Dixon, Force Hood - NHRA teleconference, part 2

Continued from part 1 Q: For both of our guests, this break between -- well, the three-week break before Las Vegas, would you prefer to have moved this up a little bit, or is this break coming at just the right time to kind of regroup and get...

Continued from part 1

Q: For both of our guests, this break between -- well, the three-week break before Las Vegas, would you prefer to have moved this up a little bit, or is this break coming at just the right time to kind of regroup and get things together for the final two races?

ASHLEY FORCE HOOD: All of the team, especially the crew members, they really needed a break, just to go home, get their mail, see their wives and their kids and just to have a little time to kind of relax and get ready so that we are all ready to go and pumped up and ready to focus for the final two races.

So it is kind of the perfect timing. It is a little strange when we get back to Vegas; that first day is odd when you have not been to the track for a couple of weeks to get yourself organized and get back into your routine of a race day and qualifying and everything like that.

But I think it was well needed and I think it really adds to the excitement that the fans have had to race a couple of weeks and now you'll get to see the final two big championship races. It was perfect -- I think it was right what everybody needed.

And a funny thing I was actually thinking a couple of minutes ago during one of my answers that was rambling on, I thought, you know, I haven't done an interview in about a week and it really shows.

That's probably the one thing about the drivers, it seems when you jump right back in your race car, it comes right back to you, because it's not something you're thinking about, it's more your body is reacting in a race car.

But the talking side of things I'll definitely need to be warming up and finding my words in the next week to be ready for Vegas, because I feel like I'm mumbling a lot today.

MICHAEL PADIAN: Larry, what about you, the break after the four straight races to The Countdown?

LARRY DIXON: You know, it is what it is. I think if you ask most racers, they would like to race every weekend because they love racing.

But it certainly affords a team, you know, after four in a row, I mean, that's -- you'd have to go back to the few years to go into even rain outs where we have had -- where we have run four in a row. It's been a while.

So you know, it let's the teams go over the cars and go over all of the engines and just have everything restocked up, let them catch their breath, check in with their families, pay their bills and get ready to head out west and go to Vegas and Pomona, because that's -- and it's nice to have everything restocked and have all of your batteries recharged and get back out there for those last two events because that's, everything is on the line for those two.

MICHAEL PADIAN: And one of the things on the line is the chance for Ashley to become the first female to win a championship in the Funny Car division. Of course females have won championships before in NHRA, Shirley Muldowney won three championships in Top Fuel, and Angelle Sampey won three championships in Pro Stock Motorcycle.

Ashley, would you talk for just a second about if you've thought about that and what historically it would mean in the sport for to you win a championship in Funny Car?

ASHLEY FORCE HOOD: I think it's not such a big deal to me and the main reason is, I am a female driver, I had nothing to do with that, God makes that decision, and my parents, and I also have a team of ten men that work on my car. If you've ever seen me trying to work on an automobile, you know I would not be second in the points for the championship if I was working on it. But it's them and me together as a team. We are the ones going out for the championship, not just me as an individual.

Now, some day, I think if we could get an all-female team, that would be pretty amazing to have the mechanics, the tuners and the driver. That would be something to really -- I hope that I get to see that in my lifetime and I think it will happen. More and more women are just moving up in the ranks. There are so many girls in junior drag racing and sportsmen categories and those are the ones that will move up into the professional level. I think that will come.

And if wasn't me, I happen to be the one in Funny Car right now and with a great team so, we have, you know, both -- all of the variables that we need to go after a championship. But I think if it wasn't me, there will be another girl that will come along over the years, and I think it will happen eventually. It's just a matter of when and hopefully it will happen for us this year.

Q: You're 47 points behind with these eight rounds of racing left; are you of the mind-set that you have no margin for error and that you must really sweep points and qualifying, you have no margin for error anymore?

LARRY DIXON: I mean, you know, the way we have been going in qualifying, we have been able to make up over the last couple of events, make up more than a round of races, just in those bonus points for qualifying. Seven points back on that side of things, you know, so if you made up four points per event, now you're less than two rounds (40 points at 20 points/round) back, and if you went out and you're racing (first-place) Tony (Schumacher), then you're still in charge of your own destiny.

