You've had experience working with a wide variety of racing series and sanctioning bodies, so what is your take on them, starting with the NHRA? [Ed. note: this interview was done prior to Tom Compton's resignation as president of the NHRA and Peter Clifford taking over.)

CB: All of the sanctioning groups are different. The NHRA management and the NHRA relationship is different than dealing with other groups because they are a partner in the event and they are actively involved with all areas from parking to sales to competition. Some of my closest friends are on that management team and there are lots of times where we disagree and then shake hands later and move on. Sometimes it's a while later before we shake hands and move on (laughing). There are things I do that they don't like and there are things they do that I don't like. However, there's no malice being directed toward one another; we all want to do what's best for our organization. In the end, we care about drag racing at Gateway and they care about drag racing at NHRA.

I know you didn't ask me, but I need to share this observation. I've butted heads with Tom over some things in the past, but I respect what he's done and I'll give credit where credit is due. Had it not been for Tom Compton, I don't know how healthy the sport would have been following the recession. While other sports properties were losing 40%, 50% and even 60% of their fan base, the NHRA slipped a little but got through it in pretty good shape. The problem we have is that most of the people doing the bashing are the guys with blinders on and all they look at is NHRA Drag Racing. They all live in the halcyon days of Winston Drag Racing when there was money to burn, thousands of tickets dumped into the market, and red paint everywhere. That was a special time and it will always be part of the "Good Ol' Days." It's time to get with the reality of the sports business in 2015. Take a look at the baseball stadiums, take a look at the NFL stadiums, take a look at almost any property…everyone took a hit.  

These days drag racing management teams from all levels and disciplines are subjected to much more scrutiny and criticism from social media. How do you as a track operator feel about that?

CB: One of the first things that needs to happen for the entire sport of racing, not just drag racing, is that all of the people who claim to love the sport and then turn around and bash it need to go away. It's time for the keyboard commandos who say they care about the sport and then bash it to start following soccer.

It's not just NHRA where this happens. It happens in every form of racing and every form of sports. I know promoters who've closed their tracks down because they grew tired of the feeding frenzy of the sharks on Facebook. A guy pours his soul into owning a track, loses his house due to consecutive rainouts, and some idiot who has never run a track is telling him he didn't try hard enough? Finally those promoters just shut the doors and went fishing.

I feel bad for people who have to go to work each day who are trying to do something positive and yet every move they make is criticized by the people they are trying to help. Making what seems like an obvious change could have a domino effect and everything has to be calculated properly. Everyone thinks that a change can happen overnight…it can't.

If you truly love the sport, whether you are a racer, a track operator, a sanctioning body person or the editor of a web magazine…you owe it to your sport to stop hurting it and start helping it. Helping it means pulling the rope together in the same direction.

What, if any, changes would you make to the NHRA program to bring more fan and sponsor interest in NHRA national events?

CB: If it was strictly from the show side of things? I would place more of an emphasis on the Saturday night shows for eliminations with header-flames under the lights. Keep Sundays open as the make-up date unless it's a market where Sundays are a home run. Reduce the shows to two days. Three rounds of qualifying on Friday and eliminations on Saturday evening may work better in some markets. If it has to be a Friday, Saturday and Sunday format there needs to be header flames under the lights on BOTH Friday and Saturday night.

I know scheduling is a nightmare, but in a perfect world I would want to see a race every other weekend with the exception of the Western Swing. The swing was a big story back in the late '90s because it was the only run of three in a row. I'd like to see it changed up so that Brainerd joins that mix and it becomes the only four-in-a-row stretch.

Makeover Pro Stock so the cars look like real Camaros, Mustangs and Challengers and go to fuel injection. NASCAR finally did it…it's time we did it.

Pro Mods and Nitro Harleys at all of the shows with a couple of jets and pyro at the end of Friday and Saturday night.

Shake up the sportsman and divisional program so that the Super categories get a few tweaks and bring eighth-mile heads-up drag radial, heads-up classes into the system. That's the biggest growth area for sportsman racing; we might as well give them an ultimate goal. Again, that's just my opinion and I could be wrong.  But I base that on feedback I get from not only die-hard drag racing fans but also Sprint Car, Supercross and Dirt Late Model fans that only attend one race a year. They are looking for the thrill, and everyone loves a good thrill show.