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"Hard to believe but it has been 15 long years since Tom Compton was anointed as Dallas Gardner's successor to be president of the NHRA. He assumed the reins of a corporation that in 2001 was still rapidly growing and Nielsen ratings for the TV show were at their peak. The series was generating plenty of profits for itself, its sponsors and its track operator "partners". It was a good time to be president of the NHRA.
During his time as president of the NHRA Tom Compton had a few significant moments: He oversaw and lost a lawsuit against the NHRA by the Pro Stock Truck Owners when their class was dropped; Nitro racer stars Scott Kalitta, Darrell Russell and Eric Medlen lost their lives in crashes; NHRA reduced the distance of the track for nitro burning cars from 1320 feet to 1000 feet; and he instituted the Countdown to the Championship where the Pro class champions for the year are decided in the last six races of the season. In my opinion his most successful accomplishment was guiding the NHRA through the downsizing of the company necessitated by the financial crisis in 2008, without making any really drastic changes to the organization.
On July 1, 2015, he "retired" from the NHRA after more than 60 days of unexplained absence as the president and being off the grid. He made no public appearance to announce his retirement. There was also no explanation from NHRA's Chairman of the Board as to where Tom had been or why he "retired" and none is expected. NHRA's actions regarding the former president remind me of how some political changes were handled in the former USSR. Political figures would "retire" without any explanation and were never to be heard from or spoken of again.
On July 1 the NHRA board of directors, headed by former NHRA president Dallas Gardner, held a well attended telephone press conference announcing what was already well known: Peter Clifford had replaced Tom Compton as the fourth man to serve as the president of the NHRA. [NOTE: The entire teleconference is available at http://www.dragracingonline.com/analysis/xvii_6-anhra_transcript-1.html]
Mr. Clifford now officially takes over the presidency of a motorsports sanctioning body/corporation much different than the one his predecessor inherited. Gross revenues from races and tickets sold is down. The number of sportsman entries per event generally has trended down compared to 2008. In 2015 sponsorships and number of teams for NHRA's professional classes (except Pro Mod) are way down. It would have been nice if the NHRA would have informed the press they had as to what steps they are taking to fix the problems. There were none.
The press conference represented one of the few and best chances the NHRA management team and its new leader, Peter Clifford, have had in a very long time to change the perception the press, fan base, and their rank and file racers have of the current NHRA. Not only was most of the online/print drag racing journalists asking questions, but several large magazines including AutoWeek, Hot Rod Magazine, and Drag Racer had representatives asking questions but getting no usable answers. It was a golden opportunity wasted.
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