Brainerd: Pre-race Quotable

QUOTABLE: Larry Dixon , driver of the Miller Lite dragster who became the fourth driver to sweep the Western Swing (three races on consecutive weekends at Denver, Seattle and Sonoma, Calif.). Dixon won at Seattle and Sonoma for the first time in...

QUOTABLE:

Larry Dixon , driver of the Miller Lite dragster who became the fourth driver to sweep the Western Swing (three races on consecutive weekends at Denver, Seattle and Sonoma, Calif.). Dixon won at Seattle and Sonoma for the first time in his career, leaving only two facilities on the circuit (St. Louis and Reading, Pa.) where he has yet to score an event win - "I had never won three in a row before. I think how hard it was for me, but think about the crew guys. I'm really impressed with them. We ran a bunch of rounds (at those three races) and they had to service the car a bunch of times. Plus they have all the setup and breakdown and travel, they definitely earned their keep. I'm amazed at what we've been able to accomplish in the last two years. It was about this time two years ago that we got in this groove. When I'm home and I'm down in the gameroom and I drag all these trophies out it really hits me how special this run has been. My dad raced for a lot of years and only won once. I know there's a lot of racers like that so I know how lucky we are."

Doug Kalitta , driver of the Mac Tools dragster and the leading challenger to Larry Dixon for the 2003 NHRA POWERade Top Fuel title. Dixon and Kalitta have met in the final round this season five times with Dixon winning four of those important matchups, including the first two races of the Western Swing (Denver and Seattle) - "(Dixon and the Miller Lite team) have our number right now. It is frustrating. We went to the finals at three straight events (St. Louis, Denver, Seattle) and won one of them (St. Louis), but we still can't make up much ground in the points because we have lost to Dixon (at two of those events)."

John Force , defending NHRA POWERade Funny Car champion has quickly turned around a dismal 2003 first-half performance, advancing to four straight final rounds, winning twice and moving into third in the POWERade standings - "The last 10 years, my job was to win the championship for my team and my sponsors - Castrol, Ford, Mac Tools, All-Pro/Bumper-to-Bumper, Auto Value, the Action Group (Action Performance Companies, Inc.) and AAA. But now my job is to beat (Whit) Bazemore and (Del) Worsham and Ron Capps and everyone else to help (teammate and current points leader) Tony (Pedregon) win this title for Castrol Syntec. We've got three race cars over (at Force Racing, including Gary Densham's Ford Mustang), but this is one team and when one of us wins the championship, we all win."

Tony Pedregon , driver of the Castrol Syntec Ford Mustang and the NHRA Funny Car points leader suffered a trio of first round losses at Denver, Seattle, and Sonoma, Calif.- "We have a lot of work ahead of us. You look at the season we've had and you'd expect us to have a little bigger cushion than we do (over second place Whit Bazemore in the POWERade point standings). That just shows the quality of racing in the Funny Car class right now. Whit's not going to go away and right behind him is (teammate and boss) John (Frorce) and Del Worsham. Really, anyone who qualifies anymore can take you out. I've said all year long that John was having a few problems but that he would be back in the (points) race before the end of the season. Well, look where he is now. The important thing for us, though, is that we still control our own destiny (in the championship race). We can't worry about what John is doing. All we can do is do our own jobs the best we can. If we do that, everything will work out fine. We had some clutch problems on the Western Swing (which resulted in three consecutive first round losses). There is something there that isn't obvious to (crew chiefs) John Medlen and Dickie Venables). Obviously, we've got to fix it - and soon."

