Schumacher, Anderson - NHRA teleconference, part 1

NHRA TELECONFERENCE WESTERN SWING PREVIEW July 7, 2010 The following transcript includes excerpts from an interview with NHRA Full Throttle Series drivers TONY SCHUMACHER and GREG ANDERSON. THE MODERATOR: I'd like to welcome the media to this...

July 7, 2010

The following transcript includes excerpts from an interview with NHRA Full Throttle Series drivers TONY SCHUMACHER and GREG ANDERSON.

THE MODERATOR: I'd like to welcome the media to this teleconference for the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series. This call is for the upcoming Western Swing which will begin this Friday, July 9th, at Pacific Raceways in Seattle, Washington with the NHRA Northwest Nationals. From there, the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series will head to Sonoma, California, Infineon Raceway for the second stop in the Western Swing, the FRAM-Autolite NHRA Nationals, July 16 through the 18th. After that the series will head to Denver, Colorado, for the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals, July 23rd through the 25th, the 16th race on the 2010 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing schedule and the final stop on the famed Western Swing.

In the 21 years since the Western Swing began, only seven drivers have ever swept the three races in three-week stretch, five in Top Fuel, one in Funny Car and one in Pro Stock. Of those seven, five have gone on to win the World Championship in that same year.

We have two drivers on the call today that swept the Western Swing and also won the World Championship in the same year. Joining us on the call today are seven-time Top Fuel world champion Tony Schumacher and three-time Pro Stock world champion Greg Anderson. We'll have a brief introduction of the two drivers, then open it up for questions.

Let's begin with our Top Fuel driver, Tony Schumacher. Tony is currently second in the Top Fuel point standings, 176 points behind series leader Larry Dixon. He has four wins this season, including wins in Gainesville, St. Louis, Topeka and Bristol, and one runner-up finish in Chicago. He's the defending world champion, and is one of five Top Fuel drivers to have swept the Western Swing, doing so in 2008.

Tony, talk a little bit about what it was like sweeping the Swing in 2008 and how important this year's Western Swing is to your World Championship hunt.

TONY SCHUMACHER: Well, 2008, sweeping it, just such a short list of people that have done it. We joke about it. When you get to the first race, used to be Denver, now we're going to be in Seattle, you don't win the first race, you can't sweep. Last year we got to the finals, and Antron beat us. I said, now you know there's only one guy that can sweep this thing. It's critical. Every single round you get closer to doing something that so few people have ever done, it gets more pressure.

Then you leave one race, go to another one, the pressure builds. It's amazing to put yourself on the short list of something. There's other short lists, but this one is very difficult. To go out and run in three completely different climates, altitudes, to go out and win all three of them in a season, man, with such great teams and competition, it's one of the accomplishments that we're going to be very proud of for a long time.

THE MODERATOR: Thanks, Tony.

We'll now turn it over to our Pro Stock driver, Greg Anderson. After Greg's quick remarks we'll open it up for questions.

Greg is currently fourth in the Pro Stock points standings and is coming off of an impressive week in Norwalk two weeks ago where he won the K&N Horsepower Challenge Pro Stock bonus event as well as the Summit Equipment NHRA Nationals. With the win he extended his current active streak of consecutive seasons with at least one win to 10, the longest such active streak in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series. Greg is the only Pro Stock driver to have ever sweep the Western Swing and did so in 2004.

Greg, talk about some of the feelings you had during that stretch in July of 2004 and what it would mean to do it again this season.

GREG ANDERSON: It was definitely incredible. We were on one heck of a run that year. Really what it takes to win the Western Swing, it's like Tony said, you have three completely different atmospheric conditions and types of racetracks. Generally a race team kind of has its strong points. It has these type of tracks it's good at, these types of weather conditions they're really good at. To capitalize on all three of them, win all three of them, vastly different like that, that shows that you've got the completely well-rounded team it takes to win championships.

That's why it seems like when you're able to go on a sweep of the Western Swing, you go on to be a champion because you're able to master all those different types of racetracks and conditions.

(It is) very, very hard to do. You don't see it happen very often. When you have a year like that where your car is working well at every kind of racetrack they can throw at you, hot, greasy, killer conditions, whatever you want to come up with, your racecar is good on all of them. They just don't happen that often.

It happens in sort of those dominating seasons where you go on and win a lot of races like Tony has done before and I've had a chance to do a couple times.

