‘State of the NHRA’: 10 questions with NHRA president Glen Cromwell


U.S. President Donald Trump gives an annual “State of the Union” address. Governors of most every state in the union have annual “State of the State” speeches.

NHRA president Glen Cromwell recently gave a “state of the NHRA” interview to NBCSports.com, and like the U.S. President and most governors, Cromwell is quite bullish on where the drag racing organization is presently and where it’s headed.

NBC Sports spoke with Cromwell in advance of the third race of the 24-race NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season, the 51st annual Gatornationals in Gainesville, Florida, from March 12-15.

The event is considered one of the four “majors” on the NHRA tour, the others being the season-opening Winternationals (held last month in Pomona, Calif.), the U.S. Nationals on Labor Day weekend and the season-ending World Finals (also at Pomona).

The Gatornationals – or simply “the Gators” or “GatorNats” as many people refer to it – is arguably the second-largest race on the NHRA schedule, behind only the U.S. Nationals.

Here are excerpts from NBC Sports’ interview with Cromwell:

NBC SPORTS: How would you describe the ‘State of the NHRA’ today?

Cromwell: “The State of the NHRA is still very strong. We have a lot of momentum that kind of goes back to 2016. From then to 2020, really, we’ve seen all our key performance indicators going up.

“The only thing that slowed us down last year was we had 15 events that were impacted by weather. You take those out of the mix, and you’d be saying the State of the NHRA is tremendous momentum. The only thing you’ve seen at Pomona and Phoenix (the first two races that have been held thus far this season) is the continued great upward momentum with the sport over the last four years.”

NBC SPORTS: What are the challenges that NHRA still faces?

Cromwell: “This is a challenge for all motorsports series, and I’ll just sum it up with two words: ‘economic balance.’ Whether it’s the guys in NASCAR, F1, IndyCar, they’ll all tell you the same thing, they’re trying to find the balance of healthy race teams, healthy racetracks, healthy properties and of course doing that and keeping the entertainment level for our fans at the highest level. When you find that balance, you know you’ve got it going in the right direction. Are we there yet? No. Everybody’s got their challenges, but I like where we sit as a property/sanctioning body. I think there’s a lot of good things happening, but obviously there’s always a lot of work ahead to make things better. So we will never settle for where we are over the last four years. We are pushing forward on many levels.”

Eight-time NHRA Top Fuel champion Tony Schumacher, who has not competed since 2018, earns his fifth career win at his home track, Route 66 Raceway in suburban Chicago, in 2015. (Photo courtesy NHRA)

NBC SPORTS: There has been talk about IndyCar and NASCAR perhaps holding races together on the same weekend at select tracks where both series race. Could you potentially run a weekend series with another sanctioning body? For example, Bristol Dragway is right across the street from Bristol Motor Speedway. Likewise for Route 66 Raceway and Chicagoland Speedway, or The Strip and Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Could NHRA do combination weekends with another series?

Cromwell: “We’ve talked about it. It’s been discussed internally. Are the conversations deep into the final (stage)? No, it’s not there. Obviously, all properties are looking at would that be a great opportunity for fans of all motorsports, because at the end of the day, we’re all part of the same family and we all have to grow together. If that opportunity came to the NHRA, and it made sense, would we be open to it? Yeah, we would.”

NBC SPORTS: Could you see a possibility of joint race weekends with other sanctioning bodies in, say, the next three to five years?

Cromwell: “Just discussions are happening. Are we open to it? We’re open to explore the idea. I’d leave it at that.”

NBC SPORTS: One of the biggest challenges all motorsports series face is attracting new fans. What are some of the things NHRA is doing?

Cromwell: “It’s really all about setting up programs for new fans that have never been to our event before because it is a little intimidating at first. We want to make it more welcoming for fans when they buy that ticket and walk into that gate and make sure they have all the information they need.

“One of the things is we plan to start an influencer (social media) program for next year. That touches new people, new eyeballs. We focus heavily on youth, particularly our Youth In Education program (young teens through first two years of college). We’re bringing in about 22 to 25 percent increases on the number of people we’re bringing in through the youth program.

“We’ve also started an exciting new job listing platform, ‘NHRA Launch’ with (former multitime Pro Stock Motorcycle champ) Terry Vance.

“We are also giving private tours for new fans, plus we still have the greatest access for fans in motorsports, where they can walk through the pits and meet and talk to drivers and also get their autographs.”

Don ‘Snake’ Prudhomme will be visiting with fans at several races next season. He’s also a part-owner of Austin Prock’s Top Fuel dragster with John Force Racing. Photo courtesy Don Prudhomme.

NBC SPORTS: Attracting new fans is obviously good, but what about older drag racing fans? How do you bring them back out to the tracks or re-attract them and their interest in the sport?

