National Hot Rod Association Media Conference
June 28, 2006
THE MODERATOR: NHRA would like to welcome the members of the media participating in today's teleconference which will include the four POWERade Series points leader at this midway point of the 2006 season.
This will be the second of three scheduled teleconferences during the 2006 season in what has become a continuing effort on our behalf to make NHRA and its drivers accessible to media not just when we are in town but throughout the course of our 23-event season. Through that tend, if there's anything we can do to make your season-long coverage of NHRA POWERade Series easier, please don't hesitate to call.
NHRA featured some incredible points races in 2005. 2006 has the makings of an impressive encore performance. The average lead in the four NHRA POWERade Series categories is a mere 24 and a half points, and there are a total of 15 drivers within 120 points or six rounds of first place.
Which brings us to our first driver on the call, Top Fuel points leader Melanie Troxel. Melanie has a 24-point lead over Doug Kalitta. Melanie has led the POWERade Series standings wire to wire this season with two wins and seven final rounds in 12 events. Melanie also became the first female in the 40-year history of the Driver of the Year Foundation to win one of its quarterly or year-end awards. This week she was nominated for ESPY awards for best driver and best female athlete.
Let's start with there, Melanie. What were your initial thoughts when you heard about the ESPY nomination?
MELANIE TROXEL: You know, it's been such an incredible season, I feel like I've said that so many times already. Just to come out and perform the way we have on the racetrack is always the goal of every team out here. So really these things have caught me completely off guard. I hadn't even considered getting that kind of recognition. I'm honestly floored by it. It's been really exciting. Tommy and I are right now making our plans to go out there for the ESPYs and, like I said, it's just very exciting.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Melanie.
Q. What do you attribute your successful year this year so far to? Any one thing you can point out?
MELANIE TROXEL: No, I don't think -- certainly not in our case, there's not any one thing. It's a combination of many, many different things that goes from Don Schumacher giving us everything we need to run the team, Richard Hogan, his ability to adapt to different conditions out there, the guys that work on the team. It's so many different things. Everybody playing their part to make things work as well as they can.
Then there's always that intangible part that even when you have all the right people and all the right parts, you don't necessarily go out and run as well as you would like. We just have been very fortunate that things are going well for us.
Q. With the ESPY recognition, you really are becoming a crossover artist where you're becoming known outside of drag racing to the general sports public. Are you getting recognized? Are people coming up to you? Are you getting more of that sort of celebrity notice? Have you had any contact with Shirley Muldowney? What are your impressions of her? Did you watch her when you were growing up?
MELANIE TROXEL: Well, I think going back to the beginning of your question, that sounds like a lot of pressure, being a crossover artist. Sounds like something you refer to musicians as.
But, no, I think it's great to be getting some outside recognition, not only outside of drag racing, but outside of motorsports in general. I mean, it's great for our sport. I think just in general this year, since the beginning of the season, running as well as we have, certainly our team is getting a lot more attention and therefore mostly at the drag races we have a bigger following, a lot more fans stopping by our pit area.
I can't say that we've quite reached the level where I can't go out to eat or anything yet. But certainly we are getting a little more attention.
Q. Have you had any contact with Shirley?
MELANIE TROXEL: Yeah, I mean, I've been around Shirley for many years. In fact, I think I raced against her in 2002 or '3, maybe it was 2003. While I don't remember specifically as a kid watching her race, I was aware she was out there, that there was a female out there racing.
Shirley and I aren't close friends or anything, but I certainly respect what she did in the sport.
Q. Getting off to a start like you did, is that necessarily always a good thing or a bad thing? Can it also be bad to get off to a fast start, where maybe you get like a lot of overconfidence, eventually things start to slip away from you as the season goes along?
MELANIE TROXEL: Well, just speaking from our experience, this is the first time for myself and I think for our entire team to be leading the points like this. I can only speak from this one experience.
I could see theoretical situations where it might not be a good situation. I don't think it's been bad for us. There's a lot of attention and maybe some additional pressure that goes along with being the points leader.
