Javier Ortega is a cornerstone of import racing on the East Coast. In fact, his efforts at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park have made Englishtown the benchmark of import/sport compact drag racing.
Events with 25,000 spectators and 700 racers are not uncommon at E-Town. West Coast tracks can't even dream of these numbers. With Javier's success visible in the grandstands, the NHRA hired him as a consultant to help pump up the vibe of the Sport Compact Drag Race Series for racers and fans alike. Well regarded for his unbiased views and expansive knowledge, Javier's passion for developing the best run, most entertaining events is only surpassed by his determination to advance the industry and sport of sport compact racing.
We had a chance to get the bottom line on Javier's responsibilities and the direction that the NHRA is taking a year after its merger with NIRA.
What is your involvement with the NHRA?
I was hired by the NHRA to act as a consultant to the Sport Compact Drag Racing Series. The NHRA liked what I was able to accomplish with the Raceway Park Import Racing program and wanted to use my experience in the growth of the Sport Compact Series. My job is to analyze every aspect of the current state of the series, everything from competition to business aspects and make suggestions for future improvements in the areas that need it.
What are the NHRA's goals for the Sport Compact Series?
The NHRA is fully committed to the Series and would like to take the sport of sport compact drag racing to the next level. The "next level" for the Sport Compact Series means not only should it offer world-class NHRA Championship drag racing, but it should also incorporate elements unique to a sport compact series - like the lifestyle aspects. We will be looking to incorporate lifestyle and other elements into the series on a track-by-track basis that will take into account the specific tastes of a particular locale.
How is the NHRA planning to accomplish this goal?
This goal will be easily accomplished in a couple of ways. First and foremost, we will provide the best value per entertainment dollar for sport compact racing fans. How will we do that? By providing the best events at the best venues throughout the country. We will also strive to keep our participants happy with racing parity, competitive payouts, great exposure, and the safest racing conditions that are humanly possible. All this while keeping track operators and sponsors happy, which should not be a problem once fans realize we are in sport compact drag racing to provide them the best bang-for-the-buck.
There are rumors the NHRA Sport Compact Series will not be back for 2003. Is there any truth to them?Absolutely none, whatsoever. The NHRA's goal is to do whatever is necessary to make the series the premier sport compact drag racing series now and in the future. Before I took this assignment, I met with Tom Compton, president of the NHRA, and he assured me the NHRA is determined to make the Sport Compact Series a continuing success. I personally would not be involved if I did not believe the NHRA had the best interests of the sport in mind.
A lot of people have noticed the NHRA changed the name of the series from NHRA Import Drag Series to the NHRA Sport Compact Drag Series. What were the NHRA's reasons for the switch?The reason is simple when you consider what has happened in the sport of "import" racing. What started with small groups of racers with their imports has grown into a phenomenon that really reaches across classifications such as "import" or even "domestic." "Sport Compact" is a term that fairly represents what the sport encompasses. Why should true sport compact cars like the Chevrolet Cavalier, Dodge Neon, and Ford Focus be classified out of import racing when the ideas behind them are the same that made "imports" popular (i.e. small, high-tech cars with small-displacement engines, but with a fun-to-drive, big-horsepower attitude)?