Indianapolis: Pre-race quotable

U.S. Nationals Quotable: Larry Dixon , driver of the Miller Lite dragster and the defending NHRA POWERade Top Fuel champion. The Indianapolis resident is a two-time winner at Indianapolis (1995, 2001). - "(The Mac Tools U.S. Nationals) must be...

U.S. Nationals Quotable:

Larry Dixon
, driver of the Miller Lite dragster and the defending NHRA POWERade Top Fuel champion. The Indianapolis resident is a two-time winner at Indianapolis (1995, 2001). - "(The Mac Tools U.S. Nationals) must be special because the purse is double for one. It is the only race where we have five qualifying sessions. I know that when my dad raced it was one of the few events that had a 32-car field because there were so many entries that showed up they couldn't leave it to 16-car field. They had to increase it to 32, so you would race first round on Sunday and come back and race the top 16 on Monday. Anyone who tells me that Indy is no big deal because the points are the same, I always ask them on question, 'Have you ever won Indy?' They always say 'No' and I tell them that when you win Indy, it will mean more to you. Even (Miller Lite crew chief) Dick LaHaie was the same way. Until we won it in 2001, he hated Indy. To be able to be right on that right moment on that day, four times, is special.. You only have one shot to win Indy each year and back in the day, there was just one race and it was Indy. It's a very big deal. If you don't get it done, it leaves a bad taste in your mouth. I just try and work hard for everything we get and not wish anything. Whatever comes to us, comes to us, and what doesn't, we have to work harder and smarter for. I don't know. I would like to qualify for Indy. I've DNQ'd there before so qualifying is very important. As long as you qualify, you have an opportunity to win the event. That is the only thing I wish for at this point.

Kenny Bernstein
, driver of the Budweiser/Lucas Oil dragster and a three-time winner at Indianapolis. Bernstein retired following the 2002 season but had to replace his son Brandon in the cockpit of the car following Brandon's season-ending crash at Englishtown, N.J., earlier this year. - "Indy is the oldest and the original race of NHRA drag racing. It is like the Daytona 500 and the Indy 500. It's our No. 1 race in the country during the year. It has the most prestige and tradition because it is the start of the whole NHRA-(founder) Wally Parks program. It is really just another race and we are going to race the same car we race all the time. But if you told a racer that they could win one race and one race only, they would say Indy. It's just another chance to win it again, which is nice. But I would much rather be on the sidelines watching Brandon win his first Indy, believe me, but that is just not the way it is. We're going to look at it from the aspect that it is another chance to win Indy and then we will hang it up again. Winning never gets old, no matter where you are. If you can win Indy, that would be great. I don't put any more emphasis on it because of what it is. I probably did when I was a kid and young and starting out like Brandon would because it is so awesome. Then you realize that all 23 events are important but you still want to win Indy a little more."

Doug Herbert
, driver of the Snap-on Tools dragster recently brought back his former crew chief, Wes Cerny, to aid in improving the team's performance for the remainder of the 2003 season. -- "I think this will be good for us. This year, we'd hoped to be able to build from what we learned with Cerny tuning us last year, but we've struggled. I'm definitely looking at extending Cerny's working relationship with us. Our goal now is to finish in the top five. Our goal at the start of every season is to win the championship, but that's no longer possible. We think it is possible to get to fifth."

Tony Pedregon
, driver of the Castrol Syntec Ford Mustang and the current NHRA POWERade Funny Car points leader. - "We got close last year and we didn't quite get it and that was one of the goals we set this year was to go one position better than last year. We managed to have an exceptional first half of the season and our goals haven't changed. We lost in the first round three races in a row and we are trying to recover but we are not discouraged because last year we didn't make a serious run until the end of the year. Right now we are between a little transitional period for us. We are running our backup car and I still feel good about our chances. At this stage, as bad as we have performed over the last few races, we're still in the lead, so that means things can just get better. Yeah, we do. I've gotten to understand the importance of that because that is something goes on your credentials for the rest of your career and life. It really is a goal that when we start our driving career, we just want to drive. We want to drive and go fast and be with a good team and be competitive. When you accomplish that, you reset your goals and then you try to go out and win a championship. We're all trying to do it. The fact that Cruz did it a while back is a milestone and is something that he is very proud of for a good reason. I understand how important it is for a career, for a team and for me personally. I hope I can get it and we can share some of those same stories together."

