Seattle: Northwest Nationals pre-race quotable

QUOTABLE Larry Dixon - driver of the Miller Lite dragster and the 2002 NHRA POWERade Top fuel champion. Dixon is the fourth winningest Top Fuel driver in NHRA history but is seeking his first career win at Pacific Raceways -- "I feel good...


Larry Dixon - driver of the Miller Lite dragster and the 2002 NHRA POWERade Top fuel champion. Dixon is the fourth winningest Top Fuel driver in NHRA history but is seeking his first career win at Pacific Raceways -- "I feel good anytime I get into the race car, where ever we're racing. I have a lot of confidence in the crew and (crew chief Dick) LaHaie. Anytime, anywhere, I feel good."

Tony Schumacher - driver of the U.S. Army dragster and the 1999 NHRA Top Fuel champion. Schumacher struggled in the first nine events of the 2003 season, recording five first round losses and a DNQ at Englishtown, N.J. Schumacher Racing then added noted crew chief Alan Johnson to the team to help Schumacher regain his championship form. In Johnson's first race, Schumacher earned the No. 1 qualifying position and went on to his first race of the season - "We are prepared (for the 'West Coast Swing'), most definitely. This will be a stretch of three consecutive races that can make or break a team's season. It's important that the Army team puts up solid performances. We want to be one of the teams that benefit from this tour. Alan has us moving in the right direction. We've also moved up in the POWERade standings since Alan has come on. We still have half a season to go, so we can move up more. This Army team has a lot of business to attend to in (in the remainder of the season). We want wins, wins, and more wins. The points will take care of themselves. I can't wait to get to Seattle or any other race track right now because we are all having so much fun and Alan is doing a great job with the U.S. Army car. It doesn't matter what race track we go to because it is a win waiting to happen."

Doug Herbert - driver of the Snap-on Tools dragster has struggled lately, dropping in the standings after an early season surge - "It seems like at the beginning of the year we started out near the top of the standings, then we kind of slipped back. The last five or six races haven't been very good for us, so, hopefully, we can get back where we need to be. We need to be one of the top three or four cars by the time the season is over. If we don't, then it's going to be disappointing. I think we are going to be OK, and I think the changes we made (following the June St. Louis race) will be good. With our car running as well as it was last year, we hoped we wouldn't have to change the combination this year. But we had to make changes because the same parts we used in 2002 aren't available this season. There was a new batch of clutch discs, new cylinder heads and fuel pumps for this year. When the parts aren't the same, there's no way to make it run the same. It's just different. We'll keep making changes until we find the right combination to get the job done."

John Force - driver of the Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang and a 12-time NHRA POWERade Funny Car champion. The most prolific winner in NHRA history struggled for the majority of the first-half of the 2003 season. He has shown signs of improvement following back-to-back runner-up finishes at the events at Columbus, Ohio, and St. Louis, followed by a win last weekend in Denver - "We've made a lot of changes to our 'ol race car, and then I made a lot of changes in how I drive it. My burnouts are shorter. I've had to adjust how I set up at the (starting) line because of the changes in the starting system (new LED bulbs in the Christmas Tree). It hasn't been just one thing. I won't say that we're back, not yet, but we're a lot closer. (Crew Chiefs Austin) Coil and Bernie (Fedderly) are getting a handle on things. I told them, 'you fix the car; I'll fix the driver'. Fortunately, (teammate and current points leader) Tony (Pedregon has) been winning. That's given me a boost. And (Force's other teammate Gary) Densham, he's up there (in the POWERade point standings), too. If we keep winning rounds, I still think we can be a top-three car. You can't just sit still. You have to improve."

