Madison: Pre event quotes

QUOTABLE Larry Dixon - defending NHRA POWERade Top Fuel champion and driver of the Miller Lite dragster. Dixon is fourth on the all-time win list for Top Fuel drivers but is seeking his first career win at Gateway International Raceway. Last ...

QUOTABLE

Larry Dixon - defending NHRA POWERade Top Fuel champion and driver of the Miller Lite dragster. Dixon is fourth on the all-time win list for Top Fuel drivers but is seeking his first career win at Gateway International Raceway. Last season he posted a DNQ and watched as rival Kenny Bernstein won the event to make a serious move in the points standings - "I try to win every race I am at, it's just whether or not you can or can't. There are quite a few race tracks I haven't won at but I am not losing any sleep over it. You just try and do well at each track you are at and go from there. If you get it, great, if not, then we try again next year. It took Dale Earnhardt 25 years to win the Daytona 500, I just hope it doesn't take me that long."

Brandon Bernstein - rookie standout who was injured in an accident in May at Englishtown, N.J., ending his 2003 season. His father, six-time NHRA champion and defending winner of the Sears Craftsman Nationals, assumed driving duties of the famed Budweiser/Lucas Oil dragster for the remainder of the season - "I'm going to get back in that race car. (The accident) hasn't deterred me at all. I love driving and it's not going to hinder me in any way getting back into the race car. Surgery or no surgery, I'm fortunate that I will have a full recovery either way. We're shooting to get back on the road with the Budweiser team at St. Louis. I'd like to be back with the team and all my friends in the racing fraternity."

Cruz Pedregon - driver of the Advance Auto Parts Pontiac Firebird and the 1992 Funny Car champion, the only driver other than John Force to win a Funny Car title since 1990 - "Our performance level isn't where it needs to be. I don't like losing in the early rounds of a race. I'm aggressive and I think you need to be aggressive to win races. I feel we're close to where we want to be."

Tony Pedregon - driver of the Castrol Syntec Ford Mustang and the leading contender for the POWERade Funny Car championship. Pedregon recently moved past his older brother Cruz on the all-time win list for Funny Car competitors - "The fact that I have more wins than Cruz,, if you put us on a scale, he's going to tip the scale because he's got that championship (1992) and I respect that. We're definitely off to a good start this year but we need to maintain what we have. That's our focus every week. That's what I have learned watching (team owner) John (Force) win all those championships."

Whit Bazemore - driver of the Matco Tools Dodge Stratus and a contender for the 2003 NHRA POWERade Funny car championship. Bazemore's recently went to three straight final rounds, winning twice - "We're not getting too excited, because it's a long year and we have to do it again this weekend. We expect to win races and we've been in a good position all year to win races, but we haven't until lately. So now we did it and the important thing is that we continue to have a good running car and go rounds. Like I said before, when you're going to the semifinals every weekend you're putting yourself into a position to win races. And that's what we're doing. As long as we can do that we'll have some good results. The sport can put you in a precarious position; you can't ever take anything for granted it. Every run is very important; in the first qualifying run we have to go down the race track. That's how we approach it."

Gary Scelzi - driver of the Oakley Dodge Stratus R/T and a three-time winner in Top Fuel at St. Louis ('98-'00). Scelzi recently established the national record for speed (328.06 mph) yet is still seeking his first career Funny Car victory - "That speed is pretty much going to be out of touch for a while, I think. Maybe at the end of the year when we get back to the cooler race tracks. The fastest speed ever by a Funny Car before that with (Gary) Densham was a 326. We knocked that in the dirt by two miles an hour. That's pretty huge. You don't see that very often."

Johnny Gray - driver of the blue Checker Schuck's Kragen Pontiac Grand Am and teammate to Del Worsham - "My personal feeling is that we'll start to limit the first round losses more and more, as we go forward. We hold ourselves to a high standard around here, especially sharing everything with Del Worsham's red team, which is one of the finest groups in the sport if you ask me. Our guys watch them, work with them, and share everything with them. There have been times in the past when the blue team felt a little like the step brothers of the family, but not anymore. We're here to pull our weight and win races. We plan on doing that."

