Continued from part 1 Q: What are your thoughts on Hillary Will, is she likely to be a player in determining who wins the championship? TONY SCHUMACHER: I think she's going to be a tough one to race against because she's first a ...
Continued from part 1
Q: What are your thoughts on Hillary Will, is she likely to be a player in determining who wins the championship?
TONY SCHUMACHER: I think she's going to be a tough one to race against because she's first a lightweight driver, she had a very fast car (at testing). Now can she drive a fast car? I don't know, man. I can't even begin to answer that. These cars, the faster they go, the harder they are to drive, and with wheelstands and stuff they are doing some silly things out there. We have seen them go down the racetrack and run in the 40s. Can they do it when it's hot and smoking the tires? I can't begin to give you that answer yet.
I think the best people to answer that question are her teammates that are watching her in and out and probably helping guide her through the first 100 runs or so.
Q: When you talk about her being a lightweight driver, do you have any idea how many pounds you're giving away to her?
TONY SCHUMACHER: I'm 158 pounds, and look at her, I can't see that she's 100 pounds.
You know, the car still has to weigh the same amount. It doesn't matter, if we can take the weight off in different areas, we're good. My car is not that heavy. We're only barely 10 pounds over anyways. So we can move the weight, too, and fortunately I'm not a heavy guy, so I still have to make horsepower. But when you have 8,000 horsepower, does it matter if it's 8,002? Herbert is a heavy driver, he's a big guy, he's in the middle. But me and her and Melanie (Troxel) and guys like (Ron) Capps, and Scelzi has been working out, he looks in shape. That's determination there, man. A lot of people don't get that.
Q: Tony, as competitive as this division is, with so many challengers, the fact is, there have been many dynasties between you and Larry, is it one of those things where you win a championship and that formula tends to stick and it lasts longer than, say, some of the other divisions?
TONY SCHUMACHER: You know, if there were no rule changes and none of that happening, I would say, yeah, man, we've got a great handle on it and this thing can go for a long time. But it has simply blown my mind over the last two years how many rule changes we've gone through. You can have something that is working just absolutely perfect and year-in and year-out be successful and all that can change. I mean, we stepped up around Larry when they were running extremely well, and no one could come close and force them to step up a little bit, which took them a little while and ran them out of time. If a team comes around and does that to us, it's going to be the same situation.
Fortunately, and I know Gary is going to answer this, too, we have Alan Johnson. He is just so smart that when he can put a team together and put in the same guys and maintain his trust this them, it's a hard act to follow. I hope I answered that question right.
Q: Yeah, yeah, kind of leads me to this other one, with all of these rule changes that you alluded to, you still have been able to adapt and win and you credited Alan Johnson for that, but have you really allowed yourself to think about a 3-peat?
TONY SCHUMACHER: I would love nothing more. I get up every morning and I do whatever it's going to take to keep me in shape physically and mentally to do that now -- inaudible -- people ask, are you ready to go, and the fact is when we show up in Southern California, we are all tight and everything sounds great but we have to go out and win rounds.
And my team, I'm blown away that they are not cocky in any way, shape or form. They show up earlier than everybody, stay later than everybody and work harder because they do want that 3-peat. It's just a word right now but those guys have so much determination that me as the driver, man, I want to show up and -- I sure don't want to be the weak link with that many people showing up. Those guys eat and sleep drag racing every day and they can't wait to go win a race. So that makes me feel comfortable.
Do I want to look nine months into the future? No. I'm just going to show up because I can't think about anything that's going to help me do it other than focusing on the first round that we get to.
Q: Leading into the last few races last year, we talked and the subject of retirement came up, and you kind of hedged there. But you said it was close. Was that ever a consideration in the off-season thinking that, you know, maybe I'd like to go out on top here?
GARY SCELZI: Oh, I thought about it. I'm not ready to quit. I'm just going to play it year-to-year and see what happens. Both of my boys came up to me after we won the championship, I went to the motor home and they said, "Dad, you can't quit, you can't quit, this is great." And that's my biggest thing is being away from my kids.