Cromwell: “We will continue programs like the ‘Unfinished Business’ program we had last year at Gainesville, where fans that have been with us since the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, they’ll once again see folks like Don ‘Snake’ Prudhomme, Don Garlits, Shirley Muldowney, Warren Johnson, Ed ‘Ace’ McCulloch and other legends in the sports. … It makes fans want to come back. We have such a strong history and we don’t want to forget that history. We hope to have two legend drivers at many races next year, and that’s very important because we will be celebrating 70 years of the NHRA being in existence next year, as well.”

NBC SPORTS: NASCAR is expected to make significant changes to its schedule starting in 2021, with some races that traditionally are run at one point of the year potentially being moved to a different time of the season. Has NHRA considered moving some of its races at traditional points in the season to other times?

Cromwell: “It’s again the economic balance. At the end of the day, we’re going to look at making adjustments that put the sport in a very strong, bullish position of economic balance, and we’ll look at things.”

NBC SPORTS: Are there any plans to expand the schedule or move into other markets that the NHRA is not currently in?

Cromwell: “We’ve always looked at different markets, but I think right now we like where we sit today. But obviously we’re evaluating our schedule, and we’ll see how NASCAR changes theirs, and we may have to adjust if they make drastic changes to theirs and locations and things like that.”

Two-time defending NHRA Top Fuel champion Steve Torrence celebrates last year’s title. Photo: NHRA.

NBC SPORTS: A number of current NHRA stars are getting up in age, like John Force (70 years old), Doug Kalitta (55) and Ron Capps (54). Can you discuss how NHRA is building its next crop of stars with folks such as Steve Torrence (36), Austin Prock (24), Leah Pritchett (31), Matt Hagan (37) and others?

Cromwell: “We’re going to promote these younger drivers and make stars of them. We’ll balance between John Force and a lot of our stars but also focus a lot on these younger drivers that are up and coming.

“Among the things we’re doing include programs where we’re putting them out in the public’s eye, social media is a big deal and more My Journey’s (2-4 minute behind the scenes videos). As I’ve always said, these drivers that have been with us for a long time, there will be a day when they leave the sport, and I’m very confident we have new, young stars who will come in and fill those gaps, will do a wonderful job and will become stars within themselves.

“It’s like hockey, when Wayne Gretzky retired, people said hockey was done. Then there was Mario Lemieux and then Sidney Crosby came in and Alex Ovechkin. You have stars that will come in and fill those voids.”

NBC SPORTS: What are some of the other things that are encouraging about the sport going forward?

Cromwell: “In addition to new young full-time drivers like (Top Fuel driver) Austin Prock and others, we’re also encouraged that there are more part-time drivers who are coming on the scene, and those who have been part-time for several years are even competing in more races than they typically do.

“We also are very happy with our partnership with Fox and FS1 (the current agreement runs through the end of the 2021 season).

“Really, overall, the sport is extremely healthy, and the momentum is continuing where it has been the last four years.”

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IndyCar results, points after 107th Indy 500


INDIANAPOLIS — With his first victory in the Indy 500, Josef Newgarden became the first repeat winner through six race results of the 2023 NTT IndyCar Series season and made a move in the points.

Newgarden, who celebrated with fans in the grandstands, moved from sixth to fourth in the championship standings with his 27th career victory and second this season (he also won at Texas Motor Speedway).

The Team Penske star won his 12th attempt at the Brickyard oval, tying the record for most starts before an Indy 500 victory with Tony Kanaan (2013) and Sam Hanks (1957). Newgarden, whose previous best Indy 500 finish was third with Ed Carpenter Racing in 2016, became the first Tennessee native to win the Greatest Spectacle in Racing and the first American since Alexander Rossi in 2016.

He also delivered the record 19th Indy 500 triumph to Roger Penske, whose team ended a four-year drought on the 2.5-mile oval and won for the first time since he became the owner of Indianapolis Motor Speedway and IndyCar in 2020.

Newgarden, 32, led five laps, the third-lowest total for an Indy 500 winner behind Joe Dawson (two in 1912) and Dan Wheldon (one in 2011).

The race featured 52 lead changes, the third most behind 68 in 2013 and 54 in ’16, among 14 drivers (tied with ’13 for the second highest behind 15 leaders in ’17 and ’18). Newgarden’s 0.0974-second victory over Marcus Ericsson was the fourth-closest in Indy 500 history behind 1992 (0.043 of a second for Al Unser Jr. over Scott Goodyear), 2014 (0.0600 of a second for Ryan Hunter-Reay over Helio Castroneves) and 2006 (0.0635 of a second Sam Hornish Jr. over Marco Andretti.).

It also marked only the third last-lap pass in Indy 500 history — all within the past 17 years (Hornish over Andretti in 2006; Wheldon over J.R. Hildebrand in 2011).

Ericsson’s runner-up finish was the ninth time the defending Indy 500 finished second the next year (most recently four-time winner Helio Castroneves in 2003).