I really don't think -- I won't say that it hasn't had any effect on our team whatsoever. I mean, there may be some ways that that pressure has affected us negatively. But I think, in general, we've done a really good job with dealing with that. If anything, I think it's kind of given us an opportunity to get accustomed to that.
I would much rather come out and have that additional pressure for the first time, leading the points for the first time, early in the year, get it out of the way, get used to it so that come late in the season, we can battle it out for the championship and not have that pressure thrown on us late in the season like that.
I think that would have a much more negative effect than having it early in the season. Early in the season, there's not quite as many expectations. It's early enough that you know a lot of things can happen. I think, like I said, if anything, it's given us an opportunity to actually get more comfortable with that.
Q. You had a huge lead in the points early on in the season. Kind of fallen back a bit. What has been the problem? Missing the setup? What has been the problem?
MELANIE TROXEL: Well, I think we were on a roll early in the season. We were obviously doing a very good job and having a certain amount of luck involved in there. I don't think since then -- I don't think we're doing that poorly. We don't suck out here, we're just not having as good a season as we were early in the year.
We're working on that, trying to step our program back up. I think right now we just see Doug Kalitta is on a roll. He struggled a little bit earlier in the year. They've figured something out. I'm kind of looking at it that it's just kind of -- you know, that everyone is going to have a period of time when they're running well. I think we'll be able to pick our program back up. Doug has done very well. At this point we're still leading the points.
I don't think we've dropped that far off. I think we've just had some different conditions. We've had a change in the weather where we've come into some of the hotter tracks and maybe we're not quite as good with that setup, but we're working on it and we're continuing to get better.
I think it's just something that you're going to throughout the year have certain conditions that you run better in and other conditions you don't. It's just something we keep working on. But I don't think it's been a matter of any major thing going wrong or any major change in the team.
Q. Tony got his win on Sunday. Was it a little tough or did you feel a little uncomfortable when you were doing so well and Tony was struggling?
MELANIE TROXEL: Well, no, actually it just felt pretty good. I won't lie to you. They've had their fair share of success out there. They are our teammates and we don't want them to struggle that much. Knowing that they're, in general, at that time coming into the beginning of the season, I think everybody would have to have said they were the team to beat. You don't worry too much about them. I mean, you need to get every point you can built up against them.
Certainly I think we were all surprised to see them struggle as long as they did. As our teammates, we wanted to help them out as much as we could, until it comes to racing each other on Sunday. That's kind of the way that deal works.
No, I mean, I think really more -- I think the emotion was more surprise, just really surprised they struggled that much. I think everybody knew they would eventually get their program sorted out. It certainly looks like they have.
Q. Going to do anything with your time off here?
MELANIE TROXEL: Actually, we're spending the first week or so just at home getting caught up on things, being home bodies. I think the plan might be to go hang out with some friends on a houseboat down on Lake Cumberland the second weekend. See how that works. It's getting pretty crowded with different things, going to the ESPY awards. I think we have to be out there Monday for that.
Our time off is shrinking up, as it usually does.
Q. You have this time off now, but you're coming into that tough western swing of back-to-back races. Are Denver and Infineon good for you? Points lead has slimmed down to 24 over Doug Kalitta.
MELANIE TROXEL: I don't know personally that I have good or bad racetracks. I grew up in Colorado, so Denver is my hometown track. I do have a special place for that track. I've done well at Seattle and Infineon in the past, not in Top Fuel, but in Alcohol Dragster.
They're not bad tracks for me by any means. I think the bigger issue is whether or not they're good tracks for Richard Hogan, whether or not he has past data on those tracks. That's a big part of the equation, is that if he's run there before with similar equipment.
For the driver, a lot of the scenarios out there are the same. I mean, you either have a really good track and the car goes down the track, or if you have a bad one, you're going to pedal it. There aren't that many different things we can do. You react to it and you hope you did a good job reacting to it.
Richard has the job of trying to work with the new tire and anything new they've put on the car and different track conditions. We came on board with Don Schumacher Racing at Denver last year. We should have some data, but we do have a new chassis and some different parts on the car and stuff. I think that's going to be the big factor, is whether or not Richard feels comfortable with the information he has to draw from.
THE MODERATOR: Melanie, was Seattle significant for you for Top Alcohol? Did you get a first win there or something?