Whit Bazemore , driver of the Matco Tools Dodge Stratus R/T and a leading contender for the 2003 NHRA POWERade Funny Car championship. Defending Funny Car champ John Force has been making up ground in the standings lately, moving into third place behind current points leader Tony Pedregon, and Bazemore, who is in second - "The key (to winning the title is) to be consistent, go rounds every race. To win the championship you don't necessarily have to win every race, but you do need to go at least to the semis. If you do that regularly you're going to be a strong contender. One one hand that's our goal, on the other we really want to see the winner's circle, so we're going to be trying to put the Matco Tools Dodge in the winner's circle (at every race). Force is making up ground, and he's coming up behind us like a freight train. They won (at Denver and Seattle). Tony's team is stout too. It's just very tough, very tough. There are still eight races left this season. My goal was to leave (Sonoma, Calif.) with the points lead and I'm just very disappointed that it didn't happen. Certain circumstances happened to make that a possibility, such as Tony Pedregon getting beat in the first round. The guy to beat - I've said it from day one - is John Force and John Force (earned) 78 points on us (at Sonoma)."

Gary Scelzi , driver of the Oakley Dodge Stratus R/T, one of three Funny Cars for Schumacher Racing. Scelzi, a three-time Top Fuel champion, won his first career Funny Car race (Sonoma, Calif.), becoming the 13th driver in NHRA history to win in both nitro categories - "(Winning) is the whole reason why I race. I always felt that I could drive anything with four wheels and I felt I could drive it well. I also felt that in the right conditions, with the right people and the right equipment that I could win. That's how it works. It takes a crew chief, it takes a team, it takes a budget and at Schumacher Racing with Oakley and Matco Tools and all the sponsors, that's what we've got. And (winning at Sonoma) is the result of all the right things put together."

Scotty Cannon , driver of the Oakley Pontiac Firebird and one of three Funny Cars competing for Schumacher Racing. The eccentric driver is still seeking his first career NHRA victory and recently took on the title of crew chief, while former crew chief Phil Shuler was named head mechanic. - "We're still trying to find that combination that will work on our Oakley Funny Car. We are still basically a new team this year and we're still learning what it takes to get it right. Making the final call on the tune-up is only about 10 percent of what a crew chief does. There's a lot more that has to be done, and Phil will continue to make those decisions, but it's a change we felt we had to make."

Jeg Coughlin , driver of the Jeg's Mail Order Chevy Cavalier and the defending NHRA POWERade Pro Stock champion. Coughlin also is the defending winner of the Brainerd event, one of his category-leading eight victories in 2002, and scored his first win of 2003 at Sonoma, Calif. -- "Our entire team has been working hard to get back into the winner's circle. The guys have been busy in the engine shop improving what we have and working on new things that look promising. Our recent resurgence in performance has given us a nice boost and we are looking forward to having a strong finish for the rest of the year."

Kurt Johnson , driver of the ACDelco Chevy Cavalier and one of the leading contenders for the 2003 NHRA POWERade Pro Stock championship. Johnson has been in a season-long battle for top spot in the POWERade point standings with rival Greg Anderson - "Although you're never happy unless you're in first place, this ACDelco team is far from concerned. There are (eight) races left in the season, and a lot can happen in that time. We have the necessary pieces - it's up to us to put them together. Greg has had things pretty smooth for virtually the entire year. Meanwhile, we've battled through a couple rough stretches, and still (within striking distance) of the points lead. We're overdue for some good luck, and I believe we're about to hit our stride."

Andrew Hines , rider of one of the two Harley-Davidson's for Vance & Hines Racing and made his first career final round appearance recently (Sonoma) -- "I heard the changes they made to the track in Brainerd are great. I can't wait to get the Harleys there. We ran GT's bike there last year and it didn't do so well. So this year we are going to make up for that. In my eyes we're actually ahead of where we thought we would be at this point of the season. We know a win is coming down the road, but it is just a matter of time. Hopefully we can get some good luck in our corner and get back to the finals and win a race."

-nhra-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Jeg Coughlin , Larry Dixon , Kurt Johnson , Tony Pedregon , Del Worsham , Whit Bazemore , Ron Capps , John Force , Gary Scelzi , Doug Kalitta , Greg Anderson , Gary Densham , Scotty Cannon , Andrew Hines , John Medlen