Funny Car Showdown pre-race teleconference, part 2

Continued from part 1 FREY: John has been in the race 11 times in the final round. That's a record. He has five wins, that's a record. Six more runner ups. A little bit of history is because you are not going in as the number one qualifier. It...

Continued from part 1

FREY: John has been in the race 11 times in the final round. That's a record. He has five wins, that's a record. Six more runner ups. A little bit of history is because you are not going in as the number one qualifier. It is the first time in 17 years that you haven't been the number one guy.

FORCE: Well, stuff happens.

FREY: Do you find it a little hard to swallow or what?

FORCE: Nope, yeah. It is just the way it goes. This year we have come out and we have pretty fast hot rods, just can't win races. Capps is whipping me in the heat. I hope we get a cold front here in Indy so I can survive. It is what it is.

FREY: You run for this thing, and there is an awful lot of money and you share that with your teams. We wonder what motivates a champ. It must be the money because in the whole history of the Skoal Showdown you are the only guy to win a whole round on one shot. Does that add up for this kind of thing?

FORCE: I better have to if I am going to whip these young guys. They have the energy. I have to find it through POWERade or something or Power Bars. I am on the Power Bars.

FREY: Gary?

SCELZI: Yes, sir, Bob.

FREY: You are getting set to go into this thing with a very good team with your Mopar Oakley Dodge. How do you like running these big money events?

SCELZI: It is flattering to be in these because it is the eight best of the whole year and Funny Car is such a tough class anymore that it is like a normal race. Anybody can win from any spot. It is just the eight of us are the elite, and the $100,000 is always sweet, too.

FREY: It will be interesting now that you have raced in both the Top Fuel and the Funny Car classes. We were talking to Tommy and he said you don't have a prayer.

SCELZI: Tommy has been drinking a lot lately and I think he will try to get off the sauce before the Skoal Showdown. We will give Tommy all he wants, so to hell with Tommy.

FREY: He didn't say that.

SCELZI: Damn you, Frey.

FREY: You have been such a fixture in the Funny Car class we think you have been in the showdown a lot, but this is your third time in the Funny Car class. You run it the same way as you did with the Top Fuel cars. Just let it all hang out?

SCELZI: That's it. Hopefully we will get the car qualified early on Friday and Saturday so we don't have to mess around and we can go stand on it and see what we can get away with it because it is $100,000. It is a gamble. You have the best of the best. You have to see what you can do on Monday. The key is to make some good runs early so you have a good idea of where you are at and hope the weather doesn't throw you a curve.

Q</I>: Ron, how is Ace doing, first of all?

CAPPS: He is good. He is pissed off; he is waiting in line with the car and he is up there and I am down here. He is back to normal.

Q</I>: Is he all done with his chemo?

CAPPS: Yes. He didn't have to do it. The stuff they pulled out was noncancerous. That was the best news, he had no chemo to go through this time.

Q</I>: This is for Tommy, Ron, and Gary. With the success of Force's TV show ("Driving Force," Mondays at 9 p.m. on A&E), has his head gotten any bigger?

SCELZI: If Force can't fit in the room, that's because he is talking from the parking lot.

Q</I>: Is he wired?

SCELZI: He is always wired.

Q</I>: Ron, what do you think? Tommy, is he the same quiet kind of guy?

CAPPS: He is looking a little older.

Q</I>: This is for John. You have been a popular driver for several years. How much more popular are you now to the non racing audience since your show has taken off?

FORCE: Well, the first question I'm asked every week, do you have any chance of catching Capps? Still has nothing to do with the TV show. People are caught up in what I do out here and it is exciting. We find a new group of fans with my family and just interested about racing. And I think if we are accomplishing anything, we are showing them what we do, and that will help the sport and that will help us find new sponsorship, all of us, not just my teams. We are getting a lot of new people looking. We will see.

Q</I>: This is for Ron and Gary. What is it about Indy that has become it has been special for decades now. Is it the fact it is a little more special now knowing so many teams have moved to the area? This is for Ron, Gary or whoever else wants to answer this, how important Indy is to NHRA.

SCELZI: I think it is the prestige and the age of the race. From the beginning this is the race that the guys from the west coast would come out to, the guys from the east coast, from everywhere. If you didn't have money, you saved your hundred to come to Indy to make the splash. If you could do well here, that would be your ticket to paradise, you could land a sponsor, at least you would be recognized or try to become a household name.

