Drag Illustrated Issue 182, May / June 2023 | Page 150

From the first time I started thinking about the WSOPM , I knew this was possible , and honestly , I can ’ t wait to do it again . There was a season there for me , a few moments of almost depression where I was so sad that it was over . You start to rack your brain ; you start to labor and stress a little bit over whether or not can you do it again . Can you one-up yourself ? That ’ s the challenge we face is to not only maintain this level of quality , excitement , and enthusiasm , but find ways to continue to turn it up . I know that ’ s what this group of people is dedicated to . We truly believe that we ’ re just getting started . I ’ m proud of what we did . I ’ m proud of how far we ’ ve come , but I am nowhere near content .
Going into the event , you got some amazing support but also faced backlash about certain drivers who were and were not invited . How did you handle that ?
The backlash and the fallout from who got invited and who didn ’ t get invited was anticipated . It hasn ’ t made it any easier to deal with . I ’ m a lifelong people pleaser . I ’ ve always joked that I ’ ve built my brand and business on making friends , keeping friends , playing nice , and playing fair . But I knew in order to achieve what we wanted to achieve at the WSOPM , we had to have a certain level of exclusivity . The only way to achieve that was with an invitational format .
There ’ s an infinite number of examples of how well invite-only events work . You can look or point to and say , “ Oh wow , what makes that deal different ? What makes that deal special ?” Well , because it ’ s exclusive . It ’ s a marketing belief that I stand by ; everyone wants what no one else has , and I stand by that despite all the turmoil and some really tough conversations that have been had and probably some permanently damaged friendships . Some people haven ’ t spoken to me since and may well never speak to me again . When I put myself in their position , I ’ d be pissed off too . As much as I understand it and I sympathize , I again stand by the decision , and we will not waver on the format .
While we look to expand the WSOPM ever so slightly moving forward , we also feel we ’ re in a really good spot where we have a really good number of extremely high-caliber race teams involved with this event . That ’ s really the magic . We got all these accolades and all these kudos about how smoothly the event went and that
there were no crashes and no major oildowns , and all these things . While it ’ s fun to hear that it , trust me , that really wasn ’ t about us . That wasn ’ t about Bradenton . That wasn ’ t about the WSOPM . It wasn ’ t about our tech team .
It was about our racers . These are the best guys and gals in the world , the best cars in the world , the best teams in the world . That ’ s the end result when you have that caliber , that level of cars and racers on the property . I know without a shadow of a doubt that if we were to turn this event into a “ come one , come all ” or “ anybody who wants to show up can show up ” deal , I truly believe we wouldn ’ t have had as many cars as we did , and I guarantee you we would not have the quality of cars that we had .
It ’ s been tough , to be honest , and I still don ’ t look forward to later this year when those conversations start again . I don ’ t know that it ’ ll ever be anything that gets easy or that I become desensitized to . It sounds cliché , but I love drag racing , and I don ’ t love the cars . I love the people , and I truly wish that I could have everyone there , everybody that ’ s got a PM on their window , but I also know that that ’ s not what ’ s best for them .
Those are the hard decisions that I think will ultimately define my career and my legacy – the Drag
IllustrateD legacy , the WSOPM legacy . It will be our willingness to make those tough decisions .
That will be like the story many years in the future . I hope when people look back on these things and these events and what happened here , I hope that people appreciate the tough spot that we ’ re in and appreciate that we were willing to make those tough decisions because those are the tough decisions that are required . That ’ s how we ended up with a very concise , well-run show that will work on television and in today ’ s modern entertainment world .
Were there any challenges or stigmas that you faced with the WSOPM ?
It wasn ’ t a big deal for me when I was a young guy to go spend 12 , 14 , 16 hours at the racetrack . There really wasn ’ t anything else to do before video games , virtual reality , social media , and all these things that occupy our time . We ’ re not as hardcore as we were . Now , we need this event to happen in a relatively short window of time . It can ’ t be something that starts at 9 a . m . and ends at 4 a . m . It just cannot be , and all these tough decisions are directly associated with that goal of creating a sports entertainment property .
It ’ s certainly not lost on me that this is a highly competitive event . The integrity of the competition is of utmost importance to all these things . Don ’ t get it twisted ; it ’ s a drag race , and that ’ s what we ’ re here to do . But we also have to put on a show . We have to be mindful of the entertainment value , especially if we all actually mean what we say , because I hear racers week in and week out say , “ Man , I wish the purses were higher . I wish the fanfare was more , man . I wish I sold more merch , man . I wish I had more sponsors .” But if we ’ re not willing to change our ways , if we ’ re not willing to do things differently , we can ’ t expect different results .
Isn ’ t that what they say ? The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over
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