Trio of drivers - NHRA teleconference, part 1

Continued from part 1 Q: Are you excited about the natural rivalry that's transpired between yourself and Tony this year? LARRY DIXON: Well, I think that in the past always racing Tony, because they were always the lead car, and he's still...

Continued from part 1

Q: Are you excited about the natural rivalry that's transpired between yourself and Tony this year?

LARRY DIXON: Well, I think that in the past always racing Tony, because they were always the lead car, and he's still got the No. 1 on his wing.

Any time that you race him you've got to bring you're A-game. So for me, you know, I try to fire everything I can at him and whoever else we're running. For that matter, Spencer, he's in the No. 2 car that finished in the points last year.

I think the time will tell whether there is a rivalry or not. You've got to race each other every week to create a rivalry.

I remember when I first came in the sport and they were playing out the whole Bernstein and Budweiser against Miller thing. And I don't think I raced Bernstein for the first nine months of the season. So you can't really have a rivalry unless you lineup against each other. So we'll just play it out and see what happens. But obviously I'll be trying my hardest whoever I match up against.

Q: With that said, Tony had told me in an earlier interview that every run between the two of you guys will be important, and even that side by side testing run in Phoenix was important. Do you agree?

LARRY DIXON: For me it's no different. Because last year running against him, you had to bring your best to be able to have a shot at him. So I'm not going to line up any different mindset when we go up against him.

But there again, you've got to have that kind of mindset against everybody.

Q: Spencer, I met you at Martin drag way in Michigan last summer when you won down there. You go from IHRA up to the NHRA this year in a year's time. Could you talk a little about what this has been like? Doing so well there and then making this jump to the No. 2 car from last year in the NHRA?

SPENCER MASSEY: Well, I'd definitely have to say it's been a dream come true. Like last year with the IHRA deal. It wasn't supposed to happen. I got my license on Monday, and went to the first IHRA race five days later, and ended up bringing home the trophy. It just was a snowball effect.

That's kind of how this turned into as well. I started talking with Snake, and Don Prudhomme Racing at the end of last year, and then it all kind of transpired to be that, you know, Alan Johnson and Larry kind of teamed up, and I got pushed forward instead of having a chance to drive a second car or putting another deal together in 2010, I got pushed forward to get in the car in 2009 this year.

So it's just been unbelievable that all this has happened. I feel like I'm in a dream, you know. This is something I've dreamed for and wanted to do since I was four years old is to drive a top fuel dragster. And, you know, plus driving for the Snake and driving for NHRA in the Full Throttle Series, this is unbelievable.

And I'm just in awe, you know, but very honored to be in the position I am especially how everybody else is doing right now. There are other drivers out there that are out of jobs. And I'm honored to be with the Snake and driving a car right now. I've got to be on my A-game, and do what I do, and just keep up the normal deal and try to cut my lights and drive the car to the best of my ability.

Q: I just wondered if the thousand foot program has anymore effect on you any longer? If it has any bearing on how you drive or if you've settled into it and if it's a factor anymore?

TONY SCHUMACHER: I actually enjoy it. Some people are battling with it because it's always been quarter mile. But Alan's car is awful fast. That's what I was used to. Running 320 miles an hour on tracks that were built to go 280. It doesn't bother me.

I think it hasn't been a let down in any way, shape or form. I think the fans have gotten awesome runs. We've run races last year by a matter of feet over and over and over again. But most importantly what I enjoyed about it is our rev limiter that kicked in, which the fastest cars are going to hit that rev limiter, that wasn't a factor.

I've said it since day one. I don't mind when you put a rule into effect, but if only a few teams are hitting it, you don't take a quarterback and punch him in the arm because he can throw the ball farther. Alan had a great tune-up, his car ran fast, and we were penalized by that.

I don't mind it at all. If we go back to the quarter mile, we'll go with what the rules are. But I think for now the fans are getting their moneys worth, good side by side racing, a few are complaining, but the majority of people are enjoying great drag racing.

Q: Larry, what are your thoughts?

LARRY DIXON: I'm probably old school. I still enjoy the quarter mile. Just the sound of it. I applaud (NHRA) for doing it. It's still my understanding that, you know, the way the announcements have come down that it's still temporary once they get the tracks up to snuff and the package on the engine side. Performance-wise in the cars, we will go back to quarter mile. If it doesn't happen, okay. And if it does happen, great.

Q: Larry and Tony, between the two of you you've been to (indiscernible) Winternationals, and I'm wondering what it's going to be like for you guys. First race of the season is one thing, but coming to Pomona and the track and history that you've had there and your families have had there.

LARRY DIXON: For me it's always old home week. I grew up in the San Fernando Valley out there. So just to be able to go home to my buddies that I went to school with, and my family, my mom still lives out there.

So just from that standpoint, you know, when you're sitting in the car, you can't see the paint job on it. So you've got to go up there and hit it. But it's certainly exciting. After shoveling 12 inches of snow out of my driveway, I'll be plenty excited to go to Pomona.

Q: Tony?

