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Fast Take   Story by Dwight Drum
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NHRA triggers decisions, decisions (Part 1)

We all make decisions though many are not a part of our jobs, but when your job is making decisions it often indicates your choices will affect more people than the effects of any private options. When your job is executive level the effects of most decisions are certain to bring on consequences that are often multiplied many times. Since change is more inevitable than rare, decisions are unavoidable.

Reporter Dwight Drum quizzed NHRA President Tom Compton, NASCAR President Mike Helton, drag racing icon “Big Daddy” Don Garlits, NMCA champion Troy Coughlin NASCAR Vice-President of Competition Robin Pemberton, and NASCAR team owner J.D. Gibbs about their decision making process. Methods might seem as complicated as they are necessary, but big decision makers tend to have common means.

NHRA drag racing is a different form of motorsports, but when it comes to decisions it’s more like the same speed and caution. The mix of NHRA and NASCAR decision makers found words to describe their experience with choices.

Tom Compton [NHRA President]

Making important decisions. Does the decision-making process every get easier?
“Making a decision is a serious thing. We make decisions all of the stake-holders in this sport from our teams, for our tracks, for our sponsor and for our fans. We take that very seriously. We try to collect as much input as we can to make sure we can make things work for all of the people who have an investment in our sport. And so I don’t l know that it gets any easier. Each decision is different. There are a different set of factors to weigh. A lot of them are pretty complex. I’d say no. We try to take each one as it comes and try to evaluate to make sure our decision is going to work for as many people as possible over the long run.”

Mike Helton [NASCAR President]

You have made plenty of important decisions. Does the decision-making process every get easier?
“What makes it easier is that we have a lot more people involved in our decision making process, that makes it easier. When I first started with NASCAR it was me and Bill…or it was Bill…but over time in fairness of the enormity of everything that we do, we continue to add layers of support for the industry inside our company. There is a lot of talent there. And so we analyze decisions a lot more than we used to, so there is a lot of help in the decision-making process in NASCAR.

“You know what, the longer we stayed around you can make an argument that decisions are more complicated and therefore harder to make, but that’s why we created the R&D center in order to help us make decisions that we didn’t have 15 years ago.”

Success brings on a whole new environment, a new magnitude where change is also amplified. Yet a pattern to nature of business life at top levels emerged from responses.

“Big Daddy” Don Garlits [Drag racing legend]

You’ve made a lot of decisions. Do decisions become easier over time?
“Decisions that are really important are never really easy to make. You never know if you are making it the right way. You use all the information you could possibly get, the model of whatever you think is in your head and you go by that. But even that can be wrong. I haven’t made all of decisions right. I made enough right that it made a difference. I always tried to base a decision on good information. That’s the key.

“When I decided I was going to build a rear engine car and take it out and run it was one of my major decisions. I could have built another new slingshot like everybody else and took the transmission out and made a different kind that wouldn’t blow up. But I wanted to go with a rear engine car. I based the decision on information. That information was at Indianapolis they had rear engine cars moving around in traffic at 200 mph and they could do it. We ought to be able to go in a straight line without anybody bumping into us then at 200 mph. It was a good decision.

Then I made a decision to put a helicopter engine in a dragster because it was supposed to have 2100 horsepower. It would have been a lot lighter and faster than a fuel dragster. That wasn’t a good decision, but I didn’t have good information. The engine wasn’t 2100 hp like they told me.”

NHRA triggers decisions part 2 coming soon.

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