The Dodge Boys: Darrell Alderman and Gene Wilson Part 1 of 2 Darrell Alderman and Gene Wilson have more in common than you might think. They have a slight age difference, sure. There's also the fact that Alderman, 52, has three Pro Stock ...
The Dodge Boys: Darrell Alderman and Gene Wilson Part 1 of 2
Darrell Alderman and Gene Wilson have more in common than you might think. They have a slight age difference, sure. There's also the fact that Alderman, 52, has three Pro Stock championships, while Wilson, 29, has not even claimed his first NHRA event victory. Beyond that, however, they share many similarities. Both drive Dodge Neon R/T's in arguably the most competitive Pro Stock season in NHRA history. Both work at their family construction businesses when they have some spare time and both have the desire to elevate the Dodge program, and themselves, into the winning spotlight. In this Q&A session, Alderman and Wilson talk about each other, Mopar and the toughest category in racing.
Q: What is it like driving for the Dodge program that is trying to become more competitive than ever?
Gene Wilson: Seeing how this is my first year, I really don't have any idea of what it was like in the previous years. I think Darrell is far more qualified to answer that one.
Darrell Alderman: I think the Neon's and the Hemi has really put the Dodge program on the map. We have had the Hemi for a couple of years, and they have been developing it for years. But as time goes on, you are going to see the Neons get faster and quicker. Of course we are going to the Stratus next year, and we are really looking forward to that. The Hemi engine is really the big reason there has been an improvement with the Dodge cars because it is making more power and that allows us to be more competitive. Of course Mopar is getting a lot more involved with other teams out here too. You have Greg Stanfield coming out at Denver and he put in some good times. I think he even went a couple of rounds. In fact, he beat me. Larry Morgan won a race. Mopar and the help from the engineers from Mopar Parts has meant a lot to us. We have had some factory help.
Q: How does the increase in support from the engineering programs help you as a driver?
Wilson: Well, I would say that it offers a big advantage. When you know that when you are rolling up to the starting line and the car has good performance capabilities, it allows the driver to concentrate more on doing his job at hand rather than worrying about whether the car is going to make it down the track or even be fast enough to qualify. It takes a lot of stress off the driver's shoulder. It will definitely translate into better driving, better reaction times, and better shift points, which in turn will hopefully produce more wins.
Q: Gene, what has your overall experience been like in your first season of NHRA racing?
Wilson: It's been wonderful. I couldn't be happier where I am. You know I came from the IHRA where I ran for about four or five years where I competed against some great drivers. But being over here with Mopar and the NHRA, that is what I really wanted. It's been a deal where I wanted to come over here for a while and I never really thought I would get the opportunity this soon and after winning a championship in the IHRA, I got the opportunity to come over and be a teammate with Darrell Alderman who has been one of my idols as far as drag racing goes. To be able to work with him and be with this team has kind of produced a dream season. Being with Mopar and NHRA has been a blast for me. It's been a pretty big wake up call. I am just trying to get buckled down and start doing good and get some wins.
Q: Darrell, would you consider this to be one of the toughest Pro Stock season since you started racing in 1986?
Alderman: Oh it definitely is. I have been racing for NHRA since 1986. (Wilson: Oh, be honest, he is old enough to be my grandpa.). Yeah, thanks. Still, this has been the most competitive season we have had so far. It doesn't look like it is going to let up for next season either. No doubt about it, this is the competitive group of drivers in a long time. It's going to be closer every week. This is better racing for the fans.
Q: What are the advantages of having a two-car team?
Wilson: I think the two-car deal works very well for our particular team. We now have two cars that are just alike and obviously one of us is going to run before the other one does. Depending on what the first car does on its way down the track, we can make some adjustments to the second car, whoever that might be. Hopefully that will help the other car. We are trying to take advantage of having a two-car deal. We have them set up alike for that reason alone.
Alderman: It is twice the exposure for Mopar. It gives you more data to set the car up and get ready for race day. You have eight qualifying passes instead of just four.
Q: Gene, what has been the most difficult part of your move over to the NHRA?
