DALE CREASY JR. Mad Magazine Pontiac Firebird SEATTLE, Wash. (July 21, 1999) Dale Creasy Jr. drives the Mad Magazine Pontiac Firebird Funny Car on the 22-event NHRA Championship Drag Racing tour. After 12 events, the 39-year- old Lansing,...
DALE CREASY JR. Mad Magazine Pontiac Firebird
SEATTLE, Wash. (July 21, 1999) Dale Creasy Jr. drives the Mad Magazine Pontiac Firebird Funny Car on the 22-event NHRA Championship Drag Racing tour. After 12 events, the 39-year- old Lansing, Ill., native is patiently biding his time and waiting for an opportunity to make a permanent visit to the top 10 of the Winston points standings.
Over the last couple of decades while running on limited resources and with Dale Sr. calling the shots, the Creasy Family Racing team has developed a reputation for getting the most out of their race equipment. In August 1997, Dale Jr. took over the driving duties replacing Gary Bolger who retired after a long and distinguished career in the sport. Bolger, one of the original Midwest Funny Car drivers from the late 1960s, helped guide "Peanut" through his NHRA licensing program following the 1997 Gatornationals.
So far this season, Creasy's best performance came at the Fram Southern Nationals in Atlanta, Ga., where he qualified his Firebird in the ninth spot and advanced to the second round of eliminations. At Englishtown (N.J.), he ran his career-best top speed at 294.56 mph. He is currently 11th in the Winston points standings.
The next stop on the NHRA drag racing schedule is the 12th annual Prolong Super Lubricants Northwest Nationals at Seattle International Raceway in Seattle, Wash., on July 30 - August 1. It is the 13th race on the 22-event Winston championship tour. First-round coverage of final eliminations can be seen on ESPN2 on Sunday, August 1, beginning at 1:30 p.m. EDT. Final-round coverage can be seen on August 1 beginning at 7:30 p.m. EDT.
We're past the halfway point of the season. How would you evaluate your team's performance at this juncture? I would say that we're pretty pleased with it. If you compare it to my first full season of driving last year, we're probably twice as far ahead as we were last year as far as performance. Although there's always room for improvement, we're happy with how we've done so far. I think we've improved in the area of being more consistent and not trying to race the other race car. I think we need to work on that a little bit more and get the Mad Magazine Pontiac Firebird to perform better on some of the questionable tracks we go to. Other than that I think this team has progressed rather nicely. We try to race the track and not the other guy, but sometimes your ego gets in the way and you want to beat the guy in the other lane. You know that your performance the day before may have not been good enough to beat him, but when you take that approach most of the time you just end up beating yourself doing that.
You're now into your second full season as a Funny Car driver. What are you still trying to learn? I've been trying to become more consistent with my driving while trying to keep from making the small mistakes. Once I make a mistake, I ask someone like Gary Densham, or Gary Bolger or other experienced drivers what I need to do to keep from repeating the same mistakes. I need to be a little bit better with my reaction times. I was trying too hard to cut good lights and was red lighting or was too inconsistent. In my mind that's why you call it reaction time; you're not anticipating, you're not waiting, but you have to be in the right frame of mind. You have to be concentrating hard enough but not too hard. Sometimes I'll be looking at the Christmas Tree and won't even see it. I think you get too deep into thought and get to thinking about it so much that you just lose focus on what you actually need to be doing. I don't think I've lost any races yet at the light, and I'm knocking on wood hoping that it doesn't happen, but I think I can improve to the point so that we have a better chance to beat the faster cars.
What has been your No. 1 accomplishment this year? Consistency and making as many races as we have. We didn't do that last year primarily because the car was lacking performance-wise. So far, the car's been performing fairly well and hopefully we can maintain that momentum. Not qualifying at the Pontiac Excitement Nationals (Columbus) was the low point. Up to that time we had been one of the few cars to qualify at every race.
What is the history of the Creasy Racing team? My dad's (Dale, Sr.) been racing Fuel Cars since the 1960s. We had front-engine dragsters and then we moved into Funny Cars in the early 1970s because that's where the match racing money was. We had different drivers until 1976 when Gary Bolger started driving our car and he was with us for 20 years. He's a great driver and did an outstanding job. He kept us in the game because he was smart enough to shut the car off when he knew it was going to break. He made it possible for us to keep playing the game until we could buy a car that was competitive. My dad always had the ability to tune a race car, we just didn't have the money or the parts. Now that we're beginning to acquire some of the good equipment, I think we can play with any of them.
Has racing kept your family close? Sometimes it can put a little bit of a strain on the home life because you're not there all the time. My wife is very understanding and along with my mother and stepmother, everybody is behind us 100 percent. It does keep me hanging around with my dad and my brother and that's pretty neat.
