DRO: What do you see as NHRA management’s current issues? 

TM: I think NHRA’s got their hands full right now. They’re seeking sponsorship money to bring in to keep their gates open. The fans don’t have the money to bring their families out to the races, so to try and fix that I see that they’re (NHRA) selling one-day tickets for less money, so if you come on a certain day it’s less money; they’re trying to help a little bit along that line.

As far as the racers are concerned, you know the racers are their own worst enemies. NHRA learned years ago that if you open the gates, they’ll come. When I was with UDRA in the ‘60s, we were the ones who started to have the drivers’ licenses for the drivers and we pressed NHRA and Wally (Parks) for the $200 round money way back when. I think now you can go to an NHRA race, qualify and get $10,000 for first round loser.

To me it is a lot of money, but if you figure out what it costs to run these cars nowadays with the size of crews, it isn’t enough. We used to have one or two guys on a crew, now they’ve got a dozen. Some of those guys change a motor every run. So there’s big corporate money out there but not for the little-guy professional who’s out there trying to run and compete like (Jack) Chrisman who goes to those races and qualifies, but  has to be  very careful and not ruin anything. The NHRA has to find a way to help those racers like Chrisman.

DRO:   How do you think racers and fans see the NHRA?

TM:  I think a lot of people like NHRA, a lot of people don’t like NHRA. But people really don’t understand how the NHRA could be having money problems.  I’ve  raced for the IHRA, AHRA, NHRA, and private track owners over the years since 1953, and it’s always easy to be the guy who looks into the bleachers and goes, “Oh man, they’ve got 20,000 people paid,” when actually there’s 2,000. People don’t know, looking at the stands.

The owners have always got beat up about the money, and NHRA gets beat up all the time, oh we like them, we don’t like them. But stop and think for a minute: without NHRA, how much racing would there still be going on with the corporate and the nice dragstrips, just like we watched that Charlotte track where they ran four abreast on that concrete track. I mean, there’s some heavy money spent on some of these tracks. If it wasn’t for NHRA, you wouldn’t have any of that. So love ‘em or hate ‘em, without ‘em we’d be in big trouble and so we just carry on.

The little guy’s going to complain and the big guy’s going to make money, and that’s just what’s going to happen in the sport, I think.

DRO: When you were an owner, and it wasn’t that long ago, you could run any tire and buy any fuel you wanted. How do you feel about Goodyear tires and VP Racing Fuels having a monopoly?

TM: Well, back when I started racing, all we had was recaps. And then M&H came out with that 20/15 tire that we all ran for a long time. From there eventually Goodyear came into the sport, and other people tried to come into it. I had a lot to do with the design of the Goodyear tire in the early days. I used to enjoy that, and I’ve seen it come a long way. ‘Course now you’ve got a company the size of Goodyear in there. They’re the only ones who kind of survived with the engineering basis. You’d have to see, to go to the engineering building in Akron and watch them build those tires to really appreciate what goes into that tire for safety and strength.