Sonoma: Pre-race quotable

QUOTABLE Larry Dixon - driver of the Miller Lite dragster and the defending NHRA POWERade Top Fuel champion. Dixon is fourth all-time on the Top Fuel win list but has yet to score a victory at Infineon Raceway during his career. He recently won...


Larry Dixon - driver of the Miller Lite dragster and the defending NHRA POWERade Top Fuel champion. Dixon is fourth all-time on the Top Fuel win list but has yet to score a victory at Infineon Raceway during his career. He recently won at Denver, defeating his closest competitor in the standings, Doug Kalitta - "When I go up there I try and race everybody hard, whether it's Mitch King or Doug Kalitta, Kenny or Brandon (Bernstein). You give everybody respect because they have the power to beat you if you don't show them respect."

Doug Kalitta - driver of the Mac Tools dragster and a three-time winner at Infineon Raceway. He has advanced to the final round at Sonoma, Calif., four of the five times he has competed there, with a runner-up finish last season. He is the leading challenger to Larry Dixon for the 2003 NHRA POWERade Top Fuel championship - "The one thing about Sonoma is it is the place of my first career win (1998). We had a streak going there, winning it three years in a row (1998-'00) and it would be nice to start the streak over. My wife Josie just gave birth to our second child. We had a girl, Avery Lynn. I'm looking forward to going back there, knowing that Josie and Avery are doing great and I don't have to worry about getting the call and having to rush home."

Darrell Russell - driver of the Joe Amato-owned Bilstein Engine Flush dragster and the 2001 NHRA Automobile Club of Southern California Road to the Future Award winner, given annually to the NHRA's top rookie destined for greatness - "I think the track is going to be better this year than last year. It has had a year under it and had more cars going down it and will have a nice groove this year. The conditions can be good and bad, it all depends on the weather. The last couple of years it has been a little warm, but with this new body style, I am liking the warmer weather. Having the extra downforce can play a big role in the warmer conditions. That is one race my wife always goes to and we are looking forward to being close to all of the vineyards and San Francisco. It's a great event."

Tony Schumacher - driver of the U.S. Army dragster and the 1999 NHRA Top Fuel champion - "Love Sonoma. The race tracks are always 1,320-feet long, but the atmosphere is what makes them special. Sonoma is a great town, they always get a great crowd and the surroundings are beautiful and I just love being there."

Tony Pedregon - driver of the Castrol Syntec Ford Mustang, one of three Ford Mustangs owned by 12-time NHRA POWERade Funny Car champion John Force. Pedrgon had not suffered a first round defeat in 23 straight events, dating back to the 2002 race at Denver, before losing to Scotty Cannon in the first round last weekend in Denver - "It has been quite a ride, but, hopefully, it's not over yet. We still have some business to do. I think we learned some things last year (when Pedregon finished as the runner-up in the final standings for the .fourth time in his career, all to team-owner Force). I know I did as a driver. We had finished second to John before, but every other time, it wasn't even close. We were second my first year and I think John was 600 points ahead of us. But last year we actually raced for the championship (which was decided in the semifinals of the last race of the year) and I think that gave us a lot of confidence and enabled us to carry a lot of momentum into this season. I think what happens on the Western Swing will go a long way toward deciding who's really going to be in contention. There are an awful lot of good teams out there and we know none of them are conceding the championship. We'll just stick to our game plan to qualify first, then take whatever the race track gives you -- no more and no less."

Dean Skuza - driver of the Cornwell Tools Pontiac Grand Am has teamed up with rock star Meat Loaf for the Sonoma race for a special paint scheme. Action Collectibles is producing a 1/24 scale die-cast collectible of the Couldn't Have Said It Better race car, promoting the upcoming release of Meat Loaf's new album and the North American leg of his world tour - "I think my mom is more excited that anyone. She's a huge fan and had Bat Out of Hell on her Marantz hi-fi before they ever played it on the radio. I vividly remember her going to Peaches Records in Cleveland to buy it. We met Meat Loaf last year on a short tour that came through Cleveland. He's a really cool guy--we talked about sports, music, racing--you name it. He's a very bright man and the theatrical emphasis that he brings to his rock and roll show is something that few other performers can provide. His fame is far reaching and could help to bring us the attention that it takes to land a major sponsorship for 2004."

Warren Johnson - driver of the GM Performance Parts Pontiac Grand Am and the winningest Pro Stock driver in NHRA history with 91 victories. Last season at Sonoma, Johnson failed to qualify for eliminations for the first time in 303 consecutive events - "With (nine) races left in the season, we are definitely in the hunt (for the POWERade championship). With the gains (son) Kurt and I have made in performance, especially relative to warmer conditions, I think we're in excellent shape. We're still figuring out all the nuances on this GM Performance Parts Grand Am, and once we do, it's going to be an exceptional race car. Kurt's obviously in a better position than I am, but we're doing our best to keep pecking away at it."

Kurt Johnson - driver of the ACDelco Chevy Cavalier and one of only four drivers to win in Pro Stock this season after 13 different winners last season and 15 different winners in 2001 - "We had a pretty good idea right from the start on how competitive this season would be. When you look at the number of lead changes we've had so far (in the POWERade standings), it looks like a championship prize fight between two heavyweights. Greg (Anderson) wins a couple of rounds and then we'll come back and win a couple. For the fans that follow our sport, you really couldn't ask for anything more. To be honest though, it's really too early to even be thinking about the POWERade championship. There's still a lot of racing left and anything could happen. But I won't lie to you, it would be great to win it, for all the guys on the team and at the shop who put in the hard work, and for ACDelco and Chevrolet."

Jim Yates - driver of the Splitfire/Peak Pontiac Grand Am contended for the 2002 NHRA POWERade Pro Stock championship but suffered through a dismal first-half in the 2003 season - "We used the (few weeks off) after the St. Louis race to get completely organized. We're trying to get all of our ducks in a row, all of our parts and rear-ends fresh, our clutches re-coated and all of our motors rebuilt. When we start the West Coast Swing, having fresh parts is a must."


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Series NHRA
Drivers Larry Dixon , Kurt Johnson , Warren Johnson , Tony Pedregon , Dean Skuza , John Force , Tony Schumacher , Joe Amato , Doug Kalitta , Scotty Cannon , Mitch King