INNERVIEW: Tom Compton, President, National Hot Rod Association

National Hot Rod Association President Tom Compton stared down a vicious recession.

So after not only surviving it but expanding the sanctioning body’s marketplace reach during that bleak economic period, understandably some of the sport’s current concerns (such as attendance, average age of NHRA fans, sensible scheduling, sponsorship sources, and quarter-mile racing versus 1,000-foot racing) are mere blips on his radar. They’re matters he believes the sanctioning body can handle or already has handled to satisfaction.  
At DRO’s request, before the U.S. Nationals Compton graciously fielded questions about his background and beginnings with the NHRA and about some of today’s hot-button topics. And he handled them with aplomb, with an especially rosy outlook, with some powerful data ammunition, and with a refreshing sense of humor at times.

We may choose to share his optimism or reckon that sometimes we use statistics more for support than illumination. Or we may adopt some hybrid theory. But it’s clear Compton sees the NHRA’s progress and future as if he’s looking down at a beautiful tapestry. Cynics or realists might be looking at the same picture but seeing only the knots and threads on the back side of the masterpiece and wondering how Compton sees something wildly different. But that’s the beat of the “I love drag racing” dance.

Either way, here is Compton’s take on the state of the sport, along with a few interjections from Geno Effler, the NHRA’s vice president of public relations and communications. 

: For the record, how did you meet Wally Parks and why did he add you to his management team?

Tom Compton: I met Wally Parks through the interview process, actually. I met him back in April of 1993, when I was interviewing. There was a position -- it was the first CFO/Vice-President/Chief Management Officer job in NHRA history. The company had grown, had growing pains, and had grown to a point it needed a position like that. It previously did not have that. Interviewing for that position is where I met Dallas [Gardner], Wally [Parks], Dick Wells, and everybody.