NHRA teleconference September 15, 2009 An interview with: EDDIE KRAWIEC JEG COUGHLIN MICHAEL PADIAN: Joining us today will be drivers from each of the four pro categories beginning with Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle. I'll introduce...
September 15, 2009
An interview with:
MICHAEL PADIAN: Joining us today will be drivers from each of the four pro categories beginning with Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle. I'll introduce each of the drivers, ask for an opening statement about the upcoming playoffs, and then I'll open it up to questions from the media.
I'll begin with Eddie Krawiec, rider of the Screamin Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson. Eddie had four wins and four runners up during the 12-race Pro Stock Motorcycle regular season and he earned the No. 1 seed entering the playoffs. Eddie claimed the 2008 title after a seventh place finish in the regular season, the lowest regular season finish of any champion in the Countdown era.
Eddie, thoughts on the Countdown and beginning this year as the hunted, rather than the hunter as you were last year.
EDDIE KRAWIEC: Yeah, coming into this, it is, it's definitely different than the way it worked out last year. The Full Throttle Countdown to 1 position, I was fortunate enough to get that and be the points leader coming into it; obviously getting those important 30 points for that extra position.
Now obviously with the new change in the rules and the points that are gained in qualifying, every round point that you do get or championship round point that you do get is going to be a major factor here, because now you're rewarded points for just going and qualifying well, and that's one of our main focuses here.
We have always been one of the top performers. Our team has been fortunate enough to win the full throttle award for the past couple of seasons and we are pretty happy and proud of that. So hopefully that shines the second half of the season and we can now grab some of those important points instead of the cash.
Q: Matt Smith says that you've been sandbagging and that you're going to be really going for those points, those qualifying points. My big question is have you guys been holding back this anyway?
EDDIE KRAWIEC: To be honest with that answer, we go to every race with the intention of winning and we go out there to perform the best that we can and run best that we can at every event.
And I don't think it's any different than any other race that we approach for the final five. So I think you'll see our performance be right up there in the top two or three, all five races. That's the way that we have been running.
I struggled a little bit the last race. Our bike, we were just off on the tuneup. So I would expect it to turn around and hopefully go to Charlotte here and run really well. I wouldn't say we were.
I would say we were running and performing well. The only bike that was out performing us out there was Hector Arana, and he was running really strong. For Matt, also, to go out there and he ran some low ET at a couple of the races, also. I don't think we were holding back any, I think you'll really see, and other people will be stepping up their game.
MICHAEL PADIAN: Jeg, driver of the Jeg's.com Chevy Cobalt. Jeg has won four NHRA Full Throttle World Championships overall, including each of the last two. In the 2009 regular season, he led all drivers in wins with seven, and in round-wins with 47. He enters the playoffs fresh off of two straight wins and eight consecutive round-wins.
Jeg, like Eddie who came from off the pace last year entering the Countdown, you have come off the pace to win each of your two titles in the Countdown era. Now that you're in the first place, any different strategy for the Jeg's.com team?
JEG COUGHLIN: No, I don't think so. We look forward to heading into the Countdown to 1 championship, obviously this weekend at Charlotte.
The team, we have discussed our strategy at the conclusion of the 2008 championship run, how we wanted to approach the 2009 season and how we ideally will approach the 2009 Countdown season. So you know, we are really just looking to minimize any mistakes we can. It's a six-race stretch that could be a do-or-die situation.
You know, our goal is not to make any mistakes that can cost us being able to get the car to the starting line or get it down the racetrack, and you know, be able to put myself in a position to get out and do what I love to do, and that's try to work hard to turn the win right on.
But it's going to take an extremely strong run. We have got such a powerful contingent of cars running at the top of the pro stock pack right now and we have had some great, great fortune. As you've mentioned, we have led the pace with race wins this year and for that to continue is going to take some good fortune still, and some good, old-fashioned racing, so looking forward to it.
Q: More for Eddie, how do you welcome this new point structure? With the Countdown being what it is, how much do you feel it's necessary to ratchet it up and prevent that sandbagging that you were alluding to a little earlier?
