Dixon, Force Hood - NHRA teleconference, part 1

NHRA teleconference October 21, 2009 An Interview With: LARRY DIXON ASHLEY FORCE HOOD MICHAEL PADIAN: Two-time-NHRA champion Larry Dixon who drives the Al-Anabi dragster. It's been a crapshoot all year with yourself, Antron Brown and Tony ...

NHRA teleconference October 21, 2009

An Interview With:
LARRY DIXON
ASHLEY FORCE HOOD

MICHAEL PADIAN: Two-time-NHRA champion Larry Dixon who drives the Al-Anabi dragster. It's been a crapshoot all year with yourself, Antron Brown and Tony Schumacher winning five races each.

What do you expect over these final two races and what do you think will be the difference?

LARRY DIXON: Well, it has been kind of open, open season, as far as being able to get wins. Last week just saw Brandon (Bernstein) get his first win in almost two years, so that was -- it's just kind of how the season has been going. If one car kind of falls off, the other one steps up to the plate and gets it done.

You know, legitimately, there's two or three, probably four cars that can still win the championship, and it's going to come down to, you know, you're still in charge of your own destiny. If you out there and you win out those two races, you've done as much as you can do and hope it's enough and try and get the Full Throttle Championship and obviously bring it home to the Al-Anabi team is what we are looking for.

MICHAEL PADIAN: Larry trails Tony Schumacher by 47 points, Cory McClenathan is in third place 68 points back, and Antron Brown is in fourth place, 81 points back, effectively, that's four rounds with eight rounds of racing left for the two race, 20 points per round.

Ashley Force Hood is the third-year driver of the Castrol GTX Ford Mustang. Ashley has won twice this season, been to seven final rounds and currently trails teammate Robert Hight by 13 points as she seeks to become the first female driver in NHRA history to win a championship in the Funny Car class.

Can you share with us the mood of the team entering these final two championship-deciding races in Vegas and Pomona?

ASHLEY FORCE HOOD: We are really pumped. We have had a really great season. We are right where we want to be up there in the top couple of spots, but a lot can change in these final two races and obviously we are aware of that. We know that we are second, Robert is first and we are only a few points behind him, yet there are a handful of guys that are right behind us.

So we are just going to try to do the best we can and enjoy this. And it can get easy to get caught up in the stress of it all and getting nervous about it and anxious, but we are really trying to look at it from another point of view and say, our third year in, we are battling for the NHRA Championship. That's a pretty neat spot to be in, especially as a relatively newer team compared to a lot of the teams we compete with.

So we are trying to enjoy this and not let the stress and nervousness of it take over the fun of it, which is getting to be in this competition and having the car that has the capability of winning a championship.

Q: Larry, how satisfying is it for you being the first year with this team doing as well as you have done, because a lot of people thought, okay, new team, you have to have break-in time, learning time, seasoning among all members of the team. How are you feeling about your great performance so far this year?

LARRY DIXON: I'm feeling great about it. You know, winning five races so far, you know, I mean, that's -- I had not won five races in three years.

So to be able to do that in one season is good. But you know, the rest of the guys on the team, Alan and Jason and the rest of the Al-Anabi team, this is an off-year for them. Last year they won 15 races. So they are sorting things out and getting things going and just, you know, probably since maybe Brainard (ph) just before Indy, the cars really stepped up their performance. We have been -- if we have not been on pole, we have been close to pole just about every event. And I really think that, you know, we have contended for wins at every event we have gone to.

So it's good. You know, I know some of the guys -- this season is not over with, but a lot of the guys on the team are looking forward to this winter. It's going to be a lot calmer. Last year they didn't even have a shop to work in at this point in the season. Everybody was still on their old jobs.

So to be able to still have the opportunity to win a championship, you know, in the fashion that Alan and the guys have done in the past where they are not leading the points, and there's two races to go and we are certainly in the mix of it. You know, we are certainly going to do our best to try and bring it home to the Al-Anabi team.

Q: Of course this is a top season for you, you seem to adapt to the Funny Car which is a very difficult car to drive as we all know; how have you accommodated adapting to the Funny Car so quickly and so well?

ASHLEY FORCE HOOD: When I started in '07, I think I had five years of racing some type of a car or another under my belt. So I had the basics of the burnout and the staging and all those kind of things. And I also tested for about a year and a half before I jumped into the Funny Car, which I don't know if a lot of people realize that.

We would stay, because I was racing my A/Fuel Dragster and other teams were racing the Funny Car and we would stay on Mondays and I would jump into dad's car or Robert's or Eric's and test. It wasn't that I was getting ten runs a day or anything, but a couple here or there every week after the national event, I think really helped me to kind of get a good baseline for once our 2007 season started and we went to testing and went all-out with that.

