Dale Aldo, director of motorsports marketing at Chrysler, is experiencing NHRA nirvana, with Jack Beckman and Ron Capps the top two Funny Car racers and Allen Johnson leading the Pro Stock class.
"It has been a great year for us, because at the moment we've got four Dodge Avengers, Mopar-powered, that are in the 10-car Countdown in Pro Stock, and the leader is the Dodge. Then from the Funny Car side, the Nos. 1 and 2 cars are Don Schumacher [Racing] Mopar Chargers. From that standpoint, we're doing not-bad," he said.
As for Team Mopar / J&J Johnson, Aldo said, "I'm really pulling for him for a million reasons, not just the Mopar brand but on a personal level. It shows the worth of drag racing."
Tricia Hecker, Mopar Service & Parts marketing specialist at Chrysler Group LLC, said, "We are very careful about who we associate our brand with. I think we've got some great picks."
Aldo said he particularly likes the story of the Johnson family racing together and the second-generation dream they're chasing.
"You've got a father-son team. The dad builds the engines and the son owns the team and races the car. It's a human-interest story," he said. "That's something we look at and say, 'That's a really, really awesome deal.'
"I am pulling as hard as I can that they're going to bring home the championship, because we haven't had one for awhile. I believe 1994 was the last time we had a Pro Stock champion -- Scott Geoffrion. If they could bring one home for 2012, it would be considered a true dream season," Aldo said.
Aldo works across a spectrum of motorsports platforms but said he especially enjoys coming to the drag races because "interaction with the fans is superb. The availability they allow themselves to come close to the fans, the time they take to come out of their trailers and sign autographs, it's just phenomenal," he said.
"When you look at some of the other motorsports, you look at the fact that you can go to a race and the only time that you're going to see those drivers is in the seat, with a helmet on, going around on the track. You go to a drag race, and between rounds they'll be there, signing autographs. They'll be talking to the fans. So NHRA is kind of special that way," he said.
"You have tremendous access as a fan or an enthusiast to the cars, and you have tremendous access to the drivers and the crew chiefs to where you can actually get an autograph, see you driver, talk to him, shake his hand, shake her hand."
But Aldo's enthusiasm for drag racing extends beyond his own Mopar drivers. He said diversity is a huge feather in the NHRA's cap.
"Another thing that's nice about drag racing is the gender equality," he said. "You see Courtney Force and Erica Enders and Karen Stoffer and Melanie Troxel. It's amazing that you see that. So it's not just a bunch of guys. You see women out the competing and winning, and it's more exciting.
"I have a daughter. We have wives and sisters and mothers and it's good to see women competing equally with men. It's really a very wonderful thing," Aldo said. "And Antron Brown and Erica Enders have won recently. It's a nice diversity. It excites people. And it's inclusive. If nothing else, drag racing is inclusive."
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