EDDIE KRAWIEC: You mean the qualifying points?
EDDIE KRAWIEC: With the qualifying points, I think actually it's a good thing. There's a lot of bikes out there, or cars, that can qualify well, and sometimes struggle on race day.
Now, with the way that it's going to work out, it's just going to throw a little bit more of a wrench in there. It means you have to go out there and you have to perform well, not only on race day, but you have to perform now during qualifying.
Like I touched earlier, the Full Throttle award, which is something that a lot of the racers look forward to in past years, was a qualifying bonus that you received money for qualifying and making -- being the most consistent and at the end of the year, there was a bonus for the team that did it the best.
We have been fortunate enough to win that quite a few times, and that shows how good as a team we are and how good we played during qualifying, playing that factor of making good, solid runs down that track and being consistent, more important.
So it's going to be interesting. I think it's going to throw a mix in there and change things up a little bit. It's something that I'm looking forward to. I'm pretty excited about the whole Countdown all in all, and you know, I just think you're going to see some good racing here in the Full Throttle Series in the last five, six races.
Q: I guess it was a little surprising that (the addition of the bonus points in qualifying is) coming now, but did it really matter when it came, that coming in for the Countdown was right on time?
EDDIE KRAWIEC: To be totally honest, I was pretty shocked when it did come out. You would think something like this system would sort of come out and play a factor throughout the whole season of points, because I do think that it would have changed a lot of the way a lot of these racers fell into the Countdown.
But it's obviously going to get introduced at any time, and NHRA felt that it was the time to do it during the Countdown, and sort of throw a little wrench in there. But I think it's something that will ultimately be all welcomed by all the racers. And really I think it's a good thing, and like we did say, it does prevent that sandbagging or however you may say it, but it makes you want to go out there and qualify well for every single session and make the best run that you possibly can and get rewarded for it.
Q: Talking about the qualifying points deal, are you concerned about this at all? I know qualifying has not been the strongest suit for your car, or do you figure that race wins take care of all that because of points being what they are three, two, one, per session?
JEG COUGHLIN: It can definitely have an impact on points earned without question. As you mentioned, qualifying has not been our strong suit, but I think that's for a couple of reasons. One, we are not a team that likes to spend additional money and resources on going out and testing during the season, and sometimes during -- in Pro Stock and I think Pro Stock Bike, we can say this, and it doesn't impact our fan experience, either, that are at the track, because races are a great run to us. A bad run to us is within two or three hundredth of a second and it's still a great side-by-side run, and as a team we can gather some great data.
On the Fuel cars, the make or break can be enough smoke or a ball of fire, and that can certainly impact the fan experience.
So I think the points that have been added to the Countdown here is certainly an interesting addition to the Countdown. I think it's exciting. We certainly will approach and already have approached Charlotte, slightly different. We are typically a time that would come in on the conservative side and work our tuneup and set up, by cue three and cue four, we are typically in the Top-5 or better in those sessions, typically.
I feel like with our approach, we'll approach it slightly differently coming into Friday's session and I think with the four straight races, it doesn't really allow us to go out and do much testing in between the races, maybe fine-tune on some things. But I've got a strong group of team members that will get this Jegs.com Chevy flying. But it's going to be interesting to say the least. And fortunately, we are starting in the top spot and we may need some of those points, but we'll see.
Q: Eddie, going back to what you did last year, winning without winning a race, I know it's rare in the overall history of NHRA, but Countdown format is still pretty young. Do you think we might see that, in your class or another class in the near future, somebody winning this championship without winning a race in the last six?
EDDIE KRAWIEC: I would say it is possible. For it to happen is probably going to being a slim chance. But there's a lot of contenders out there, especially in the Pro Stock Motorcycle category that have not won a race: Michael Phillips, there's Karen Stoffer. There's a bunch of bikes that are in the back of the pack that are more than capable of winning a race; not just winning a race, winning the championship.
I proved last year with our team, it was consistency that did it. It didn't mean race wins; it was round wins. And bottom line is if some of the guys up front stumble, somebody in the back can capitalize; and that's the nice thing about this system is it gives hope.
