Baytown: Spring Nationals pre-event quotes

QUOTABLE: Larry Dixon , the 2002 NHRA POWERade Top Fuel champion began his 2003 season in the same fashion as his championship year in his Miller Lite dragster, winning the season-opener and finishing as the runner-up at the second event of the...


Larry Dixon , the 2002 NHRA POWERade Top Fuel champion began his 2003 season in the same fashion as his championship year in his Miller Lite dragster, winning the season-opener and finishing as the runner-up at the second event of the season. He just scored his second win of the season, at Las Vegas, on April 6. He has now led the POWERade point standings for an NHRA Top Fuel record 27 straight events. Dixon suffered one of his three first round losses at Houston last year during his championship run- "Whatever event that we go into we are trying to win. Because we won it the last two years doesn't mean we don't want to win it again this year. We didn't win Houston last year, but we are going to try and go in there and 'one-peat' it. If you can ever string a few of them together, then that's all the better."

Brandon Bernstein , rookie driver of the Budweiser/Lucas Oil dragster who won two of his first three professional starts and is among the leaders in the race towards the POWERade championship - "This is still a learning curve. It may look easy and the car's going down there and winning races, but there are little things I need to do to fine-tune my driving skills. We just try to do the best we can out there. Hopefully we'll be there in the end for the NHRA POWERade championship. But right now the championship isn't in my perspective. We just have to go day by day, round by round."

Doug Kalitta , the driver of the Mac Tools dragster became the second driver in NHRA history (Gary beck) to qualify in the No. 1 position at the first four events of the season. He made one of the quickest passes in NHRA history (4.482 seconds) at the season-opener - "Our Mac tools dragster is making awesome power. (Crew Chiefs) Connie (Kalitta) and Jim (Oberhofer) have our car running great. Now, we want to keep our horsepower consistent and get a win."

Tony Pedregon , the driver of the Castrol Syntec Ford Mustang and a leading contender to dethrone teammate and boss John Force as the POWERade Funny Car champion - "There are no easy races anymore. Everyone loads up for us. But I think that brings out the best in this team. Still, I keep telling them that John's the guy they need to focus on. He's the guy who has won the last 10 championships. We're not going to sneak up on anyone. They know that we have a good race car and they're going to come after us."

John Force , the driver of the Castrol GTX Ford Mustang and the defending POWERade champion is off to his worst start since 1989. In his first four races of 2003, Force has three first round losses and a second round exit, leaving him 11th in the standings. He also owns the Ford Mustangs driven by Gary Densham and Tony Pedregon who have each won an event this year and led the points - "That's why we've got three cars. We're just working through some problems right now. We haven't forgotten how to do this. We'll be back."

Johnny Gray , the driver of the blue Checker Schuck's Kragen Pontiac Firebird and the expectations of the team with rookie crew chiefs Marc Denner and Chris Cunningham - "The sky is the limit for this team. We're not even fully situated yet, and still have one full-time spot to fill on the crew, but these guys act and perform like they've been working together for twenty years. Having our team and the red team (Del Worsham's car) under one roof at the shop really made a huge difference, and we're seeing the benefit of it already. I know these guys can give me a winning car, and I don't think they'll want to stop at one victory once they get it."

Bruce Allen , driver of the Reher-Morrison Pontiac Grand Am and the No. 1 qualifier at both Phoenix and Gainesville, Fla.- "This class is unbelievable. You have two different modes when you get to the race track. First, you do everything you can to qualify. Once you get in you get into another mindset and try to get a good light and beat the car in the other lane. I've been racing in Pro Stock for a long time and right now it's as hard as it's ever been. It's like walking down a razor blade.

Kurt Johnson , the driver of the ACDelco Chevy Cavalier scored the win at Gainesville, Fla., earlier this year to move into second in the POWERade standings. At Gainesville, 45 cars made qualifying attempts for 16 qualifying spots - "This category is so crazy. You come in here during qualifying hoping you make a good run on the first hit and get a good baseline. It's not so bad the first part of the year, but when we get into the summer where we'll have one good qualifying shot, it's going to be brutal. You're just glad to be in the top 16. If you can get qualified, you can win the race. There are so many good drivers, and the cars are so close that it's like Winston Cup Racing in a quarter-mile. We're just glad to be here."

Craig Treble , the rider of the Matco Tools Suzuki is the defending winner of the O'Reilly Spring Nationals and is a favorite for the 2003 POWERade championship in the two-wheel category. - "Some people may be forgetting about the other piranhas out there, but I guarantee you I have not. Angelle Savoie, Antron Brown, Shawn Gann, Geno Scali, Sean Conner, Mike Berry, and on and on. All of these people know how to race, and what they need to do to win at this level."

Andrew Hines , made his Pro Stock Bike debut last year at home track of Denver. The 19-year-old brother of three-time champ Matt Hines is riding the Screamin' Eagle Harley Davidson and for the first time in NHRA history, he qualified the factory-backed bike for eliminations -- "Without the team being out here last year doing all the research and development, it wouldn't have been possible for this team to qualify at (Gainesville) this year. It's very disappointing that both bikes didn't qualify, but it's just the beginning of the season and it won't be long until we are both racing in the eliminations."


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Series NHRA
Drivers Antron Brown , Matt Hines , Larry Dixon , Kurt Johnson , Tony Pedregon , John Force , Doug Kalitta , Mike Berry , Shawn Gann , Gary Densham , Craig Treble , Bruce Allen , Geno Scali , Brandon Bernstein , Johnny Gray , Andrew Hines