Drag Illustrated Issue 182, May / June 2023 | Page 153

own recipe . I understand that to be the case , but I do think we showed that it ’ s possible to run all these different combinations on a level playing field .
Part of that was recognizing that we didn ’ t need to have a home run derby . There ’ s a time and place for that , but it ’ s not the WSOPM . The WSOPM is about close competition and creating an environment that anybody can win in .
So many racers call the WSOPM their favorite race or have said it ’ s nothing like they ’ ve ever been to . Why is that ?
Every invitation that was extended to the WSOPM was a message delivered by me . That ’ s how every conversation started , with an invite , but it ended with a real , meaningful conversation between me and a race car driver . I told each and every one of them I mean no disrespect and I ’ m not at all trying to be confrontational or anything like that , but I do not want anyone here at the WSOPM that doesn ’ t want to be here .
This is not an NHRA race . This is not a PDRA race . If you like the way they do it , or if you want it to be exactly the same way they do it at a national event , this is probably not for you . We don ’ t have to fight about it . I don ’ t have to dislike you , and you don ’ t have to dislike me , but I need you to know this is not going to be what you ’ ve always done . If you don ’ t want to be here , if you don ’ t share our vision for Pro Modified drag racing , you ’ re better off not coming because it ’ s probably not going to be what you want it to be .
You hear people say all the time , like , “ Oh , I ’ m all in , I ’ m all in .” Well , then you get to the track , and it ’ s like , “ Oh , I don ’ t like this . Why are we drawing names out of our hat ? Why are we doing this ? Why aren ’ t the clocks on ?”
I didn ’ t have any of that . I just sensed the buyin . I felt like I was walking around with people that were not only supporting my dream but sharing my dream . That is a completely different thing . It ’ s one thing to have people be there to support you because they ’ re good people . The sport of drag racing is comprised almost entirely of good people – the salt of the earth – but to have them be there supporting you , really believing , really sharing the vision – that ’ s a whole other ballgame .
From the moment I arrived and started stomping around in the sand at BMP , I felt that buy-in , and it just intensified with every day that
went by . I was going through the pits at Bradenton and seeing smiling faces , seeing people doubled over laughing , and cocktail parties at night . It felt like we were having a block party or something that lasted a week , and the block happened to be a dragstrip .
This is something that has really hit home in the months that have followed because I ’ ve been to a handful of drag races since the WSOPM , and sometimes these events kind of feel like the next job site . At times you ’ re excited about whatever job you ’ re working on – I know , I sure certainly am – but you kind of get this like , “ Oh , it ’ s the next place where we ’ re in our tent for a few days .” We didn ’ t have that in Bradenton . I felt like everybody recognized that this was special . It was a moment in time . There was electricity in the air on Wednesday that was palpable , and that felt meaningful .
As testing got going , we had these cars making what looked like really good passes to the naked eye . I was hearing all this scuttlebutt because one of the big talking points at the event was the fact that we had the scoreboards off during testing . No one knew what anyone else was running , and it really threw these folks for a loop . I didn ’ t know how much it would throw them for a loop because , in fairness , when they go to a Mid-West Drag Racing Series race or a PDRA race , and they test for two days prior , everybody gets to see what everybody else is doing . So if you know racer A goes out and runs 3.65 , and you ’ re running 3.75 , you know you ’ ve got work to do .
But if no one knows what anybody is running , everybody ’ s guessing . It was just so fun on Wednesday night . Then Thursday night , I was getting texts like , “ Hey , did you hear what Rickie Smith ran ? Did you hear what Jim Halsey ran ? Any idea what Marcus Birt ran ?” It was just funny because I felt in a lot of ways like we were at a street race . It felt like we were in a parking lot outside of town somewhere , getting ready to do something we shouldn ’ t be doing . I think that contributed in many ways to that electricity that I ’ ve been talking about .
There is a tremendous amount of work that goes into putting an event on like this . Who and what made the WSOPM possible ?
My team here at Drag IllustrateD made it possible . I often joke that I ’ ve got a posse full of Swiss Army knives – people that are willing to do whatever job is required of them , and I think that is unusual . You hear people talk all the time about how hard it is to find good help , but I have been rich in human resources for a long time . I have people around me that believe in me and they know that I believe in them . They trust me , I trust them , and we make magic together .
I was just so proud of the effort that went into this across the board . It was a labor of love from the get-go . Everybody understood the magnitude of what we were doing . Everybody understood that we had promoted this thing to the extent that the eyes of the world were going to be on us , and we ’ d be under a microscope . Everybody rose to the occasion and I really can ’ t say enough about that .
It was also possible because my family sup-
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