: I'm sure you're following really closely John Force Racing's struggle to find full funding for the 2015 season. How does that affect what you do on the corporate level? I'm sure you work together with him to some degree. How does it hurt you when you see John Force, a 16-time champion and the face of the sport, struggling to get his own personal sponsorship?

TC: Just so you know, we work with any and all teams that reach out and ask for help. We've offered up our assistance to just about everyone out there. And that could mean me or someone else here getting on a plane and flying to a corporate office and making a presentation. It could mean us putting together a PowerPoint presentation that's very compelling, using our Scarborough Market Research that we pay for . . . that the teams probably couldn’t do on their own.

When I took over, a lot of people felt the NHRA was out to take their sponsors. Team sponsorship is by far the most important part of sponsorship. If you don’t have teams, you don’t have a race. That is something I preach and believe and really try to help with. I have been to many, many meetings with teams making presentations. We have a lot of good research here, a lot of good statistics, a very compelling story to tell about the sport that can really help sell sponsorships.

So we work with John just like all the other teams. I might add that I would never bet against John Force. I can tell you that he's talking to some very exciting companies. If he's successful, which I think he will be, I think it’s going to be good, not just for John Force Racing but for the sport as a whole.

: Is he going for – and is the NHRA going for -- the consumer market and not just the automotive market? Have you always tried to do that? Or is that a new wrinkle as you try to expand your collection of sponsors?

TC: Are you talking about John Force or us?

: Both. You can't speak for him, I'm thinking, but how about the NHRA?

TC: The automotive – we call them "endemic" sponsors – will always be extremely important, because those companies are very involved with our fan base and always will be, based on the nature of the sport. So it’s kind of a little of both. The endemics are very important, and certainly bringing new industries in to branch out and bring more investment into the sport is as important as keeping the endemic sponsors.

: Clearly, NHRA national events are attracting fewer fans. What do you attribute that to and what is your management team doing to turn that around?

TC: Like I said, from 2000 to 2007-08, we had a tremendous period of growth here. We did extremely well, and I'm proud of that to this day. Then we hit something that's much bigger than any of us, and I think about every company in the country felt the effects of the economic downturn. That did affect our attendance, but I can tell you that we weathered that storm better than most sports that I'm aware of, certainly better than any motorsport. We made it through that. Like I said, we don’t have stockholders, and we don’t have an owner who can inject a bunch of money. 

What we did is we focused on a lot of areas, not the least of which was youth. We went to a "12 and under free" program at all of our company-owned tracks. Most of our tracks, if not all this year, have come up with their own programs for 12 and under, 13 and under. The first few years we put that program together, our tracks increased attendance in that age group 64 percent. In 2012 and 2013, we saw our attendance start to lift again, and we're seeing a similar trend this year. So this will be the third year in a row of attendance growth, if that continues.

So there were a few years there that I don’t think anybody could have prevented. And I don’t think we’re out of the woods yet, either. I don’t think the average family in this country is necessarily back to where they were in 2008. So it’s going to be a long process. But we did weather the storm quite well.