NHRA teleconference 2008-08-20, part 2

Continued from part 1 Q: Some of the conversations I've been having with some other guys over the last week or so, there seems to be a growing sentiment out there to make the 1,000-foot thing permanent. I'm just wondering what your take on...

Continued from part 1

Q: Some of the conversations I've been having with some other guys over the last week or so, there seems to be a growing sentiment out there to make the 1,000-foot thing permanent. I'm just wondering what your take on that is?

RON CAPPS: I've been waffling a little bit, which I try not to do. As a historian, I didn't want to veer too far away from the quarter mile. It's kind of what the foundation was built on. It's what (NHRA founder Wally) Parks built everything on. But I've got to tell you, you can ask most drivers, and the majority of them are going to tell you we're pretty happy with things the way they are right now. There were a few more explosions and such in Reading last weekend, and we kind of had a feeling because of the conditions, the weather, the atmosphere conditions were good there. So guys were really leaning on their stuff to run better. But I think just finding a good way to mark the 1,000 foot for the Funny Car guys and gals is important because you kind of get lost when the clutch comes in, and it's hard to find a thousand foot sometimes.

But I've got to tell you I'm pretty happy with it. And more than that, I think I told you before, Steve, was the fans are probably the best beneficiary. Because they're allowed to go in the grandstands, take one drink in their hand, and sit through the whole session and not have oil downs take a half an hour here and there. And they're able to go back in the pits and watch their favorite drivers and crews do their work. It's a win-win thing right now. But I think containing these cars at the finish line will be the key. We'll see what happens next year. Bu that's not our call.

Q: A Couple of drivers have suggested going back and forth. The tracks where there's plenty of runoff area, never been a problem, running the quarter mile there, and places where there is a problem, going with the thousand foot. What would be your opinion of going back and forth? Or do you think the decision needs to be made to do one or the other?

RON CAPPS: My personal opinion would be NASCAR is running Bristol this weekend. They'll be in Daytona in early '09. I don't see any reason why some tracks we can't go back and forth. I don't know where NHRA's head is in that and if that's what they're thinking as well. But, you know, I don't see that not happening. There are some tracks we can't, but Pomona really worries me because they can't extend it either direction. There's railroad tracks and a golf course at each end. That is one of the most historic tracks we got to and one of my favorites.

Del Worsham and I were talking the other day and I would rather run our cars the way they are, full tilt, get your attention. That adrenaline rush that we get and running like that to 1,000 foot, than to have a governor put on these things that they only run 300 miles per hour to the finish line. That's my personal opinion. They become slot cars at that point. We went to Denver, and 1,000 foot was good. And the weather conditions there being the mile high the cars always seem to run slower anyway. So those two put together (meant slower cars).

We left Denver, but when we got to Seattle and that first lap in Seattle, I looked at every other driver and said, 'Man, this is what it's all about.' You step on the gas and this thing makes your eyes the size of a half dollar, it's, you know, there is nothing that replaces that. So my personal opinion is I'd rather run them like they are to 1,000 foot, than to have them slowed way down to a quarter mile.

Q: If I could for Andrew and Ashley, did you have an athletic ability growing up? And if so, did it transfer to drag racing?

ASHLEY FORCE: No, I wasn't. I'm very clumsy. And if you ask anyone who knows me, they know that. I was always in competition sports. I was always in team kind of sports. When we were younger, we traveled to as many of the races as we could, so we couldn't take part in a lot of sports: Softball or soccer or anything that had games on the weekends. So my sisters and I got into dance and gymnastics because you could take classes during the week and still be able to go to the races on the weekends. Then as we got older, that led into cheerleading.

Which, it's funny, because cheerleading is such an opposite world from drag racing, yet there were a lot of things similar to me. It's a team sport. You work together. You're not going to win a cheer competition or a race without the people around you. And I really loved cheerleading more for the team aspect than the particular things that we were doing. And that is the same with drag racing. I love racing the cars. I love being part of the events. But probably my favorite thing about being a drag racer is working with my team.

So that is the background I have. But, yeah, I wouldn't call myself -- we've been actually watching the Olympics this whole week and I got really into it. It's amazing the talents these people have. But I'll stick with my race car. That's what I'm good at. As far as anything else, I'm a big klutz.

ANDREW HINES: Very little athletic background for me. I played Little League baseball when I lived in California for about five years. But when I moved out to Colorado, I had more fun riding dirt bikes and riding four wheelers than anything else. So I stuck with that during my high school years.

During my high school time I was in Junior ROTC, and I was part of the marksmanship program there. And I was the top marksman for three out of the four years. So I learned how to control my nerves quite a bit and control my breathing and control my heart rate and stuff. So that helps when I'm sitting on the starting line getting ready to pop the clutch on the Harley. So being able to be in situations where you have to control your physical and mental abilities, it helps out a lot. Along with riding the dirt bikes, it made it a lot easier going from jumping dirt hills and stuff to getting on a Pro Stock Motorcycle, because you have to be on top of it, just like you do driving a Funny Car.

But on these bikes, we're not strapped in, so sometimes you have to hang off the side and use as much body English as you can. Just kind of plugged away at it, and everything paid off. I think the most important thing was the marksmanship and learning how to control mental ability and the physical breathing and stuff like that. So it worked out.

Q: Going back to the 1,000-foot issue, it seems like there is a lot of focus on the finish line. Do any of the four on here have any comment about the advantages of bringing the finish line closer to where the fans are watching the race from?

THE MODERATOR: I'll direct that to the Nitro drivers. Dave, you want to try that first?