I mentioned the story, years ago in 1986 I came here with my alcohol dragster. I was dead broke, battling for the championship with Bill Walsh. I made it to the final and I got beat by Eldon P. Slick. Nobody had heard of him before. Nobody heard of him ever. Every time this guy was in a drag race, it was Eldon P. Slick, the winner of the U.S. Nationals in 1986. I think he ended up winning two or three races. Great guy, but that was his tag, that was his deal that he won the U.S. Nationals.

It is one if you win the championship or you don't win a championship, if you have won the U.S. Nationals, you have done something.

CAPPS: Growing up in the sport, I used to it watch all the heroes. You watch all the other drag races but you particularly watch Indy. To watch all the guys who have won Indy over the years, the history, it is definitely something you want to put on your resume as the driver.

FORCE: What makes me nervous about Indy, the guy we are up against right now we are up against everybody in the room, but Ron Capps' crew chief has won this thing ten times or something. He holds the record for wins here. No one has dominated at Indy like he has, so we will keep an eye on you.

Q</I>: I have a question for TJ. TJ, Bob alluded to the fact that there is added pressure at the sponsor's event. Since Indy is your transplanted home and the fact that not only do you have to race the rounds of the Skoal Showdown but you are also in qualifying for the elimination come race day, how does that all transpire or come to play into your philosophy for the weekend?

JOHNSON JR.: You definitely want to go out and try to get the car qualified Friday and Saturday so you don't have to worry about that. That's the last thing you want to worry about when you go into the first round of the Skoal Showdown. If you are not qualified, it puts more pressure on there. As long as the guys go out and get the show good Friday and Saturday, you can forget about qualifying for a short period of time and just go out there and go back to a normal Sunday race.

Being able to sleep in my own bed a couple miles from the racetrack, that helps a little bit and takes the pressure off. There is still added pressure. Indy is so big and you want to try to win the Skoal Showdown on Sunday and get back and win it on Monday. I think it will all go back on how you qualify Friday and Saturday. The first run may dictate how the whole weekend goes.

Q</I>: This is for John. With all the distractions of taping this show, how are you managing to keep a focus going into the biggest race of the season, Indy?

FORCE: I thought I was going to be free at Indy, but A & E wants more shows so the cameras are coming to Indy, which is going to be a pain because it is hard to focus. You walk around with a radio stuck to you all day and a radio in your ear. I took a job, I have to do it.

Q</I>: Are you adjusting or is it still difficult?

FORCE: It is hard on the whole family because you live it. It was fun at first and then it got painful. We are trying to work through it. To win a championship as everybody in the room knows, you have to focus every day on just that. If your focus isn't there, you can't win.

And that's the issue that I have of getting back to Castrol and Ford and Mac Tools and the money they are spending. They are great I have a TV show and it is doing good. But, you know, we are here to sell Mustangs and you need to get that job done. It is that way for any driver, Capps or Scelzi or Tommy here. So I just have to get my stuff together. There ain't no party and beer drinking in my life. It has pretty much come to an end here for a while.

Q</I>: Here is a question for any of one of you. You struggled with the weather in Memphis. What's the weather forecast for the Indy race?

FORCE: I don't think it will be as bad as Memphis. If it is as good as it is here today it would be wonderful.

FORCE: It depends on the fans. The fans take it either way. Tires smoking, balls of fire or national records. They are always happy. We will give them something.

Q</I>: Tommy, how is Melanie (Tommy's wife, driver of the Skull Shine/Torco Race Fuels Top Fuel dragster) doing? Kind of fell into a slump after that great start.

JOHNSON JR.: She is not any easier to live with at home, I can tell you that. The TV show is affecting John's household, the slump is affecting mine. She is all right actually. She is enjoying the success they had earlier in the season and hopefully see will be up here on the starting line rooting for me on Sunday in the Skoal Showdown.

But I think they are on their way back. It is a little bump in the road. We all go through them. I went through it earlier in the season. We had some struggles and I used her for motivation. Hopefully I can kick her in the butt and she can do better the rest of the year.

THE MODERATOR: All right, thanks, John. Thanks to Skoal and thanks, Bob, for hosting today. Take care, everyone, and we will see you in Indy.

-credit: nhra

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NHRA