Dixon, Beckman, Coughlin, Johnson - NHRA teleconference, part 2

Continued from part 1 Q: This question is for Jack. If I could, you know, most all of your entire Funny Car career you've got to go up against the Force Camp. Could you give a statement on what that's like? Do you think that makes you...

Continued from part 1

Q: This question is for Jack. If I could, you know, most all of your entire Funny Car career you've got to go up against the Force Camp. Could you give a statement on what that's like? Do you think that makes you better? Do you think it makes it a big hill to climb? How does that affect you?

JACK BECKMAN: Our racing is so different. You're passing; you're bumping; you're doing strategy based on what the other cars are doing. For 20 years, I ran sportsman cars, and you're not drafting or bumping.

But in the sportsman car you're racing against the other car. In fuel racing it's really not the case. You're racing against your lane. The way they've got the shields and the drive throughs now and especially not the Funny Car, you sit so far back, you really can't see the other car. If you see them, you're in trouble anyway.

So I hear a lot of racers say I don't care who is in the other lane. I do care who is in the other lane because a lot of drivers have their own staging idiosyncrasies.

So racing John Force, I do remind myself that not to get myself worked up with any other approach, but it's just that John takes a lot more to staging than a lot of the other drivers. So you've got to adjust your routine for him, otherwise you sit there with the clutch pedal out too long and it heats up.

I've got to tell you though, the fan in me is just itching to get to race against John Force. And the first time I beat him, I want my little kid to grow up fast and have grand babies for me so I can tell them their grandpa beat John Force.

Q: This question is for Jack. You won the inaugural NHRA Nationals at zMAX Dragway. The second race on the countdown to one. How important is that race especially when you consider what Robert Hight did last year to win the championship? How important is that race in the Countdown with the success that you've had there as well?

JACK BECKMAN: I don't mean any disrespect by this, but none of these next six races are more important than the other. All they represent is 24 rounds and an opportunity for us to pick points .

But if you really want to dig deeper, Indy is Indy. You really want to win that one. Charlotte, well, you can make a strong argument that is the best facility on the tour and winning the inaugural race there, and I've had a lot of success. We've been really fortunate at Charlotte. I want to win that one.

Then we go to Dallas, and that's going to be -- that can be a really tricky track with the tight groove. Yes, I want to win that one too.

Then you go to Reading -- What's going to be exciting about the next six races is different weather conditions, different parts of the country. The fan base is totally different, you know. Different accents at the places you go to, people are socially a little bit different. It's really exciting. I think it's a nice balance of six facilities to finish up the year with. And yes I want to win.

I mean, right now it's about points. You have to race for the 80 points. But if you go to the semifinals in the next six races and you're not sitting tenth in the countdown right now

You're going to be pretty tough in the point deal.

Interesting thing with Pro Stock, Mike Edwards pretty much -- and I don't mean any disrespect, they have to not show up the rest of the year if they didn't go into the Countdown reset. The way Larry's been running with that car, they have to have a really major problem for anybody that got around them in the points.

The Pro Stock Motorcycle and Funny Car classes, you almost could have left the points alone, not reset them and had a pretty interesting countdown.

Q: Jack, of course you want to win all the rest of the races. You've kind of quietly this season through the regular season found yourself in third going into the countdown. Do you have anything -- have you left anything on the table coming into the last six races that you're going to put back in the car to flex some muscle?

JACK BECKMAN: At the end of the year I don't think you ever want to look back and say, God, if we had only done that differently. And one of the cool things about driving for Don Schumacher is he'll never put you in that position.

We might make mistakes, too many mistakes and I might make driving mistakes, but Don's never going to short change us. And the proof in that is we're putting a brand-new body on these cars for Indy. I think all three of the Schumacher cars have brand-new bodies.

And by the time you do paint and work and mount all of that bracing underneath, it's about $50,000 dollars. We're doing that to save 10 pounds. If we're already at minimum weight we can move that ten pounds where we want to the car.

We debuted a brand-new chassis in Chicago. We got 53 runs on it. We built it in house, we brought it back and put brand-new tubing on it. We did that to all three of our Funny Cars, and it's not because they were due to be front halfed. It's because there is a cycle life on these chassises, and we didn't want to get two-thirds of the way through the countdown and say, gosh, we wish we should have done it this way.

So we looked at the long-term strategy and right now we're doing everything we can so we don't say we left anything on the table. We're going to go talk tomorrow to make sure we're on the right page here.

Q: Larry, what you guys do is a high stakes game for you almost every round, every race. Could you learn to handle the high stakes? Is that something you came with when you got here?

LARRY DIXON: I don't know. You just -- I mean, it's competition. Everybody's kind of obviously friends off the track for the most part. But when you pull up to the line and light that top light it's game on. You don't have any friends or want any friends at that point. You just want to go out there and earn your spot.

I think just growing up and watching my dad and others race, it made me such a fan of the sport. I'm really enjoying my time driving and being out there competing. Whether I'm racing number 100 in the points or number 1 in the points, it's just I enjoy it. I mean, I have fun.

So pressure-wise you just put pressure on yourself to do well, but that's pretty much it. Just I love what we do.

Q: If I could ask the same question to Steve Johnson. How do you feel about the high stakes you've done a lot of it?

STEVE JOHNSON: I think Larry summed up a lot of the perimeter of the deal, but I think about it probably more than I should. I dirt bike race, and, you know, there's a lot of things that we do if I read you right on the high stakes kind of thing, you're talking about safety and all that stuff.

