GAINESVILLE, Fla. (March 11) -- The relationship between Top Fuel driver Scott Palmer and sponsor Tommy Thompson is definitely different than most. Palmer and Thompson are friends, first and foremost, and they're also partners in a winning drag boat team. The fact they are able to promote two of Thompson's businesses -- Magic Dry Organic Absorbent and CatSpot Organic Litter -- is merely a bonus.
"My deal with Tommy is so much more than business," Palmer said. "It's a personal friendship between me and him. We just happen to love the same things and we have figured out a way to use our passions to promote his companies, which is great, but we're very close whether we're racing or not."
With two open weekends between the NHRA's last stop in Phoenix and the upcoming 50th anniversary Amalie Oil Gatornationals at Gainesville Raceway, Palmer decided to forego his usual diversion to his race shop in Missouri and work out of Thompson's facility in Locust Grove, Okla., instead. There was a very specific reason why Palmer made this stop.
"We needed to go through everything in our trailer," he said. "We needed to freshen up our parts, check the cylinder heads and do all the usual stuff we do between races. We always go through everything with a fine-tooth comb to make sure it’s just right for the next race. We just did it at the boat shop this time, which was cool.
"The guys worked 12 hours a day but they got to go to lunch and dinner with Tommy every day and just hang out with him. I want my crew to know him as well as I do. Like I said, it’s not your average sponsor deal. It’s more than that. I wanted everyone to know what a genuine person he is. He deserves everyone giving their all every minute because that’s what he does for all of us. I wanted them to absorb his passion for our success, and I think it worked."
After a pair of top-half qualifying efforts at the first two races of the season, Palmer and crew are excited about Gainesville, mainly because it's going to be warmer than the unseasonably cold weather the tour has experienced so far.
"Our car has run great both races but the temperatures didn’t do us any favors," Palmer said. "We are still learning how to race on cold tracks. We can run a qualifying number on them but it’s a whole different story when it’s 50 degrees on race day and you are running a 10,000-plus horsepower Top Fuel car. The teams with the most experience definitely have the advantage. We just don’t have the experience yet.
"Gainesville is going to be more realistic conditions for us and that will put us back where we are a little more comfortable. I'm expecting big things. I know the crew is motivated."