MELANIE TROXEL: Yeah, Seattle was my First National event win in Alcohol Dragster. I believe I've won divisional events there as well. I've always enjoyed that track. I'm looking forward to going back there.
THE MODERATOR: Melanie, you're all set. Thank you for your time.
MELANIE TROXEL: Thank you, guys.
THE MODERATOR: We'll go ahead with funny car points leader Ron Capps now, who has already won a career-high five events in 2006. Ron has a 44-point lead over John Force. He's the points leader now for 11 consecutive weeks. Ron has finished second three times in his career, but is still looking for his first POWERade Series championship.
Ron, I know you've tried to sort of steer clear of the talk of points and championships. Do you think that's going to be more difficult as we move into the second half of the season now?
RON CAPPS: No, I don't mind talking about the points. I've been here before. You just don't want to start concentrating too much on them. We know they're there. We know that's the topic of conversation. That's why I'm on here. That's what's going to make the fans come to the racetrack because there's going to be a battle. We know it's Force and I out front. Any one of these other guys can catch fire.
It's funny, we went to Chicago, kind of lost a little bit. People said, oh, maybe this could be it. We went to Englishtown, won, put it back up over a hundred points. We struggled last weekend, back down to a little over two rounds. I'm really looking forward. I'm enjoying this more now than I did at the end of last year when it came down to the end. I was so engrossed in it.
This year I'm having a better time enjoying it. I'm really looking forward to battling Force down to the end. We've already shown we can run with him and beat him and his whole team for that matter. There's so many other good cars you got to watch for, especially coming into some of the races we're going to.
THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions for Ron.
Q. How much different of a driver are you? How much did you learn from going through that epic points battle this year? Are you approaching things different? Are you approaching things different than last year?
RON CAPPS: Yeah, you always learn something from it. I try to -- throughout my career, even when I was a crew member, ironically when I became a driver, the first person I went to to ask questions was Ed McCullough. It was in Seattle I remember the first year I got my Top Fuel license.
I've always tried to take a piece of everything I could, whether it's hanging around Dick LaHaie, Dale Armstrong, Don Prudhomme, working with Ace, the guys I've gotten to work with, just kind of take things here and there that you can use. I think any athlete will tell you that. You can't think that you know everything. Somebody can always, especially with experience, offer something to you.
I think Don Schumacher, there's just a lot of people around, a good support group that I can always feed off of. Last year, like Mike said, I've been in the championship -- runner-up three times in the championship. Kind of been there. Last year I was really close to winning it. I took a lot of that. I was getting sick on Sunday mornings. In fact, it made me driver better. I never faltered when it came to the starting line.
Yeah, I did learn a lot from it. Ironically, you know, I got asked about it yesterday and this morning, so the word is out, Ace, they found some cancer in him again. As we speak, he's under the knife in surgery right now in Indianapolis. They just found a little bit more on the other side, so they're hoping to go in and get it out. But it's kind of de'ja vu. It was this time last year that he had the cancer in the first place.
To answer your question, what I learned last year, there were so many other things going on, especially with his cancer, still going to the track, getting chemo in between the races, it really pushed everything aside. It really made it a strange trip down to the end.
The racing, here we are about to win a championship possibly, and the racing was really secondary. I can't really attribute a lot to what happened to the end of the year to what we're going through now.
Q. You mentioned Ed, what he's gone through. How much more inspiration or something would that be to win this championship for Ed? Does it inspire you to try harder for him?
RON CAPPS: It's everything for him. I mean, obviously it's for Don Schumacher as well. Don and I talked. I've known about them finding the cancer since before -- right around Bristol. Of course, Ace didn't want anybody to know. We kept it quiet. Don didn't find out still Englishtown. We didn't want it around to fog up any mission we had.
I even said last year, all my guys on the crew, we all wanted to win it for Ace. To be honest, I thought he won a championship, at least one or two. I was kind of dumbfounded when they told me he never won one. I kind of prided myself in knowing the history of drag racing. I thought he already won a championship. He won just about everything in sight. I was surprised. Then it was kind of a mission to win it for him.