Motorcycles only go 200 in 6 seconds. But the Fuel cars, we look at those guys and we can't even believe them. But I tell you, when you see somebody that's not a real seasoned rider and they struggle, it really gives you a lot of respect for how fast a pro-stock motorcycle is.

I don't think the fans can even comprehend what it's like to hang on and not have the roll bar and seat belts and all that kind of stuff.

But at the end of the day, I go back to the McDonald's thing. It's all high stakes or having to do dishes. This is what I do to pay my bills. I'm very fortunate at 3:00 o'clock in the morning when I'm doing more and more proposals all the time that I'm sitting there and falling asleep and I just work through it. I'm like I must be doing this because I love racing.

I talked to Larry about that. We were just talking about that last night. It's funny that you brought it up. We love what we do. You guys know this is not a money deal for us. I'm talking about making my bills and stuff like that.

You know, 100 grand a year, Jeepers-Creepers, you could do that anywhere. I absolutely love what I do. That's why this championship, this Full Throttle Championship for me is way more important than anybody on this call or anybody that's going to be racing. It's just everything to me, and this last six races is my shot to take our team and my company to the final promised land.

Q: Larry, you've won at almost every track you've ever raced at with the exception of zMAX Dragway. You've struggled there, had troubles trying to find the winner's circle there. How important is that race for you in winning this championship this year?

LARRY DIXON: I haven't had as many shots at Charlotte. There were quite a few on the tour. As a matter of fact, Reading, Pennsylvania, didn't win that race until last year and have been running there for 15 years.

So it will be -- it's obviously important, momentum and being able to get round wins like Jack was saying, right now in the early part of the deal. I watched Robert Hight last year who squeaked his way in and slid into the tenth spot, and he ran off a few wins and nobody could catch him.

So the early part of the chase, I guess it pays the same amount of points as the last part. But it's a lot more fun being out front I think than having to chase.

So, yeah, it would certainly be good to do well at Charlotte. I mean, we'll go there and try our best and hope it's enough. But we certainly enjoy racing that racetrack and just a big fan of Bruton Smith. The fact that he loves NHRA Drag Racing and has four of the finest drag strips that we have on the tour. It's just certainly an honor.

It's an honor that he thinks that much of our sport. So we'll certainly go in there and try to put on a great show for everybody.

Q: With your new found performance with the rules change and getting to have a little bit bigger engine, does that give you any additional confidence going into the countdown that you can sew up the championship?

LARRY DIXON: I tell you, qualifying number one at Norwalk was really cool. Because at Chicago we did good, and in English Town we were number two, and all of a sudden it took all of those races. I just did a report on it, and we were 30 rounds of racing into this thing with this new engine with bigger, cubic inches. So they just changed the rule right before the race, before the Nationals.

So we got the engine in, and it was a pig because we weren't tuning it right. And when Tim finally found, my crew chief, finally got his handle around it, and I could ride it good, some people couldn't even ride it. It was really cool. It was like wow, and I was just thinking about this.

The bike was so fast. I'd never had the fastest bike that was my own team. I only qualified number one in 1995, so then to do it again a thousand years later was awesome because it was my team.

But I thought I'm still riding the bike. I still shift when the light comes on. I still do all this stuff, nothing else. So I know everybody knows this, but there ain't nothing cooler than having a lot of horsepower and to get those extra six cubic inches when the Harleys and V-twins only have 106 cubic inches, and the Suzuki's have 107 cubic inches. We've been needing that since 2002 is what I've been screaming about. So finally we got it.

When we have the performance, if I have the mental toughness, we're going to be tough to beat because I'm going to ride the wheels off of it. And at the end of the day it is a huge advantage, so I love that extra cubic inches.

The problem is we blew up our best engine in Denver. They don't seem to want to come back to life until you beat on them for a little while, and that's why we're here. We've got our engine back, and we're going to go beat on it a little bit, and hopefully it will come back to its all mighty self, and when it does, it's game on.

Q: You talked about just the different markets, and the different weather patterns of the final six races in the countdown to the championship. Talk about that and just how important it is for the sport to have week in and week out such an eclectic group of fans that were visiting those final six races?

JACK BECKMAN: I just want to know who I can submit my fuel bill to. You guys are sending us from Indy, to Charlotte, to Dallas, to Redding, to Vegas. That's a lot of diesel.

If you had all 23 races in Pomona, you could say the weather's fairly predictable out there. The track's nice. That would be cool, especially for me, I'm 20 minutes away. But then the idea is to expose our sport to as many people as possible.

NASCAR is a very easy sport to follow. All the competitors are on the racetrack for one race and it's over. Drag Racing is kind of difficult to explain the rules. You have four pro categories, 12 total categories. Some with four rounds of elimination, some are eight rounds are of elimination.

Our sport is one of those where people have to (Indiscernible). I've always looked at it as a Motorsport, if you like it on TV, you're going to love it in person. If you come in person, you're probably going to come back.

I think our duty as drivers and teams and the sanctioning body is to get people into the stands for the first time as possible. And the other drivers might agree one of the great things about our sport is the fans can come up and interact with the drivers. We get introduced to a whole lot of them.

And I really love going to Charlotte for the inaugural race and running in front of a lot of die hard NASCAR fans. And our goal is never to take fans from any other sport, but our goal is to build fans that are fans of other sports.

To have that feed back from those people who have been to have NASCAR races and tell us how much they loved our race, and how much they appreciated getting to come up to the pit and interact with the drivers, I thought that was pretty special.

THE MODERATOR: We'd like to thank our drivers for joining us on this conference call.

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers John Force , Steve Johnson , Don Schumacher , Robert Hight , Mike Edwards