EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW - GLEN CROMWELL TALKS ABOUT NEW ROLE AT NHRA
On Tuesday, October 1, 2017, Glen Cromwell became only the fourth President in the history of the National Hot Rod Association becoming what many feel is the first blue-collar leader of the Glendora, Ca-based series since founder Wally Parks. His appointment begins on January 1, 2018.
Cromwell rose through NHRA’s ranks from Division Director to become Senior Vice President, Media and Marketing.
Cromwell succeeds Peter Clifford as President. Clifford will assume the newly created post of Chief Executive Officer, following over 20 years with the organization, including serving as its president since 2015. Cromwell will head up NHRA’s leadership team and will report to Clifford and the board.
Cromwell joined NHRA in 1997 and has been a key player leading the sport’s marketing efforts for the past 20 years. In addition, he has been leading all of the sanctioning body’s television and new media activities and its owned racetracks.
In this exclusive interview, Cromwell discusses with CompetitionPlus.com Publisher Bobby Bennett his road to the leadership position, as well as parts of his vision for the future.
COMP PLUS: When you went to work for the NHRA as a member of the hands-on marketing team, did you ever see a day that you might be asked to take over controls of the ship?
GLEN CROMWELL: Well, when I joined the NHRA, I joined as the division 7 director, Pacific division. I really wanted to learn the business and understand the racing side because I think that’s the core. And I always thought that if I understood that then I could learn the business on the way up. I think anyone who joins a company; you want to take on more responsibility, you want to help, which is why I came here in 1997. I looked at the NHRA as an opportunity to help grow a sport that I have a passion for. I think we work hard. It’s a little different when a president comes in, and you don’t know much about them. Many have seen me over the last 15 years on the marketing side. I lead by example, and that’s always been my philosophy. I’m going to continue that same effort at this level.
CP: There might be some that might draw the conclusion that you are, since Wally Parks, the first true blue-collar NHRA president. A person who’s a president to a Super Comp racer as much as a Top Fuel racer, you’re somebody who can relate to both ends of the spectrum.
GC: Yes, and I think that’s why when I came in as the division director I always got out into the staging lanes to shake hands with guys who came up to the lanes to let them know I was there and doing everything for them. I have passion. I know that the sportsman racers are really the foundation and I just knew that they were important. So I spent a long time with them, and even though I moved into the marketing side, I still have the Division 7 racers come up to me and say nice compliments and things like. But at the end of the day, you want to be here, you want to grow something, and you put your life into it, you put your heart into it, and good things can happen.
CP: How important is it to you to put your fingerprint on this assignment?
GC: It’s interesting. I never really look at it as my fingerprint because it’s not. I give credit to the people around me. They’re the ones that really put the fingerprint on things that we’ve done. It takes a group of people to make the difference whether it’s the leadership team, whether it’s working with Kristen Wentzel, Evan Jonat and people on that side. Working with Bob Lang, it’s just the people around you that really make the difference it’s not really one person. It’s kind of always been my philosophy from day one in NHRA that it’s the team that you put around you that really elevates things, it’s not really me putting my fingerprint on the sport, and I’ve never looked at it that way.
CP: Did you ever look at things when you were coming up through the ranks and said, “Man, if I was ever the boss this is what I would do?”
Are there things that you’ve said that you plan to implement along the road?
GC: I’ve touched a lot of the things that we have done over the last 20 years that you’ve seen. Like always, you kind of have your ideas of where you want to go. I think from Dallas to Tom to Peter, they all did an excellent job. I’ve got ideas of where we’ll want to go, but we have such great momentum right now. I mean truly, what Peter has talked about over the past two-and-a-half-years, the momentum has been tremendous. Right now we want to continue that momentum, and we’re going to build on it, and my hope is to make it even bigger.
CP: Now one of the things that you’ve also been famous for, those of us that have known you, is that you’re kind of a behind the scenes guy, the MSH (Makes Stuff Happen) guy. You always try to keep a low profile. Do you regret that low profile image is kind of blown out of the water now?
GC: No, just because you have a title doesn’t mean it’s going to change me as a person. When you said “behind the scenes” it’s just always been my style, and it’s been the people around me, I give credit to them because they work hard. You’ve seen it yourself Bobby, think of the time and effort you put into coming to a race every weekend. I respect people like that, and it’s just kind of my management style, and I will always keep it. So no, I don’t have a problem with that. Being the President is a great opportunity, it’s a great privilege, it’s an honor, one that I’m excited about and I hope to continue the great momentum that we have going.
CP: How good of a kissing babies and shaking hands kind of guy are you because as long as I’ve known you, you’ve been an elbow grease kind of fellow, roll up the sleeves and get after it. How hard is it going to be to temper all of that?
GC: I think you’ve seen me in my days at a national event, I’ll go back to my days as Pacific division director, that’s what I did. I walked around; I didn’t spend a lot of time in the tower. I went out and shook hands with our Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series racers at the time, listened to them, tried to help them and if they had problems or concerns or issues, I’d always try to adjust them as quickly as I could. I don’t see any sort of concern with that.
CP: And you’ve seen it more times than once, the guy gets up at the top. He’s loved, and then he gets up there, and then they catch the ration of criticism. Is that about the only uneasy part of this job?
GC: I know it comes with it and I accept it. It’s just part of it. It’s part of working with every stakeholder in our company. You’re trying to make everybody happy whether it’s our fans, whether it’s our track partners, whether it’s our employees, whether it’s our race teams and participants. Go down the list of every stakeholder we touch, and those are the challenges. But we’re up for that; we love it. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t be out here doing what we do. So I accept that and know it comes with the territory.
CP: How thick is your skin?
GC: Pretty thick.
CP: If I can ask you to look into the future what kind of vision do you have for the NHRA?
GC: Obviously right now we have some great momentum, so the vision is to continue that momentum. We have a lot of work to do. We’ll want to grow our fan base, we want more eyeballs on this sport, and I think we got a great jumpstart with our partners from FOX. We got a great series sponsor who just signed an extension. I think it’s great, things are going very well, but I come from an entertainment background and a marketing background so my vision may be different than in the past. We’re very excited for the future I will say that.