Bernstein, Hight teleconference, part 2

Continued from part 1 Q: This is, again, for both you guys, kind of touching on safety again. Over in NASCAR they've made a big push to kind of change the cars and all that. If you guys had one thing that you could add to the cars or change...

Continued from part 1

Q: This is, again, for both you guys, kind of touching on safety again. Over in NASCAR they've made a big push to kind of change the cars and all that. If you guys had one thing that you could add to the cars or change about the cars to make them more safe and make you feel more safe in the cars, what would it be?

ROBERT HIGHT: Boy, that's a good question. You know, everything you do, every accident is going to be different, and the outcome could be different. You could also make a change in your race car that will affect and maybe help what happened to Eric, but it'll hurt something else that could go wrong. So you can't have knee-jerk reactions that you just go and fix this one thing for this one occasion and you mess up what could really happen, because what happened to Eric, it's pretty remote; it hasn't happened. So to fix that and hurt something else like just slapping the wall real hard and making the car worse for that, that's not a good thing. I believe I've got a safer race car than I used to have, a lot more padding around my head. So I think we've already done it, what you're asking, and I think we've already made the changes to where I feel safer in the race car with the padding around my head.

BRANDON BERNSTEIN: Yeah, and to just kind of reiterate what Robert said, I mean, obviously in our Top Fuel car, we made the changes and put the side padding by the helmet and everything, and that's something that I didn't have obviously before the accident with Eric. But it's definitely made my car -- made me feel a lot more safe. But like he said, we don't want to make too many moves toward different things because that was an isolated incident. We want to make sure that we're not making something worse if we have, say, a head-on collision or a side impact to the wall, what that's going to do. So it's a different situation for every crash, and we just try and learn the most out of each crash and make those adjustments.

Q: Brandon, while we're talking about the safety stuff, I was curious how the cockpit has changed since your crash at Englishtown (N.J., 2003). You've had a miraculous comeback. I was wondering if your college education in sports medicine helped you heal up, and also a few comments about this season of yours where you're in second, won two races and you still had a DNQ, so that's living on the edge.

BRANDON BERNSTEIN: Yeah, thank you. That's just a testament to our team, and after not qualifying for Gainesville, to come back and win two races and just stay head strong on it. As far as the safety goes and what -- since my crash, obviously when I crashed, we didn't have these molded seats that we do now. We had an upright car that was right on my spine that NHRA mandated that we have both of those uprights moved to the right and left of our spine so we have two uprights. So there's been a lot of things that are different in the cockpit as far as Top Fuel Car because of crashes, and obviously with Darrell Russell's crash, we learned to close up the roll cage area and make those shields. There's a lot of things that have come out of these crashes to make these cars safer, and that's the main thing that we have to take from these, you know, these unfortunate tragedies that we've lost two of these racers. We need to make sure that we don't lose any more, and that's what we're trying to do.

Q: Do you guys have any predictions for Bristol? Will some records fall?

BRANDON BERNSTEIN: I would think that there's going to be quite a few records fall. We've seen obviously quicker times in both categories here in the last few races. I mean, you look at Atlanta, of all places, we had a very, very quick field there. So you're definitely going to see some good runs there in Bristol.

Q: If you both could just give your overall impressions of Bristol, if you look forward to coming here, if it's a track that's difficult for you. I know, Brandon, you've won here before; Robert, you have not. So just basically, are you looking forward to getting here?

ROBERT HIGHT: I definitely am always excited about going to Bristol. I love the town, all the fans are great. Bruton Smith has a first-class operation there and a big NASCAR track across the street. One year we actually went to a concert after the drags were done, and yes, I always look forward to it. It's a challenge. I haven't had much luck there the previous two seasons I've driven, but that gives me a little more added incentive to come there and try to win. That's what this Auto Club team is going to try to do (next) weekend.

BRANDON BERNSTEIN: I love coming to Bristol. It's really one of my favorite tracks. You know, just the way that it's built in the side of the mountain, and it has so much history as far as Thunder Valley. It's a great place. You drive into it and you see the huge NASCAR track right next to it, and it's just a feeling that you get like, man, this is a really cool racetrack. The city is great and obviously all the fans are traffic there, so we always look forward to coming to Bristol.

Q: It's been such a difficult season, does it feel like things are getting back to normal now at John Force Racing?

ROBERT HIGHT: It's definitely starting to. One thing I can say is since the accident, John has just -- he's not been himself, and you could start to see him getting somewhat more back to normal on Sunday this last week. He finally won his first round, and he was excited coming to the racetrack Sunday to race. This just took a lot out of him. Everybody has to deal with things differently, and he gets back here to the shop, and you know, he's still not himself. I think he needs to be out there at the races and racing and getting his car back in top form. They've struggled this year. That doesn't have anything to do with Eric's accident or John's driving. Austin Coil (Force crew chief), they've had a hard time. But they're starting to get there.