I know our team has very high standards, and as all the teams that are competing out there, you know, whether it's for the championship or not; everyone is going to go out there and try and win. But if we -- if we do win out, then we don't need anything to happen to anybody. There's nothing -- you know, they give us 24 events to get it done, and the rules are the same for everybody, and so we'll do our best and hope it's enough.

Q: You often get questions about your dad, and you were talking about being the first female to get a Funny Car title, but what's a comment you would have maybe about being a member of a family of racing daughters, and what do you think about the different personalities of your sisters (Brittany and Courtney) and what do you share with your sisters about racing?

ASHLEY FORCE HOOD: Well, they grew up at the races just like I did. There's photos of all of us in diapers at the track and everything. So they have the same memories and upbringing really of drag racing as I did, and I think that's really why there are the three of us are racing.

I know to the outside world it might seem a little strange that three sisters race cars. But to anybody who knows anything about drag racing, that's not such a far-fetched idea because we grew up around it and it's what we love to do and what we want to do on our weekends off and our summer breaks. There's a lot of kids, whether they are boys or girls that grew up in racing that ended up having a career in it.

So it's pretty common when you look out at even in the professional pits, the Worshams, Morgan Lucas, Bernsteins, there's a lot of families and a lot of drivers that grew up around the tracks and ended up in seats or tuning on cars or somehow involved in the sport.

So it's neat to be able to share that with them, and also with our dad, it's not like we had very much in common with him had we were in kids. We were all at cheerleading and dance and school and everything and he was off racing. But how it has come full circle and we are out at the tracks a lot on weekends together and I get to see them a lot more, and my mom comes to every one of our events. And it's fun for us and it's really allowed us to spend a lot of time together that you wouldn't have if your family wasn't out there on the road with you. They are both in college right now, Brittany and Courtney both are, and so I'm impressed that they are able to balance both.

When I moved up to A/Fuel Dragster, which is what they race now, I had just graduated from college a month earlier and then I started the season. So I never had to do the homework at the track and all that with the A/Fuel car, and they somehow managed to make it happen. I saw Brittany this morning, and she was like, "I was up till three in the morning doing homework." And I remember those days.

But when you throw in that a lot of your weekends are spent around the country, it does make it hard. But they are enjoying it. They seem to like it. It is a crazy schedule that they live but they seem to enjoy it and they like doing both, and they do really well in the dragster and the fans are excited to see them out there racing.

So it's been fun to watch as they have moved up the ranks, they did Super Comp and they are in A/Fuel now, and I love the A/Fuel dragster that I raced. It's a really, really fun category and they are really enjoying it, as well.

Q: You talked about competing against Schumacher but (Cory) McClenathan has come up strong; how much of a spoiler might he be in these last two races?

LARRY DIXON: Well, as tight as the fields are, we have had races -- and I can't think of which one it was over the last three or four, where the whole field was within a tenth of a second, which I think was tighter than Pro Stock at that point. So anybody can win. But obviously Cory's car, with him driving and Todd and Phil tuning, yeah, they are in the mix every week. That car is always real close to running top speed.

So, yeah, he's definitely another guy that you have to look out for. If you can roll up and you can stage your car on Sunday, you've got a car that can win the event. You just hope you're driving the right one and you're in the right lane for it when it happens.

But certainly Cory is doing real great.

Q: Which of the Top Fuel rookies has been most impressive, John or Spencer?

LARRY DIXON: I wouldn't even -- I'm glad I'm not voting for Rookie of the Year because I think both of them have done an unbelievable job in the car. You know, Spencer, you'd have to give him the nod because he's won.

But as far as driving goes, the driver doesn't have control of the tuneup of the cars. You can't shut down Shawn because he was not won an event. And he has not won an event because it's been his fault; he's done a great job. I mean, both of those kids are doing great in the car. They are going down the center of the track and you know, when the car starts to nose over, they are clicking it off. They are it doing everything right.

I think it's a pick 'em. As a former Rookie of the Year, I'm kind of excited to see who gets to join the class, because I think they are certainly deserving and very, very representative.

MICHAEL PADIAN: Thanks everyone for joining us today.

-credit: nhra

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Series NHRA
Drivers Shirley Muldowney , Morgan Lucas , Angelle Sampey