Top Fuel teleconference, part 2

Continued from part 1 MODERATOR: You talked about not wanting to qualify No. 1. But that has to be something you have to look at, qualifying points. Every point you can get at this point is critical. SCHUMACHER: It is. There's no question ...

Continued from part 1

MODERATOR: You talked about not wanting to qualify No. 1. But that has to be something you have to look at, qualifying points. Every point you can get at this point is critical.

SCHUMACHER: It is. There's no question about it. It's not a jinx. It's not all that stuff. But when you go 21 races now and won one race for the No. 1 spot, no one else has, it doesn't look real good.

In all reality, Brandon has won four races, I've won three, Kalitta won five. How many times we've qualified No. 1 (an NHRA record 12 times)? Those No. 1 qualifying points, they really do add up if you take a look at how many we've had. It's helped us to be in the position we're in. We're not in the lead. We're not even in second. But we're still in striking distance if everything lines up.

Q: Doug, what has been the difference this year as opposed to the previous years (when you finished second in the final standings in 2003 and 2004)?

KALITTA: Obviously my team, (crew chief) Rahn (Tobler), he's been in the championship hunt with (three-time champion) Shirley (Muldowney) winning championships. I think it's just his technique of trying not to overdo what you're trying to do when you're going rounds, just race as smart as you can. I think he's getting real good at it. Hopefully we can just keep it up, stay ahead of these two guys here.

Q: Is there a difference in the mental approach if you're the points leader or if you are chasing the points leader?

MODERATOR: Doug, you would have the perspective of being the points leader, but you have been behind in the past.

KALITTA: You know, obviously you're just trying to get hopefully enough points to where you can go to the last race breathing a little easier. I really don't think so. You just got to stick with what we had explained about just going up, doing your normal deal up there, trying not to get too worked up about the points, the championship, just trying to be consistent with what you're doing.

That's the story I'm going to stick with on that.

BERNSTEIN: I'd much rather be in Doug's position right now, don't get me wrong. But, no, I think as a points chaser, you really have nothing to lose. You know the job at hand and you have to go after it. To win the championship, you're going to have to do the best. It's easier to try and catch somebody, I think, than to hold people back because they're always coming after you trying to knock you off. I think it's just a little bit easier if you're in the background trying to sneak up on people and trying to get something.

SCHUMACHER: Yeah, you know, the light comes on, go. I wish I could think of it differently. We can think about it right now, I could probably come up with 30 scenarios which would be great next weekend. None of that stuff matters. It makes it crazy thinking about it. We do it all the time. Doug does this first round, we can win. Brandon does this.

You know, it never lines up that way. You still got to get in the race car. When the light comes on, you do your absolute best. None of it matters.

The question really isn't about when you are in the car, is it different. It's really about what do you go into the race thinking, what happens when you're out of the car that can make you nuts. Like Brandon said, I'd much rather be in the lead right now, but that's not the way it is. I think it's important to get up in the morning and remember why we're doing it, because we love racing cars. Just let it go. It's going to be a hell of a race. It's going to be fun, it's going to be super fun for one team. Someone at the end of the year is going to have the time of their life, man. The other two just aren't going to get it done. That's kind of unfortunate. That's how racing is.

Really I'm not in the worst position I've ever been in. Last year going into this race, we had it locked up, we had it done just by staging the car. This isn't too bad. I'm enjoying myself. It's a big money loss if we don't get it done for the Army, everything they put in. But we sure did give a great try to get even in the position we're in. I got to stick with that, too.

Q: Doug, as the points leader, do you get more conservative or into a defensive mode?

KALITTA: You know, the race before the last race, I don't know, I should just say the last race I said, what the hell, you got to go up there, see the light and go. I think prior to that, I was just trying -- I was thinking about it a little bit. The last race I said, hell with it, I'm going to stick with what I have. I think I got that behind me. You just go up there and just -- the way drag racing is, the round-by-round deal, I think if you start doing stuff like that, you're going to start getting beat on by people taking advantage of your mistakes. I think the best bet is to stick with your normal program.

Q: As you go into the last two races, is there a driver you see as a wildcard who can really determine who the champion is going to be?

KALITTA: Yeah, you know, with Cory (McClenathan) winning the last race, 13 is real tough. J.R. Todd comes to mind. His car is running real strong, he's driving the thing real good. Really there's just such a handful of people. Just thinking of the last person that won (Todd) and the guy that is up for maybe the Rookie-of-the-Year (Todd). I'd probably go with either one of these two.

BERNSTEIN: I agree with both of those definitely. There's so many great drivers and great teams out there right now. Especially coming to a track that's notoriously quick. If we have cool weather and everything, and also in Pomona the same thing. All these cars we've seen this year, you know, guys are running 4.50s and getting beat. It's unbelievable what the competition has gone up to. I think there's just probably six, seven, maybe even eight drivers out there that could make a difference in this championship just because those guys are great drivers and great teams that run good numbers. Hot Rod Fuller is another good one that has come on strong lately, has a consistent race car. There's a lot of guys out there that can run the numbers. You got to look out for all of them.

MODERATOR: Tony, who are you looking out for on Sunday?