Here are the IndyCar results and points standings after the 107th Indy 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway:


Click here for the official box score from the 200-lap race on a 2.5-mile oval in Indianapolis.

Lap leader summary

Full lap chart

Best section times

Full section data

Event summary

Pit stop summary

Here is the finishing order in the Indy 500 with starting position in parentheses, driver, engine, laps completed and reason out (if any):

1. (17) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 200, Running
2. (10) Marcus Ericsson, Honda, 200, Running
3. (4) Santino Ferrucci, Chevrolet, 200, Running
4. (1) Alex Palou, Honda, 200, Running
5. (7) Alexander Rossi, Chevrolet, 200, Running
6. (6) Scott Dixon, Honda, 200, Running
7. (8) Takuma Sato, Honda, 200, Running
8. (16) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 200, Running
9. (21) Colton Herta, Honda, 200, Running
10. (2) Rinus VeeKay, Chevrolet, 200, Running
11. (18) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Chevrolet, 200, Running
12. (27) Callum Ilott, Chevrolet, 200, Running
13. (25) Devlin DeFrancesco, Honda, 200, Running
14. (14) Scott McLaughlin, Chevrolet, 200, Running
15. (20) Helio Castroneves, Honda, 200, Running
16. (9) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 200, Running
17. (24) Marco Andretti, Honda, 200, Running
18. (32) Jack Harvey, Honda, 199, Running
19. (30) Christian Lundgaard, Honda, 198, Running
20. (13) Ed Carpenter, Chevrolet, 197, Contact
21. (11) Benjamin Pedersen, Chevrolet, 196, Contact
22. (33) Graham Rahal, Chevrolet, 195, Running
23. (12) Will Power, Chevrolet, 195, Running
24. (5) Pato O’Ward, Chevrolet, 192, Contact
25. (22) Simon Pagenaud, Honda, 192, Contact
26. (26) Agustin Canapino, Chevrolet, 192, Contact
27. (3) Felix Rosenqvist, Chevrolet, 183, Contact
28. (15) Kyle Kirkwood, Honda, 183, Contact
29. (23) David Malukas, Honda, 160, Contact
30. (19) Romain Grosjean, Honda, 149, Contact
31. (31) Sting Ray Robb, Honda, 90, Contact
32. (28) RC Enerson, Chevrolet, 75, Mechanical
33. (29) Katherine Legge, Honda, 41, Contact

Winner’s average speed: 168.193 mph; Time of Race: 2:58:21.9611; Margin of victory: 0.0974 of a second; Cautions: 5 for 27 laps; Lead changes: 52 among 14 drivers. Lap leaders: Palou 1-2; VeeKay 3; Palou 4-9; VeeKay 10-14; Palou 15-22; VeeKay 23-27; Palou 28-29; VeeKay 30-31; Rosenqvist 32; Rossi 33-34; Palou 35-39; VeeKay 40-47; Palou 48-60; VeeKay 61-63; Rosenqvist 64-65; O’Ward 66; Power 67; Herta 68; Rosenqvist 69; O’Ward 70-78; Rosenqvist 79-81; O’Ward 82-89; Rosenqvist 90-94; Ilott 95-99; Rosenqvist 100-101; O’Ward 102; Rosenqvist 103-107; O’Ward 108-109; Rosenqvist 110-113; O’Ward 114-115; Rosenqvist 116-119; O’Ward 120-122; Rosenqvist 123-124; O’Ward 125-128; Rosenqvist 129-131; Ferrucci 132; Ericsson 133-134; Castroneves 135; Rosenqvist 136; Ericsson 137-156; Newgarden 157; Ericsson 158; Ferrucci 159-168; Ericsson 169-170; Rossi 171-172; Sato 173-174; O’Ward 175-179; Hunter-Reay 180-187;
O’Ward 188-191; Ericsson 192; Newgarden 193-195; Ericsson 196-199; Newgarden 200.


Click here for the points tally in the race.

Here are the points standings after the GMR Grand Prix:



Engine manufacturers

Pit stop performance

Top 10 in points: Palou 219, Ericsson 199, O’Ward 185, Newgarden 182, Dixon 162, McLaughlin 149, Rossi 145, Grosjean 139, Power 131, Herta 130.

Rest of the standings: Lundgaard 122, Kirkwood 113, Rosenqvist 113, Ilott 111, Ferrucci 96, VeeKay 96, Rahal 94, Malukas 84, Armstrong 77, Daly 73, Castroneves 69, Harvey 65, DeFrancesco 63, Canapino 61, Pagenaud 55, Pedersen 51, Robb 47, Sato 37, Carpenter 27, Hunter-Reay 20, Kanaan 18, Andretti 13, Enerson 5, Legge 5.

Next race: The Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix, which has moved from Belle Isle to the streets of downtown, will take place June 4 with coverage starting on Peacock at 3 p.m. ET on NBC.