We'll just see how it goes, we'll see how it goes this year, and if I'm still having fun and life is good, you know, Schumacher Racing, I'll stay. If it's not, then I'll leave. Now, whether I retire or not, I don't know. We'll just have to wait and see.
Q: Quick question on the Dodge Charger body, how is that coming along, how did you like it in the testing?
GARY SCELZI: Capps is the only one that drove it. I wasn't there in Vegas in December. I sat in Ron's car when I was back in Indy a couple weeks back and it is a really swoopy looking piece, it is really neat. My car is being mounted right now and it's off the paint. I don't believe we're going to have it by Pomona. But we should have one or possibly two for Phoenix, it just depends how quick they are coming out of the mold. I'm not sure on that to answer your question. As soon as my car is painted and complete, from what I understand, we will be the first ones running it.
Q: When you were saying that Force is no longer cracking jokes, do you mean he's actually not saying anything or is he still the same old John just maybe not telling as many stories?
GARY SCELZI: No, John is as nice as he's always been to me. I believe that we're friends and that's never going to change. But he doesn't come around much and offer me a beer. (Laughter).
He's been pretty focused the last couple of weeks and rightfully so. He lost his championship. Not only did it hurt his budget from the bonuses I'm sure that he lost, but John doesn't want to not be known as the champ and miss getting all of the attention. I can't say that I blame him. When I lost the championship to Tony and the other guys in Top Fuel, Bernstein and those guys, I didn't like it.
Once you've tasted it and you've eaten from that golden spoon, you want it more and you get greedy and you want to win it more and more and you want more attention. It's just good for morale. When you don't have it, you work harder to get it back, and they are going to be plenty tough.
Q: When you look back over this past season, was there any one thing that was critical that turned the team around and got you in the Championship Chase? Is there any one thing that you can look back on and say, that's what did it?
GARY SCELZI: You know, I really can't. Because our focus from the beginning was to be good, and to be better than we were on the tracks that we were the year before, and I think we accomplished that. You know, we were five final rounds and in the final round we ran as good as anybody else, and they were both close races, so we could have won five races just as easy as three. I can't really take anything out. I can pick a mistake out that I thought lost it and that was my untimely red-light, red-light in Dallas, which amazed me. It was my second red-light in my career, and where it came from, I have no idea. I was as shocked as anyone. I do know that I've learned a lot of things about myself over last year that I believe I'm on the right track on and ready to do battle this year, and I know Mike Neff has learned some things in mistakes we made last year. One thing we did last year is when we made a dumb mistake, we fixed it right then. We made sure that mistake would never happen again. Now unfortunately in drag racing you always come up with a new mistake, but we were able to fix things as we went and got better as a team. And that's one of the reasons why I'm so excited about the beginning of this year.
Q: You had that rivalry with John Force and of course with Capps. It was a great shootout finish, you finally beat Force, he came in third, not second. Do you think maybe you created a monster? He's been testing in the 60s and he seems really motivated.
GARY SCELZI: We were right with him. We ran 70 flats at both places and ran 330. So again like Tony mentioned earlier, the testing thing is great and the one thing that we learned was to be consistent and we tried some new parts that didn't work, some of the new parts did work. Force is going to be tough on a dirt road. Is he going to be more focused?
Absolutely. And if someone is able to beat him again this year, then you know what, then that's going to show you who really means business this year. And you know, like I said, we may be in 10th place, who knows, but right now I like my chances.
Q: And you've got the same crew so you have the consistency that you're going to carry over in 2006.
GARY SCELZI: It's very important to keep the same people like Tony mentioned again, it's the fourth year that every single guy on my team is there that and they are all motivated and they are focused and they are there because they want to be there. So, you know, they are happy where they are at. They all know their jobs. One run in Vegas, and we've been off in the winter months, they serviced that car just as quick as they did at the finals last year. I know Force has some new members on his team and sometimes they make mistakes until they get in the group. Hopefully those mistakes don't cost them races, and you know, we all make mistakes, but I'm very confident in my team and my crew chief that, you know, if we can't get the job done, we're going to be right in the middle of it.