I hope I got a lot of years left in me, but right now we're really concentrating on this is our best chance to get him a championship ring.
Q. Ron, is Ace the biggest difference between being with Snake and being with Schumacher?
RON CAPPS: Biggest difference?
Q. Biggest plus, just the way your career has really blossomed. Is he the big factor?
RON CAPPS: Yeah, I think so. When this deal came down, Don, he didn't tell me who the crew chief was going to be. Once the deal was signed Brut at Pomona at the end of the year, they only told me it was a sponsor that knew the sport before, I thought it was Coors Light. When they announced it was Brut, it wasn't the first year I found out it was Ace. It was neat for me because at Snake's, when Ace got let go, it crushed me. I mean, I was in my room the night of Sonoma when he got let go. Snake was actually going through some stuff with Lynn, his wife, some health issues. I sat in my room and cried because he had been such an influence on me. Every time I went to the starting line, I wanted to do everything perfect for him. When it didn't work out, I was crushed.
When he was announced as the crew chief on the Brut deal, I really looked at it as this is my chance to work with Ace again. He's been a huge influence. We've really -- the relationship has really grown a lot between him and I on the track and off the track, but especially on the track. Going to battle him on Sunday morning, as you know, he's a gamer. I really am thriving on learning how to race from the guy.
Q. Did he hold off on the surgery for the start of the summer break?
RON CAPPS: Yeah. He found out -- he went in for his big checkup after the deal last year. A lot of stuff that happened, Atlanta with my teammate, all that, there was a lot of bottled-up emotion on my part as well. We kind of knew about Ace's deal prior to Bristol. He of course doesn't want anybody to know. He was trying to get through and do the same thing last year, get the surgery done right after St. Louis. We had the break. He's so driven, he had it all planned out. He's so meticulous about everything. He had a plan, get the surgery done, have time to heal, go on the plane, go to Denver.
We had the car -- brand-new car we were going to run in Denver. It's a car we've been running to be front-halved after St. Louis. That was another one of his plans. Almost like he had all these planned out. Get the car front-halved, have a brand-new car for Denver, I'll get my surgery done, everything will go perfect, we'll have a couple weeks off. So, yeah, he definitely had a plan. Anybody that knows him knows how he plans everything to the T.
Q. Somebody having to check with front-halved car, cancer surgery, crazy.
RON CAPPS: He's smarter than I am. I called him last night. I'm scared right now. I'm really scared. He's in surgery now. I'm just hoping everything goes all right.
Q. What kind of cancer does Ed have?
RON CAPPS: Colon cancer they found last year. He went in for his checkup. They found a little polyp I believe on the other side of his body there. Just a tiny bit. Precautionary, they want to go in and definitely take care of that, just make sure everything else is good.
We don't know what they're going to do, if they're going to do chemo again afterward or he'll be fine with what they get out. We're waiting to hear. He's in surgery as we speak in Indy. We'll probably know Friday when he goes home, go from there. We're not sure yet.
Q. Down the road, coming to Sonoma, what are your thoughts about that track? Is it a track you look forward to coming to? Is it a challenge?
RON CAPPS: Infineon has always been -- it was kind of a home track. I lived in the Bay Area, going to school. I lived up there, met my wife up there. I lived up there about eight or nine years. That was a home track.
Besides the fact that when I was growing up, my dad, when he raced, we went to Fremont and Sonoma all the time, Sacramento for that matter as a kid. The Bay Area has always been kind of a home track for me.
Seattle I've won I think twice, Funny Car once, Top Fuel. That's always been a great place for me. Denver, we've done so-so. Like Melanie said, you never know if it's you or the crew chief. Sometimes a driver goes to the track and he just does well. Sometimes a crew chief goes and he does well.
The West Coast swing has always been a good place in my heart. We're camping right now in central California at a lake for a couple weeks, then I take the family on that West Coast swing. That has another add-on to why I love the West Coast swing. Especially with Bruton Smith, what he's done with the track at Infineon, it's turned into one of the most favorite tracks we all go to.
