Charlotte: Rod Fuller preview

HOT ROD FULLER COUNTDOWN TO 1 Q&A BROWNSBURG, Ind. (Sept. 10, 2008) -- What a difference a year makes. Hot Rod Fuller is in a much different position than one season ago. Last summer heading into the Countdown to 1, Fuller was the story of ...


BROWNSBURG, Ind. (Sept. 10, 2008) -- What a difference a year makes. Hot Rod Fuller is in a much different position than one season ago. Last summer heading into the Countdown to 1, Fuller was the story of NHRA racing leading the Top Fuel standings. This season, Fuller gets to play the role of hunter rather than prey. The seven-time Top Fuel winner secured the No. 5 seed in the six-race playoffand now trails points-leader Tony Schumacher by 60 points. In this Q&A, the popular Caterpillar racer talks about the Countdown to 1 and racing his rival, Schumacher.

Obviously you have a different view of the Countdown to 1 this season. Talk about the difference between 2007 and '08 for Rod Fuller.

FULLER: Last year before the season started, I was really for the Countdown and I felt it would help us contend for the 2007 championship. With us having a great year and losing the points, that was tough to deal with. We didn't expect to have the season we had. We were the sleeper team. This year, the Countdown is working out in our favor. The way Tony Schumacher is winning, the title race was over before Indy. Now, we all have a second season to race for the title. Only my race team knows what it's like to be Tony Schumacher and the U.S. Army team. If something happens and they're not leading the points after Charlotte, it's a big let down. That happened to us at Indy last year. We went from leading the points to not. Last year only Matt Smith led going into the Countdown to 1 and won the championship and I don't think that's a coincidence. That will happen again this year in more than one category.

What are your thoughts on only being 60 points behind Tony Schumacher?

FULLER: I think it's kind of funny. As tough as this season has been for us and as great for them, to say we can go to Charlotte and have the points lead it pretty amazing. I feel like a wounded animal that's backed in a corner. We don't have anything to lose. We're not expected to win the championship, so we can go out, be loose and really go for it, and that's our plan.

Can anybody beat Schumacher?

FULLER: I think the Kalitta cars are going to be dangerous. They're starting to come along at the right time. I know that Antron (Brown) and the Matco team can run with the Army car. They didn't get the No. 2 ranking by not earning it. They've been a great car all season long and I don't see that going away. I think they can run as good as the Army car. (Larry) Dixon can run a number and Brandon (Bernstein) always has a strong race car. Yes, they can be beat.

After the U.S. Nationals, the Caterpillar team tested at Martin, Mich. Do you feel that will benefit your chances of winning the championship?

FULLER: Yes. We barely tested all year. It was good to test and try some stuff and not worry about the pressures of qualifying and running a normal race. It was conducive going into Charlotte. The last time we tested was after (Las) Vegas in April and we went to the semis at Atlanta and won at St. Louis. If you look at the six Countdown tracks, we've only raced at five of them. We've won at Vegas and Memphis and have been to the final round at Dallas at Richmond. That has me excited. I think we can be a factor in this race for the title.

Do you like the new structure of the Countdown to 1?

FULLER: Yes, I feel like what happened to us was a big reason why NHRA changed the Countdown format. Us not getting any bonus points was not right and you shouldn't decided a championship on just two races. I agree that the person leading the points should have a bigger cushion. For our sake, it was just a year to late. But NHRA did make the right changes.

How do you see the 1,000-foot rule affecting the Countdown?

FULLER: Like I've said all along, it plays into the hands of certain teams, like the Army car. I still don't like it as much because it takes away from the driver and good drivers can make the difference in a close race. People put more emphasis on reaction times, but I don't see a big difference in people's reaction times since we've been racing to 1,000-feet. The hardest part of these cars is keeping them in the groove after 1,000-feet. A lot of cars spin the tiresdown track and at 1,000-foot you can leg it out. It really does take a lot away from the driver. Only one car has won since we've been running 1,000-foot, so it must benefit them.

-credit: dpm

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Series NHRA
Drivers Tony Schumacher , Matthew Smith , Rod Fuller