How would you rate your dad as a crew chief? I think he is one of the top crew chiefs out there. One of the things that we need to work on is our work on the computer. But that comes with having a full-time crew where you can spend more time on the little things. Right now we just don't have enough people working on the car to give us the luxury of concentrating on every tiny detail.
What do you want to accomplish by the end of the season? Our goal is to qualify at the remaining races and maybe win a race. My opinion is if we get qualified and are racing on Sunday, then we can compete with anybody. We want to make the competition think about us. If we can win a round or two during each race of the Western Swing and get ourselves inside the top 10, then I would have to say that we were successful. A top-10 finish would just be tremendous. It would be a great achievement considering the quality of race cars that are out there.
Do you think there is still room in this sport for the lower budgeted operations? I think there is still room because those are exactly the kind of teams that we need now. If you just depend on the teams with all the money then you won't have enough cars to fill the field. They need us as much as we need them. When we go to the starting line, my attitude is that you have one motor and I have one motor, and no matter how much money you put into your race car, if we did a better job of getting our car ready, then we're going to take you out. The majority of teams racing today are not big budget operations, but programs that are going from race to race, match racing and enjoying the sport for what it is. Sometimes when you get that big sponsorship, it puts a lot more pressure on you to win. Don't get me wrong, we always go into a race with the idea of doing the best that we can, but we also like to have fun doing it. When it's time to race, we're just as serious as the other guy, but if you're not having fun doing this then it's time to get out. I wouldn't trade this for anything in the world. When the race car makes a good clean fast pass, there's nothing like it in the world. It's just the feeling when you go across the finish line when you know you've made a good run. I know it's only five seconds, but a lot of people don't realize the amount of work that goes into making our Firebird go that quick. I'm like a little kid that's just opened up a new bicycle on Christmas morning. It's a feeling that I can't describe. When the car's running really, really good, you can feel it pull, and although I can't really tell the difference between a 5.05 or a 5.10, I know when the car's running out the back because I can hear the motor come up. When I cross the finish line and the motor's where it's supposed to be, then I know we've run well.
What does it take to prepare a car to run quick? It's basically knowing the conditions. A lot of times on your first run off the trailer it's going to be a crap shoot because you have an idea what the track was like the year before, but every race is a different deal. You go up there with what you think is going to work, hopefully you can get it down the track on the first run and then on the second run you have some data to work with. It also takes good sponsors, and we have some great ones with Mad Magazine, Marvel Mystery Oil, Tek Pak and Pontiac. Without them behind us, we wouldn't be where we are today.
How competitive is the Funny Car class this year? With the exception of the two guys at the top, I think it's more competitive than it's ever been. The rest of the cars, although you could probably put Bazemore into that group of top-three teams, are running pretty good. Although some have a little better performance than others, they aren't as consistent as those top three teams. I just think that qualifying today is an accomplishment. There are not a lot of points separating those cars from about fifth place down. If you can average a round win for the entire season you will end up in the top six. We're focussing on getting out there, making our car run well, and if we can get in the top 10, then we'll be happy. Eventually I'd like to be in that position where we think we can win every race so that when we don't, we're disappointed. We're not happy when we lose now, but if we can qualify and win a couple of rounds then that's great. To win the championship you have to be willing to put in a lot of hard work. If you look at the top teams they have the research and development departments where their crew chiefs can work with clutch dynos and blower dynos. They have the ability and the opportunity to try things that we haven't had a chance to try yet. But you also have to have a good team that works well together and gets along with each other. There can only be one boss and that's the crew chief.
Where do you see yourself in five years and what would you like to see the NHRA do to make the sport more successful? I just want to be racing in five years, and considering the financial strain that is a part of the sport, that's going to be tough. Continuing to race and staying competitive is our primary goal. As for the NHRA, I'd like to see them focus more on the drivers and the personalities. If we can do that, have a little more television coverage, and of course have a little more money involved in the sport, which will happen as time goes on, that would help the drivers as well as the NHRA.
Do you feel that the sport is on the rise? I know it is. Just look at the competitiveness in the sport in all of the classes. If somebody thought that drag racing was going down hill then I think they were taking a look at the wrong picture. There are always 20 Funny Cars at every race, and 17 or 18 of those cars can run in the 5-0s. I think the Funny Car class is just growing and growing and I think it's great. The more the merrier.
Did you like what happened at Bristol with the Funny Cars racing the Dragsters and is that something you would like to see on a permanent basis? I don't think I'd like to do it all the time, but I would like the opportunity to race those guys every now and then just because it's more of an ego thing. It gives you the chance to say you beat a Top Fuel car or he beat me or whatever the case may be. I don't know how they can make it fair enough to where both sides are happy.