Q: Robert, I wanted to know if since you've been racing over the last few years if there's one thing that sticks out in your mind that you've learned that has been real helpful for you racing. And also, did Eric's accident give you pause, or what did you come away from that with, something positive?

ROBERT HIGHT: OK, well, I've learned a couple things after driving -- this is my third season. If you ever go out and you have a run, and you think, boy, this is starting to get easy, and if you have that attitude, you'll go out there the next run and you'll drive it out of the groove or you'll make a mistake. I've learned real quick that this sport will humble you fast. I try to take the approach that I know I'm still a rookie at this, I'm still new, I have a lot to learn, and I don't ever try to get complacent that I've got it figured out because I know I don't, and I'm going to continue to make mistakes, continue to learn. Fortunately I'm in a real good race car, and that makes a big difference. Jimmy Prock has given me a car that qualifies near the top every week, and if I do my job, we're going to win races and go rounds. That definitely makes it easier for me for this transition. But as far as what happened to Eric, it's still hard for me to see anything positive about this because we go to the races now without our teammate and our friend, and it still doesn't seem real that he's not just going to walk in here to the shop and work on these race cars with us and do all the things that we used to do. The only thing that I see positive is safety. You know, we've got to learn from what happened here and try to predict and learn from what else could happen and make these things safer.

Q: My question may not have come out the right way because I understand that there really -- other than, like you said, the safety, there isn't really anything positive. I guess what I was trying to ask is if it caused you to make any changes in the way you live your life. That's kind of more what I was asking.

ROBERT HIGHT: Definitely so. You know, they show all these video clips, and you see all the pictures of Eric, and there's never a picture that he didn't have a smile on his face. You know, I try to be really focused, and I'm probably a little more intense, but you know what, I want people to see me like they saw Eric. You know, you could see just from the expression on his face just how much he enjoyed doing what he did, and I want people to realize that about me, as well. I am very fortunate to have this job, fortunate to be racing for John Force, driving anything, actually, and I want people to know how happy I am about that.

Q: This question is for Robert. With John Force over there, nobody can question really his greatness as a driver, but what are your impressions, especially through all this, of John Force as a leader, kind of the guy that a lot of us don't get to see? What's his leadership been like through all this?

ROBERT HIGHT: Well, that's one thing that I've always been impressed with John is how he can motivate people. You know, for a period of time here after the accident, he was kind of lost because, you know, he's in different territory here, didn't know what to do. Still, you know, uncertain about how things need to be. He's got his daughter driving this year. And she's doing a very good job, by the way, too. Anyway, you know, you see that, you know this is dangerous, you know things can happen. For the most part, we don't have very many incidents in drag racing and NHRA, and that's thanks to their safety. But still, it's hard to know what the next move to make is. I think it's very, very classy that he sat out Houston. Even if our race cars would have been ready to go with the new safety implementations, we were still sitting out. It was just not right to go there under these circumstances, and we needed time to deal with everything and be with John Medlen and his family. That's what impressed me most about John.

Q: Brandon, it dawns on me your dad might be a little difficult to deal with this week, and of course there's a big photo of his face on the Bernstein grandstand there in Thunder Valley. I think he'll be a crowd favorite. What's his drive and determination like heading into Thunder Valley after a DNQ in St.Louis?

BRANDON BERNSTEIN: Well, obviously you hate that the Monster Car didn't qualify there in St.Louis, but his drive and desire is just to get out there and win. I mean, this man is totally determined to win a championship for Monster Energy Drink and for Kenny Bernstein Racing, and he's going to be right out there. It's unfortunate that they didn't qualify, but it's kind of hard when you do have only two runs to be in there. But coming into Bristol, he's definitely got a passion to win, and they're going to definitely go out and try and qualify and obviously try and go some rounds on Sunday.

Q: He likes Bristol pretty good?

BRANDON BERNSTEIN: He loves Bristol. He's had some success there, back when he was racing it and when it was called Thunder Valley way back when. He loves that place, and he's definitely going to have a determination to go out there and win.

THE MODERATOR: I think that wraps up our questions. I'd like to thank everyone for joining us on the call. There will be an audio replay of this on the internet and we'll send that information out. There will be a transcript we'll put out later today, and we'd like to thank Robert and Brandon for joining us on the call and wish both of them the best of luck for the remainder of the season.

-credit: nhra

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Series NHRA
Drivers Kenny Bernstein , John Force , Austin Coil , John Medlen