It's a great accomplishment. It just shows you're clicking on all eight cylinders that season. That's what it takes to win championships.

THE MODERATOR: Thanks, Greg.

We will now open it up for questions.

Q: Tony, what you do mentally and physically is important, especially with your sponsor. Do you study mental methods? I know you work out.

TONY SCHUMACHER: You know what, I won't say that I study them. Do I research and look into them? Yes. Not just me, but everybody that has ever had to do anything physical knows that it starts by being mentally strong, and vice versa. You can't be mentally healthy when you're way out of shape.

Yeah, we all do what it takes. We all think we know something special. But eating healthy, staying stretched, being in good physical condition, you know, is really the stem of it. I know that. I'm thankful that the Army makes sure that I'm always healthy and keeps me in check when I get a little bit lazy. That's good.

But I think Ryan Newman, he was doing some different programs, working with some bracelets, this and that. I don't know about all that stuff. But I know I'm afraid to change the way I do it. I don't know if Greg will feel the same, but when you're winning, you don't care if there is a better way, you don't want to change anything.

I feel like when I get in that car, I'm very comfortable with how I drive. I'm comfortable with the way I'm doing it. I don't want a doctor, even if he is better, believe it or not, to tell me what he thinks might make me improve. If I start to falter, believe me, I'll be the first one in line to get help.

I just don't know what to do right now. We talk about that all the time. I've always said, I'm not going to give you a 40 reaction time; I'm going to give you a 60 to an 80, like a machine. I'm not going to figure out what it takes to give you a 40 because that's going to give you some red lights. I'm going to give you the perfect average, but always be there. I don't want to change that.

I know there's probably things I can do to speed up something, but it has to put you over the edge, too. I don't want to be living that far over it on the Christmas Tree. I like my place. I like doing the basics of what athletes have done for years: eat right, stretch, stay in good physical shape, go to bed on time and get up and race, and that's it.

Q: What would it mean to you and your teams to be the first person to double sweep the Western Swing?

TONY SCHUMACHER: Haven't even thought of that. It would be incredible. Anybody that follows a sport, that is such a difficult thing to do, to do it once. But I will go on a different side of it. When we had to win in 2006, we had to set a world record on the last run of the year and win the race. Easy task, right? Well, we did it. It was the most amazing run ever.

Then the next year, we said, How are you going to match that? Well, it comes down to we have to win the last run of the year again. Same kind of thing. You pull it off once. Is it possible to have a team great enough to do this again?

So to be able to go out there and me doing it would be even more gratifying because I have a whole new team. The team I did it with all is Larry Dixon's crew right now. I wouldn't be doing it with the same group, with the same people.

We were also written off last year and went out and won a championship. So I do not doubt my guys in any way, shape or form. They would be extremely gratified because these guys, it would be their first time. Yes, I did it. But for them it would be the first time they get to go out and sweep.

THE MODERATOR: Greg, what would it mean for you to be the first driver to sweep the Western Swing for a second time?

GREG ANDERSON: Like Tony said, it would be huge. Especially for me this year, I haven't got a run going like I had back in 2004. I haven't been able to be strong at every type of race out there, every type of race condition, every type of atmosphere. For me to be able to do that this year, it would be a bit of a surprise, to be honest with you, because we haven't been swinging at a hundred percent clip this year.

So it's gonna take just a tremendous effort from us. The good news is, we do seem to be finally now hitting our stride and gaining every week on our performance level and have a chance to go win races again. Back in 2004, we were almost expected to win every time we showed up at the racetrack. Mike Edwards is expected to win every time he shows up at the racetrack. For us to pull that off this year would be a major feat and would be a heck of a turnaround for a season that's been a little lackluster.

I think it would mean more to me in the long run because we're not expected to do it this year. It would be one heck of an effort for our team. I'm not sitting here saying we can't do it, because definitely we can. The odds are a little bit against me this year and they were not against me back in 2004.

Q: Tony, everybody knows the kind of grind the Western Swing is. You're doing seven races in eight weeks. Could this be the biggest grind you faced in your schedule in your career? What are ways you can plan ahead to ease some of that?

TONY SCHUMACHER: You know what, believe it or not, this is not the most intense one. A few years back it rained. We were forever going. You know, you just do it. I hate weekends off. I love racing cars. I think it shows in your performance, it shows in your attitude. I just love racing. Every now and then we need a break. I've been very lucky that I've been able to take my family with me to a couple ones at least at the beginning. It won't make the seven weeks seem long at all.

