July 1, 2015
It hardly came as a surprise when Dallas Gardner, National Hot Rod Association’s Chairman of the Board, announced the retirement of Tom Compton, who had served at NHRA’s president for years, had retired, and Peter Clifford, who has been with NHRA since 1998, was promoted to become the new NHRA President.
“In his tenure at NHRA Peter has been the CFO, chief financial officer, executive VP and general manager,” said Gardner, “and what that means is that basically Peter has had his hands on everything that goes on at NHRA for a period of time and at all levels, so he’s intimately familiar with all of the positives, and negatives. We felt like he had been groomed for this position, and it’s a natural for him. We think that Peter is going to be the guy that can take the Association to the next level. He’s enthusiastic. He understands the issues.”
That announcement also closes the door on the unexplained absence of Compton for the past few months. There was no reason given during the teleconference as to why Compton retired, but a statement by Gardner addressed the issue. “I would tell you that I was president for 15 years, and I think you all know that motorsports is a tough business. It’s a hard business, and drag racing, I think, particularly is difficult. And Tom had been president for 15 years. It was no surprise to me that Tom decided he wanted to step down.” There is no future plan for Compton to serve on the NHRA board, as have the past presidents.
Clifford wasted no time in detailing his future plans. “I’d like to thank Dallas and the rest of the board for having the faith in me to take on the role,” he said. “Over the last couple months, the leadership team at NHRA has worked on a number of initiatives, and we’re eager to roll them out over the next couple of months. I’d like to lay them out for you right now, and with each one of these there’s going to be a series of announcements hopefully that come out over the coming weeks and months.
“First, improved television. We understand from a lot of our constituents that we need to address some of the issues facing television, and we have some exciting announcements to come on that in short order” Clifford stated that NHRA will no longer be covered by ESPN2. ‘We’re taking television production in house starting next year. It was previously done by ESPN regional television. There’s going to be a lot of the same because we’re obviously going to tap a lot of the resources that are already out there because we’re not going to recreate because they do a great job for us out there, we just want to make it even better going forward. I wouldn’t say we’re going to go back to the old days (of Diamond P Television coverage) at all because we’ve learned a lot on the television front.”
NHRA also plans to increase Sportsman participation and support their member tracks. Clifford stated that with their Mello Yello Series is “on the top, the base is all Sportsman racing. and we know we need to develop more Sportsman racing going forward; we have a plan to do that.
No. 3, expanding marketing partnerships or better known as sponsorships. Clifford stated that there will be no purses increased in the classes, but NHRA is planning to work diligently to help with sponsorships by increased marketing.
The NHRA staff has had no Media Director since March, so how do they plan to increase their media coverage? “We want to make sure we get the coverage that we deserve as the No. 2 motorsports property in the country,” said Clifford, “and we have a plan in place to do that. We’re going to be adding some resources, and we’re excited about that, as well.”
No. 5, improved competition at national events and No. 6, which is certainly impacted by the first five. “Obviously, new fan development is extremely important to us,” Clifford said. “Our goal is to get more people exposed to our sport in order to increase participation and to add fans.”
Clifford also quelled the rumor that the major classes –Top Fuel Dragster, Funny Car, and Pro Stock — in NHRA are for sale. “I know there was a rumor out there the last couple weeks about us being sold to Bahrain or something like that, and these rumors circulate. It’s not true. We’re going forward as a company. We’re very excited about the initiatives we have that I mentioned today. We’re confident about our future and the company is not for sale.”
While more specifics were requested, Clifford again said that there would be announcements about many of these subjects in the next few weeks.
Regarding his retirement, Compton stated that it “came after much thought, and careful consideration of my own interests, those of my family, and those of NHRA itself. The more than twenty years I’ve spent helping to build the great team, strong partnerships, and robust operations that NHRA now enjoys makes this decision a difficult one.”
In his prepared statement, Compton went on to thank NHRA, its’ partners, sponsors, track operators, and all other NHRA-affiliated individuals and organizations for their generous and much-appreciated contributions to the success they’ve all enjoyed together.