Q. Where about are you camping?
RON CAPPS: We're at Lake San Antonio. I grew up in San Luis Obispo. Used to come here as a kid. Last four or five years, we come up here. In fact, I just ran into some Doug Herbert Snap-On distributors parked next to us with some boats. It's cool. A way to get away. At the same time we run into some fans. We're going to hang out here for a couple weeks with the kids, ride skidoos and boats and stuff.
Q. If you compared golf majors to drag racing points championships, are you the Phil Mickelson of your sport? Do you feel if you can get one out of the way, it could be the start of something really cool?
RON CAPPS: You're always coming up with these bitching, intellectual questions. You crack me up. Yeah, I guess. Hey, to be compared with Phil would be awesome. Just to be a contender. If I had to quit right now with what I've done, I'd be more than happy with the career I've had. But definitely we'd like a championship. To always be a contender, that's all you can ask.
Last year hurt. That eight points, losing it. In the big picture, the Oakley team winning it, they were a big part of this team as well. Everything was perfect. I don't want to go another year as another runner-up. If I have to, it beats third or fourth. I can only do so much as a driver. The team, a lot of young guys. I'm hoping to keep the team together for a long time. If we can win a championship, it would be unbelievable.
Q. Five for five in finals this year. How do you explain that?
RON CAPPS: Ace and the guys. Believe me, staging the car. A couple of those, I was thinking, man, I don't know if we got it today for this run right here. Ace would pull it out. We've been winning as a team and losing as a team. I've made some mistakes. The first guy to pat me on the butt was Ace and the crew guys. They help keep my spirits up. Vice versa. I'm able to win a few on (indiscernible) shots, which is always good for a driver.
Those finals, beating Force when we've beaten him, as Melanie talked about, the points, down to 40 something, but those are points we put in our pocket for a reason. If we didn't do well at the beginning of the year, we'd be behind right now. You try to just show up at each race and get as many points as you can. That's all we can do.
RON CAPPS: You know, I've said it time and again, you really have to look at our qualifying. We've won from 14th, 15th. I think it's just coincidence, to be honest with you. Those are good teams qualifying No. 1. You know, I'm looking and hoping that Ed will change something with our Friday night qualifying. Maybe there's a way to lock in the top four for Friday night, have the other two runs. It's too much dependent on all the Nitro and Pro Stock classes on the Friday night run. I really believe that too much -- if you have one bad run, Dell in Topeka, you can go on a big team that struggled, have something go wrong on a Friday night run, you're up the creek. Very rarely is the weather going to be any better on a Saturday. If you don't get that run in, that's usually where the field is going to end up. We don't see those conditions ever again during the weekend.
Those teams that have been No. 1 are the teams that really go for it on Friday night. That's where it ends up. That's just kind of I think how it's ended up where those teams maybe don't run as well when it does heat up on Sunday. Really I think it's more coincidence than anything else.
Q. Now with the West Coast swing coming up, is this more difficult than the ones you went through?
RON CAPPS: Yeah, a little bit, only because Denver is so hard on parts. It's a difficult place to go. It's pretty close. The Chicago, Englishtown, St. Louis thing was pretty brutal with conditions changing, hard on teams. This one will be, as well.
I think they're pretty close with the exception of Denver and having to really lean on your parts because you're a mile high. You know, I think for a lot of the teams it's a little more relaxing. They're closer together. This last one was very hard. You have to remember these guys jumping in these trucks, having to drive race to race. I think that's probably the most difficult difference of the two.
Q. You're 4-1 against Force this year. At least one of them, you've (indiscernible) on him. To know you beat him off the line, to you, is that almost as impressive leading the points?
RON CAPPS: Standing back, if that was somebody else's record, I would be impressed.
I just get up for the guy. I try to get up for everybody. That just tells you how big a deal he still is in the sport. I've said it before. If you can beat him to the hotel in a rental car, qualifying, final round, whatever it is, it's going to be a big deal.
Anyhow, yeah, I'm impressed with it. I'm impressed with my team, what they've done. I just try to do the same thing every time. I get up for the guy like you can't believe. We just had a great car every time. You know, as soon as you get out of the car, I'm shaking my head sometime in disbelief of how good we've done. You expect to be able to do that. When it happens, keep reeling those wins off, I'm impressed myself.