Arnie Karp - driver of the Artisan Home Entertainment Pontiac Firebird made his Funny Car debut recently at Chicago. The 55 year-old Karp drove an Alcohol Funny Car during the 1980s and earned his nitro license at Topeka, Kan., earlier this year. His first race in Funny Car was at Chicago, where he recorded a career-best time (4.917 seconds) and speed (312.78 mph), but qualified 17th, just missing the 16-car field for eliminations. He qualified at Columbus, Ohio, in the No. 14 spot, but lost in the first round to Ron Capps - "We got close enough (at Chicago) that it actually was a disappointment, but it shouldn't have been. We all agreed, coming in here, that what we wanted to do was run well, work together well, and represent Artisan and the Terminator 2 Extreme DVD as well as possible. We did all that. We were a Funny Car team, a professional team on and off the track, and we got our feet wet."

Troy Coughlin - driver of the Jeg's Mail Order Chevy Cavalier and brother of defending NHRA POWERade Pro stock champion Jeg Coughlin. T. Coughlin has posted six DNQ's (did not qualify) at six of the last eight events and has not won an elimination round since his runner-up finish at Phoenix in February - "We just need to make better runs every session. There is just absolutely zero room for error. Pro Stock has quickly become a class where you can't make any mistakes. You have to make four solid runs in qualifying or you are playing with fire."

Greg Anderson - driver of the Vegas General Construction Pontiac Grand Am and a favorite for the 2003 NHRA POWERade Pro Stock championship. His recent victory at Columbus, Ohio, moved him atop the points standings- "What it is going to take to win the Pro Stock championship is consistency. The team and the driver that consistently qualifies and goes rounds (during eliminations) will be the team who will take home the big prize (after the last race of the season at) Pomona (Calif.). I am confident that this Vegas General Construction team has what it takes to go the distance. My team owner Ken Black and myself have put together one hard-working, determined group of guys. Everyone on this team wants it as bad as I do, and that's what's going to push us over the top."

Jason Line - rookie driver of the KB Racing Pontiac Grand Am, the second car for Greg Anderson's Pro Stock team which debuted at Columbus, Ohio, qualifying for eliminations, but he suffered a spectacular crash in his first round loss to Terry Adams - "It has always been my dream to race Pro Stock. I am extremely grateful to Ken Black and Greg Anderson for giving me the opportunity to make my dream come true. I am also pretty nervous. Pro Stock is the most competitive form of racing out there. The class is so tight, that just qualifying is almost as exciting as winning the race. The quality of the drivers within the class is remarkable. To be going up against that kind of competition would make any body nervous. I'm fine (following the crash) but I feel terrible for (car owner) Ken Black and (teammate) Greg Anderson. This whole team worked hard to get this car ready for me. I'd understand completely if they don't want me to drive again. This was my first wreck ever. I just hope it's not my last ride."

Warren Johnson - six-time NHRA POWERade Pro Stock champion and driver of the GM Performance Parts Pontiac Grand Am. 'The Professor' is the winningest Pro Stock driver in NHRA history and has won at least one NHRA national event each of the past 22 seasons. Johnson recently debuted a new seat designed to provide further safety for a driver - "From day one I have looked at ways to make these cars safer. I've studied many NASCAR films and realized there had to be a better way to protect the driver other than just surrounding him with a lot of pipe. We needed to prevent the body from decelerating instantly, which is where many injuries occur. Working with a gentleman who builds seats for the IRL and CART, we came up with the prototypical design found in our new GM Performance Parts Grand Am. It has the dual purpose of holding the driver in place while absorbing some of the energy of the impact. This is strictly a safety issue - something designed to protect the driver. We're dealing with 2,350-pound cars traveling well over 200 mph, and we don't have the luxury of having the extra thousand pounds of tubing of the NASCAR cars around us. I have always made safety a top priority, and over the years I have made many subtle changes to my cars that are strictly in that area."

-nhra-

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Jeg Coughlin , Troy Coughlin , Larry Dixon , Kenny Bernstein , Warren Johnson , Tony Pedregon , Del Worsham , Whit Bazemore , Ron Capps , John Force , Gary Scelzi , Greg Anderson , Cruz Pedregon , Brandon Bernstein , Terry Adams , Johnny Gray , Arnie Karp , Jason Line , Ken Black