NHRA shakeup: Tom Compton retires as president, Peter Clifford named successor

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In a surprise move, the National Hot Rod Association announced Wednesday that president Tom Compton has retired after 15 years as the sanctioning body’s chief executive officer.

Longtime NHRA executive vice president and general manager Peter Clifford has been named to replace Compton. Clifford becomes only the fourth president in NHRA’s 64-year history.

Dallas Gardner, former NHRA president and now Chairman of the NHRA Board of Directors, made the announcement of Clifford’s promotion Wednesday morning to employees at the NHRA’s Glendora, Calif., headquarters.

“Peter Clifford will be an outstanding president of the NHRA,” Gardner said in a NHRA media release. “Peter’s faithful and effective service to all constituents of the NHRA family will ensure a spectacular new era for everyone who loves our sport, and he brings a passion for the NHRA that is unmistakable.

“Peter is most deserving of his new appointment and we know he is more than up to the challenges and opportunities on the horizon.”

Peter Clifford has been named the new president of the NHRA, succeeding Tom Compton, who retired after 15 years at the helm of the sanctioning body. (Photo courtesy NHRA)

Clifford joined NHRA in 1997 as vice president and chief financial officer. He is also a member of the sanctioning body’s board of directors.

“I’m honored to accept the privilege and responsibility of leading the NHRA today and well into the future,” Clifford said.  “I have an incredible passion for the sport and will bring a great work ethic to my new role, at or away from the track.  My complete focus is to build our future. Our best stories are still to be told.”

No reason was given for the 56-year-old Compton’s decision. He has been noticeably absent from NHRA events for more than three months, prompting the sanctioning body to take the unusual step nearly a month ago to issue a press release that Compton was “away for personal and family reasons.”

Compton was installed as NHRA president on Jan. 1, 2000, succeeding the retiring Gardner. Compton helped lead NHRA’s continued growth into the 21st century, but the last few seasons have seen challenges including attendance levels at several tracks, and inconsistent TV coverage.

Compton preceded Clifford in the same role as vice president and CFO when he joined NHRA in 1993.

“Today the NHRA announces Tom Compton’s retirement,” Gardner said in a statement. “The NHRA thanks Tom for leading it during 15 years of progress, growth and success.

“Tom was named president in 2000 and since then has advanced our organization and sport in ways that will provide lasting benefit for our teams, drivers, sponsors and fans. Just as important, the NHRA has an immensely bright future with exceptional opportunities that we are ready to explore. As the NHRA embarks on its next chapter, we wish Tom and his family all the best.”

In a statement, Compton said his decision to retire came “after much thought and careful consideration of my own interests, those of my family and those of the NHRA itself. The more than 22 years I spent helping to build the great team, strong partnerships and robust operations the NHRA now enjoys makes this decision a difficult one.

“I want to thank everyone, including the NHRA, its partners, sponsors, track owners and operators, and all other NHRA-affiliated individuals and organizations for their generous and much-appreciated contributions to the success we’ve all enjoyed together. I am honored to have been an integral part of this collective effort, am proud of our collaboration and achievements, and am confident in the continued success of the NHRA in the years ahead.”

 

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Lewis Hamilton aims to match Michael Schumacher’s F1 win record

Lewis Hamilton Schumacher record
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SOCHI, Russia — Lewis Hamilton has set many Formula One marks over the years, but few are as significant as the Michael Schumacher record he can match Sunday at the Russian Grand Prix.

Victory for Hamilton at the Sochi Olympic Park would see him draw level with Schumacher at 91 career victories, more than any other driver in the 70-year history of F1.

It also would increase Hamilton’s commanding 55-point lead over teammate Valtteri Bottas in the championship standings, putting him closer to a seventh world championship, matching another Schumacher record.

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History is on the side of Hamilton, who won Sept. 13 at Mugello. He’s won four of the six Russian races so far, and all six were won by Mercedes drivers. His closest challenger is likely to be Bottas, who beat Hamilton in the 2017 edition of the Russian Grand Prix.

Elsewhere in the championship hunt, Red Bull driver Max Verstappen’s season has gone up in smoke since his Aug. 9 victory at Silverstone. An overheating engine forced the Dutch driver out of the Sept. 6 race at Monza and then a similar problem struck just before the start at Mugello. Verstappen was far slower off the line than the cars around him and was struck by Kimi Raikkonen’s Alfa Romeo.

That leaves Verstappen 80 points off Hamilton in the standings and a 25-point deficit to Bottas.

If Hamilton does win to tie Schumachher at Sochi, more fans will see it in person than any other race in a 2020 season mostly run before empty grandstands because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Organizers say the race weekend is sold out but haven’t given final ticket sales figures.

Race promoter Alexei Titov previously told Russian state TV that the stands would be at 50 percent of their capacity, which equates to around 30,000 spectators.

That’s far more than the previous season high of 3,000 fans for the most recent race, the Tuscan Grand Prix at the Mugello circuit.

Unlike at the last two races in Italy, there will be a full entertainment program on offer for fans with concerts featuring some of Russia’s most popular musicians.

Russian organizers say they’re taking precautions to keep fans safe and will have medical staff posted at checkpoints around the venue, and that spectators will have their temperature measured on entry.