Joliet: Chicagoland Nationals quoteboard

QUOTABLE: Brandon Bernstein - rookie driver of the Budweiser dragster who suffered lower back injuries when his dragster went out of control and made contact with the retaining wall at Englishtown, N.J. He will be sidelined for several months ...


Brandon Bernstein - rookie driver of the Budweiser dragster who suffered lower back injuries when his dragster went out of control and made contact with the retaining wall at Englishtown, N.J. He will be sidelined for several months following the injury and will be replaced in the driver seat by his father Kenny during his recovery - "It could have been worse, for sure. It was quite a hit when I went into the wall and again when I landed on the other side (of the wall). It didn't knock me out but I sure felt it. It was a pretty scary deal looking back but when it happened it was all so quick I didn't have time to worry about anything. I was just trying to pedal the car and get back in the race."

Kenny Bernstein - six-time NHRA champion and interim driver of the Budweiser dragster until his son's return. Kenny retired following the 2002 season - "Brandon will be fitted with a brace that will immobilize the neck and upper back and will begin the road to recovery. At the present time he is still in a great amount of pain and pain management is a major focus. We expect he will continue to be in a great amount of pain for the next couple of weeks. Whenever he is able to walk with the brace and manage the pain, he will be moved. We will monitor his progress, but doctors want the injury to totally heal before he gets back into the race car. That healing time is really tough to pin down, however we anticipate that it will take several months. We do want to be clear that the very second Brandon is cleared medically, he will jump back into the car. I know this, there is absolutely no reason at all that I can think of to rush Brandon back into the car. He's out of the [championship] deal now for sure. His long-term health is the main concern."

Tony Schumacher - driver of the U.S. Army dragster and the 1999 NHRA Top Fuel champion. Schumachewr failed to qualify recently, ending a consecutive qualifying streak of 102 events, the third longest among active drivers on the NHRA circuit - "Extremely disappointing is all I can say. I would never have imagined that we could not get down the track and (qualify for eliminations). I feel horrible for the entire Army team, they deserve much better than this. As hard as it may be, you have to take this experience and learn from it. It happens to the best of teams. Larry (Dixon) didn't qualify at St. Louis last lear and he went on to win the POWERade championship. Once the initial shock wears off, we'll pick up our bootstraps and move on. That's all you can do."

Doug Kalitta - driver of the Mac Tools dragster and one of three Top Fuel drivers to win an event (Larry Dixon and Brandon Bernstein). He qualified No. 1 at six of the first eight events and has two wins on the year. He enters Chicago in third place in the POWERade standings but will pass B. Bernstein (second) in pursuit of Dixon - "The win at (Englishtown, N.J.) was huge for the Mac Tools team. We have kept ourselves in a position to challenge for the Top Fuel championship. We like qualifying No.1, but we are here to win, no matter where we qualify."

Gary Densham - driver of the Automobile Club Ford Mustang who joined Force Racing in 2001 and has since collected his first five career wins and led the points standings last year for four events-"When you're driving a John Force Racing Ford with a Jimmy Prock tune-up, you get respect everywhere you go. Everyone knows that we've got one real fast hot rod. I always thought, even when I was running my own car, that one day I'd win a race, but I never imagined that there would be a time when I would lead the points. (Then) we had a little slump and it cost us. To be successful at this level with this kind of competition, you have to be on your game every week. You can't afford a letdown. Our goal this year is to improve at those tracks where we had problems last year."

Gary Scelzi - driver of the Oakley Time Bomb Dodge Stratus who has won at Chicago in a Top Fuel dragster. The race at Route 66 will be the final of three races held in consecutive weeks - "It's extraordinarily demanding. It's difficult to run three races in a row. The guys have to work so hard and they have to be on top of their game. There's just no rest for the wicked, if you will. It's a long way to leave Englishtown, N.J., and get to Topeka, Kan., get everything rebuilt and get ready to run Topeka. Then you have to pack everything up and go to Joliet, Ill. It's going to take a toll. The strong are going to survive and I think the ones that are going to be players at the end are going to start to show their stuff now over the next three races. I'm hoping that we're a part of all that."

Ron Capps - driver of the green Skoal Racing Chevy Camaro. Capps won the event at Phoenix which moved him into the POWERade points lead for the first time since 1998. Since the win Capps did not advance past the second round until his runner-up finish at Englishtown, N.J. - "It's such a long, grueling season, and I think the drivers who are hot right now and really doing well are going to go through a struggling period. They just haven't seen it yet. We saw ours and now the plan is to start peaking toward the end of the year."

Jeg Coughlin - driver of the Jeg's Mail Order Chevy Cavalier and the defending NHRA POWERade Pro Stock champion. The city of Delaware, Ohio, recently updated eight city signs located on various routes in and out of the city limits to recognize Delaware as the home of Team Jeg's - "We are honored by the kind gesture. Delaware, Ohio has traditionally been known for the Brown Jug horse race and Ohio Wesleyan University. We are pleased to help bring further recognition to such a great community."

Johnny Gray - driver of the blue Checker Schuck's Kragen Pontiac Firebird who made his first career final round appearance at the 2003 season opener at Pomona, Calif., then again at Atlanta Dragway, both times losing to Tony Pedregon - "We're way ahead of where we've been in the past, and have knocked on the door for a win twice, but the best part of the deal is that it's still obvious to us that we have lots of things to improve upon. As well as we've done, in the stats column, we still look at each run and each race and see places where we could get better, go faster, and hurt fewer parts. If we keep pecking away at this thing, fixing one thing at a time, we're going to win. It's pretty easy for us to see. I've never been more optimistic about the car I'm driving. I absolutely don't see this team as one-hit wonders. Once we break the seal on the win thing, we'll win more."

Warren Johnson - driver of the GM Performance Parts Pontiac Grand Am and six-time NHRA POWERade Pro Stock champion and the winningest Pro Stock driver in NHRA history - "When I chose this as my vocation, I pretty much established that I had to be successful. Otherwise I wouldn't be able to survive. Obviously, the wins had to be a part of it, but we never envisioned how many we would get. In fact, when I started in 1976, only Bob Glidden had more than five or six (wins) at that point in time. When Glidden ultimately hit 85, he established the precedent that if you kept your nose to the grindstone, those wins will come as long as you have a strong work ethic and a solid program. A solid program consists of the knowledge of what it takes to put it all together, consistent sponsor support and employees that are as dedicated as (son) Kurt and myself."

Craig Treble - rider of the Matco Tools Suzuki who finished a career-best second in the 2002 POWERade standings. Treble suffered a DNQ earlier this year at Atlanta, ending a qualifying streak at 58 consecutive events. He followed that event with a runner-up finish at Englishtown, N.J. - "We are back. I was ahead of (Shawn Gann) at Englishtown (in the final round) and had a real good run going, but then I had trouble (shifting it into the higher gears). The bike went from second to fourth gear, and when it does that, it won't go into fifth, so I was done. I will take the blame for that loss. It was rider error. We are still for real and definitely in the hunt for the NHRA POWERade Pro Stock Bike championship."


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Series NHRA
Drivers Jeg Coughlin , Larry Dixon , Kenny Bernstein , Warren Johnson , Tony Pedregon , Ron Capps , John Force , Tony Schumacher , Gary Scelzi , Doug Kalitta , Shawn Gann , Gary Densham , Bob Glidden , Craig Treble , Brandon Bernstein , Johnny Gray