And it shows every team, if you're in the Countdown to 1, you guarantee yourself a shot at winning the championship. I guarantee you have a shot at getting a better number on your bike or on your car for the end of that season than you did if the points stayed the same way. That makes it exciting.
And more important, the fans get to see some great racing and it's going to cop down to every single race in the final five or six for all of these cars, but the final five for the bikes are going to be exciting and good for the fans to watch and more important, it's going to let everybody sit on the edge of their seat wanting to know or wondering who is going to win that next round.
Q: Jeg, the whole thing with the new qualifying points system, you guys have always approached qualifying in a certain way, and now you have to change how you do that. Do you think it was something that really needed to be done?
JEG COUGHLIN: Well, I don't think it is certainly anything negative that's been done, but it's a new opportunity that's presented itself to the Countdown and to all of us competitors.
So it's part of the rules and something we'll just work with. You know, we are typically an extremely strong team on race day, and I think we'll filter some of that backward toward Friday and approach it just slightly differently. So was it necessary? I think it's exciting, as Eddie just mentioned. The goal is to build excitement and to prove on track excitement, as well. So certainly see it being a win/win for the down the and for the Full Throttle championships as they will wrap up the 2009 season.
Q: It seems like it's a good concept. It just seemed odd that they would throw it in right before the Countdown begins.
EDDIE KRAWIEC: You know, that's part of the hype, you know, and the format itself really didn't take on any differences going into the 2009 season, and I think more than anything, it just caught some of us off-guard. But that's all part of the deal. And nothing that I think any of us are worried about. The fans are going to be treated to some spectacular racing in cues one, two, three and four and on Sunday, as well.
Q: You had a great year this year after your championship last year. What do you attribute your success to this year, and is it easier going into the Countdown, do you go into it with a little more confidence after your win last year?
EDDIE KRAWIEC: Absolutely. I have a great team behind me, the Vance & Hines Screamin Eagle Harley-Davidson Team had always given me a great motorcycle come race day.
So to have the confidence that's there; I think my turnaround was myself personally. The main thing is, is mental confidence. You need to go and approach every single race as it is the last race or the final round, whatever you need to do, to approach it to get your mind-set where it needs to be to know that you have the best equipment under you, and you're going to perform the best. And I just really started getting in the groove last year midseason. I did some testing and really turned the corner, is the way I looked at it.
Fortunate for me, the way that I really started to shine was on the second half of the season, and that's when it really mattered the most and I was able to capture the final Full Throttle championship there at the end, and just to be a part of it and have the whole deal over in this team, the way that this team does it, and for them to give me the equipment that they have given me is just a huge confidence booster.
So I would say my biggest change was myself personally.
Q: Jeg, are you surprised that some of your perennial key rivals have struggled a little bit like with red lights, and do you worry that they might be peeking at the right time for them?
JEG COUGHLIN: You know, we certainly can't control, good question, but we can't control what our competitors are doing. Our goal, like I mentioned earlier, is to make sure that our car is as best prepared as we can, the guys in the shop, Stevie, John, and everybody has been working on horsepower which is extremely crucial. We have some new enhancements that have filtered into the car over the last two races and we have done extremely well.
So Mike Edwards has certainly been leading the performance trends of the entire 2009 season, whether it was first round, second round, Q1, Q2, I think we have seen Greg Anderson struggle a little; I think that's been surprising to the masses without question. But what he's missed, his teammate, Jason Line, has certainly picked up.
I think more, when you look further at the Countdown to one, and the remainder of the drivers, you have got Alan Johnson back there that has not made as much noise as I think we are going to see in some of his teammates, so it's going to be exciting, without question. You know, that's what makes this Full Throttle championship so important and so special, is because we are on the edge of our seat now, not just the fans. You have got the crew chief right on the edge. You have got the drivers and the riders right on the edge. It's game time. There's no looking back, and this is what the whole year is set up for and that's what makes it the most exciting. Obviously for us at Jeg's and Jeg's.com, we would like nothing more than to win our third straight championship.
So stay tuned. This is going to be a heck of a ride.