Q. Do you consider Infineon your home track and your teammate Gary Scelzi also considers it his home track. Are you going to take him in the Funny Car?
RON CAPPS: Well, we were in the final round together last year. I've been in several of them there. I've won there before. Gary is from Fresno. That's pretty close. I lived up there for a while. Gary and I are great friends. We do the go-kart thing to raise money for Speedway Charities, have a fun time with that. It's always been a fun track for me and I know Gary as well. If we can both get in the final again, that would be unbelievable. I love that place. I love John Cardinelli (ph), everybody at that track, what they do. They welcome you. Just everything. You can ask any team, that's a great place to go.
I've had great success. I don't want to jinx myself. I always think when I go to a good track, I don't want to talk too much about it. It's always been great to me. I'm hoping I can just repeat.
Q. You said you lived up there. You lived in Cupertino.
RON CAPPS: Yes. My wife, I met her, she lived there. I lived in Mountain View, Palo Alto, a couple different spots when I lived up there.
THE MODERATOR: Ron, thanks for your time. You are all set.
RON CAPPS: All right, man, thanks.
THE MODERATOR: Greg Anderson, winner of the last three Pro Stock World Championships. He's back in first place again. He's in first place by two points as we reach the halfway in the season over teammate Jason Line.
You won the first event this year. You've led the series wire to wire. Can you talk about Pro Stock this year. It's been crazy. Eight different winners to start the season. You have six drivers right now within six rounds of first place. Seems like you throw a dart every week. Can you shed some light on that class, why it's been so close this year?
GREG ANDERSON: It is pretty incredible. The best way I can describe it, there's been a lot of, lot of teams really, really step up their program in the last year. It's funny. We as racers, usually we can get a feel by the time we get to Sunday morning, who has the best chance of winning the race. We can't do it any more. There's so many good cars right now. You don't know who is going to qualify No. 1. It's a crapshoot who makes the best run of the dozen cars that are capable of it. The same thing on race day. If you qualify on race day, you absolutely have got a great shot of winning. So many great cars right now.
It's kind of been tough on us. We really (indiscernible) tough cars, everybody is so even, we don't have the advantage we had over the last couple years. We're pressing harder, trying to make that perfect run every time, which we didn't necessarily have to used to do. Usually when you do that, you make a few mistakes. Everybody is pressing hard in this class right now. Everybody is running well, but at the same time making mistakes along the way because the competition is so tough. You're pressed to make that perfect run every time out there or you're going to get beat.
It's really, really interesting right now for the fans, for the media. It's also creative for us as drivers and as team, and especially me coming up the last couple three years where we had kind of a cushion on the field. We don't have that cushion any more. Now it's down to we have to execute perfectly. Bottom line is we haven't executed perfectly since Pomona. We're lucky to still have that point lead to be honest with you. Too many first- and second-round losses where either I didn't do a good job driving or the car didn't perform like it should have. Any time you're going to make a mistake in this class right now, you're going to get beat. It would be easy to say everybody is screwing up and nobody wants to take the points lead. It's not necessarily that. Really a lot of guys are doing a great job, so many guys doing a great job, everybody is able to beat anybody any more. It's just wild right now. I guess that's what everybody wanted. They want parity. We have parity in this class right now. It should be very exciting for everybody, except for us the drivers.
THE MODERATOR: Greg, talk about the western swing. Very favorable to you in the past. Talk about your mindset going into these next three events.
GREG ANDERSON: It's been very good to me. Really, we've passed the halfway point in the season. Got 12 races down, 11 to go. Before you realize it, you're past halfway. You come into the western swing which is very, very tough on everybody. Three really very different racetracks. Denver, which is completely a one-off deal. By the way, I'm up here in Denver right now testing. I think there's about a dozen Pro Stock cars up here right now. We're all testing for the race here because it's so different, it's so tricky to figure this place out. Through the western swing, you have three completely different races. You come here, it's a one-off deal. Then you go back to sea level at Seattle, cool temperatures. Then you go to Sonoma where you have sea level conditions, a lot of times 90 degrees. Just completely different scenario every time.