Tony Pedregon - driver of the Castrol Syntec Ford Mustang and points leader in the NHRA POWERade Funny Car standings. He would become the first driver other than team-owner John Force to win the title since 1992. Pedregon made a charge at the end of last season. Force did not clinch the title until he beat Pedregon in the semifinals at the season-finale - "We've had strong starts and strong finishes over the years (he has finished second in the final standings four times) but we've never put them together in the same season. Our goal this year was to be aggressive and maintain our focus. We got on a roll last year and right now my crew chiefs, John Medlen and Dickie Venables, are making all the right calls. Every time I go out there, I know I have a car that can win. You wonder sometimes how many shots you actually get at (a championship), so we're trying to finish the unfinished business from last year."

Whit Bazemore - driver of the Matco Tools Dodge Stratus and a contender for the 2003 NHRA POWERade Funny Car championship. Bazemore is a two-time winner at Pacific Raceways (1997, 2001) - "We're continuously trying to improve the car and we've got a great team so we expect to win more races and be a little stronger in the championship. We're still chasing the No. 1 team and John Force's second car (Tony Pedregon). For overall performance they're the class of the field right now. We're not far behind. We're trying to get to that level and we know we can. That's what we're trying to do."

Johnny Gray - driver of the blue Checker Schuck's Kragen Pontiac Firebird finished in the top 10 last season for the first time in his career and made his first two final round appearances this season (Pomona, Calif., and Atlanta) - "If we can start qualifying in the top half again, that will be a great start. There are no easy first round races, but having to race a Tony Pedregon, or a Whit Bazemore, or any other top-five car in round one makes it harder, and when you're qualifying low on the ladder, that's what you're going to get. We want to make some other teams not sleep well on Saturday night, knowing they have to race us (during eliminations) on Sunday."

Del Worsham - driver of the red Checker Schuck's Kragen Pontiac Firebird and the 1999 Funny Car winner at Pacific Raceways. Worsham is a challenger to Tony Pedregon and Whit Bazemore for the 2003 POWERade title - "The key for us is to keep pecking away at the lead Pedregon and Bazemore have on us. We have to think in terms of 20-point increments, because that's what each (elimination) round is worth. It's a little like paying off a loan. You know you can't write one big check and wipe it all out at once, so you chip away as best you can with a plan to have it behind you in a few months. If we can pick up a round here, a round there, and keep the pressure on these guys, we still have a shot."

Del Worsham, part II - The Worsham Racing team will be making their annual stop in Redding, Calif., for their annual 'day off from racing' to enjoy water skiing and a day on the lake. An ESPN crew will accompany the team to document the trip for an upcoming broadcast - "(Associate sponsor owner) Boris (Podtetenieff, of T-shirts Unlimited) invited us to the lake a couple of years ago, and we brought all the big rigs and vans through Redding to take him up on the offer. We really didn't know what we were in for, but it turns out he has a wonderful boat, and our guys had just a great day on the lake. They work so hard, it's important for everyone to have a day like this every now and then. It's better than just taking a few hours off to play golf in the late afternoon. This is a full day, from dawn to dusk, and we really enjoy it. The whole deal has become one of our Worsham Racing traditions now, and I think the ESPN viewers will enjoy watching our guys make fools of themselves. If you're afraid of seeing shirtless guys who need a better tan, you may not want to watch."

Gary Scelzi - driver of the Oakley Dodge Stratus can join Ron Capps as the only driver to win at Pacific Raceways in both Top Fuel and Funny Car. Scelzi won at Seattle in 2000 and 2001 in Top Fuel. Scelzi recently established the Funny car national record for speed at 328.06 mph - "(Crew chief) Mike Neff is working extremely hard. (Teammate Whit Bazemore's crew chief) Lee Beard, (co-crew chief) Dan Olson and now (Tony Schumacher's Top Fuel crew chief) Alan Johnson are all trying to work together for a better program, a more consistent program - not to be fast occasionally, but to be consistently fast all the time. Our performance, I feel, has been great, but consistency has been below par. We thought we would have won a race by now, but the Oakley Dodge makes extremely good horsepower and I think the consistency is starting to come around."

