Scotty Cannon The haircut is called a 'Mohawk' and Scotty Cannon has worn the signature style for years. He will tell you that it is pretty high maintenance, but he keeps it up because, well, because he can. Cannon has yet to collect a national...
The haircut is called a 'Mohawk' and Scotty Cannon has worn the signature style for years. He will tell you that it is pretty high maintenance, but he keeps it up because, well, because he can. Cannon has yet to collect a national event victory in NHRA Funny Car racing, but he has a fan following that rivals 11-time Funny Car champion John Force. He is always straightforward, but he may seem a little distracted this season. Before the 2002 season started, Cannon joined Don Schumacher Racing, joining Whit Bazemore in a two-car team. He is more committed and focused than ever. The driver of the Oakley Pontiac Firebird wants to win and he is not giving up until he makes winning a habit.
Q What has been the biggest challenge for you since you began your NHRA career in 1999?
Cannon: The biggest challenge has been setting up the team. You have to have the right crew chief and the right chemistry to be competitive. This is a little more up-scale and political than other racing series that I have been with. It hasn't been as much of a challenge as it has been an adjustment. I haven't had too many problems and have any big dilemmas. I have done a pretty good job keeping my sponsor all four years. I was the crew chief on the car for a while and have always been a team owner and driver. That is different this year and I think it is going to work out. I think it is going to be better this year.
Q What are you going to do when you get that first victory?
Cannon: You mean if I get that first win? Nah, I'm just kidding. I don't know what I will do when it happens. I will probably keep going, drive the car back down the return road. Not turn it off. I don't know. I've won a lot of races and hopefully that can keep me in a state of mind of when I used to win. I'm not going to let one win take me to the highest high because you have to come back down and you might see the lowest lows. I like to be a middle of the road guy. I will enjoy the win, by far, a whole bunch. I just hope I keep my composure. It's been a long time since I won a race.
Q What has kept you out of winner's circle so far?
Cannon: Last year was a total flop. I really don't know what happened with (the crew chief). We got along good, we all gelled as a team. We just had a bad, bad year. It was terrible. This year has been good. The second year I was racing we went to eight semis and one final. That was pretty frustrating to make it to the semis and then get knocked out. It is just a very hard road. You come in on the bottom and you race against these guys who have been doing this forever and they are just more experienced. The veterans know how to race these cars. Qualifying isn't supposed to be as hard. Racing on Sunday is a another world. It's a whole different ballgame. It's not even the same. The first round of qualifying is you just trying to get in. Then you have to go back to qualify again and you are racing the guy who qualified best. Do you go for it and take a chance on smoking the tires? Or do you take it easy and try to get in a good, solid run so you make a good read of the track? There is a lot to it and you have to have people with a lot of experience to race the top car and to be successful on Sunday. When I raced Pro Mods, I wasn't always the best qualifier, I was a lot, but not always. Racing on Sunday and making everyone make their mistakes first was the key. I tried to let the other guy make the mistake or make him outrun you. You get outrun sometimes, but that is better than losing from a mistake you made.
Q What is one thing that is different about the Funny Car category than some of the other classes?
Cannon: In the nitro class, you need a little bit more luck than some of the other classes. I'm not saying it is more difficult than the other classes, but you need some breaks to win. You need breaks for it to be your day. You can make your breaks, and John Force has proved that. Anybody that has won a championship knows that you make your luck. You know what he can do and when you pull up beside him, you know you have got to run fast. He keeps you on the raggedy edge.
Q As long as you have been racing Funny Cars, John Force has been the guy to beat - the champion. What do you think about Force?
Cannon: I think John has done a lot for the sport. He handles the pressure well. He has always been nice and polite to me. One thing I do know about John is that if you are doing poorly and not winning, he has a tendency to mingle with you. He'll talk to you as a racer and be more friendly. That's not a bad thing, I would probably be just like him. If you are a threat, he has a tendency not to give any attention to you or speak to you. He'll avoid you. He never shows any fear, but he will isolate himself from his competitors. I don't have anything super good to say about him except for that he has done a lot for the sport. He has never done anything for me, and he has never done anything against me. He's just a good old guy, I guess.
Q What is it going to take to knock John Force off the top of the Funny Car standings?
Cannon: I think what we are doing now is what we should be doing. We are putting together a two-car program and we need to have the program together and working well for a long time. We need it for a period of five or six years, not just one or two, to build a competitive program. We need to keep our sponsors happy and make sure they stick around, not leave after a short time. We need to keep our team together for some time. We have proved that we have fast enough race cars. We just need some financing and a little more refining. That's all. We just need time because I think we have the right program. The key is someone like Don Schumacher stepping up to the plate and putting the whole program together. To me, that was the key to this whole deal. Outside of having our big sponsors, the key has been Don having the guts to invest this kind of money and good sponsors. He has got a lot of good people in this program.
Q What has been the best thing about joining the two-car team?