Whit Bazemore
, driver of the Matco Tools Pontiac Firebird and Indianapolis resident is a two-time winner at the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals. - ""I think the tradition and the history of the U.S. Nationals is really what makes it special. The fact that it takes such a huge effort to be successful there. For so long, in the history of the sport, the U.S. Nationals played such a big role in determining who was the top dog and who wasn't. Some of that has carried over to the modern era of the sport even though the points aren't any different from the other races. We now have 23 races across the nation and it would be easy to say that Indy was just another race, but the fact is that it is not. Indy is bigger and better and more important than all of the others put together. Guys like Larry Dixon and myself are part of the younger generation and we recognize the importance of Indy. I think the younger guys who haven't won it yet will try to downplay it, but that will change if they do ever win it. The thing about Indy is that everyone manages to dig a little deeper. When you think you are racing flat out all the time and you are doing your best all the time, there is something about Indy where you find more. When you don't think you have any more to give, you find more at Indy. Everyone does. It is just more competitive and that is what makes it so tough. Not to mention that for Funny Cars, we have the Budweiser Shootout. The race you want to win is the U.S. Nationals. If there is one race you win in your career, you want Indy to be the one. That's the bottom line. Because of that, everyone tries a little harder."

Del Worsham
, driver of the red Checker Schuck's Kragen Pontiac Firebird is making his eighth appearance in the lucrative Budweiser Shootout. - "This race is for the eight best (Funny Cars) over the past calendar year, so you better not be disappointed when you get a bad hombre in round one. Gary (Densham) just won the last race, in Brainerd (Minn.), so that team is on a roll. If you can somehow get past him and his team, the next round will be just as scary. Winning the Budweiser Shootout is an awesome accomplishment, because you'll have to beat three incredible cars, but I know we can do it. In a regular race, with 16 cars, you might get lucky and get a break or two on your way to the final. Maybe the number 16 guy upsets the number one guy and you get him second round. But in the Shootout, everywhere you look you see an all-star team. There are no weak spots, and you can't hope for any gifts. You can only go out there for round one knowing that you'll have to beat three awesome teams to win it. We can do that. There's no one in the Shootout that we're winless against. We just have to be ready to do it."

Gary Scelzi
, driver of the Oakley Dodge Stratus and a three-time Top Fuel champion. Scelzi recently scored his first career Funny Car victory (Sonoma, Calif.), becoming the 13th driver in NHRA history to win an NHRA national event in Top Fuel and Funny car. - "We felt that we had a winning car since we pulled into the gates at the first race (of the season) at Pomona (Calif.) we had talked about (winning) several times. The other teams knew that we could win at any given time even though we hadn't done it yet. I think we earned a lot of respect from everybody throughout the year before the win. So I don't think that's going to change. I think everybody is going to race us just as hard as they did before. But I believe in our minds we know that we can win. We're coming off a win, another No. 1 qualifying effort (Seattle and Brainerd, Minn.). We need this. We need to make a move in the POWERade points and that's what we want to do. We can't really slip up from here on out. We've got to do well and we've got to go late in the rounds."

Ron Capps
, driver of the green Skoal Racing Chevrolet Camaro for team Don 'Snake' Prudhomme. Recently the team made a significant personnel change, relieving long-time crew chief Ed 'Ace' McCulloch of his duties and naming assistant crew chief Todd Okuhara the interim crew chief. - "We're going to be starting a new era for the Skoal Green crew. Todd has been an apprentice to Roland Leong, to Dale Armstrong and Ed McCulloch, so it's his time to show what he's learned. I'm excited about it. Todd will be working with Mike Green and his assistant, Tommy Delago, and (Larry Dixon's crew chief on the Miller Lite dragster) Dick LaHaie is right next door. I watched him grow into this role. We're behind him 100 percent."

Johnny Gray
, driver of the blue Checker Schuck's Kragen Pontiac Firebird. - "For a guy like me, who has been racing cars for more than 30 years, when you think of NHRA Drag Racing you associate the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals with it immediately. It's the big dance, the big enchilada, the most impressive thing you can have on your resume short of a POWERade Championship. To win Indy would be the greatest thing that ever happened to me on a drag strip. And I've been on a lot of drag strips."

Tim Wilkerson
, driver of the Levi, Ray and Shoup Pontiac Firebird and the 1997 Funny Car runner-up at Indy. - "I think the weather is going to be a factor for our team to win Indy, to be honest. If it is in the mid 60s to 70s and the track is really good, you probably won't see a guy like me win it because everyone will be running in the 4.70s. We can run in the 70s, but doing it four runs in a row may not be something we can get a hold of. I think if the weather is warm, I will have a good chance of taking that race and winning it. The U.S. Nationals is very important because of all of the attention it receives. I went to the finals in my first year of racing a nitro Funny Car and that made me pretty proud to do that. We know how to race there and it's close to home and we know what we are doing so it will be good there for us. I believe that the U.S. Nationals is special because of the age of the track. To me it is like the Winternationals. As a kid you remember the races. It is a cool deal and it will always have a special place in your heart."