I love being at the track. If I could race a racecar every day. People ask me, if you won the lottery, what would you do? I'd buy another racecar and drive them both.

It is a grind if you are losing. I could imagine if you had to go seven weeks and lose first round every time, that would be extremely tough and hard to deal with. You'd have to pull yourself together. That's also when a great leader leads a team.

We have an awesome car right now. We're battling head-to-head with Dixon. He's beaten me the last three I owe him a few. I'm looking forward to getting up Sunday morning and kicking butt.

At the end we're going to have a month off. I'm not going to know what to do with myself. Let's just get going.

THE MODERATOR: Greg, how has your team been able to handle this seven races in eight weeks and is this quite possibly the biggest obstacle that you faced as far as schedule-wise in your career?

GREG ANDERSON: I don't think so. You know, I agree with Tony on that. I want to race every weekend. I want to race every day. That's what we are, that's what we do. We're racers. We love to race. Tony mentioned that it might be a struggle if your team is struggling, you might not look forward to going back for seven weeks in a row when you're sort of behind the eight ball.

You know what, you can always say we got next weekend. If we lose today, we can come back next week and try again. You don't want to wait three weeks if you're out there struggling. You want to bounce back as soon as you can, try to find a way to get back on track. We love to race every weekend. Quite honestly, it's not a job to us. We love what we do. We don't consider it a job. We want to do it every day of our life. The more times we can strap into that car, the happier we are.

I'm not going to sit in here and whine. NASCAR guys don't get a break all year long. We can't sit back and cry. We don't probably have the resources and the manpower they have, but still we get about twice as many breaks as they get.

We're not going to whine at all. Absolutely as a driver, as Tony said, we want to get in that car as many times as we can, as often as we can. Not a problem at all. We look forward to challenges like that.

Q: Tony, I wanted to ask you, your old rival Larry Dixon is back at the top, you're battling. Are people going to look back on this as one of the great rivalries in NHRA ever between the two of you? Do you feel you make each other better? Like you said, he's pretty much got your old crew. That's even more incentive. Do you feel like this competition between the two of you has made each of you better?

TONY SCHUMACHER: I definitely think so. I think a lot of the guys out there have. But he's probably the guy, because even when they were in their peak with LaHaie, the Miller Lite deal, people would ask me, who is the best driver. I would say, you know, Larry Dixon is a helluva driver. He's probably the guy I would put at the top of the list.

We went out and dominated for five years. They'd still ask me. I'd say, don't worry about the scorecards, he's still one of the best drivers. When Alan said they were leaving. I got a short list of people. There were a lot people that wanted to drive that car. There really were only a couple, and Larry Dixon, I think Kalitta, a couple of guys that were worthy of that car, their driving performance. They're great drivers and can handle Alan's pressure.

When you got a car that's supposed to win and you don't own it, it's not your car, you're just out there, you have to win. If you show up at a race, you should win. If you don't make any mistakes, that's a lot of pressure. A brutal situation to drive Alan's car.

Me and Larry are making each other not make mistakes. I go out there and have a 40, 50 light against him. As long as he's got a 70, if they're two-hundredths ahead, like they are right now, it's going to be hard to beat. He's been a machine, man. He's doing a good job. So I have to do a better job driving, and in turn it turns back around and he does the same thing.

Later in life when we look back, I think it will be one of the greatest rivalries. I talk about Snake and the Mongoose. That's what I grew up on. The fact is, Snake won most of that. He had a great car, great budget. They won a lot of stuff.

The same Snake and Mongoose carry that rivalry a long way. Me and Larry, just a couple of guys, have great cars and great records. It truly is possibly the best battle I've ever seen in Top Fuel. There's been other battles in other categories. But in Top Fuel, myself and Kalitta had an awesome rivalry in 2006, 2005, 2007. But, man, me and Dixon go back. Year after year, it seems they're always there. He's a flawless driver. Always has a car that's tough to beat.

Q: Greg, when you won the K&N Horsepower Challenge there, you remarked you would probably look back at that as the point that changed your season around and then you won the race. Now that you've done that, you're not a hundred percent happy with your season, do you feel you're at a point where you can leapfrog and put some pressure on Mike Edwards?

Continued in part 2

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Series NHRA
Drivers Larry Dixon , Tony Schumacher , Greg Anderson , Ryan Newman , Mike Edwards