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LB: There are some positives to something like that, and again that would be shortening it up on Sunday to where there’d maybe be good television coverage. It’s just something that….
DRO: Makes a better package for the guy who buys a ticket for Saturday night too.
LB: Right. It all has to be looked at. You know that NASCAR is going through a lot of changes right now; there’s a lot of talk about them doing away with this ‘Official Such and Such of Whatever’, like there’s some tracks right now that Toyota is the official truck, and there’s other tracks where Ford’s the official truck. Well, what they’re realizing is that in these economic times you can’t close the door on a corporation.
DRO: That leads directly to my next question: How do you like the idea of NHRA giving exclusivity, like in your case the Army has an exclusive and the NHRA won’t allow the Air Force or Navy to come in and do what the Army’s doing. Would you be in favor of them opening the doors and saying, ‘Okay, bring your stuff on in here. We’ll put your recruiting booths side-by-side, but this is what we have to offer for you guys, so if you want to compete on this playing field, come on in?’ And that applies to beverages, etc.
LB: I personally am an advocate of doing whatever it takes to get as many corporations out here as possible. One of the things that I don’t like about our sport is that when you do bring a potential sponsor in here and take him to the line for the first round, he sees a lot of cars that are, shall we say, family run organizations, or privately run teams that don’t have corporate sponsors. There’s a little lack of professionalism. I’m not going to mention any particular teams’ names, but when you bring a potential sponsor here and they see crew guys wearing dirty blue jeans or shorts, and mismatched shirts, and the car has just a white paint job…that level of professionalism needs to be fixed. So, if doing away with the official so-and-so of the sport, like we did with energy drinks and we closed the door on a Red Bull or a Gatorade or whatever, I think that’s the wrong thing. We should do whatever we have to do to get as many corporations in here as possible and raise that level of professionalism up across all the teams.
DRO: Have you and Don talked about this?
LB: Well I’m sure that Don likes to protect his relationship with the Army, and the Army does get good bang for its buck being the official, but you have to compete out there in the market area outside the racetrack. And the product you have, if it’s truly the best, it’ll sell outside the racetrack.
DRO: As the season goes on, if we get to the point where we have short fields all the time -- and I still think that’s a good possibility -- would you guys have any objection to going to an eight-car field, where qualifying actually meant something, as opposed to only having fifteen or sixteen and qualifying only meaning where you ended up on the sheet? Would you like to see a little competition return to qualifying?
LB: Well I’ve always been all about competition, and I hope it never comes to that. I hope that we’ll always be able to continue to have sixteen-car fields, but I really think it’s time that the sanctioning body and the racers as a group turn to doing whatever it takes to attract more corporations and raise that level of professionalism. I can remember a time Miller Beer was here, Budweiser, a lot of corporate sponsors’ cars were here. And I was friends with a lot of guys from the Indy Car area, Roger Penske’s team. And when I brought those guys as guests to the racetrack, they were very impressed with what they saw. It’s dwindled down a little bit from that day. We need to get it back to that or supersede it.
DRO: If it got to the point that we were short in both fields, do you think we should go to one nitro class, so there would be one nitro winner per event? If so, would it be a funny car or dragster?
LB: Well, it may not be a bad program to have one fuel class, and with the car companies not being able to really support the teams besides Ford’s relationship with John Force, that might not be a bad idea to have just one fuel class, and maybe they all be dragsters. I don’t know, I mean I really like both of them. On our team we have two dragsters and three funny cars, we don’t have any kind of sponsorship program any more with Chrysler or Dodge. Though we run the Dodge Charger body, there’s no relationship with them anymore. Funny cars are a huge part of the history of drag racing. I will always hope we could at least have sixteen good quality funny cars and sixteen good quality dragsters out there racing.
This is the end of part one. Stay clicked next month for part two!