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Photos by Jeff Burk
The most talked about subject in drag racing since the official end of the professional drag racing season with the running of the NHRA World Finals is the sale of the eighth-mile doorslammer series known as the American Drag Racing League to its founder Kenny Nowling and his Fight Hard MMA, LLC, partners and the announcement of the start-up of a similar league (Xtreme Drag Racing League) by a Texas-based group of racers including Jeff Mitchell who is in the oil and gas business. DRO editor Jeff Burk had the opportunity to sit down with Kenny Nowling for his first interview in over two years to discuss a wide variety of issues including what caused him to be fired and what he will be doing as the head of the new ADRL.
: After being forced out of the presidency of the ADRL at the end of the 2010 season, you isolated yourself from the drag racing community. There has been much speculation as to why you were forced out. Could you please set the record straight for the racers, manufacturers, and fans, regarding what happened and why?
Kenny Nowling: When Sheikh Khalid (Al Thani), with whom I had built an incredibly strong personal relationship, originally came to me and offered to buy the ADRL, majority owners Dave Wood and Tommy Lipar agreed to sell it. I only owned 25% of the ADRL. I signed my 25% over to Dave and Tommy’s company, so they would totally own and could sell the ADRL to Sheikh Khalid and they did. I had an agreement, a handshake, if you will, with Sheikh Khalid on how the ADRL was going to continue to be run and grow. Obviously that agreement didn’t hold. For that I owe the entire ADRL family and really the entire drag racing community, an apology. I would have never signed over my share of the ADRL or agree to sell if had I known that that the philosophy and direction of the ADRL was going to change radically. I really felt like it was in the League’s best interests to sell it.
I’ll never forget the words Dave Wood said to me: “Kenny, you’ve done a great job. We’ve got lots of fans, lots of sponsors, but with Khalid’s money, his passion, his resources, he can take this cart a lot farther up the mountain than any sponsor or any Texas millionaire can.” I’m paraphrasing here but that is the gist of our conversation and the reason I signed over my shares so that the ADRL could be sold.
: What happened during the period of time that you were working for Al-Anabi Racing and Sheikh Khalid Al Thani?
KN: Well, for instance with Khalid’s influence and financial clout we were able to enter negotiations with companies like Red Bull, which would have never happened without him.