NHRA teleconference July 7, 2009 An Interview With: EDDIE KRAWIEC JEG COUGHLIN THE MODERATOR: Today we have with us a driver from each of the four NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series categories. To begin, I would like to introduce the ...
July 7, 2009
An Interview With:
THE MODERATOR: Today we have with us a driver from each of the four NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series categories. To begin, I would like to introduce the defending champions and current points leader, Eddie Krawiec and Jeg Coughlin.
First, Eddie Krawiec, rider of the Screamin' Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson. Eddie has two wins and three runner-up finishes in the first seven races in Pro Stock Motorcycle to build a 70-point lead with five regular-season races left.
Eddie, what's been the big difference for your team from this year to last year, when, of course, you sort of struggled a little bit in the regular season and entered the playoffs in seventh place, and this season you are obviously looking to enter the playoffs in much better position. What's been the difference from last regular season to this regular season?
EDDIE KRAWIEC: I think the biggest difference on our team part is myself. Rider confidence is the No. 1 thing in any category, whether it be driver confidence going into race day, let alone going into qualifying. You need to treat every single pass down that quarter mile as your final round task. You want to make it the best run possible, and go to the other end and get the best qualifying position to go into race day.
I think coming into mid part of the '08 season was the time I was just starting to get comfortable on the motorcycle, and luckily enough, we had that great Countdown system that it worked for my benefit, I think you know, and gave hope to all those racers and it actually showed that there is a possibility that if you are in a No. 7 spot, you can go out there and win the championship.
So I think the points system, knowing that it works, and to go out there and do that gave me even more confidence coming into this season. So I'd say my biggest thing is the mental confidence.
THE MODERATOR: Jeg Coughlin, driver of the Jegs.com Chevy Cobalt has won four NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing World Series Championships overall, including each of the last two. So far in 2009 he is leading all drivers in wins with five, and in round wins with 33. He is also the first driver to officially clinch his playoff berth.
So with that said, what's the game plan over the final six regular season races?
JEG COUGHLIN: Well, thanks, that was pretty exciting to hear. Our game plan, really, as we head into the Western Swing is similar to what Eddie just said. We are going in and approach these three races as aggressively as we can.
Yes, we do have a few things on our clipboard that we would like to test in Seattle and later down the road in Infineon and Sonoma. Not going to steer too far off-course.
You mentioned this is a grueling three-race stretch, but that's just the beginning for us as we enter the final phase of the regular season and ultimately prepare for the Countdown to 1 effort that starts in Charlotte, we have got a four-race stretch that starts that off.
Really for us, it's a great exercise to keep the team in sync. Obviously we want to go out and challenge for some round wins, and obviously some race wins, ultimately, but we are really treating this as an opportunity to continue to keep that momentum going that we have had in the regular season thus far, and would like nothing more than to leave the U.S. Nationals in the points lead and enter the Countdown to 1 in the No. 1 seed (and earn the 20-point bonus).
Stay tuned; it's going to be exciting racing in all four of the professional classes, but we are very much looking forward to it and that's our approach.
Q: For Eddie, last year you won a championship without winning a race. How much more confidence do you have this year with two wins under your belt already, and you're halfway through the season?
EDDIE KRAWIEC: I'm really confident. I'm looking forward to actually getting out there and getting on my motorcycle and going into race day.
You know, for the way that it turned out last year, I was ecstatic. I wouldn't change a thing. I think that's something that's going to be etched in the history books for a really long time, and honestly, I don't know if it will ever be broken again.
But to go out there and capture some wins, and I've been in five straight final rounds, I just hope this momentum carries, and I can do it on the second half of the season just like I did. I've had a total of the last 12 races entered, I've been in nine finals. So that's pretty good statistics. So 75 percent of that has been final round appearances for me.
I just want to close my final round average a little better and take that from 25 percent and bump that up to maybe 75 percent. I would like to win them all. But it's tough competition out there and I'm just glad to be out here racing with everybody.
Q: So what are you doing basically different this year than you did last year?
EDDIE KRAWIEC: I'm not really doing anything different. I'm just riding the bike with the confidence. You know, (Screamin' Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson crew chief) Matt Hines has given me an awesome motorcycle. A lot of people out there always compliment their crew chiefs, but if you look at what Matt is doing, he is tuning two bikes, two motorcycles and that adds extra pressure on you come race day.
As long as I think he gives us a good motorcycle and we are confident that we have a great one under us, that it just makes it easier for the driver to do their job.
Q: This is for Jeg. You have certainly cashed in on momentum for championships, so you know a little bit about that. Do you believe in momentum; not everybody does, and is it as easy to retrieve as it is to achieve Jeg?
JEG COUGHLIN: I definitely believe in momentum without question. In a lot of instances when the engine group is making more horsepower in the dyno room, that gives them more momentum to make more. Obviously when things are on the up-and-up, it's easier to keep on rolling, and that goes for the same group that's at the racetrack, as well, and also for me, behind the wheel.
You know, with six races in our Countdown to 1 (NHRA Playoffs), momentum can be everything, as we've seen the last two seasons, the way the Countdowns have unfolded. In all of the classes, momentum can carry you right from the very first race as was the case with Cruz Pedregon last year right into the Funny Car World Championship, which was spectacular to watch, as well.
So in our case, it's not easy to get that momentum going, but I think with the way our regular season has been going, we are looking to kind of play on it, and if we can't make a real strong run at a third straight Full Throttle Championship.
Q: Do you feel (momentum) it unfold or does it just unfold?
JEG COUGHLIN: No, I think you kind of earn it, and as you're earning it, you're feeling it, as well. It's kind of a difficult question, and to sum up in a few words, but yeah, I think you can feel it. But I definitely don't think it's something you pray for or that shows up. It's something that you earn, not only with your team, but from your competitors.