It really comes -- it's really come down to crunch time now. It's too late to wait any longer to make your run. It's the time to make your run. If the guy can come out of the western swing with a points lead, if you look at stats from years past, he's probably going to be the guy with the best chance of winning the championship.
Two years ago we swept the swing. I think we won only one of the three races last year. Still we started running good on the swing last year and really that was our propel for the rest of the season to perform well the rest of the year. Very, very important. That's why we're at Denver right now testing. I think the swing will make or break a lot of people's season.
THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions.
Q. You went from a dominant year last year. Now you're looking over your shoulder. Did all these guys catch up or have you slowed down? What do you attribute the parity to this year?
GREG ANDERSON: In reality I guess if I look at it, we've been trying to figure that all year, too. Basically the rest of them have caught up. It's so tough in this class to keep your technology to yourself. We probably broke through to a few things that other people hadn't in the last couple years. We were able to hang on to those secrets, those breakthroughs for a while.
It just seems like you can't keep it to yourself forever. Things leak out. The more things leak out, I lost a key engine shop guy, my head engine builder I lost the middle of last season, went across town to Victor (indiscernible) team, brought a lot of technology, secrets with him that we had. Now you have those things to another team. Things leak from that team to other teams. That's how things happen. You just have to be able -- if you look at Pro Stock cars, people laugh at why we always cover things up. We cover our engines up all the time. We cover the backs of our cars up, our suspensions up all the time. We have covers over our intake manifolds. People think, what are you crazy, why do you have to do that? It's so tough and so dog-eat-dog, you have to be careful with all your stuff. Any breakthrough you make, any secret you find, you have to hang on as long as you can before it filtrates through the class. Really we've have a lot of that filtration in the last six months and it shows. Everybody stepped up to basically the same level as up performance-wise, power-wise, and how it comes down to executing on the racetrack. They've also raised their game. They've paid a lot of attention to our team, how our team operates. I think I have a very professional team with a lot of great guys working on it, a couple of great crew chiefs. People can kind of sit back and watch the formula and see how it works out, a lot of them have copied that formula. A lot of people have bolstered their teams with key people, they have learned how to work together as teams. That's kind of what we showed them. I guess we created our own worst enemy. We showed everybody how to do it, now they're doing. It's really up to us to find a way to make that breakthrough again and get back ahead of the pack. Right now we're a little bit stagnant it seems. They've caught us. It's up to us to find another way to put some ground on them.
Q. What areas are you working in now that you feel can give you the advantage that you had in the last season?
GREG ANDERSON: Well, obviously our generation three engine, we're still working on that. We still haven't debuted that. We still have high hopes for that. Haven't been able to spend enough time on it because of the way the season has gone. We haven't been able to abandon the current engines we have and just pay attention to the new ones because we're in such a tough points battle. We have to keep chiseling at that. If we get that up to speed, I think we can make some gains again. We're probably going to debut another new car when we come out here to Denver. I debuted a new car here last year at Denver. That's when things kind of took off for me last year. Hopefully we can make that jump in the next month or so, maybe even on this western swing, and never look back.
Q. As tight as it is, there's not much room for experimentation.
RON CAPPS: There's not. That's the tough part. You can't abandon the things you've got that have gotten you this far. You can't slip up at all. You get in kind of safe mode, think we're going to have to execute better, do a better job of driving. We haven't done that so far. We have to change that, make better car runs with our race car, got to do a better job of driving, both Jason and myself, chip away at that new engine. Hopefully in another month or so we'll have an edge back.
THE MODERATOR: I'll let you get back to testing. Sounds like you need every minute you can have out there.
GREG ANDERSON: Pretty interesting. About a dozen of us up here. Like every national event, every doggone team is within 3/100ths.
THE MODERATOR: Good luck. We'll see you in Denver.
GREG ANDERSON: Thanks.
THE MODERATOR: Angelle Sampey, you currently have a 28-point lead over Andrew Hines, who is the current and defending series champion, obviously coming off of a critical victory over Andrew last week in St. Louis. Some notes on Angelle. She has won three of seven events this season. Angelle has won 40 career events, that's first among females in NHRA POWERade Series history, tied for eighth among all drivers in NHRA POWERade Series history. Angelle is currently second and five wins shy of catching Dave Schulzt for Pro Stock wins in NHRA POWERade Series history. She's also won championships, championships in 2001, 2 and 3.
