsports, or one of the youngest! And her idea was just to give the tickets away, which at first was just an off-the-hip comment that turned into some dialogue between the two of us. She kind of pushed for it. She said, “Just imagine if we gave away thousands and thousands of tickets and people showed up, and imagine what it could do, for me specifically as far as selling merchandise.” And I thought, you know what, this could get me back to what I do best, which is selling sponsorships, as opposed to going out and playing P.T. Barnum to put people in the circus tent every night, you know? So we let the people into the circus for free, and it’s my job to go out and sell the signage that makes up the circus. So for us, that was our defining moment. Every company has one, and that was ours.

: And when was this?

KN: That would have been at the Memphis drags in 2006, which would have been… I can tell you the exact time. Let’s see here… And the only reason I can tell you the exact time, is that it was right as first round eliminations were getting ready to start at Memphis, right when we did the National Anthem. And doing the National Anthem in front of 112 people is the most uncomfortable thing you will ever do. I would rather have been walking around naked than have the National Anthem sung in front of 112 people. In fact, if not for the fact that I am a tried and true patriot, I probably wouldn’t have even had it sung. Let’s see here, that would have been Saturday, May the 20th, 2006.

: It is well documented that NHRA did everything it could to stop you in the beginning, up to and including threatening tracks with loss of their NHRA sanction if they held an ADRL race. How are your relations with the NHRA now?

KN: In my hand right now I hold our 2008 ASO letter. I never wanted to get into a battle with the NHRA.  You know, I’m a huge fan of all drag racing, and that’s certainly including the NHRA, so the last thing I ever wanted to do was get into any sort of legal battle or public war of words. To be perfectly honest, I was flattered that they were paying such close attention. Because before what we referred to affectionately as the Rockingham Effect, at Dragstock III when we had to close the spectator gates because the fire marshal said we had to, I was blown away that we were even on their radar screen.

It (NHRA’s objection to ADRL events) wasn’t for the reasons people were led to believe; it wasn’t for issues of safety or insurance or anything like that. We’re adamant that we had all the proper safety rules in place; we’ve had all the insurance in place. I think it was just an effort to play bully, to be perfectly honest. Since then we’ve worked very hard to repair any damage that was done during that period of time. We’ve worked very closely with the NHRA.  Are we following their direction in any way? No, but at the same time, we realize that the tracks need the NHRA, and I feel like now the tracks need us. You know, we’ve given a lot of tracks another truly marquee date on their calendar, and I think that’s important. I mean, if you’re open 365 days of the year, only having one major financially impactful weekend is one thing. Now, we’ve given a lot of tracks the opportunity to have another, so we are on the approved sanctioning organization (ASO) list, and I hope we continue to stay there. 

We entertaining the possibility of not just going to NHRA-sanctioned tracks, but in 2009 actually going to a couple of NHRA-owned tracks, such as Atlanta Dragway or Gainesville Raceway.  If that comes to fruition, that will help strengthen our relationship with the NHRA, which is important to me, because they’ve been around a long time. They’ve been the industry leader. I’m not going to sit here and tell you it’ll always be that way (NHRA being the industry leader); my goal is specifically to make sure it’s not. You know, we have some pretty lofty goals in our future and a lot of hard work ahead of us. I have a lot of respect for what the NHRA does, and I’m still a fan, and I still TiVo their shows, and I read DRO, and check out their coverage of NHRA events, you know?