Southern Nationals pre-event Quotable: Larry Dixon - the 2002 NHRA POWERade Top Fuel champion drives the Miller Lite dragster and is the defending winner of the Summit Racing Equipment Southern Nationals - "We dont lose a lot of races. The...
Southern Nationals pre-event Quotable:
Larry Dixon - the 2002 NHRA POWERade Top Fuel champion drives the Miller Lite dragster and is the defending winner of the Summit Racing Equipment Southern Nationals - "We dont lose a lot of races. The thing is, when people come to race us, they're going to race us harder than anybody else, because of who we are and how good we do. They know they'll have to run the best they possibly can."
Brandon Bernstein - standout rookie and driver of the Budweider/Lucas Oil dragster -- "It was nice to get the wins at Phoenix and Gainesville under our belt early on, but the Budweiser/Lucas Oil team has been the same for a couple of years now. This is the team that tuned dad (Kenny) to his 2001 championship, so we knew we would be very competitive. The question was how quickly I could get up to speed. With dad and (crew chief) Tim (Richards) help, we were able to accelerate through the learning curve, though I'm still learning with every pass down the drag strip. However, we knew this season would be more than just the beer wars, Bernstein vs. (Larry) Dixon. We knew Doug Kalitta would be right in there, and his car is running really strong right now."
Doug Kalitta - driver of the Mac Tools dragster and the No. 1 qualifier at the first five events of the season, tying an NHRA Top Fuel record - "Our Mac Tools team is the best in the pits. Our dragster is a thrill to drive these days. We went some rounds in Las Vegas (and we won at Houston). Qualifying No. 1 is great and setting a new speed record (333.91 mph) is great, but we really want to win. That's what we are here to do, and we wont be satisfied until we do."
Tony Schumacher - driver of the U.S. Army dragster who has suffered through a string of first round losses - "This is very frustrating. This team is so much better than weve shown of late. As always, the only thing we can do is to put this aside and look ahead. We've got to stop the bleeding (soon), thats all there is to it. We've got to climb out of this hole that we've dug for ourselves. I told the guys there are (17) races (starting with Atlanta) remaining in the season. That's an eternity, in my eyes."
Tony Pedregon - driver of the Castrol Syntec Ford Mustang who could become the first driver other than John Force to win the Funny Car championship since 1992, when his brother Cruz won it. T. Pedregon finished second in the standings to team-owner Force in the points battle last season. Force clinched the title with his semifinal victory over T. Pedregon at the 2002 season-finale at Pomona, Calif. - "I don't want to forget (last year). I got caught up in the emotion last year and I think it cost me. When I raced John in the semifinal at Pomona last year, I made a little mistake. I got a little emotional. I got a little too fired up. By nature, I'm not very good at camouflaging my feelings. John has told me, Don't give 'em the satisfaction, but sometimes, if there aint a smile, there just aint a smile. When I have to race him, I know what I'm up against. And what I'm up against is the best. He's not going to give (the championship) up easily, and that's the way I want it. If I beat him, I want to beat him at his best."
Del Worsham - driver of the red Checker Schuck's Kragen Pontiac Firebird and a legitimate contender for the 2003 POWERade championship following his recent victory at Bristol Dragway -- "(The Funny Car category is) amazingly tough. Look at some of the cars outside the top ten. Everyone talks about Force (struggling), but there are quite a few other teams behind him who can also play at the top level. We're happy to be in third place, but we're looking up the sheet, not down it. We're going to focus on first place. To get there, against these incredible teams, will take a supreme effort. That's why Bristol was a must-win situation for this team."
Jeg Coughlin - the defending NHRA POWERade Pro Stock champion and driver of the Jeg's Mail Order Chevy Cavalier who sits fourth in the points order after six races - "Our goal is to win the championship and successfully defend our title. I look at it like we have (plenty of) races to go. There is a lot that can happen between now and then. We just need to put our best foot forward and put ourselves in the position to win."
Warren Johnson - a six-time NHRA Pro Stock champion and driver of the GM Performance Parts Pontiac Grand Am. Johnson recently established a national record for elapsed timed at Houston with his run of 6.720 seconds - "Given the caliber and number of cars that are out here in Pro Stock, there's no guarantee you're going to qualify No. 1 anymore, let alone get into the field. Just getting into one of the first 16 spots is your primary goal. There are probably six or seven racers out here who have the capability of winning the championship this year. Right now there are two or three cars that have performed a little better than the others. But it's a long season, and when you look at the different conditions we will face throughout the year, the guys that are running fast now may not be able to maintain that momentum for the whole 23-race schedule. There's such a variety of track and atmospheric conditions that we race under that it really opens it up to a number of quality teams. I don't see a runaway this year by any stretch of the imagination."
Greg Anderson - the first repeat Pro Stock winner of the 2003 season. He drives the Vegas General Construction Pontiac Grand Am. He has lost in the first round the last two events but remains second in the points order -- "It's very early so you can't count out Warren (Johnson), you cant count out Jeggie (Coughlin), you can't count out Bruce Allen, you can't count out a lot of guys. They're going to be there before it's all said and done. But it's a good feeling to know that together with Kurt (Johnson), were at the top of the standings. We're pretty confident that we have some other cards to play that should come to the surface in the next three or four months. We can definitely go forward from here. I didn't expect for us to be at this point this early in the season. Were way ahead of schedule and I'm pumped."
Kurt Johnson - driver of the ACDelco Chevy Cavalier who is among the leaders in the competitive Pro Stock category and has advanced to four straight final rounds, and posted wins at three of them: Gainesville, Houston and Bristol-- "These cars are so close that the driver has got to perform, and reaction time is one of many areas this ACDelco team keeps working on. On the race car, you can change things such as the air gap, or the geometry in the linkage to get the car to react faster. You also can reduce clutch slippage, but when you have well over 1,300 horsepower moving 2,350 pounds, you have to have some amount of slippage to get the car off the line. Engine RPMs also are a factor -- the higher they are when you leave, the better your reaction time will be. Naturally, there are practice trees for the driver to work with, but his main job is to stay focused on leaving the starting line first. Obviously, you have good days and bad, but the main goal, as it is with everything else, is to be consistently good, which will be the difference at the end of the year."
Gene Wilson - driver of the Team Mopar Dodge Stratus R/T and winner of the 2002 Automobile Club of Southern California Road to the Future award, given annually to the NHRAs top professional rookie. Wilson has struggled in the early part of 2003, but showed signs of improvement after qualifying No. 15 at Las Vegas -- "You have to know your limits and what you're capable of to be successful at this level. I found that the competition level is tight because of the number of cars that show up at each event. A lot of those cars are very close to the same level as everyone else. With that, it makes it very vital that no mistakes are made on your team or driver's part. There are so many people who go out there and make great runs and have the chance to qualify that you can't afford any mistake. If you make a mistake, there are 16 other drivers who won't. The margin of error is slim."