John Haley season preview

Sportsman Rookie of the Year Haley gearing up for sophomore season. WAYZATA, Minn. - With one solid year under his belt, 2002 Sportsman Rookie of the Year Top Alcohol Dragster driver John Haley is gearing up to go for the gold this season. ...

Sportsman Rookie of the Year Haley gearing up for sophomore season.

WAYZATA, Minn. - With one solid year under his belt, 2002 Sportsman Rookie of the Year Top Alcohol Dragster driver John Haley is gearing up to go for the gold this season. Haley and his team lead by Mike Cooper plan to kick the season off this weekend during the NHRA warm-up at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Haley, from Wayzata, Minn., won the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals, the biggest event in all of drag racing en route to a 10th place national finish. This year, Haley hopes to drop the zero from his number and just run the No. 1 next year.

"The goal for this season is to try to be No. 1, just like everyone else," said Haley. "We at least want to finish in the top ten again, but we really want to be No. 1. We plan on running a full schedule of 16 races to try to get to that top spot there. This year it's just going to be me, Mike Cooper and Denny Savage. We are not going to have Frank Hawley and Ronnie Swearingen with us this year."

Haley is also excited about this season for the sheer fact he has one season under his belt to play off of, rather than starting from scratch as a rookie last year.

"Last year was essentially practice for me," stated Haley. "That's the truth of the matter. I wasn't very good from the get-go and I barely held my act together good enough to win the U.S. Nationals. I finally got a handle on it after Chicago last year. In Chicago I was so nervous I could barely hold my leg on the clutch pedal; I was rolling through all the lights. After that, I got a grip on myself. I have a season behind me, I have the technique down, I am more in control, and I feel much more comfortable behind the wheel. I am not nearly as nervous as I used to be. We should have minimal mistakes this year."

With the attention he has garnered from the success of his rookie season, Haley also realizes the rest of the field is gunning for him and won't cut him any slack. Haley doesn't plan to let that get to him, however.

"I just put that kind of stuff out of my head," explained Haley. "I like the fact people are gunning for me, just as anyone else would. I would actually rather people are gunning for me. But, I am gunning for them too. I put all of that stuff out of my head, though. When I'm running, it's just me, the light and the asphalt out in front of me."

After running consistent low 5.4 second elapsed times last year, the team has it's goal set for consistent 5.3 second times this year.

"We know the car is better than the low and mid .40's we have ran with it," commented Haley. "The car ran a 5.38 before I bought it from Jay [Meyer]. We know we haven't been using the full potential of all the parts on the car. We know there are some other things we can do and try to get some more speed out of it. We do anticipate that we will be running .30's quite a bit next year. We think we have a few tricks we've learned. This old car seems like it could run .40's on a dirt road. So, if we can apply the new information we have, that should take us down into the .30's and make us an even more competitive car."

"All the blown cars are trying to figure out some way to be as quick as the injected-nitro cars," Haley continued. "That's what the goal is: to pick up some more performance on the car to be more competitive with the injected-nitro cars. Those cars are just getting so much more consistent these days. Something has to be done somewhere down the line, so we have to pick up the pace if we can."

-jhm-

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Series NHRA
Drivers John Hale