DAVE GRUBNIC: The 1,000-foot really, yes, we go out there and we race every weekend, and deep down that's what we do. But also we're in the entertainment business. We have a lot of people turn up and want to see a good show. I concur with what Ron said. If we can go out and put on a better show and turn the cars around quickly and everything else, ultimately, I believe it's better. The tradition of 1320 (feet ... a quarter-mile) which I'm all about, that's fine. But we don't have the facilities to support that now. And we can't pay for tradition with the lives of our drivers.

So until we can come up with something safer and better so we can go back to 1320, I don't see there's any problem with 1,000 feet. As long as we put on a show and entertain the crowd, the television crowd and the local crowd, we're doing fine. It can only be safer.

ASHLEY FORCE: Dave put it into good words. As much as our sport is about competition and winning a big, big part of it is the fans and media and bringing people to be interested about it. It's sad but true, the attention span of people isn't that long and that's why we all love drag racing so much. It is tough on the fans just as it is on the teams to wait on oil downs. It makes for long days where it's a lot more exciting when you're seeing pairs run pair after pair. It's better for us, better for them and the safety issues as well.

So it seems for now it's the best option we have. It's been working out well. The fans at first I don't think they were -- they were nervous about it and they weren't too happy. No one likes change. But now they embrace it and see that it is more entertaining than sitting and waiting for the next pair to run. So we'll see how it turns out.

Q: The distance that you're watching to the finish line is there any advantage to 1,000 feet ... ?

THE MODERATOR: The question was for the fans with the finish line being 320 feet closer to the stands, is there an advantage for the fans?

DAVE GRUBNIC: I wouldn't think so. It just means they don't have to turn their head as far ... But they're going to turn it anyway. Because 95 parachutes of the people watch the parachutes come out and make sure the cars do stop or slow down and make sure there is in no problem.

Ultimately I think it's better because most of our bleachers and everything else stops around the 1,000-foot mark anyways. So they probably get a better shot or a better visual of the cars going across the finish line.

You know, ultimately I'd say, yes, it probably is better for the fans, to be quite honest with you.

THE MODERATOR: Ron, Ashley, do you have an opinion on that?

RON CAPPS: If we had gone up there and not told any of the fans and ran a whole session to 1,000 foot and not had scoreboards, they probably wouldn't have been able to tell to be honest with you. The very hard-core fan might have said, 'Oh, they're shutting off early.' But the majority of the fans and the majority of the grandstands in the paid reserved seat area, you can't tell. And I think it does help a little bit being closer, because you're seeing more of the action. But I think the ultimate goal and we're all hinting around it is live TV. I think one thing we didn't expect this to do was to make the show go better.

Our last frontier right now as far as our sport is to be on live television. Too many viewers get on the internet, check it, and see what happened and don't watch ESPN2. That's been our downfall. As soon as we can go to live television, I think you're going to see, I hate to use the term the next level. But I think you'll see our sport go to the next level.

Q: Ashley, how do you prepare for a race within a race the U.S. Smokeless Showdown? And since you've secured a playoff berth, does that make a difference in terms of your focus going into next weekend's race?

ASHLEY FORCE: Securing the spot in the Countdown definitely makes a big difference. It's just one less thing that maybe playing into your weekend. But I've never done a race like this. This is all new to me. I've watched my whole life my dad compete in the race inside a race, but I've never experienced it. So we'll see how it goes.

There maybe a lot of yoga leading up to the race or something to keep me relaxed. But we're excited. It's really the approach my team's taking. It's only our second season in Funny Car. The class is so, so competitive. That we were even able to play in this Showdown, it's exciting to us.

So it's more of a fun thing, and that's how we're trying to keep it. Not let the pressure get to us. We get to race with the big boys, and we get to do it at Indy, the biggest race of the year, and compete on Monday.

We're really excited about it. Whatever happens, especially running dad first round, whatever happens that we got a chance to be involved in this, we're excited about it. That's how we're taking it, step by step. But we'll see. That's easy for me to say now. In a week from now, we'll see how I'm acting.

Q: Are the butterflies bigger going into the "Big Go" (Indy)? And what works best on on those nerves?

DAVE GRUBNIC: Well, yes and no. Again, it's sort of like the butterflies are bigger, obviously. It's especially in my case with everything that's going on. But again, you have to kind of like keep it in the back of your mind. You can't let it affect you, if that makes sense. You go up there and you worry about it, and you do this and that. But once the helmet goes on, it's like, okay, you have to become a machine and do your job.

It's one thing in drag racing is we can't afford to do as drivers, we can't afford to make mistakes. We can't pick it back up next lap and so forth. The answer to that is yes, and no. There is more pressure, but you can't let it get to you.

RON CAPPS: Yeah. For me, and our NAPA team, we've got obviously the U.S. Smokeless Showdown. And it's funny, because you heard Ashley talk about who she ran, and she mentioned her dad. That's one unique thing about this race. In our sport, it's much like match play in golf. This race coming up, we already know who we're going to race first round. I have Tim Wilkerson in the first round, she has her dad. So we've known this for the last four, five days. And we're going to sit on this until Saturday.

And believe me, when you get to Indy Thursday night and you've got to sit through Friday and all the stuff you've got to do, it drags on. All you think about is who you race first round, because in the Showdown, Monday's a big race.

But all you think about is getting qualified in the show for the race. And all that looms in the front of your brain is who you're going to race first round, and it's not an unknown. You know who you're going to race. So I think that type of pressure is a little extra. It always has been for a Funny Car driver at Indy because we have the showdown there. There's always more pressure especially for Funny Car drivers.

THE MODERATOR: Thanks, Ron, and also thank you to Dave, Ashley, and Andrew for joining us on today's call and the media as well. Have a good day.

-credit: nhra

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Series NHRA
Drivers Del Worsham , Tim Wilkerson