But it's really a big advantage that I've had that when I look at a lot of other teams and a lot of other drivers, you know, people moving in the ranks and teams that have struggled, a big advantage that I have is that we have the financial backing; that they give me a really good new car, good new parts, and we have all of the great pieces together and it makes my learning curve... I think it lessens it a lot because I can really focus on my driving and learning those mistakes and you're not trying to learn how to drive a car while it's having motor problems and parts failure and that side sort of a thing.

I think it's unfortunate for the teams that do have lower budgets that I think they get maybe picked on a little more because their car isn't performing, a lot of people want to look at the driver, but a lot of times it is just if you just don't have the right pieces together, your car is not going to be able to go down the track and make good runs. The car, the seat that I was able to move into in '07, and the same seat that I'm in now, they have always given me a really great -- all of the tools that I need. It really lessens I think the mistakes that I was making.

As usual, I still made plenty of mistakes. That's not to say anything about that. But I think it would have been a lot harder if I didn't have the tools and just the right parts and pieces in this Funny Car. It made my learning curve easier.

MICHAEL PADIAN: Footnote in the Funny Car race. Of the Top-10 drivers in Funny Car competing for the championship, only two have previously won championships, that's John Force and Tony Pedregon. And of course those names I mentioned, only Tony Pedregon is among the top six drivers. So five of the top six drivers who are within 86 points of the championship have not previously won a championship. So very good chance that we'll have a first-time champion in Funny Car.

A note to follow up on Larry's reference to five wins this season, that gives him 48 wins in his career, that ties him with Jeg Coughlin for ninth place on the all-time NHRA wins list, and those two drivers are one victory behind Don "the Snake" Prudhomme, who is eighth on the all-time list.

In the other classes in Pro Stock, Mike Edwards has not yet clinched the title but he was 128-point lead over Greg Anderson. If he leaves Las Vegas with 151-point lead or greater, he will have clinched in Las Vegas. Otherwise Pro Stock will come down to Pomona; and in Pro Stock Motorcycle, Hector Arana leads Eddie Krawiec by 28 points, and the next closest rider is Michael Phillips with 165 points.

Q: How about you racing your teammate for a possible title here in Funny Car?

ASHLEY FORCE HOOD: It's the best spot that we could be in. At the beginning of the year when we have our big team meetings and we get ready to head off to the (50th annual Kragen O'Reilly NHRA) Winternationals, that's always our goal if we can at the end of the year when we are back on Pomona for the world finals, if we can have our own teammates battling for the championship, there's no better scenario because we are going to win no matter how the day ends up.

Obviously Robert and I are not the only ones, but we are the ones -- we are one and two. So they are going to have to catch up and go around us. So if we can just keep doing what we have been doing and not have anything go wrong, no mistakes, no mess-ups, just the tuners can get Vegas and Pomona figured out as far as the tuneup and how they want to set up the car, we just better our chances of getting the championship.

It's fun and it's exciting for both Robert and I. He's been close so many years. This is my first time really being right in the mix of it being down to the last two races, so it's exciting for both of us and for our team. For my team, being a newer team to be in this; and for his team from the other angle of being out here a lot of years, and yet having such a tough season that they were able to kind of come around and do what they can do.

All of the guys are pumped up and we are ready to head off to Vegas. We still have to wait another week but we are excited.

Q: What kind of relationship, if any, do you have with Tony Schumacher? Is he a guy you enjoy racing against, or is he a guy that is just tired of being at the top of the game for so long?

LARRY DIXON: I get along great with Tony. You know, we will trade texts during the week and the like and he definitely -- at the end of the day for the last five years, he's had the No. 1 on the car, everybody has been trying to take him out.

So for me, it's the same thing. I mean, you can be buddies in the staging lanes but as soon as you throw the helmet on, light the car up, it's game on. We are going to go out there and do everything we can to bring the Al-Anabi team home a win.

But he's got the same thing on me. I've read and heard him say, you know, he gets pumped up when he races us and a lot of the guys on that team is his old team. But for me, when I look over it's still the Army car and he's still got No. 1 on it. So I'm trying to do everything I can to help change that.

Continued in part 2

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Series NHRA
Drivers Antron Brown , Larry Dixon , Tony Pedregon , John Force , Tony Schumacher , Greg Anderson , Cory McClenathan , Ashley Force , Michael Phillips , Robert Hight , Eddie Krawiec , Mike Edwards