SCHUMACHER: I'd say if I didn't have to run J.R. Todd, I'd be in the lead. Spanked me all the time. It's just part of the deal. You go back and forth. A couple years ago, I run Morgan, I think I beat him 17 out of 18 times. Doesn't mean they can't race against us. They just happen to be the luck they were having on us.

We beat J.R. Todd three out of the last six races, too. Just they were big ones when they beat us. They hurt us bad.

I'll pretty much try to avoid him. Nothing you can do. Light comes on, go, like we've been saying. The ladder is going to fall where it falls. You're going to run as good as you can run on qualifying. When the ladder comes out, it's going to tell us who we race. There's nothing we can do about it.

Q: Who is going to win the Funny Car title?

SCHUMACHER: I'm a Ron Capps fan because he's my teammate. I think those people didn't even see (Robert) Hight sneaking up on him at all. He's a pretty good surprise. He's driving like a machine right now.

MODERATOR: Tony, you like Robert?

SCHUMACHER: If you had to ask me, I'm going to pray to God Capps pulls it off because he's my buddy, my teammate. He is an outstanding driver. I just see the other cars coming on strong. Write it down on paper, give me Capps.

BERNSTEIN: I kind of agree with Tony on Robert kind of sneaking up and everything. I think that car's running great. He's driving excellent at the moment right now. All three of those teams are great caliber teams. Capps, he's been consistent all year long. I think it's going to be fun, exciting to see. Obviously with Force, you never know with him. He's kind of a wildcard, too, just because they've been up and down this year and everything. It's going to be interesting to see.

I kind of lean towards Robert maybe sneaking up and getting this thing.

KALITTA: When I first started driving, (Capps's crew chief Ed) Ace (McCulloch) was my crew chief. He's been battling with his health and whatnot. The fact that I've got such a history with him, friends with all three of 'em. John Force, he's got a great team. Always manages to somehow pull it off. I'd actually like to see Capps pull it off if he can do it. Any one of the three. I shouldn't be biased of any one of the three. Long time since Ace has won that thing.

MODERATOR: I don't think Ace has ever won as a racer or crew chief. Ron has been second three times.

Q: Brandon, what has your dad taught you as far as dealing with championship pressure, being that Kenny was so good over the years?

BERNSTEIN: That's a good question. We actually discussed it before going back to the Reading rainout. He basically said, 'I really can't give you a lot of insight. You really just have to experience it, go through it.' He basically said, 'I can tell you it will get harder and harder if it does end up getting closer and closer. You really just have to experience it yourself.' He said that you just got to always say to yourself, Man, if I look in the mirror after the day is over, I did the best that I could do, that's all that's asked from you. If you can say that, then that's just a part of it.

Hey, you got beat by somebody else. Did you do the best you could? Yeah, I did. I did the best that I could do at that moment. That's all that's asked from you. He just said that it's just going to be one of those things you just have to experience yourself and go through it.

Q: He'll be there with you this weekend?

BERNSTEIN: Yeah, he'll be in Vegas and Pomona both.

Q: The added stress of the fact that you have one of the biggest races of the year coming up, the Bud Shootout, the race within a race, while still trying to compete for the points race. Is that an added stress?

BERNSTEIN: It's a fun race. I think we look at it as drivers that it's a race within a race. It's one of those races that's kind of fun. You get to kind of forget about the points, so to speak, just race for the money. It's really exciting. I think that it's definitely a plus to have that race at this point in the season because it does kind of take your mind off of, 'Wow, this isn't 20 points there or 20 points there. This is just for money. We just got to go out there and try to win this thing for the team.'

SCHUMACHER: I can't wait, man. I love it. Been doing it a long time. It's a blast. Like Brandon said, you get in the car and there's no 20 points. It's just all racing. It's all about the money and free beer. You can't beat it. Go back to the beginning of what we did, all of us ran Super Comp, Super Street. We got in the car, just raced. It was a blast. There was no paycheck at the end of it. Even if you won, there was no paycheck at the end of it.

This is it. It brings it back to the heart of America. Good old-fashioned drag races. Last year was awesome, obviously being able to pull off the first win. We're going to a track that we're good at. Look forward to it.

This is Vegas. Here is my prediction going in because we are No. 1 qualifier. I'll saying there's 99.4 or four and a half percent chance J.R. Todd will pull the No. 8 spot with the way our luck has been going.

KALITTA: Like the guys say, it's a fun event. What Budweiser does for us with the pre-race party in Vegas on Thursday night, the money they put up, the beer they put up, it's a fun event. You just go out there and I think it's 50 cases of beer, a bunch of cash, they have a great track. Just a lot of fun. Looking forward to it.

MODERATOR: Thanks, Doug, Brandon and Tony and the three Pro Stock Motorcycle riders - Antron Brown, Andrew Hines and Angelle Sampey. Thanks for being on the call. Good luck next weekend in Las Vegas and in Pomona. We'll see you on the road to crowning the POWERade Series champion Sunday, November 12th in Pomona.

-credit: nhra

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Series NHRA
Drivers Antron Brown , Ron Capps , John Force , Andrew Hines , Rod Fuller , J.R. Todd , Angelle Sampey