Point leaders' pre-Bristol teleconference, part 2

Continued from part 1 PADIAN: That's something (practice) you've been pretty good at over the years. We'll open the floor now for questions. Q: I know you're racing this weekend at Bristol Dragway, a place you won at a couple times. Is...

Continued from part 1

PADIAN: That's something (practice) you've been pretty good at over the years. We'll open the floor now for questions.

Q: I know you're racing this weekend at Bristol Dragway, a place you won at a couple times. Is that somewhere where you think you can get some points?

ANDERSON: I think so. I hope so. You never know. I don't have a crystal ball. I look forward every year going to Bristol. I love the facility, I love everything about the place. It's one of those great places to race. We do look forward to that race every year. It's certainly got special memories for me. It's where I won my first race back in 2001. It will always be one of my very favorite tracks.

I've got a little bit of proving to do, so to speak. We've been a little off the last three times out. Kind of got whipped early. You know, that doesn't sit well with this team, to be honest with you. We know the only ones that can fix that is ourselves, we've been working hard. We need a good rebound weekend. We need a get-well weekend. I really look forward to this weekend, and a lot of the preparation we've done in the last couple weeks, hopefully we're getting ourselves refined, getting all the little bugs worked out and hopefully we're ready to go on a run.

I guess we'll see this weekend. Looks like the weather is going to shape up and fall into what Pro Stock guys like, cool temperatures, maybe 70 degrees for a high. Should be a great race.

But, yeah, we think we need to prove a point that we're not going away easy, we're not going down. It's time for us to hit our stride and put it on if we want to win that fourth championship.

Q: I know Erica (Enders, Slammers Ultimate Milk Chevy Cobalt) has a lot of publicity. She seems to be validating that publicity.

ANDERSON: Yeah, she's doing a great job. She's holding up her end, doing a great job driving that car. They've got a great team behind them. They've kind of probably modeled that team sort of after us, right across town here. They have my head engine builder that I had for the last two, three years that I let go the middle of last season. He ran right over there. Instantly they got a lot of power. They've got a great group of guys working on that car. They've got the entire cast of characters that it takes. You're not going to win one of these championships or even any of these races if you don't have every piece of the puzzle, and they've got it.

Everybody thought she would be the weak link. She's proving not to be a weak link. She is doing a great job. She is holding up to the pressure. She has won a lot of hole shot races already this year. That's what you've got to do to win races. They're absolutely as serious a threat as there is out there. It's hard to say what's going to happen down the road, but she is absolutely on her game, so is that team. They're going to be a tough, tough team to beat this year along with a bunch of other ones.

Q: This past week we lost a Pro Stock legend in Ronnie Sox. What are your thoughts about him?

ANDERSON: Well, I never actually knew Ronnie on a personal level, but I certainly watched and idolized him when I was growing up, when I was young. He was the coolest dude. He was so smooth. He was just absolutely laid back. Man, he could drive the wheels off of the race car.

It's kind of where the roots of this class started. He was an absolute hero, an icon, when Pro Stock first started. He could drive a four-speed car like no one ever dreamed. Even though I didn't know him on a personal level, I got to know his son quite well a few years back. He worked on a team I worked on at the same time. I kind of knew the family. I didn't know Ronnie that well. But I sure watched him and I sure admired him when he was racing.

He was a pure, pure racer. He was like Cool Hand Luke. He was laid back, like Lee Shepherd. Laid back guy, nothing bothered him, didn't get excited. That equated to a great racer. I think a lot of people have looked up to him and thought, I'd like to be like that guy, be able to race like that guy. He meant a lot to the class, a lot to the sport.

Q: How do you feel about being challenged the way you are? Does that get your juices up more than going out and putting together three or four wins?

ANDERSON: It's a different kind, you're absolutely right. It's kind of -- instead of being on the defensive, sometimes it throws you on the defensive. I haven't had to be on defense much the last three, four years. It's kind of a new challenge for us. But it's a challenge that we need to conquer. We need to be able to respond that way just like if we're out there leading the pack and dominating every race. To be able to maintain that level, we need to be able to bounce back and get that dominance back.

