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During your tenure as the president of the IHRA Evan Knoll and his Torco brand had a major impact on the IHRA. He funded a lot of Pro and Sportsman teams and supposedly put a lot of cash in IHRA racer program with sponsorship from his Torco Oil business. Eventually Mr. Knoll was subject to Federal charges for illegal money manipulation. Did you ever have any idea or inkling while Knoll was spending all that money with the IHRA that he might not be making his money legally?
AP: No not really. He was rather convincing and was a open book with documents that supported his wealth. Obviously the documents were false. Evan paid and pretty much paid on time. For two years his million dollar check cleared so who were we to question. The third year the million dollar check bounced and the fun began.
What is the primary difference between the IHRA you took over from Bill Bader and the current iteration? Do you think the current IHRA is better prepared to succeed than its predecessor?
AP: We had far better resources both financially and promotionally. To this day the largest crowds IHRA ever had were when we had the promotional tools to work with. The current group has none of those assets.
The IHRA has been bought and sold by so many different entities over the years, can you briefly explain why so many large companies have bought the IHRA and in relatively short order sold it?
AP: None of the companies made the purchase because of IHRA. They all purchased to acquire the major properties like Monster Jam. We were the step child that came along. That doesn't mean they didn't invest to make us better. They did. When it was all said and done drag racing didn't fit the business model which included a reasonable return on investment.
If you had the time, money and youth, and it was for sale, would you buy the IHRA? Why or why not?
AP: No I wouldn't. I would wipe the slate clean and start from scratch. Drag racing gets bogged down by its own historical baggage.
Was track sanctioning and the sportsman racing program a significant profit center for the IHRA when you were in charge?
AP: It was a great profit center for IHRA. That's why we focused on it so much. To my knowledge a membership or track sanction has never been rained out.
Is there any one thing you did or decision you made as the President of the IHRA that you really regret and why?
AP: When we decided to rebrand the IHRA as an entertainment company I should have fought harder to expand the concept. We were on the right track. I wasn't thinking big enough.
All professional sports leagues including drag racing are having problems filling their stands these days. It looks so bad on TV that more than a few NASCAR tracks are taking seats out. Why do you think NHRA and IHRA national events are struggling to sell seats?
AP: Product, Price, Presentation, and Saturation. We have lulled ourselves into thinking that NITRO SELLS. Nitro does sell if put into the proper presentation at a price that a non fan will be willing to sample. And there are way too many national events.
After a couple of years to just observe the sport is there any one thing you would recommend be done to improve attendance at drag racing events?
AP: Don't be afraid to entertain. Do whatever you can to make your pro drivers connect with the fan. If the fan doesn't connect, nothing you do will help.
As a fan would you rather spend $60+ on a ticket to watch the U.S. Nationals or a ticket of equivalent price for a Cleveland Indian playoff game ticket?
AP: Cleveland Indians, baby. Now the Browns are a whole different issue.