ROD FULLER COUNTDOWN TO 1 Q&A PITTSBORO, Ind. (Oct. 16, 2007) -- Rod Fuller is Mr. Vegas. Now he's aiming to be the champion. The Las Vegas resident -- by way of Northwest Arkansas -- enters the first race in the Countdown to 1 trailing ...
ROD FULLER COUNTDOWN TO 1 Q&A
PITTSBORO, Ind. (Oct. 16, 2007) -- Rod Fuller is Mr. Vegas. Now he's aiming to be the champion. The Las Vegas resident -- by way of Northwest Arkansas -- enters the first race in the Countdown to 1 trailing category-leader Larry Dixon by just 10 points. Having led the points following 14 of 21 races this season, the two-time '07 Top Fuel winner looks to regain his points lead when he battles Dixon, Tony Schumacher and Brandon Bernstein for the 2007 NHRA Top Fuel crown beginning at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Oct. 26. In just his second full season behind the wheel of the Caterpillar-backed rail, Fuller has been the surprise name near the top of the standings all season long. In this Q&A the five-time NHRA Top Fuel winner talks about the Countdown to the Championship, his 2007 season and his final-four competition.
Q: You've reached the Countdown to 1. Are you happy with your season to date?
FULLER: Yeah, it's been a dream come true. We ran most of the season without a primary sponsor. Valvoline and Matco (Tools) were there, but David (Powers) funded most of this deal. No matter what happens from here on out it's been a great year, but I want to win the championship. The two wins and four poles are great, but we're not done yet. If not, we've still had an awesome year. We acquired a great sponsor in Caterpillar and the CAT dealers and I'm really happy for Rob Flynn. He's proven to be an A-list crew chief in our sport.
Q: Can you win the 2007 NHRA Top Fuel championship?
FULLER: Most definitely. I expect to win it. We've had a great season. We've proven that we've had the most consistent car all year. We've had a few bad races recently, but you can't keep this team down. We needed this break. Everyone thinks that just because we got a sponsor things are great, but we were still behind the other teams. We don't have the parts inventory of the other three teams we're running against, but now we've cycled in some new parts and we're ready to go for the final two races. We'll be back running hard.
Q: You've raced the majority of the season without a primary sponsor. The team didn't have a large parts inventory. The team doesn't have blower dynos and clutch dynos, and you did very little testing this season. How have you been able to compete?
FULLER: We have great chemistry. We're hungry. Every time we go to the line, there was a sense of urgency. We're not going to change, but our backs were against the wall for much of the season. We had the threat of not running the full season and that's a lot more pressure than running for the championship at these last two races. We didn't want to be sidelined. Plus, we have a great group. We're all friends and Rob Flynn has come into his own as a top-notch crew chief.
Q: Do you feel that a lot of people doubted your success during the season?
FULLER: Yes. I heard a lot of stories of people saying we're getting lucky and would eventually die off and fade. I remember after we won at Denver and I heard a prominent team owner saying these guys are for real. From then on, we were one of the feared cars. It was kind of cool having the car that everyone wants to beat. We need to get that back.
Q: Have you grown as a driver this year?
FULLER: I've gotten a lot thicker skin. I felt like last year, I learned a lot and became a Top Fuel driver. You can always learn something new and get better, but there's more than just driving the car to being a good Top Fuel driver. The fans, working with the team, sponsors, sanctioning body, good communication with the crew chiefs and those are the things that I've really matured at this year. This is a tough sport. When we didn't have a sponsor, people would start rumors and people would try and buy the ride. I'm grateful that David Powers and Rob Flynn stuck by me and our team and now we have a great sponsor in CAT and are fighting for the championship. I learned not to get caught up in what others say.
Q: What are your thoughts of the Countdown to the Championship with two races left?
FULLER: It's bittersweet. Part of me is mad to have given up so much, but it's great for our sport. The fan awareness is great. I'm at the gym and people ask me about racing for the championship. I really believe it generates a lot of excitement for our sport and in the big picture, that's what matters. I want our sport to catch NASCAR.
Q: How will you feel if you don't win the title, but would have been the champion under the old points system?
FULLER: I'd feel a sense of pride. Deep down, we'd know that we could have won a championship. We finished first in the regular season this year and that was an accomplishment. If we don't win the Countdown, we still know we had what it takes to win the thing.
Q: Are you excited to kick off the Countdown to 1 at your home track?
FULLER: I think it's an advantage. I've won a lot at The Strip with all my sportsmen races. I really know the track well and its tendencies. I'm at my home. I get to sleep in my own bed. I don't have to check into a hotel and I don't have to deal with that or the other Vegas distractions. Plus, it's my favorite track. I'm really excited. I wish it was October 26 and we could start racing.
Q: How do you feel about your three opponents in the Countdown to 1?
FULLER: Two of them have won multiple championships and the other two guys are very hungry. They're all great drivers and well-respected in the sport. They're well funded and established race teams. To be able to race against names like Dixon and Bernstein and Schumacher is pretty awesome. For this to be our second full season and to be fighting for a season says a lot about what David has put together here with this team. A lot of the credit goes to Lee Beard and Rob Flynn.
Q: Do you feel that you focus on the U.S. Army dragster too much?
FULLER: The reason I focus on the Army car is no disrespect to the other teams, but Alan Johnson is the man. He's won the last three championships and they've had the dominant car and to win the title you have to go through Alan to do it. I want to beat everyone I race against, but I still feel that's the hardest car to get by.
Q: What are your thoughts on David Baca's addition to the team for the final two races?
FULLER: David was one of my friends when he was on tour. He's a good guy. He's a fun and upbeat guy. He'll be great to have around at these last two races. I'm excited.