Interview: IHRA President Scott Gardner

Interview: IHRA President Scott Gardner

Where there’s growth in drag racing there is nostalgics and entertainment

By Fergus Oglivy:


Scott Gardner, IHRA President

Eighteen months ago, after twenty years of owning and operating drag strips, Scott Gardner decided it was time for a change. He is now leading the IHRA’s ship from its main office in Norwalk, Ohio.

His timing was well-judged for the reformation of the IHRA was just beginning. The process has been swift in the past eighteen months and its growth encouraging. It’s a time when his motivation and that of his team can flourish. Last year, participation in the Sportsman classes increased by 12 percent and this year the number has reached 15 percent.

The increases have been across the board, but especially noticeable in the Top Sportsman and Top Dragster classes, both of which are sponsored by the Los Angeles racing car parts store, Good Vibrations. “These are fast classes,” says Mr. Gardner, “without having to be in a professional category.”

Scott Gardner graduated with a degree, raced, left his job at Sherman Williams to become a manager at a Great Lakes Dragaway in Wisconsin and had purchased and operated Cordova Dragway in Illinois before he was 33. In the intervening years he and his wife added a further two tracks in Iowa.

“As we approached 2015, our principal plan at the IHRA,” he explains, “focused on developing a program that combined the highest level of entertainment with the resurrection of drag racing classes like the Crower Pro Mod.” Always a tour de force, Pro Mod originated with the IHRA and though a thing to cherish it somehow lost its way through various changes of ownership. But the gentle slide to mediocrity has ended and now they are back!

00-(0095)Reaching a higher entertainment level was accomplished by engaging interesting ways to stimulate the senses. “We introduced the best sound systems through Klipsch speakers,” he says, “who are also an IHRA sponsor, and we added flash lighting with smoke, during the Burnout process. We call it our lights and sound show.” To further increase the drama, drivers nominate their own burnout theme song of which a snippet is played to introduce their car to the fans.

“The sounds and the lights keep our fans entertained, but also tightening-up our show is foremost. Maintaining our feature cars, our eliminations, our Pro racing to a reasonable time is essential. We confine our pre-race ceremonies to ten or fifteen minutes, during which we introduce our Pro drivers and perhaps the fastest qualifiers or the drivers leading the points series.”

The IHRA Pro classes consist of the AMSOIL Funny Cars, the Top Fuel Harleys, Crower Pro Mods, the US Bounty Hunters Pro Stock and the Jet Cars. Their desire is for fans to have a connection with the drivers without overwhelming them.

Currently the IHRA Nitro Jam tour consists of twelve national events. Next year, 2016, fourteen are planned. “However, we want to find that right number,” he adds, “and it’s not twenty-three. You limit your car draw by running too many events. Instead we want to go to the markets that fit, the facilities that are adequate for our programs, and have the appropriate number of events where our Pro and Sportsman cars can participate and support them fully.”

IHRA Summit Racing Equipment Pro-Am Tour Presented By AMSOIL

Doubleheader June 12-14 At Walla Walla Drag Strip In Washington

NORWALK, OHIO – The IHRA’s Summit Racing Equipment Pro-Am Tour Presented By AMSOIL will host a double event on the weekend of June 12-14 at Walla Walla Drag Strip in Walla Walla, Washington.

Walla Walla Drag Strip’s gates will open on Friday, June 12, at 10 a.m., with tech inspection starting at 11 a.m. Test ‘n’ Tune will be begin at 1 p.m. with a Gamblers Race at 5 p.m.

On Saturday, June 13, gates will open at 7:30 for racers and tech inspection begins at 8 a.m. Two rounds of time trials will begin at 10 a.m., followed by Pro-Am eliminations and Saturday combo racing.

Racer gates will open Sunday, June 14, at 7:30 a.m. The single round of qualifying is slated for 10 a.m. with Pro-Am eliminations to follow.

The IHRA offers something no other sanctioning body does for its sportsman competitors: free, live webcasts of every IHRA Summit Racing Equipment Pro-Am Tour presented by AMSOIL IHRA event. The broadcasts are sponsored by Summit Racing. To view the free live broadcasts, simply click on the webcast icon on the main page of

Walla Walla Drag Strip is located at 1212 Middel Waitsburg Road, in Walla Walla, Washington. Elevation is 1,138 feet and the track’s FM transmitter broadcasts at 94.1 FM. For more information, please call (225) 627-4574 or visit

For a printable, one-page schedule, click here

For the remaining IHRA Nitro Jam Tour Schedule, see following:


June 12, 2015
June 19, 2015
June 26, 2015
July 10, 2015
July 17, 2015
August 07, 2015
August 14, 2015
August 21, 2015
September 04, 2015
September 11, 2015

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