Continued from part 1 GREG ANDERSON: I hope so. I really think so. You know, big part of this racing deal is confidence, at least it is for me. You got to have a lot of confidence when you show up at these races, strap in that racecar, no...
Continued from part 1
GREG ANDERSON: I hope so. I really think so. You know, big part of this racing deal is confidence, at least it is for me. You got to have a lot of confidence when you show up at these races, strap in that racecar, no matter who you line up against. To be quite honest, I'm lacking a little bit in the confidence area this year. I haven't had a real race-winning horse to ride. We haven't been performing at a top level. Seems to wear on you, get you down.
That's no excuse. You can't be like that. Even the situation Tony is in with Larry right now, last couple races, maybe he's been a couple hundredths behind. That doesn't mean you go out there and lose. Doesn't mean you go out with the mindset you can't beat the guy. I fell into that trap against Mike Edwards. He's been outrunning us by a couple, three hundredths. You go up there thinking 90% chance I'm going to lose this. You can't have a mindset like that.
It's a tough, tough lesson to learn. I'm working on it every day to keep a positive mindset. But when we rolled into that race and our car ran within a hundredth or so of Mike, you start to believe it again, I can actually win, I can win this round.
You have to get that mindset every time you roll up there no matter what the performance difference is. I now realize that I think I've got a car that can be very close to him and that's enough for me to get that confidence back. So I think that's what's going to make the big difference. I really believe we're on the right track with gaining performance with our hot rod. It's getting better every week. I should be able to keep that confidence level up.
Yeah, I think that's (winning the Challenge) gonna be a changing point in our season, at least I hope it is. I can tell you one thing, we sure feel a whole lot better than we have all year, and it brought back a lot of memories at times when we were really able to go out there, run fast, dominate, win races. That's what we want to do as a team here. We showed flashes of old times for a change last weekend. Hopefully that's a sign of things to come this year. I think a big part of it is just keeping a positive line.
Q: What are some of your memories of Sonoma and what have you learned from your history at the track?
GREG ANDERSON: Sonoma is great. I love going to Sonoma. I can remember back 15 years ago when I worked for Warren Johnson, it was a racetrack that it always seemed like it got 90 some degrees out there, and the racetrack was 60 or 80 foot of concrete only, had nothing but asphalt after that. We had more trouble at that place shaking the tires than any place in the world. We ended up doing some pretty radical things on Warren's car and ended up winning the race. Learned a few things for that racetrack for years to come; won a lot of races there.
Now they have a brand-new racetrack facility. Plenty of concrete now. It's icy smooth. No complaints at all with the surface. I guess I can't remember the last time we saw 90 degrees. So it's been a great weather condition, a great racetrack for the last half a dozen years, at least since I've been driving a car.
It's just a place you can go and you can run fast. Youve got cool mornings, and a little fog comes off the bay. It's not real hot in the morning. The cars run real fast in the morning, they run real fast in the evening. You get a high spot of sun in the afternoon. Weather conditions change throughout the day. You have a great surface to run out there. Great people.
They run a great facility out there. It's the neatest looking place you could ever imagine with all the rolling hills, and that big road course up on the hill there.
I love going there every year, look forward to it every year. I've had a lot of success there. I usually can't wait to get back there every year.
THE MODERATOR: Tony, we'll ask you the same question. What are some of your fond memories of Sonoma and Infineon Raceway?
TONY SCHUMACHER: First time I raced there was the Skip Barber formula car. It was a blast. When you got to that racetrack, you were a real racecar driver. It's so far from Chicago that if you're going there, you're doing something. It was just so cool. You're in California. You're in a different part of the world. Like Greg said, it is one of the most beautiful tracks on the circuit. When people ask, we're going to go to one this year, what do you think? There's a few that I love, but it is an incredible racing facility.
They've made it so spectacular. I remember looking up at the crowd last year, how big it was, how big the stands were. Geez, this has got to be the biggest day I've ever seen. Been to Indy, looked at big crowds. It was just amazing last year.
Love going there. Look forward to it. Look forward to the city. Look forward to going to Scoma's and eating. There's just nothing bad about it.
When you push the pedal down in the Top Fuel car, you don't know if it's gonna haul butt or smoke the tires. That weather change is crazy. Just enjoy it. Top two or three on the list of places for me to go racing.
Q: Greg, obviously things seem to be getting back to normal on the track. Are things pretty much back to normal now off the track? Have you moved into your new house? All the stuff that happened with the fire behind you now? Do you feel your life is back to normal yet or not?
GREG ANDERSON: Just about. Just good. As far as the new house goes, we were supposed to close on it yesterday. They had a couple of paperwork issues on the seller's end, not my fault, so we had to push it back a couple of days. Very close to getting moved into the new house. That will straighten things around the home front.
Ken Black is on the road to recovery, getting better every day. He's talking about the possibility of taking a motorhome up to the Sonoma race. That would be fantastic for us, for him. Great morale boost for both the race team and for Ken Black.
You know, he's gone through real rigorous training every day with rehab trying to get his left arm and leg back to work so he could walk again. Been a real battle for him. Like I said with the race team, it's a positive energy type deal to keep driving every day, to have a positive attitude. Seems like if we have a good time at the races, it helps him on the other end. If we can get him back to that racetrack, it's going to help him towards his recovery. Really look forward to that.
Things are very, very close to getting back to normal. I really can't wait for the first race that Ken can walk onto and I'm hoping it might be Sonoma. If not, it will be later sometime this year. We really look forward to that.
He's gaining every day on it. Not only are things better on the home front back here, but out in Las Vegas things are going forward. Things are just looking up all around for us here.