Cannon: The best part about this as far as I can tell right now is Saturday nights. You can sit down and look at the data and you have eight runs to look at instead of just four runs. An example is Pomona at the beginning of the year. I was first out in front of Whit. I went out and smoked the tires. They made an adjustment to Whit's car and he went right down the track. In Phoenix, it happened again. Whit was first out, he smoked the tires and they adjusted my car. I went out and made a clean pass. That is the advantage of the two-car team. Even though one of the cars is going to go out first and that other car is going to have an advantage is the first qualifying session, you still have the data off both cars. It is still an advantage over a single-car team. If a single car team goes out and smokes the tires, he just has that one pass to look at. I won't say that he won't have any data, but he won't have valuable data.
Q Did you ever think you would ever be a part of a two-car team?
Cannon: I didn't plan it this way. I wasn't aiming for this. But after three years of learning the business and the ropes, I've learned that the direction that this sport has taken us in has led us to create two and three-car teams. If you want to run for a championship, it is a no-brainer. You are going to have to do it with a two or three-car team. That is just my opinion.
Q Do you miss being the team owner and the driver at the same time?
Cannon: Would I rather own my own team? Probably not. I like this deal pretty good. Do I like making the money that I am making with this deal? I would rather own my own team. You make a lot less money driving. That is going to be something I will need to adjust to, if I can adjust. I'm not sure how that is going to work out for next year. I don't know. This is the trial year of this situation and I will sit down and think about my situation and then I will make my decision.
Q What made you decide to go with the 'Mohawk' haircut?
Cannon: Me and some friends, we all have kids, and I would take my boys and we would all go to the beach. In the middle of the summer I would have the Mohawk and when I came back to race, I'd still have it for a few races before it grew out. It's a little aggravating to keep up with, to be honest. It just so happened that when I came over with Oakley, and let's just say that they are not a normal company. They are a good company, but they are not a normal, normal company. Very good, but not normal. The Mohawk kind of fit in and they knew I wore it. Then I started wearing it more and they liked it. I wear it all the time now and I like it. It is my trademark in a way but I really like wearing it. A lot of sponsors would be offended by it in a way. Maybe not this day and time, but it would have even five or six years ago. There have really been some fashion changes in the last few years. What is cool in 2002 was not in 1997. This would not have worked.
Q What do you think about your large fan base?
Cannon: Well, I would like to give credit to when I won those six championships. I don't think that I would have the fan base if I just came over (to the NHRA) got into a car and just because I had the Mohawk, I don't think they would have followed me. I think a lot of the championships that I have won and the way I treat my fans are the reasons why we have such a big fan base. I spend a lot of time with the fans and I really enjoy what I am doing. I think people can see that. If I am down or not feeling good, people are going to know that too. I just try to be myself all the time. It's not hard. I am just lucky to be able to do what I want to do and be who I am. I am pretty sure that Oakley would not be interested in me if everyone talked bad about me the way they talk good as far as fans are concerned. I am pretty sure I would not be here.
Q Do you find it difficult to be in the spotlight as a driver and maintain your true personality everyday?
Cannon: On the whole, no, especially not to the point to where it is annoying. The problem sometimes is trying to separate things such as the business part of it and the enjoyment and the fan part of it. I don't think that the fans should ever have to suffer in any way, shape or form just because of any difficulty that I am going through with the business part of it or driving part of racing. The fans should not be a part of that. They shouldn't have to share anything that is bad. They do, with all drivers, but I try not to. I just try to go with the flow. I am pretty sure if I start doing anything wrong, somebody will tell me.
Q What is your dream race? Who are you racing, where and how do you win?
Cannon: I really don't care who is in the other lane. I really don't have a dream race. My dream is to win a championship and to do that, you have to win a few races. Any race will do. Atlanta would probably be my pick because it is near my hometown and residence. You would have to have the National Guard to get everyone and make them leave the track if I won a race there.
Q When it was announced that you were joining Schumacher Racing, people started to wonder how the two Funny Car drivers would get along. What has it been like to be teammates with Whit Bazemore?
Cannon: The problem is that people don't see us working together. It has been a really good thing. We both want to race, we both have our own race car and I would like to think that we are both good drag racers. We both want to win as bad as the other one and I can see that. Those are all good things. It's not like I am going over there and saying, 'Whit, get your head out of your ass and win!' I don't have to tell him that and he doesn't have to tell me that. That is good too. At the same time, he has a different charisma than I do. That is a good thing too because we are not in competition there. He has his own way and I have my own way. We actually respect each other in a lot of ways. Really, it is an ideal situation. There are a lot of things we respect about each other, but we are very different. We don't act the same. We don't pack our parachutes the same way. I am more of a hands-on guy and he is not. We do talk a lot of strategy with each other. I see people race him and if I see something another guy is doing, and if I think it would help him, I will tell him. He does the same for me. That is what it takes to make the team run well together.