Greg Anderson - driver of the Vegas General Construction Pontiac Grand Am and a leading contender for the 2003 NHRA POWERade Pro Stock championship - "We've made some incredible gains over the last few months and that just goes to show what kind of incredible team we have working on our Vegas General Construction Pontiac. I can look around the shop at 10 o'clock at night and everyone's still here - no one wants to go home. They're all having fun, they're all enjoying it and we've been fortunate with the things we've been able to find and gain on. As the season moves ahead we have a lot of new things in the works and a lot of stuff we're going to try. I feel this Grand Am will continue to get stronger as the year goes forward. The ball is in our court now, and with the people we have on this team, and things we've been able to do, I honestly think we can make a vigorous drive for the POWERade championship."

Jeg Coughlin - driver of the Jeg's Mail Order Chevy Cavalier and the 2002 NHRA POWERade Pro Stock champion. The 33-year-old is the defending winner of the CARQUEST Auto Parts Nationals and needs a strong second half to successfully defend his series championship - "Doing well (on the West Coast Swing) can be rewarding for a team. The key to our success will be to take advantage of the misfortunes other teams have and avoid making errors that we control. All three climates (Denver, Seattle, and Sonoma, Calif.) are different and present unique challenges."

Kurt Johnson - driver of the ACDelco Chevy Cavalier and No. 2 in the Pro Stock point standings. Johnson, a two-time winner at Seattle in five final round appearances, posted a DNQ at last year's event at Pacific Raceways - "Fortunately, my team is really clicking, making all the right calls, and the driver is doing a good job of letting the clutch out on time, so we've been able to deliver on our potential. But it's far from easy. To contend for the championship, you have to be in a position to win at every race. Therefore, we're trying very hard to do well at places where we have yet to win. But we're not taking anything for granted. Before even thinking about winning, we first have to qualify. The competition level brings out the best in everybody. Then it comes down to experience. I've been driving for 10 years and it seems that you learn something new every day on every run. I look at stuff from two or three years ago and ask myself, 'why did I do that? Why do I make different decisions today than I did yesterday?' Things keep changing and that's what makes it fun."

Scott Geoffrion - the driver of the NitroFish Ford Escort ZX2 started the season in disappointing fashion. The nine-time event winner posted a DNQ at the season-opener at Pomona, Calif., and then crashed at Phoenix, destroying the Mustang he was then driving. Since then Geoffrion has been the runner-up twice and has qualified at all but one event since the season-opener - "There's no factory backing here (from Ford). We're just an independent little team. We aren't able to test much and we don't have a lot of parts. I have a day job just like (team-owner) Hurley (Blakeney). We only have two full-time employees on the team and we are able to knock heads with the best of them. I think that's saying something. We've been able to accomplish what we have because we have a good group of people and we refined it. If you do it right and work together as a group you can really do good things. We have good team chemistry. I think it's the best in the Pro Stock pits, no question about it. It's a credit to Hurley, who allowed me to put all this together."

Allen Johnson - driver of the Team Mopar Dodge Stratus R/T. Johnson switched body styles at the start of the season and is currently sixth in the Pro Stock point standings - "You always want to win every race, but if you can at least go to the semifinals at every race, you're going to be right there in the championship hunt. The season is halfway over but I think we are on to something with these new Stratus cars. They drive totally different than the Neon."

Jim Yates - driver of the Splitfire/Peak Pontiac Grand Am is a two-time series champ but has struggled in 2003 after seriously contending for the 2002 title - "We are pretty excited about the last half of the season. We have been qualifying a lot better (in the past few events). We've been in the top half of the starting field three times in the last six races. (The 'West Coast Swing') is definitely going to be a turning point for us if we want to make a run to get back into the top five in points."


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Series NHRA
Drivers Doug Herbert , Jeg Coughlin , Larry Dixon , Kurt Johnson , Tony Pedregon , Del Worsham , Whit Bazemore , Ron Capps , John Force , Tony Schumacher , Gary Scelzi , Greg Anderson , Scott Geoffrion , Allen Johnson , Johnny Gray , John Medlen , Mike Neff