It's put a lot of extra pressure on us. But, you know, I don't think anybody here is shy to a challenge. Basically all these other teams have issued a challenge to us. And if we're going to win another championship, we're flat going to have to go out and earn it. It's going to be tougher and harder than it's ever been. That's the way it should be. That's what's going to make NHRA POWERade Pro Stock racing great this year. It's already great. Looks like it's going to be all year, a bunch of different winners. I wish I had a crystal ball. By mid-season, I guarantee you you're going to have ten teams well into the thick of the championship hunt and no margin between them. Just got to make doggone sure we're one of those teams. We've had a couple, three off races. It's time for us to hit our stride, otherwise we could fall behind. Any one of these other half a dozen, eight people could jump into the lead right now and run away with it.

Q: What was that experience like when you used to work for Warren Johnson?

ANDERSON: You know, I guess the best way I can explain it, I did not go to any kind of college. I graduated high school and I jumped right into racing full-time right then. I can't imagine a better college to go to than the WJ University of Drag Racing. I learned so much there. I learned not only how to work on every end of the car, every end of the engine, I learned how to win, how to win races and how to perform at the racetrack, which is just something that's about impossible to learn on your own. You have to be around someone that can do that and has done that and can show you how to do that.

That's what he did. I mean, I respect the guy. I respect the heck out of the guy. Honestly, all those years I worked for him, I never planned on leaving there. I thought I'd probably work there the rest of my life and eventually drive one of his cars. Unfortunately it didn't work out that way. There wasn't room for another driver as time went on. I didn't perceive myself ever leaving there. It was a great opportunity, a great shop. He had great resources, a whole bunch of knowledge between him and Kurt (Johnson, Warren's son and a Pro Stock driver). Learned a lot from them. It certainly helped me get to where I'm at now. At the same time I've had to take some of them lessons that I learned then and move forward from there. I've had to learn a whole lot more since I left those doors out on my own. He taught me a lot of ways to learn things.

You've got to pay attention. You got to surround yourself with good people. Those are a couple of the very important things that I learned from him. I couldn't imagine a better college to go to. It was a great university.

Q: Aren't you glad he's still around?

ANDERSON: Sure, I am. Absolutely. I was one of the guys -- I hope he doesn't retire. He was planning his retirement, his "School's Out" tour, whatever it was called. He's an icon, like Ronnie Sox. He's an icon in the class. If I'm going to go and win championships and I'm going to become a serious player in this sport and be able to win races and maybe even championships year after year, you want to do it against the best that there is to beat. He's certainly at the top of that class. Everybody still respects the heck out of what he can do with a race car, with an engine. If he continues racing and I can continue beating him, that validates what you can do. If he goes away, well, you know, you think maybe if he was still racing, I wouldn't have won that championship. You're darn right I want him out there. You want to beat the best of the best. He's there, certainly has been for a long time. Hope he never quits.

Q: Looking up to mid-season, Sonoma, what do you like about the track up here?

ANDERSON: I love the Sonoma racetrack. It's a very, very smooth racetrack. We as Pro Stock racers love the nice smooth surfaces, the big barometer, sea level racetrack, you make a lot of power when you come out there just because the altitude of the track is basically at sea level. You have a big barometer, a lot of times you catch the 60, 70 degree weather, you've got a great chance of setting national records. We lick our chops when we come out there because that's one of the few chances during the season, if the weather breaks, you get those cool temperatures, that you can run those big ETs and speeds. We like that. That's a lot of fun. A lot of fun running fast.

It's a beautiful facility.  We love running first class facilities.  My
wife loves the wine country out there.  She does the wine tour every
year.  Everybody's happy when we come there.

Q: Sponsors, too, they seem to like the wine country.

ANDERSON: Seem to get a lot of sponsors. A lot of friends want to come out there. A lot like the Vegas track. A lot of people like to come to Sonoma because there's a lot to do out there.

