: A while back, NHRA was going to be sold to HD Partners, and Bruton Smith has supposedly made offers over the years to buy NHRA. Do you think that’d be good for the sport?

TM: I don’t know. I remember when Compton announced that deal with the DirecTV owner people, and things were just starting to get bad then. They took a look at it and decided not to spend the money, ‘cause things were starting to turn around on the economy then, and NHRA was going to keep the small classes and those guys were going to take the pros and run with it and everything. So I don’t really know how that would have worked.

I know that the guy that’s been trying to buy them, that has all these dragstrips and NASCAR tracks (Smith), he’s a very, very aggressive guy. He builds really nice stuff and everything. I don’t really know what he would change if he were to take the sport over. You know it’s easy to sit and back and talk to the guys that are crying and say, “Yeah, I’m going to do this and that,” but once you get there and all of a sudden you’ve got millions and millions of dollars every year that you’ve got to pay for and don’t know how the weather’s going to be and don’t know how the economy’s going to be, you might see things a little bit differently than how it looks on paper.

(Tom West photo)

: What do you love about this sport?

TM: I love the power of it. When I was a little kid, I had horses, and I used to compete in junior rodeos and gymkhanas and stuff. I always liked powerful things and speed. When I was sixteen and I got a car, I started racing cars. I wanted to go faster and faster, and soon I started racing a 70-mph car at the drags. I’ve driven cars up close to 300 mph. I like the feel of it and I like the competition of racing other people. I like the power, the noise, I like people improving every year, the guys learning to make more power with their engine. Guys like Gene Adams, Dale Armstrong, and now Alan Johnson and these guys.

Garlits in his day, before they had computers, was as good as anybody. Computers took a lot of people out of the sport because it’s a whole different ballgame than it was in the old days with one magneto. But I like the concept of guys learning and trying different things and everything. It’s a shame sometimes that big boys with money can do things that the little guy can’t, and the little guy’s just as smart; he just doesn’t have as many parts and pieces out there.

I like the speed and the power. My father was a Navy test pilot, and he was killed when I was two years old, in Panama, and he probably liked the same thing and it killed him. So my mother never liked me driving a racecar. She’d never go to the races and watch me drive, but she would watch it on television and brag to her friends about me … but she would never let me know that. So I guess it’s the power and the speed of the whole thing. I always liked that.