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How do you feel about the way current NHRA president Peter Clifford and his team are running the NHRA?
JR: NHRA has changed presidents lately and Peter Clifford got the job, and he has worked on marketing. Take what he did for the Pro Stockers as an example. Clifford mandated the change in the wheelie bar length. I guess that was to make them wheel stand. I don’t agree. If they (Pro Stock cars) are slower that is not good. He took the scoops off the hood, he made teams turn the cars around in their pits so the fans could see them working on the engines. That’s marketing, that worked.
This sport has a broad range of drivers. Diversity is the buzz word being throw about. NASCAR hangs their hat on Danica Patrick. So then going back to your marketing premise, do we need to do more with Courtney and Brittany, Leah, Antron, Cruz, the Arana’s?
JR: I’m not into that at all. Hell, when I raced Shirley all the time, she is a friend of mine. She is a good driver, in any respect man, woman or child, she is a good driver. And that is all that matters. We need to get away from drawing any lines. Because she is a lady that is somewhat exceptional. I think NHRA got carried away “The World of the Woman”. Come on! Shirley was a good driver, but without a crew of guys around her she is nothing.
Do you think NHRA is missing the boat by not cultivating younger racers that race nostalgia nitro cars? Team owners apparently are looking for someone who can write a check instead of looking for those kids who can really drive and have the desire.
JR: Oh yeah, starting with Jr. Dragsters and moving up. I think they have done that with people like Erica and Shawn (Langdon) there are a whole shit load of guys who did that.
What classes do you think now are driving the NHRA?
JR: The program that draws the fans are the professional cars. When the fuelers leave, the people leave the stands. I’ve seen that a lot. And the fans don’t stay until the fuel cars come back again. Nitro cars draw the fans.
Nostalgia racing in both the Pro and Sportsman classes seems to be gaining popularity with racers and fans. What’s your take on Nostalgia and would you consider going nostalgia nitro racing?
JR: Stop right there, nostalgia by the very word means it is over. Nostalgia means old and it is over. It will go for a while, because they had 38 cars at Bakersfield for a sixteen-car show. So right now it is tremendously popular. But remember those are cars that resembled cars that ran in the sixties and seventies, and a lot of those guys are dead or dying, or just damn old, one or the other. I’m one of those guys. I had one of those cars; I don’t want one again. I was asked and I said NO! Been there done that. I’m only interested in doing better. I like the big show guys, those guys haul ass. How can you not like the big show stuff? Lots of people say they are too fast to watch. Well, if you are looking for excitement let’s make them run right at each other. NOW THAT WOULD BE EXCITING!
So you feel nostalgia racing is just a passing fad?
JR: I think it is a brief flurry, yeah, for sure. For me nostalgia dragster, front motored dragsters are the most popular ones. But their numbers are dwindling ’cause it is getting too expensive to do it, and they (NHRA) don’t pay them anything. The NHRA likes it ’cause they get this terrific show for nothing. The NHRA don’t pay them shit. It won’t last at all.
Speaking of nostalgia, what is your opinion, 1,000-foot or 1320-foot track length
JR: One thing that people don’t understand is that the speed is set inside the quarter mile, or thousand foot, which ever. Remember they turn on the speed clock at sixty feet before the finish line, and shut it off at the finish line. Same at the eighth mile. We have already had a car 299 at the eighth. So the speed is determined by the average time it takes to go through that sixty feet. So they are still accelerating past the speed zone. They have already had a funny car at 335 in a thousand foot. The 1320 is over, all the drag strips are too short except for a handful.
Are we now into bullshitting the people about what is going on here? Just tell them what is going on here. They will understand, just let them know what is happening. The tires will not stand that much pressure and that kind of speed, and the continued use of it. On a run, another 320 feet of track is a football field and the end zones. How would you like to be in your fuel dragster bouncing in the shutdown area at 250 miles per hour with the brakes on trying to stop it and then someone removes a football field of track from in front of you? You would shit. Can’t do that. It will always be a thousand feet from now on. It could be eight hundred feet or eighth mile, but probably not.