Q&A WITH U.S. ARMY TOP FUEL TEAM CREW CHIEF MIKE GREEN INDIANAPOLIS, Ind., November 5 - As the 2009 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series season draws to a close, U.S. Army Top Fuel team crew chief Mike Green is attempting to lead driver Tony...
Q&A WITH U.S. ARMY TOP FUEL TEAM CREW CHIEF MIKE GREEN
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind., November 5 - As the 2009 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series season draws to a close, U.S. Army Top Fuel team crew chief Mike Green is attempting to lead driver Tony "The Sarge" Schumacher to his sixth straight world championship and the seventh of his career.
Following the Las Vegas Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway last Sunday, Green sat down to discuss the year to date while looking ahead to the season finale at Auto Club Raceway next weekend in Pomona, Calif.
Q: As we approach the race in Pomona, you have to be ecstatic the team is in the position it's in, right?
A: Yes, we've had a very good year so far with five wins in seven final rounds, while leading the points. Last December, Don (Schumacher) asked me to put together a team with Tony driving that could win another championship and that's what is left to accomplish. Tony has driven like the champion he is and our team has performed to the high standards set by previous teams as well as the Army Strong Soldiers that we represent.
Q: How did you and Tony manage to make a new team come together so quickly?
A: We only hired one team member outside of the Don Schumacher Racing organization so we knew we had very good personnel going into the season and most of
us had some sort of a relationship with Tony as a teammate. A major part of the maturation process was Tony's experience and the positive attitude he brought to the team from day one. All the guys were amazed with his openness to a new team and his willingness to accept our way of doing things. We're still improving and continue to work to be the best team out there.
Q: What have been some of the highlights for you this year? Perhaps, winning the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals for the first time as a crew chief is one of the bigger ones?
A: It was amazing that by the third race of the year people were asking if Tony was ever going to win another race. Of course, then we went to Houston and won. We were even lucky enough to beat Alan Johnson's team along the way, which was very satisfying. It was also great to be a part of Tony's eighth Indy win, which matched Don Garlits's record. Not only was it my first win at Indy as a crew chief, but it was the first Indy win for most of the crew guys. A lot of us had family and friends there to help celebrate which made it even more enjoyable.
Q: Have you thought about how it would feel to win your first world title?
A: I've spent most of my adult life working on fuel cars and have been lucky enough to have experienced winning a Top Fuel championship in the past. To have the opportunity to win one as a crew chief and for all of the guys on the team would be great. We work hard at preparing the race car for Tony to drive and take a lot of pride in knowing it's capable of taking him to another championship.
Q: How would you describe your working relationship with Tony?
A: It continues to grow. The more time you race together the better your racing knowledge of each other becomes. Tony just has a great attitude about our team and what it takes to win races. Our relationship is pretty loose, meaning we joke around more than we're serious about things. We've both raced a long time so there aren't a lot of surprises.
Q: Given your experience with other drivers over the years, how would you grade Tony in the mix?
A: Tony's ability to handle pressure is a big advantage over a lot of other drivers and his positive attitude is second to none. He has a lot of experience that keeps him calm and focused. He doesn't complain or worry - he just gets in the car and drives. My grade for him would be A-plus.
Q: Now that you've had a year with the U.S. Army as your sponsor, how has it felt to work with them?
A: Having the U.S. Army as a sponsor has been a lot different than I thought it would be. The pride really hits you after a three-star General tells you that you have the support of the entire U.S. Army behind you. They treat racing like everything else they do - with seriousness and extreme conviction. That's what makes them the elite fighting force that they are. I'm very proud to be associated with men and women who risk their lives every day to protect our freedom.
Q: Would it be fair to say there's a sense of inspiration being around Army Strong Soldiers on a continual basis?
A: They continue to remind us how fragile freedom is and how much pride and dedication it takes to protect it in a way that constantly provides motivation and determination to accomplish our goals in life and on the race track. It's hard not to be inspired when a group of Soldiers are at the track rooting us on one week and the next week they might be in Afghanistan risking their lives to protect us. To me, that's the ultimate sponsor and the best team someone could be associated with.