NHRA president Tom Compton ‘away on personal, family matters’

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National Hot Rod Association president Tom Compton is on temporary hiatus as the sanctioning body’s leader, according to media reports.

“Tom has been away recently on personal and family matters,” NHRA media relations director Anthony Vestal said, according to Susan Wade of CompetitionPlus.com, who broke the story on Friday.

NHRA executive vice-president and general manager Peter Clifford is believed to have assumed Compton’s day-to-day duties during his absence, but that has not been confirmed by sanctioning body officials.

According to at least one other report, the NHRA board of directors reportedly met earlier this week to put Clifford in Compton’s place until the latter returns.

“The NHRA does not address rumors,” Vestal said, according to Wade. “We do have a great management team in place to run the company in Tom’s absence, and, as a result, our business and racing operations haven’t missed a beat.

“Again, Tom’s situation is personal and we hope you will respect that.”

The NHRA did not say how long Compton will be “away” from his post and the sanctioning body.

The news of Compton’s hiatus came at the start of one of the sport’s bigger races of the season, this weekend’s Toyota NHRA Summernationals at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown, N.J.

Compton, who joined NHRA in 1993 as vice-president and chief financial officer, is only the third president in NHRA history. The late Wally Parks founded the sanctioning body in Southern California in 1951, with its first national event taking place in 1955.

When Parks retired in 1984 (passed away in 2007 at the age of 94), Dallas Gardner replaced him as NHRA president. It was during Gardner’s tenure that NHRA experienced explosive growth and became a major motorsports body in the U.S.

Compton then succeeded Gardner after the latter’s own retirement in 2000. Gardner remains as a member of NHRA’s board of directors.

Headquartered in Glendora, Calif., the NHRA has over 80,000 members around the world. Its premier national touring series is the 24-race Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.

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Hunter and Jett Lawrence walk a delicate balance between winning races and favoring the fans

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ANAHEIM, California – Hunter and Jett Lawrence are two of the most popular riders on the Monster Energy Supercross circuit, with fan bases that established and grew immediately when they came to America to ride for HRC Honda. Connecting with those fans came naturally for the charming Australian brothers, but it has not come without cost.

“It’s cool they’re there and it’s one of the things we try to do is give the fan that interaction,” Hunter told NBC Sports during Supercross Media Sessions ahead of the 2023 season. “It’s why we do ride days, meet-and-greets, press conferences  – all that stuff, because it’s exciting for them. We are trying to bridge the gap so they get personal interaction. Because that’s all they’re after. It’s all about getting that fan to think, ‘I know that guy. I didn’t meet him, but I get him. I get his humor.’ ”

There is no artifice in either brother. Their fan appeal is directly attributable to who they are at their core. And it’s that very genuineness that has throngs of fans standing outside their hauler, waiting for just a moment of their time.

“It’s about being yourself – talking to people,” Hunter said. “It’s not like I turn it on or turn it off; it’s just about being yourself. This is who we are, this is who you get and this is how it will be. You can’t portray something you’re not. If you keep saying you’re an orange, but apples keep popping out, it’s only a matter of time [until they figure it out].”

The key word is ‘throngs’, however. One person wanting just a few moments of time is incidental. Dozens are an entirely different matter.

“It’s tough in Supercross because it’s such a long day,” Hunter said. “The recovery side of it’s tough to do everything. We get stuck outside the grid; we can’t be there for like 10 minutes. We’re stuck there for like an hour. It gets overwhelming at times.

“You feel bad because you want to sign everything, but you’re still here for a job. Every race day is like that. We do the best we can, but there are so many people who wait out front. They’re screaming for you. Even when we’re coming off the sessions, they’re already yelling before you put your bike on the stands. You don’t even get time to take you helmet off.”

It can be a double-edged sword. Personality is only one part of the equation. A much bigger part of the brothers’ fan appeal comes because of their success. Hunter finished second in the last two Supercross 250 West title battles and third in the past two Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championships.

Jett won the last three titles he competed for, including last year’s 250 East Supercross Championship and the last two Motocross contests.

“I think they expect me to have nothing else to do on a Saturday and that I have unlimited energy,” Jett said. “But, I’m trying to recover for the next race.”

It’s a matter of timing. Jett has gained a reputation last year for handing out hundreds of donuts before the races during Red Bull fan appreciation sessions. And after the race, once the business at hand has been settled, Jett is equally available to the fans.

“After the race it’s fine; I’ll stay behind.” Jett said. “My job is done on the racing side of things, but until that last moto is done, my main thing is dirt bikes. The fans come along with it. The fans are part of the job, but main job at hand is the racing side of things. After the race, I’ll stay there for an hour or so. It’s a lot calmer.”