Wilson: There hasn't really been one difficult thing. You always want to do good and always do the best you can. I would say there is a little more pressure over here. There is more exposure, there is more TV time, there is more things happening and going on. Overall, the pressure of doing well and being at your best and giving 100 percent all the time has been a big difference. But that is what it takes to win in this class. Pro Stock has fields that are so tight and you are separated by a thousandth of a second. That leaves you without a margin for error. Knowing that puts a little extra pressure on the driver.
Q: Darrell, what has it been like to have a rookie as a teammate?
Alderman: I have been very fortunate not just with the teammate driver stuff, all of them have been excellent people and Gene has been the same way. I don't really look at him as a rookie because I think he is an awesome driver. You can call him a rookie, but he drives like he has been around for a long time. He can be one of the best because he is so sharp and dedicated to driving a Pro Stock car. He leaves the starting line well, he is a good leaver. He hits all of his shift points and he is good with the public. And I think all the gals out here will say that he is even easy on the eyes. He has the personality it takes to be the complete package. I think any sponsor would be really pleased to have him as a driver.
Q: Gene, what have you learned from Darrell.
Wilson: What Darrell does best is just be calm, cool, collected and nonchalant in the car. He gets in the car and he performs like nobody else out here. It is so hard to do that. I have raced for about 15 years and it is so hard to put all the pressure aside and be at your best all the time and that is where he excels and shines. Nothing bothers him, nothing rattles him. To have that ability and that kind of attitude is something I look forward to sometime having. But right now, my limited experience means that I don't have that yet. But Darrell is one of the best. As far as driving the car down the track on a cold track or a greasy track, there isn't anyone who compares to Darrell. Just the ability to drive the race car at his best, all the time, that is what Darrell Alderman is all about.
Q: Darrell you have collected nearly 30 event wins along with three championships in your career. What else do you want to accomplish before you retire?
Alderman: I hope another championship is not out of the question. It would be really nice to win a championship with the competition at this level. Back when I won the championships, the cars weren't as close as they are now. I think it would be more meaningful to win one at 52. You know, win a title after I am more than half a 100 years old.
Q: Gene, what kind of goals do you have set for yourself right now?
Wilson: Well, I think the obvious one is to win races and win championships and do my very best. The level of competition is so great this year and I don't see it slowing down. I see it getting tighter and tighter and harder to win championships, races and round wins even. Everything is going to start to be more difficult to accomplish. I just have to look straight ahead and look at the big picture and hope that I can win some championships and a bunch of wins.
Q: Gene, how did you get involved with drag racing?
Wilson: I started racing a car that I drove to school everyday. It escalated from there. I started modifying the car and putting different heads and intake cams on it. Pretty soon, I got to where I had no car to go to school in because it would overheat or mess up going to school. I ended up having to buy myself a real cheap car to drive to school and the other one became my race car and I entered some outlaw races and a lot of other local stuff. I did very well at it and then the need for speed kind of took over. As with anybody, you always want to go to something bigger and faster. It slowly has worked up to different stages of cars until we got to Pro Stock. I drove a Pro Mod car and the outlaw cars with the 10-inch tires, which are up and coming cars. I gradually moved up through various stages of cars.
Q: What do you do when you are not racing? What do you do for fun?
Wilson: When I am not racing, I work at home in the shop that I have. My dad (Orlando Wilson) is a fisherman and he has always had a hand in construction work. His family owned a construction business and that is what he does now on the side. I try to have my hands in that and I try to have my hands in hot rods. I work on building street cars and stuff like that. When I am not racing, I am there. But racing is pretty much a full-time job all by itself. Work is kind of my past time, but I am also a big dirt bike rider. That is something I would have to say turns me on pretty good. The sport of motorcross, supercross is something I enjoy racing. I always have a good time doing that and every chance I get I try to get out there and ride.
Alderman: I work in the family construction business. It's a pretty full schedule, really. Doing the construction business and racing too, you don't have very many days off. What do I do for fun? I really enjoy the construction work and I really enjoy racing. I almost consider those things fun. I enjoy being with my kids and all of my family when I am home. Getting together with all of them is fun. I'm also a big fan of college basketball.
Alderman, Wilson press conference, Part I