TONY SCHUMACHER: Same thing. I wish it would start tomorrow. We've waited all year to get to the end of the year and see who is going to be the champion, and you can't wait all winter long to get back and start it again.

It's exciting. I live in Chicago. You're lucky if you had 12 inches of snow there. It's the brutal cold. In the last two weeks we've tested it's been awesome. It's exciting we've got a new team. New things to see and do. Being surrounded by the Army guys, I look forward to it. I missed it over the winter.

We enjoy the break, but we're race car drivers. I can't wait to get back in the car and get challenges going and see how the season starts out.

Q: Spencer, you talked about the transition and moving up from IHRA, but how long before you think you'll be acclimated with the team and the crew and all of that? What are your expectations for your rookie year?

SPENCER MASSEY: Well, I've known some of my guys that worked on the team from other teams. I've been working on Top Fuel cars and Funny Cars and stuff for like eight or ten years now. I've known Todd Smith for a number of years and Donnie Bender and they're awesome guys, and the whole crew is, of course.

I've been up at Indy for the past three weeks or so now and getting familiar with everybody. Hanging out, going to eat lunch and dinner and you know how it is. Just getting to know everybody.

I feel like we're already jelling. I'm friends with everyone. I'm hanging with them and doing laundry with them right now. It's just one of those cool deals.

Like Larry said, it doesn't matter what the paint job is on the race car. When you strap in the car, you focus and you do your job. And, of course, I'm not the type of guy saying we're going to go out and win every race, but we'd love to try and we'd love to. But my goal is I want to get a Wally, you know? And I want to get to the Countdown (NHRA Playoffs). This car is very capable of taking a chance for the Championship at the end of the year. And I've just got to do my job.

I know how to do it.  And Snake obviously has high expectations for me
or he wouldn't be putting me in the race car.  But I think I can handle it
and I'm ready for it.  Like Tony said, I wish it was tomorrow.

Q: Larry, not to put any extra pressure on Spencer, but can you address the opportunity he's got with Don Prudhomme, nobody knows Snake better than you do.

LARRY DIXON: It's a great opportunity. To be honest, I'm thrilled for Spencer, and I'm thrilled with Snake. He gave myself and even Ron Capps, you know, our shots to be able to get started in our careers. So it's great that he pulled them up. Snake's always been a guy to search for the younger talent, and the guy that he thinks can get it done.

Obviously, Spencer is a rookie from the NHRA tour, but he's far from it. He's the reigning IHRA champ. I don't think he'll be able to fool the rest of us. He's got plenty of skills that's why he got the job. I'm certainly happy for him that he got it.

Q: Tony, the U.S. Army sponsorship is so important. The U.S. Army switches NASCAR sponsorship to Ryan Newman at Stewart Haas Racing. What qualities do you have that have worked so well with the Army? Do you think that Ryan will also have to fit that Army role? What advice would you give Ryan about that?

TONY SCHUMACHER: That's a great question. He's a good, young driver. He's excited. I think that's the key. You know, we're not selling tools, we're not selling beverages. We're selling a way of life. And I think to be able to go out there and drive with the Army, you're asking people to put themselves in harm's way. Our job is recruiting as much as racing.

I definitely had some opportunities to talk to him, they sent me his number and said 'Call him up, tell him what you know.' And I think the most important part of it is we'll be surrounded by great people. Great people that have, you know, we think we're inspiring people? We have nothing on these Army soldiers. These guys come out and inspire us.

That is the key, we go out and win races, and it's a blessing to be able to give back to these guys that are out doing battle every day, and putting themselves in harm's way for us to be able to give (indiscernible) to them.

That's the most important thing is to remember who you drive for. It's a group of great people that are looking forward to being part of a winning team. You better give your all. They give nothing less. The people you put yourself around, that's what makes it work.

Q: You talked about how when you're in the car you can't see the other paint scheme. But out of the car as an ambassador to the sport, how much is a rivalry between the two of you going to be in order to sell the sport to fans during these sort of difficult economic times?

TONY SCHUMACHER: I think it's important. There are a lot of teams that won't be there next year. I think the build-up will be the hopes that we run each other but like last year, so many people are focused on beating Alan Johnson and Tony Schumacher that they got beat before that.

You have to focus on the car you're racing against, but I think the hope is that we'll get to battle constantly and getting to out there and prove it. Because it's two good teams.

That's why you watch the Super Bowl.  You watch the two teams that
have made it the furthest.  And me and Larry Dixon have won championships
and Alan Johnson back in '96 and '97.  We've won them all.

So it's going to be naturally built. We're not going to have to fake it or go out and pick on each other or poke each other in the chest, it's going to be good. Me and Larry don't play games. We stage cars and we race. We've never held each up or done anything wrong. It's really who has the best tune-up and car at that moment.

I can't wait to get it started. I hope it comes down to me and Larry in the finals of the first race and gets people on their feet. And makes me and Larry do our job better than we normally would.

Q: Larry do you have anything you'd like to add?

LARRY DIXON: If I make it to the final round, I'll drink to that.

-credit: nhra

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Series NHRA
Drivers Larry Dixon , Tony Schumacher , Ryan Newman , Don Prudhomme , Todd Smith