Q: Eddie, last year, you took root during the Countdown and everything came down to winning a championship, again, without a win, but now that you've got a couple wins during the regular season. How much does that change where you are approach for the Countdown, or does it really affect anything at all, other than, say, give you more momentum?
EDDIE KRAWIEC: No, I really don't think it affects my approach. My approach is before I even leave our shop here in Brownsburg, I plan on winning the race. I go to every race with the intention of winning, just like every driver out there. You don't dream of losing in the final, you dream of winning.
That's my approach and that's the way that I go into every single race. My main goal is, for the Countdown, it's a little different this year. See, I'm going into it as of right now, I am the No. 1 guy, and the way I looked at it last year was I was No. 7. I didn't have anything really to lose. I had everything to gain. And when you are the points leader, you have everything to lose, but what you have to gain is you've got to maintain your position.
So the main thing is maintaining going out there and racing smart and being consistent and going rounds. I think as long as the driver does their job, and like I said earlier, that you have good equipment under you, that's where that confidence comes in, and your team morale is on an upbeat. There shouldn't be any changes going on. I mean, what I've been doing now, it's been working for me. It's obviously shown. I've been pretty consistent on going round, so I'm not going to change a thing.I'm just going to go out there and race.
Q: With two months before the Countdown, this particular phase, this Western Swing, what do you try to do in terms of preparation, knowing that you have to go back out west and close this thing out, what do you do with this particular stretch of races in terms of preparing for the Countdown?
EDDIE KRAWIEC: Well, what we are doing presently right now is we are going through our equipment and making sure we have our stuff 100 percent fresh and ready to go. Our truck basically is going to leave Brownsburg here and it's going to go out to Denver, and we are not out in Seattle there, but we do go to Sonoma.
So what happens is our truck is going to be out on the road for a couple weeks, and we try to leave and we always try to keep our stuff as fresh as possible, so that way, two things. No. 1, failures are at a minimum, and also that way, you always have good equipment on your truck ready to go. I think the main thing is just keeping up on the maintenance and being ready.
THE MODERATOR: One note for Jeg, I wanted to point out, in a class where the starting line is so important, Jeg is 8-0 on the starting line this year, he has not lost a race on the tree, including 5-0 on red light victories and 3-0 in hole shots.
Jeg, I think you've gotten a lot of credit over the years for your performance in bracket racing and particularly on the tree in the Pro Stock category. Can you talk about mind-set when you pull into the beams?
JEG COUGHLIN: Really, I think we've heard a lot about confidence and momentum in this teleconference, and I think a lot of that is on my mind. After I do my burnout and backup and prepare to pull forward for the pre stage before the race.
What's on my mind at that point is I usually have two or three game plans on how I'm going to race my opponent and approach the starting line, because you do have to mix it up from behind the wheel, not only -- not only to try and create a benefit on your behalf, but also to mix it up to keep it fresh for yourself, and I enjoy doing that.
So typically pulling forward at the pre-stage I'll have two or three game plans in mind, and you know, obviously in a pecking order, and I feel like that way I'm always on offense mentally. As I prepare the pre-stage and my opponent has done the same, then you just kind of play the game and let it unfold, hopefully within one of your three game plans, and they typically do because you've got it covered.
I think the confidence that I have is to remain focused with the most discipline; to ground out any distraction at that point, and that's a lot easier said than done. I've been fortunate to be able to -- to be able to drown those distractions out and remain confident, and again it goes with the confidence that your team gives you and the preparation of your vehicle, and your chances of winning that round that you're getting ready to stage for.
So it is a big team effort, and Pro Stock racing -- in all NHRA Full Throttle drag racing, the races are side-by-side, and any little error can result in a loss, and certainly on a Christmas tree, we don't particularly care to be second off the line or loss on a holeshot but that is the name of the game occasionally and you just have to fire at it and be confident.
Q: Can you comment on clinching and the psychological blow to the other drivers?
JEG COUGHLIN: I'm not sure it would be a psychological blow to them by any stretch, but it just been a straight effort on the whole Jegs and JEGS.com team approach. When we (indiscernible) our 2008 championship run, we sat as a team and tried to figure what are our goals as we approached the 2009 season. It appeared that the Countdown format would not change and it has not for the most part. Our goals at that time were to challenge for some more round wins and race wins period, because I think we won the championship last year with three victories and just a consistent run throughout the entire year, and that's what got it done for us.
But we wanted to capitalize more on that in the regular season and I think that focus and that direction and that discipline is what has gotten our team prepared for the '09 season and this regular season as we have talked about, and to clinch our (playoff spot) into the Top-10 going into the Countdown to 1 this early in the season, it is allowing us to, as I mentioned earlier in the teleconference, to maybe test a few things along the way.
We probably won't do a whole lot of testing in Denver because it just such a different environment for us but that will give us the opportunity as we approach Seattle, as we approach Sonoma, as we approach Reading, and also, Brainerd. We probably won't tinker with it a whole lot going into Indy, because, well, it's the U.S. nationals and you're there to focus on winning the U.S. Nationals.
It's almost like the Countdown to 1, the thrill is right before the Countdown to 1, and that's our approach and I think to (have clinched) already was news to me already going into this race week and it's very flattering and that's what our approach will be going into the remainder of the regular season and our approach to the Countdown to 1.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks to Eddie and Jeg for joining us today. One final note, a statistic, Tony Schumacher last year also clinched at this point heading into the Western Swing, he was the only other driver to do so (this early). Tony had amassed, 1,062 points heading into Denver last year and had clinched his spot, and this year Jeg Coughlin has 1,072 points and has clinched his spot.