Angelle, that's my question for you right there. How far do you allow yourself to look ahead this season? When will you start thinking about adding a fourth World Championship?
ANGELLE SAMPEY: We came into the season thinking about that. It's been like the past couple of years, I wanted to get my fourth championship. But this is the first season that we actually start the season off the way we need to, to finish it off No. 1.
The last few years we've had a rough beginning, caught up somewhere in the middle, did really well at the end. By that time, it was just too late to get the points. I mean, we've lost the championship in the last couple of years by just a couple of rounds each time. We're trying really hard not to let that happen this time. Anything can happen. Lots can change from the middle to the end of the year. But at least being in the lead, you do have the advantage going into the second half of the season. We're hoping to hold on to it.
THE MODERATOR: Eight events left in Pro Stock Motorcycle Series. Where are we going to see the differences? What are kind of the things you should look for that are going to separate yourself from Andrew or Chip in the second half of the season?
ANGELLE SAMPEY: Well, first of all, in Denver, it's going to be really tough for us. That's just like Craig was saying, it's a tough tuner's race, even more so for our Suzukis. We still aren't running the fuel injection like we wish we would have been by this time of the year. We're not ready for it. That high altitude -- it's a lot easier for the Harleys with their fuel injections to get what they need to get done to win the race.
We're going to be struggling at that race, hopefully not as bad as we're expecting to be struggling. I'm sure we will be a little bit. We're going to try to race better like we have in the past couple of years. That's how we've won races, by racing better instead of having more performance or more of a horsepower advantage.
I think when we get to Sonoma, it's going to get back -- being back a little bit to a better of a level playing field for us. Our Suzukis should run really fast there. If the weather conditions are right, you should see quite a few sixes, both with the Harley and also the Suzukis. After that, it should be pretty cool, pretty normal for all of us. Redding, Pennsylvania, we always do well. That happens to be the best racetrack for me for some reason. I think I've won like six or seven out of the 10 years I've been there.
It's mainly just staying consistent, trying not to hurt any engines. It's really hard when you do break something, our crew chiefs have worked on them for so long, try to get them right. If we break something, have to start all over again. That's been important to us, not push too ready hard, so we don't break anything, we can keep running for the rest of the year, just racing well. Of course, as you know, battling these red lights, trying to keep it green is going to be a good key in who is going to win this championship as well.
THE MODERATOR: Getting off to the fast start this year, three wins in seven events, what do you attribute that to? What has been the biggest reason for the turnaround this season?
ANGELLE SAMPEY: I think we actually came into the season a little bit more prepared than we have the last few years. That has a lot to do with my crew guys. They worked really hard this off-season getting the bikes ready. What they actually did was took both motorcycles and completely stripped them down to the bare frame and started all over again like they were building brand-new motorcycles. They came up with lots of wonderful ideas of how to avoid little stupid accidents, wiring problems, mechanical problems that are some little piece that breaks. They redesign lots of things, just put all new stuff on the bike, came up with ideas to make things easier for us to fix during a race if we're having a problem.
I think them going back to the basics is really what made the difference. Everybody's looking for that extra one horsepower every day. I don't think a lot of people go back and just -- back to the basics and rebuild.
We had lots of wiring problems last year that caused us to lose races. Little, bitty actually funny wiring problems. We went back and we saw that the body was pinching one of the wires, caused a short. We lost two races because of it. It was something so stupid and so minute. We never took the time to go back and look at all those little things that you don't think might be a factor in winning or losing. So we did that.
I'm riding an older motorcycle, but it's like a brand-new bike because of what they did to it.
THE MODERATOR: Angelle, looks like you can start getting prepared for the thin air in Denver.
ANGELLE SAMPEY: Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: Folks, that concludes today's mid-season POWERade Series points leaders teleconference. Thank you all for joining. We look forward to seeing you along the way on the road to the 2006 POWERade Series World Championship.
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