Greg Anderson
, driver of the Vegas General Construction Pontiac Grand Am and the current Pro Stock points leader. Anderson has won a category-leading seven times this season and was victorious at the 2001 Mac Tools U.S. nationals. - "It is the mystic of the place. You go there and you get a queasy feeling when you walk on the grounds. I don't know what it is. I think I have done a pretty good job of controlling my emotions everywhere I go but when you walk into that place, you feel like a new kid. You're in awe of the whole place. I think it is the tradition. It is the NHRA version of the Indy 500 or the Daytona 500. It means more. It used to be double points and double money. Now it is just double money and the points are the same and Indy shouldn't mean as much. But it does. It is just so neat to go there and to win that race. That makes your whole season. I've been lucky enough to win it, but until you win it a second time, people can call it a fluke. So you have to go back and do it again and make your career."

Jeg Coughlin
, the two-time NHRA POWERade Pro Stock champion drives the Jeg's Mail Order Chevy Cavalier and is the defending winner of the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals, one of his eight victories in 2002. - "Let's face it, the rest of (the Pro Stock racers) are working hard to fill the void (current points leader) Greg (Anderson) put between himself and the rest of the pack. I'm very proud of the fact that we are only one of three drivers (Anderson and Kurt Johnson) to have qualified for every race this year. Being the 49th annual Mac Tools U.S. Nationals really speaks a lot about the race. It has been running for 49 years and it has always been the biggest race. It brought the West Coast and the East Coast together and it has always been the big deal. It always brought in a great mix of racers and over the years it is still the leading and most prestigious race on the schedule. It carries a lot of weight. Our team has had a great year so far and we are sitting third in the points right now and a win at Indy can certainly Band-Aid a lot of the woes we had at the beginning of the year. You want to win every race you go to, no matter what the race is. Indy is just that much sweeter. The fans comes from all over the country to see this race. It is a day longer than any other race, we qualify one more time and you have to have your program together. There will be more than 50 Pro Stock cars there, vying for 16 qualifying spots. That makes it tougher too because everyone throws their best effort out at Indy. We're going to have our program as fresh and stout as it can be. We try to prepare for all 23 races in that fashion, but you always seem to dig a little deeper for Indy. The guys always work a little harder for that race."

Kurt Johnson
, driver of the ACDelco Chevy Cavalier and a contender for the 2003 NHRA POWERade Pro Stock champion. If Johnson captures the series title, he would join his father Warren, a six-time Pro Stock champ, as the first father-and-son duo to each have a Pro Stock championship. - "The POWERade championship is certainly our ultimate goal, and with only (seven) races left, there are only so many points available. However, this team's focus is the same as it was going into the first race of the season in Pomona (Calif.), namely avoiding mistakes and trying to win every race we enter. If we win, we'll score more points than anyone else will, and after all, that's the bottom line in the chase for the title. I haven't really thought about (winning the championship and joining father Warren as the only father-son duo to win NHRA POWERade titles). I suppose it would mean more. I would love to take dad's power and win the championship. He has done it six times and I suppose I should have done it by now. If it comes, it comes. (Indy is) a big race, the biggest we have all year. All of the sponsors are there and we have the best and longest television package of the year. It is really an endurance race because it is the longest event too. We race an extra day and there is a lot of hype surrounding the event. You should take it like every other race on the schedule, but you don't because it is so big. There is not more pressure to win, but there is more pressure if you make a mistake. If for some reason something happens and you don't win, then you really kick yourself."

Antron Brown
, rider of the U.S. Army Suzuki and the winner of Pro Stock Bike at Indy in 2000. Also at Indy in 2000, Brown won the K&N Filters Pro Bike Klash, earning a $10,000 'double-up' bonus.- "That is the biggest race to win. It is like the Super Bowl of drag racing. We have the bonus race for the Pro Stock Bikes too, the K&N Filters Pro Stock Bike Klash. It is a huge deal and every time we go there everyone is juiced up and ready to go for this race. The U.S. Nationals is the race of all races. The thing about it is that I want to win it again. Every time I see Indy coming up on the schedule, I get pumped up and I can't wait to race there, especially since I live in Indy now. It is the most prestigious race on the schedule and when you think about Indy, you think about the racing capital of the world. I live there now and I feel it, I breathe it and I sleep it. When that race comes up, you have to step up to the plate."

Craig Treble
, rider of the Matco Tools Suzuki and the defending winner of the K&N Filters Pro Bike Klash - "It is the biggest race we go to. The Pro Stock Bike class has its special event and we are all racing for bonus money too. The ambiance of the whole race is a pretty cool deal. The U.S. Nationals is something everyone wants to win. We won the K&N Filters Pro Stock Bike Klash last year and that was a huge deal for us. If we could double-up and win Indy too, that would be incredible. It gives me goosebumps just thinking about the U.S. Nationals.

-nhra-

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Doug Herbert , Antron Brown , Jeg Coughlin , Larry Dixon , Kenny Bernstein , Kurt Johnson , Tony Pedregon , Del Worsham , Whit Bazemore , Ron Capps , Gary Scelzi , Greg Anderson , Craig Treble , Dick LaHaie , Tim Wilkerson , Johnny Gray