After 15 years with Tom Compton, the NHRA has a new president.
NHRA is changing its chain of command. Tom Compton, who had been president of the organization for the past 15 years, spending 22 years altogether with the National Hot Rod Association, has retired, the sanctioning body confirmed on 1 July.
As company CEO Dallas Gardner explained, “Tom has been instrumental in getting us through tough economic times and we wish him well.” Apparently, the change occurred on the date it was announced, with stakeholders receiving confirmation shortly before the news went out to press.
Clifford takes his place
He’s being replaced by Peter Clifford, 56, who has been with the company since 1997, serving as CFO (chief financial officer), executive vice president and general manager. Clifford becomes on the fourth president at NHRA, which has been in operation for 64 years. He brings extensive business experience to the organization. Also a member of the NHRA’s board of directors, Clifford has played a major role in the group’s growth initiatives, overseeing NHRA-owned race tracks and relationships with its partner national event facilities and member tracks, publications, information technology, national event business, ticketing, customer service and human resources.
When quickly faced with the issue of quickly replacing Compton, NHRA looked at its “requirements and needs,” said Gardner. “We thought about going outside but decided we had the best man for the job right here. He has the experience we needed so it made all the sense in the world to put Peter in that position.”
Compton hasn’t been seen at any NHRA contest for the past couple of months - at least - so rumors had been swirling about his tenure with the sanctioning body. Gardner did not give any further explanation as to his retirement other than to say the board did not ask Compton to go. “I was president for 15 years,” Gardner explained. “Motorsports is tough, it’s a hard business and drag racing, in particular is difficult. Tom was president for 15 years and it’s no surprise he decided to step down.”
Clifford comments on promotion
As for Clifford, he expressed his pleasure by stating, “It’s a privilege to be named president of NHRA and I don’t take it lightly. There’s faith in me from the board of this exceptional company and our team is beyond motivated; they’re devoted to NHRA’s success. We have a skilled and hard-working team here in Glendora (Calif.) and in the field. That’s what makes this a place I look forward to coming to every day.”
Peter Clifford has a number of initiatives he intends to tackle as he assumes presidency of NHRA and said there will be a series of announcements regarding those initiatives coming over the next few weeks and months as he and his team settles in.
His prime objective is improved television coverage, something the participants and fans of drag racing have been asking for. NHRA will bring production of its shows in-house starting in 2016, rather than relying on ESPN’s regional operations do each show. Clifford did not state whether the Mello Yello Drag Racing Seris’ television partnership will remain in the ESPN family but did state that will be part of the future announcements.
Clifford’s next initiative is increased Lucas Oil Sportsman competitor participation and tracks. “We need to increase our Sportsman ranks and I intend to do that by increasing partnerships and sponsorships,” he said. He also intends to expand media coverage of the sport: “We want to make sure we get coverage as the No. 2 motorsports entity in the country,” Clifford said. Also planned is improved competition at national events and also new fan developments. “Our goal is to have more people exposed to our sport and increased participation.”
'Ready for the job'
Gardner said that “Peter is ready for this job. He’s been here a while now and knows that we have to balance the needs of participants track owners, marketing partners and fans - and sometimes that’s a hard thing to do. he will listen and look for new ideas.”
Although the subject did come up a few years ago, Clifford insisted the professional classes of NHRA are not for sale. “Going forward as a company, we’re very excited about these initiatives we have and very confident about our future. While we did look for a great strategic partner in the past, we’re pursuing the future on our own.”
Clifford is working on increased purses as part of a plan expanding marketing partnerships. “Added resources should help,” he said. “We’ll work with the teams as they generate the majority of their money from sponsorship. We’ll work the teams on marketing and support; we see that as our role. Improved TV will help on the sponsorship part,” he believes.
Addressing the difficulties with smaller fields, particularly in the factory-based Pro Stock professional class, Clifford stated that “Pro Stock is a very important professional class for NHRA. We’re working with the manufacturers and others to improve their competition - it’s all happening behind the scenes.”
As is customary with NHRA, more was left unsaid about this change of leadership than what was spoken and it will take time to find out more about this latest development.