: When I talk to track operators and series promoters, one of the subjects that always comes up is the cost of track prep. It’s huge, and somebody has to pick up that tab. It’s so huge that in some cases, purses would be larger if track operators didn’t have to spend $15K to prep the track. The ADRL has a rep of delivering what some racers say are better tracks than the NHRA. Will that continue?

KN:  For me, track prep has never been about performance. Performance may be a result of it, but the ADRL’s evolution with track prep has been about safety. I remember the first time we prepped a track for an Arabian Drag Racing League race. Admittedly, Sheikh Khalid had a much larger budget than most people promoting drag races – anyone in the history of drag racing, if we’re being completely honest – but prepping the track wall to wall and well past the finish line was done out of concern for safety. But if you look at the Arabian Drag Racing League’s races, you can count on one hand the number of significant crashes, and we learned and brought that experience back over to the United States for the next year of the American Drag Racing League.

We will continue to prep the tracks so they’re as safe as possible. The end result, unfortunately from a fan’s perspective, is that sometimes you take a little bit of the awe and wow factor away because the cars aren’t as likely to get wild and out of shape. And as a fan, I have to say, it kind of sucks. It takes a little bit of the entertainment out of it. But to be honest, as a promoter and as someone who cares a great deal, look, racing in any form is inherently dangerous. Carl Olson with SFI said something to me once that really stuck in my mind: “Never use words like safe, safer, safest, more safe in motorsports. There’s no such thing. It’s all dangerous.”

: But that is not the question. The question is, is the ADRL going to continue to do extreme track prep?

KN:  Fortunately, because of our partnership with Jason and Mitchell Scruggs and Scruggsfarm.com, they are going to supply our track prep equipment, our Safety Safari, if you will. They’re going to provide us with tractors, all the best state-of-the-art equipment. How much time that state-of-the-art equipment spends on the track will be completely at the discretion of our Director of Competition, Bubba Corzine.

I will agree with you on one thing: There has been far too much emphasis put on the idea of track prep, and by that I mean in the last few years in the ADRL. It makes the tuner’s job a little bit easier when the track is prepped within an inch of its life, no doubt about it. I think there’s a happy spot in there somewhere. I don’t know where it is. I think it’s been done too excessively so I think it’s just a matter of finding that happy spot. I’ve been told by everyone that was there at ADRL events in the past, racers, fans, etc, the track prep equipment spent way too much time on the track. As someone who believes drag racing is entertainment, there’s nothing entertaining about watching tractors going up and down the track. If anything, they’ll maybe spend a little less time on the track in 2013 than they did in previous years.

: Racers have told me the issue they have is that extreme track prep only benefits the most highly financed teams, that if the track isn’t so well prepped, then you don’t need the very best equipment to compete because it puts the tuner back in the ballgame. How would you respond to that?

KN:  I have to say I agree with that. The legends of the ADRL, as we approach our ninth full season and the tenth anniversary of our first Dragstock, are guys like Frankie Taylor, Jason Scruggs, Hugh Scott or Bennie McDonald who literally paved the way for Outlaw Pro Mod, which subsequently morphed into Pro Extreme.  You can go back and look at their performances, the numbers that Jason Scruggs ran. I’ll use Memphis 2009 as an example when Jason went 3.66. I don’t know what the next closest ET was, but I know there was a big gap. Compared to what track prep’s evolved into today, that track would have been considered one of the worst tracks anyone has ever been down. I think there’s a lot of validity to what some racers are saying. I don’t know that I have the right answer to that or that anyone has, but I strive for that happy spot where we prep the tracks just enough but not too much.

: Do you have any changes that might help ADRL racers prepare for raceday?

KN:  We are going to start by allowing testing at our national events on Thursdays and Fridays – and that’s in an effort to make it more affordable. [Note: the races will be held Saturday and Sunday this year.] Instead of a guy having to travel three hours out of his way to find a track to test at on his way to Martin, Michigan, instead he can come straight into Martin, park his rig, and test. It lowers his expenses, but if we get to the point where we’re only seeing the top tier teams doing that and not a lot of our other teams and it appears to create an unfair balance, we’ll address that on a race to race basis. I think it’s just a matter of paying close attention to your product, trying to make the best decisions, and realizing you’re never going to please everyone.