Q&A: NARRA’s Tom Antonelli and Rob Morrison.

North American Road Racing Association chiefs reflect on the inaugural round of the US GT and Whelen US TimeTrial championships at Road Atlanta, and look forward to Chuckwalla and Sebring.

NARRA’s CEO Tom Antonelli (Middle) and General Manager Rob Morrison (Right) with Dodge CEO Ralph Gilles at Road Atlanta.

Q: The first round of the US GT and Whelen US TimeTrial championships appeared to be a huge success. Did the event match your expectations?

TA: It was an outstanding event. We had beginners to pro-racers, coming to test, tune and race with us. The competition and the camaraderie between the different marques was great.

RM: We had plenty of high horsepower cars, lots of action, good racing, celebrity faces and old friends. A lot of new prospects came out of it too, some potential sponsors and some cool projects are in the pipeline.

Q: The entries were huge. Do you expect big numbers for the rest of the season?

TA: Yes, absolutely. Our car count will continue to grow as the season progresses and word gets out about our fantastic series; who we are and how we operate our events. The weekends combining marquee tracks and the Dodge Viper Cup should be huge draw-cards in particular.

Q: From the reports one might think Road Atlanta was a Corvette and Viper slog-fest. Were you happy with the representation of other makes and manufactures?

TA: The balance of cars was great at Road Atlanta. We had BMWs, Mazdas, Porsches, Ferraris, Corvettes and Vipers. Sure the results favored the Vipers and Corvettes this time but I’m sure that will change as the season progresses. All those cars I mentioned, and more, have the equal ability to win with our simple rules package.

RM: About the only thing I think we need is a few more blue-ovals (Fords) out there! We are solely focused on GT cars and that’s our point of difference. All closed wheel, door cars with high horsepower are welcome, and we’re seeing a great mix of cars.

Q: NARRA and in particular the USGTC and Whelen USTTC seem to be on the up and up. Is there something in the works you can comment about?

TA: We’re just going to continue to get our word out; that we’re running a great series with very few rules. People can finally get those cars out of the garage. They now have a venue to race. With both the USGTC and USTTC they can come out and have a fun, stress-free weekend. You’re going to see a lot of guys showing up in these series.

NARRA offers programs for the beginner, intermediate and expert.
Q: What does it mean to have Tom Hnatiw on-board with NARRA?

TA: He brings a whole new level of excitement, professionalism and credibility to our series and our whole organization.

RM: It’s big. He’s an icon in our industry. He’s been in our industry for many years and has been very visible, announcing for World Challenge. He opens doors. Like most people, I felt I knew him before I met him from watching every episode of Dream Car Garage. To have Tom Hnatiw onboard is a huge asset.

Q: You’ve also recently appointed the highly respected Chief Steward Terry Earwood. That’s a major coup isn’t it?

RM: It’s amazing, we have a great line-up of staff. It’s really a great team. Just like if you were putting together a race team, you put in the best ingredients, work hard at it, have good strategy and you start winning. That’s exactly what we have.

TA: Having Terry Earwood on our staff is very exciting to me. Terry comes from a long family of racers. I’ll bet you Terry has instructed and trained more people in road racing than any other human being in the states. He also brings a huge professionalism to our organization. Terry’s been the chief steward for Trans-Am and the TDi Volkswagen series. Terry brings a lot of experience and a lot of credibility also to our series.

Q: Professional outfits, such as the Marsh Racing Whelen Engineering team and Dodge Motorsports, and pro drivers Eric Curran and Kuno Wittmer are appearing on the grid. Does this suggest a shift in whom you’re targeting?

RM: I don’t think it does. We’re targeting the grass-roots racer. We’re offering them a venue that’s fair. We’ve truly got an organization that says “may the best man win” and we’ve put rules together to allow it. I think the reason you’re seeing these big names is purely because we have a great organization and NARRA is where they’d rather run.

TA: We have race series for everybody. It’s exciting for club racers to have people like Kuno and Eric on track with them, and it will bring their level up. Our organization gives the same opportunity to the beginner wheel-to-wheel racer as it does to the pro driver and team.

Q: What can we expect at the up-coming events, Chuckwalla and Sebring?

RM: It is very important for us to extend our presence on the west coast. Our objective is to make these US Championships truly national, and we have picked a perfect time for west coast drivers to hit the track. Our largest contingent of NARRA members is in that region so we expect a great turnout.

TA: And it’s exciting to go to a new venue in Chuckwalla Valley Raceway. As for Sebring, we’re going to shake the trees! We’re going to see a lot of racers and driver education participants coming out to that event. It’s going to be huge!

The next NARRA event will March 25-27 be at Chuckwalla Valley Raceway, Desert Center, California.

The following meeting is May 13-15 at Sebring International Raceway, Sebring, Florida.

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