GLENDORA, Calif. -The NHRA will launch its 52nd year of championship drag racing when two 6,000-horsepower Top Fuel dragsters approach the starting line during the K&N Filters Winternationals at Pomona Raceway, Feb. 6-9. Here are some preseason...
GLENDORA, Calif. -The NHRA will launch its 52nd year of championship drag racing when two 6,000-horsepower Top Fuel dragsters approach the starting line during the K&N Filters Winternationals at Pomona Raceway, Feb. 6-9.
Here are some preseason thoughts from some of NHRA's top competitors. Larry Dixon, driver of the Miller Lite dragster and 2002 Top Fuel champion, on not taking anything for granted when it comes to winning: "It takes the same effort to be champion that we gave last year. I am really focused at the race at hand. I am not thinking about anything beyond that. I am just not (ready to think of a repeat) yet. I am excited every time I get to race. I've driven enough nags in my lifetime to appreciate the Secretariat that these guys are giving me."
Brandon Bernstein, driver of the Budweiser/Lucas Oil dragster is approaching his rookie season and replacing his father, six-time NHRA champion Kenny Bernstein: "With any rookie, there is a learning curve. I have a lot of advantages with having (crew chief) Tim Richards and my dad with all the experience and knowledge that he has. Knowing he is going to be right there with me, teaching me things that he has experienced really helps. It's an amazing deal. This ride here is one of the top rides out there. There is a little bit of pressure there, but not much.
"We want to go out there and win a POWERade championship. That's a goal that I have set because I know this team is capable of doing that. If we win some races along the way, then that's great. It's one of those things that we are going to be out there and we are going to try our hardest every time. Hopefully we will win races and be contenders for a POWERade championship."
Doug Herbert - driver of the Snap-on Tools dragster - on being a contender for the 2003 Top Fuel championship: "We all feel good about the new season. I'm excited about Ron Douglas being our new crew chief and being able to work with (tuning consultant Jim) Brissette again. We definitely have a good combination and a good crew to make a run for the championship. We are probably in the best position we've been in to start a new season."
Del Worsham - driver of the red Checker Schuck's Kragen Pontiac Firebird was the only driver in the top four of the 2002 Funny Car standings that didn't come from John Force Racing - on ending the John Force championship streak: "I know a lot of us have said this every year for the past three or four years, but I honestly believe we're about to see the toughest competition ever in the Funny Car class. Whether anybody can end the John Force dynasty is just something we'll have to see, but I can guarantee the jockeying for the top 10 positions in the POWERade point standings is going to be fierce.
"There are far more good teams than there are spots in the top 10, nonetheless the top five. Maybe the best thing about that is that the pressure to win is going to spread across the whole category and as a group, we're all going to be pressing the Force camp."
Johnny Gray - driver of the blue Checker Schuck's Kragen Pontiac Firebird, finished in the top 10 of the Funny Car standings in 2002 for the first time in his career - on earning his first victory: "I've done a lot of stuff in race cars and won a lot of races over the past 34 years, but I have never won an NHRA race as a professional. I'd be lying if I said I don't have that exact item in my sights for 2003. We have the resources, we have the team and it's my job to be the driver that gets this car in the winner's circle."
Gary Scelzi - driver of the Oakley Dodge Stratus R/T - on making a return to full-time Funny Car racing: "To be with a stellar team like Schumacher Racing is like taking a bottle of No-Doz. I can't sleep at night. I am absolutely thrilled to be with Oakley, (crew chief) Mike Neff and Don Schumacher. This team is ready to rock. We worked together in Phoenix during the test session like we have been together for years and that is rare. I think there is a lot of chemistry there and that is what you need to have results."
Jeg Coughlin - driver of the Jeg's Mail Order Chevy Cavalier and 2002 Pro Stock champion - on making a run at the title in 2003: "We're definitely exited for the season to start. We have worked extremely hard over the winter and when everyone makes their first shout at Pomona we are going to be ready to make a stand. That race is going to set the tone for the rest of the year. We're going to see more than one person qualify for all of the races. We are looking to adding our names to that list and I think we are capable of it. I think there is going to be exciting racing this year in Pro Stock. We certainly feel like we are going to be able to defend our championship."
Jim Yates - driver of the Splitfire Pontiac Grand Am - on looking forward to the 2003 Pro Stock season: "I'm excited about having a new car. The Grand Am that we ran last year had approximately 800 runs on it. I felt like we wore it out. We may start off a little slower this year since we have a newer car, but I think we have more potential and a large part of that is due to having a guy like (newly hired team engineer) Donnie Gardner. Donnie's a thinker and doesn't mind looking outside the box. You take (crew chief and son) Jamie's ideas and Donnie's ideas, put them together and good things are going to happen. I'm really excited about where we may be able to take this program with the additional help."
Ron Krisher - driver of the Krisher Racing Chevy Cavalier - on keeping his record streak of qualifying for 70 consecutive races alive in 2003: "It's a heck of a streak and something we're all extremely proud of. Especially when you consider the closeness of Pro Stock racing and some of the guys who didn't qualify last year. We dodged a couple of bullets last year ourselves. There will be more good cars and teams racing this year than there ever has been, so keeping it going won't be easy either."