Ed "The Ace" McCulloch

Part 1

by Susan Wade

Ace is the place -- for a candid look at life in NHRA's fast lanes. Driver-turned-crew chief Ed "The Ace" McCulloch talks about how he has found new life with Doug Herbert, how he plans to compete with the toughest Top Fuel tuners, how you just can't punch out a fellow like you used to, and how he and Don Prudhomme worked together (or didn't). Read why he's glad he's not Jimmy Prock and who's his best guess to earn the Top Fuel championship. By the way, think he has discovered The Snake's secret formula for being cool? Hehe. Find out for yourself and read this "Innerview".

DRO: Drag racing fans nearly didn't have you around this year. But thanks to Doug Herbert, you're still here. How could you think of walking away from something you put so much energy into?

Ace: At this stage of my life, how much aggravation is it worth? Our sport has changed tremendously over the years. The influx of the corporate sponsorship and responsibilities and what's expected . . . it's huge. I understand that. They pay a lot of money to win races. You either produce or you're not going to be there. When I used to drive, I said "when I'm not enjoying driving anymore or if I become afraid of the car, I'm going to quit." Last year was not a fun year (for me). Going into the second year of the two-car deal is when it really . . . maybe partway through the first year of the two-car deal, it started getting harder and harder. Then the fun meter (wasn't registering).

DRO: What was the problem? Was it pressure from sponsors that filtered down through Prudhomme, handling problems with the car or personalities or a whole bunch of different things?

Ace: The pressure comes ultimately from the top. I'm sure the sponsors went to Prudhomme and wanted to know why the cars are not winning. In my opinion, Don Prudhomme needs to be a car owner and take care of his sponsors and hire the people to run the car and leave 'em alone. He owns it; he can do anything he wants. But when he starts becoming more hands-on and gets involved, he makes it worse.

DRO: Do you think that's because he has such a fondness for Funny Cars? Would it have been different if you had been crew chief on the dragster side?

Ace: LaHaie was in a unique position. I'm saying some things here that probably could ruffle some feathers. But LaHaie went out and had performance. As long as he has performance, he can tell Prudhomme, "Get out of here and leave us alone." As soon as (he doesn't) have performance, he'll start getting the help that we had (from Prudhomme) and then LaHaie will walk.

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