Q: Tony, with Rod Fuller rejoining the NHRA tour for the next four races, racing under Don Schumacher Racing, do you plan at having any fun at his expense now that he's moved to the dark side?
TONY SCHUMACHER: I have tried for 14 years in Top Fuel to not say squat and just do what I do. This is really the first opportunity where I'm going to be able to poke a little. We'll see.
You know, I'm usually quiet. But there's certain times people say stuff where they just make it too easy and youve got to throw one out there. We'll see how it holds up. It will be cool to have him over there. It's like I got the whole team we used to race against, Antron over there with me, too. We'll battle on, see what happens.
One thing people tell me all the time is, of all the people that throw out stuff at you, you never give 'em squat. I'll never give 'em any ammo. When you start to give them a little bit, I know that they play off it, all that. But all it does is let them have access to a weakness of yours. I just don't like to do it. I don't let it bother me at all. It's the same when they're talking about, I'm going to stay second. I'm going to screw you up there. I don't care what you say, you're not going to affect my life. By throwing that out there, you know, is it going to make the world a better place if I pick on Hot Rod? I don't know. Will it make it more fun? Probably. I have a bag of things I can throw at him that I've been saving up for a bunch of years, so might get some good ammo for the next couple weeks.
Q: Tony, the way Larry Dixon is running this year, seven wins already or so this year, to keep your championship going, is this your biggest challenge yet?
TONY SCHUMACHER: You know what, '06 was pretty tough, man. We were 336 points back. There will never be anything that equals that challenge, ever. It was very difficult to pull it off. It was what a career is made from, you know. You grow up dreaming about bottom of the ninth, bases loaded, full count, you're up. We had that.
Am I enjoying the fact he's ahead? We're having a blast. It's a battle. He's 170 ahead. Maybe by the end of Sonoma he's 500 ahead. I don't care. He's only 30 ahead when we get to Indy. Makes no difference. I'm more interested in keeping the people from behind me passing me so it's only 30.
He's doing a helluva job. I'm not going to take that away from them. They're doing a great job. They beat me by a hundredth of a second two or three times, a hundredth. Very good, outstanding races. I don't feel like they have the edge that's going to end my career. I think they have a good car, like we do, like Antron, like Cory. We all have great cars. Come the end of the year when we battle, it's up for grabs. There's a lot of good cars out there that could change my streak.
But I've been telling people for years, if I don't win a championship, I'm not gonna throw my helmet and kick people. It ain't how it is. It's racing. I look forward to the day when we race. I look forward to the race. And if I lose, I will walk over and shake whoever beats me's hand and congratulate them. If they beat us, they did a helluva job. This is a sport. We go out and do our best, leave nothing on the table, and it's been a helluva challenge.
If you ask me right now is Larry going to win the championship? No, I don't think so. I don't know that I will. But I don't know that he will either. There's a lot of great cars. And it's not the old days where you could run away with it at the beginning. They're going to take all them points away. Having those good races where you win by a hundredth, that's all cyclical, man. At the end of the year he could lose by a hundredth four straight and be done. All we can do is show up, give it our best, work as hard as we can work, be a machine.
Someone asked earlier Greg, when Mike Edwards got beat, it did change things because he got beat on a hole shot. The next time he shows up with two-hundredths advantage, he can't be an average leaver or he's going to be sent home. Believe me, that's in his head right now. Larry and me know we can't make mistakes. If anyone does, things change, and they change in a day. We can make up 80 points in a weekend no problem at all. Ask Kalitta, 170 points isn't squat. He had 336 and we took it back.
Just a battle, man. Just a good old-fashioned race. The day you start putting pressure on yourself is when you start choking. That's not going to happen. We're going to go out and fight till the end.
Q: You were raving about Sonoma, the state of that facility. On the other hand, the improvements at Pacific Raceway on and off the track has been intermittent and methodical. Are the signs promising that this will ever become a world-class track in your mind?
GREG ANDERSON: It's a great question. We honestly don't know the answer to it. I really honestly wish they would do a few things to it. It's got the makings to be a fantastic racetrack, fantastic facility. Maybe in a lot of ways it is. You have all those trees. You can park underneath a tree, which kind of brings back the old times, reminds you of the old days of races. It's not a great big monster facility, nothing but an asphalt parking lot. Maybe it should stay like it is. It's definitely different than mostly what we have on the circuit. Reminds you of how racing used to be in the old days. You get there first, park under a tree, get the shade.
Maybe it's kind of a neat deal. We should be careful for what we wish for. We always hope for better race facilities, ones that are more fan-friendly. You need modern conveniences for today's fan. Everybody in the world these days has a lot of things in their everyday life that spoil them. They have access to so many conveniences that when you kind of go back in time and go to a sporting event, you really don't have any flush toilets, you have to go in an outdoor satellite, it kind of weeds out some of the not-so-tough customers out there, fans out there. You got to be careful of that.
Q: Greg, they changed the direction of the Western Swing, normally starting in Denver. Did your transporters make it up to Seattle yet?
GREG ANDERSON: I don't know (laughter). I'm telling you, that's the scariest part of the whole deal, that the damn trucks end up at the right racetrack. They're used to going to Denver first. We had a sit down with them first. You realize you're going to Seattle first? You know how to get to Seattle? They said they had it under control. I haven't heard from them. I hope they're not sitting at Bandimere (Speedway, in Denver) waiting for the race to start.
THE MODERATOR: We'd like to thank both Tony Schumacher and Greg Anderson for joining us on this conference call as well as media members from across the country. Thanks to our drivers and we wish you all the best of luck on the Western Swing.