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.”
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.”