Q: What do you think has caused the increase in popularity of NHRA?

ANDERSON: Well, I'd say there's a lot of things. I mean, it's been a great sport for a lot of years. I'm not sure what the greatest change or the biggest change has been other than it's just finally, you know, you're getting pretty good TV coverage, it's getting out to people. People are finally starting to see how great this sport is, how exciting it is. NASCAR racing's great, don't get me wrong. It fills the grandstands. There's just a zillion people that love it. I tell you, this drag race deal is a lot more exciting to watch than sitting and watching for three or four hours in the grandstand watching cars go round and round. It's hard to see who's leading, hard to tell which car is which when they go around the back straight. You don't feel the power, you don't feel the vibration and power like you do with drag cars. When you go to a drag race, they light off one of them Top Fuel cars, the earth moves, you feel the car, you feel the rush. It's just such an exciting sport.

We're finally getting it out to the mainstream people through TV.  I feel
great to be a part of it.  It's starting its ascent to the top.

PADIAN: Greg, thanks for joining us. Not that you need any more motivation, but to follow up my introductory question, I had a couple notes for people. Over the last two years, only one win in the first 11 events. Like I said, not that you need any more motivation, but I'm sure the fact that you're still leading with those stats is probably putting fear in the rest of the class. Thanks for joining us today. We will see you out in Bristol this weekend.

Ron Capps came up just one round win short in the dramatic Funny Car race in 2005. So far in 2006, he's left nothing to chance with two wins. He's built a 105 point lead over John Force. That's a pretty bold statement to start the season, Ron?

CAPPS: Yeah. And it was less than a round, eight points. We kind of snuck up on them in the end. The point was, we were there all year. We never led. But one thing that's gotten us to where we are now leading the points this year is just consistency. You hear every motorsports team, every stick and ball, everybody just tells you consistency is what will get you championships.

We knew we had it. We kind of peaked at the right time, right near the end of the year. Heading into Pomona, to be as close as it was... I finished second before, so I knew that feeling too. Having a real shot at the championship was something that was awesome. I knew, as soon as it was over and we didn't win a championship, that we'd be pretty strong this year.

PADIAN: Just as a note on Ron finishing second. He's done that three times, in '98, 2000 and again in 2005. Ron has 19 career wins, which is fifth most all time among NHRA drivers who have not won a championship and second most in Funny Car. Ron is certainly among the biggest names in the sport who has yet to win a POWERade Series world championship. This year he's made a pretty bold statement to start the season.

We'll start with questions for Ron.

Q: Could you talk about your position compared to your teammates (Gary Scelzi and Whit Bazemore), what you think they might be struggling with? After finishing second last year, how much has that steeled you for this season in terms of just being steady all the way through?

CAPPS: Well, I mean, the first part of your question, my teammates, to watch Gary, Whit for that matter, too, but to watch the champ struggle like they have early in the season, you know, I've talked about my crew guys and how I've got a pretty good mix of young guys on my crew, really young guys, guys straight out of automotive college, with a couple veterans mixed in. I felt like I had to be kind of a leader. I was quick to remind them we could be in that position very quickly. It's just the way the sport is.

A few years ago, I was in that spot. Just couldn't do anything right. It's tough because my trailer is connected to Scelzi's. You get back from a run, you win that round, for that matter Houston, we get back after qualifying well, they didn't qualify, it's bittersweet. It's like having a brother. You're excited for yourself and your team, but you feel bad. You don't know what to say. To be honest with you, I didn't go over and say anything to Scelzi. If I was in that position, there's nothing anybody could say to make you feel better. I knew they'd snap out of it and they're going to be strong. But I also know that's what makes this whole Schumacher team strong. All three crew chiefs always put their egos aside. It's finally turned around where everybody ran good in Vegas. Believe me, I'd love to have the success I'm having right now, but I'd rather do it racing Scelzi or Baze in the final or semis.

Continued in part 3

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Series NHRA
Drivers Whit Bazemore , Ron Capps , John Force