National Hot Rod Association Media Conference
January 28, 2009
THE MODERATOR: There are a number of compelling story lines as we get underway next week, not least of which will be the transition of NHRA's series entitlement from Coca-Cola's PowerAde brand to its Full Throttle energy drink brand. PowerAde's sponsor began in 2002, and Full Throttle will be the title sponsor at least through 2013.
In the weeks and months ahead we look forward to sharing with you the many exciting plans Full Throttle has to activate around NHRA which will be the first and only sports marketing play for Coca-Cola's premier energy drink.
The 2009 season begins next week, with the 49th running of the Kragen O'Reilly, NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona. And NHRA will celebrate the start of the season with a parade of vehicles from the track in Pomona through to downtown Los Angeles back to Pomona on Monday February 2nd.
Details of the parade, including the timing, route and participants were mailed, emailed and faxed yesterday. Please contact NHRA communications if you need a copy of that advisory.
Joining us on today's call will be the central figures in the wild silly season in top fuel. We'll begin with drivers Tony Schumacher, Larry Dixon, and Spencer Massey. And at the bottom of the hour, I'll introduce team owners Don Schumacher and Alan Johnson.
I'll begin with an opening statement from each driver about the many changes that have occurred in the last several months and what to expect in 2009.
First, five time reigning Top Fuel Champion, and 2008 Driver of the Year, Tony Schumacher. Tony, share with us your thoughts when you made your final pass at the Auto Club Finals in November. And you knew you made your last run with Alan, ending one of the all time great driver crew-chief partnerships in NHRA history? And bring us up to speed on how the U.S. Army team looks heading into 2009?
TONY SCHUMACHER: Going into Pomona we had an awesome opportunity to be the winningest team in the season in all the four categories. It was a little bit of a letdown when we got beat. It was just an outstanding race, and hated to end it that away, but thoroughly enjoyed the season, you know.
I think most people kept asking us, you know, with Alan leaving after Indy, how are you guys keeping it all together? And we had such a great team and such a great combination of people working together, it was exciting every race, and every race was another challenge.
I think our team has always been the best under that kind of pressure. We were always a great high pressure team. And when that last run, when my win light didn't come on, it was a little bit of a letdown. It was sad to end it after the awesome success we had as a team.
But you know, I felt relieved, and I felt really grateful just having five years with such an amazing team. And I think that's what people have to keep in perspective with all the people asking, What are you going to do now? And how are you going to handle yourself?
It was an amazing run. And all teams end at some point, all great combinations and groups of people end. But that doesn't mean the winning ends that just means that group and that situation. I feel blessed and I know my father feels blessed to have that situation, and it was an amazing run and amazing gift to be part of something like that.
With that being said, we'll move forward with Mike Green tuning the car and a new group of guys, and we made it right away in testing. I feel fortunate that my father's more than capable of putting together an outstanding race team. Hiring the right guys and letting us do our jobs.
So I look forward to the challenge. You know? I look forward to being able to race against Alan Johnson and have big moments lying ahead.
I think the fans with as many less teams as we have, I guess, the fans being able to see some monumental runs this year, they're going to get their money's worth showing up at each of the NHRA PowerAde and Full Throttle series races. It's going to be a challenge.
I've always said, even when he was my crew chief, I've always said it's about the challenge, not the trophy, not the money, it's about sucking it up, digging it deep and making it happen.
So I look forward to getting it started.
THE MODERATOR: Next up, Larry Dixon, who will be driving for a new team formed by former US Army crew chief Alan Johnson. What are your thoughts you had such a successful partnership with Snake, and what should we expect in 2009?
LARRY DIXON: I had a great time at Don's for the number of years that I was there. All total between crewing and driving, I was there for 20 years, so that's half my life.
Really exciting. Thrilled that we went out and won the last race of the season. I mean, what a way to go out and end the year in that fashion. We moved from fifth going into the final Sunday fifth in the points, all the way up to second. So we did everything we could do at that given moment and now it's 2009.
Got a great opportunity driving for Alan Johnson and his Al-Anabi Racing team. And really looking forward to the challenge.
Obviously everything that Alan touches, he's had a lot of success with, but it's more than just 2009, it's a long-term program, and I'm very excited to be a part of that for the years to come.
THE MODERATOR: I'd like to introduce Spencer Massey who will be driving for Don Snake Prudhomme. Spencer, share with us your thoughts as you prepare for the rookie season under the guidance of one of the all time greats in the sport. And coming on the heels of a six-time champion and two-time champion, who you'll be competing against in 2009?
SPENCER MASSEY: Well, first off, I'm very honored and blessed and excited to be in the position that I am. You know, being in the spot that drivers are where they are right now. As a rookie guy coming in, being with Don "the Snake" Prudhomme is something I've always dreamed of.
And a team like this, like Larry said, they went from fifth in the points to second in the points just on that Sunday, and this team is very capable of going out there and taking a run for the money at the end of the season. I just need to be on my A-game and do my job. You know, the car is very capable of taking the win lights.
THE MODERATOR: Good luck to all three drivers this season. Questions for the drivers.
Q. Larry, when did you decide to leave Snake after 20 years? Did you know that you talked to Alan Johnson beforehand, or did you know there was going to be a seat available with his new team?
LARRY DIXON: Alan announced what he was doing for the 2009 season at Indianapolis and didn't really get into any serious conversations with him just knew there was an opportunity there if I was available. So I wasn't really sure if it was going to happen or not. And just able to put a deal together with Snake where it worked out great for him and myself and, obviously, Spencer and Alan. Everybody's where they want to be.
Q. Larry and Tony, you sort of alluded to this a little bit earlier. But you're both in long-term situations with the teams that you were under. How much has this change really given you a spark and a new perspective on the season that's coming up?
LARRY DIXON: Well, for me I'm certainly excited. You know, Alan's got a plan for 2009, but he's got a two year, five year, and a ten year plan. And him wanting me to be a part of that is certainly one that's flattering, and two, it's very exciting. So I'm looking, obviously looking forward to, you know, this upcoming season and the years ahead forward from here.
TONY SCHUMACHER: For me it's the same thing. It was awesome to have Alan Johnson tune the race car and have more than just have an outstanding team to work with. But I look forward to the challenge again.
I look forward to building a team and motivating and doing what I do best, and keeping a team positive through the start of team. A lot of guys worked together last year, and the drivers will be different, and we'll have to get used to each other. It's a neat challenge, it really is.
Alan Johnson's the best in the world, and people always, always have said how much fun it is to race against us, because it makes you rise to your A game. That's the same for me.
Now being able to have a chance to run against an awesome crew, an awesome team and kick butt driver with Dixon. I'm fortunate that they put Dixon in that car, because it's going to be just a huge motivation to beat those guys and have fun. Let's face it. We have to rise on Sunday morning, we have to dig deep to win a race, and do it against a group of guys that are outstanding. We're going to have to build some strengths, maybe some of the guys on the team working before haven't seen. We're going to have to reel, really dig, and that makes you wake up in the morning and look forward to getting into the races.
Again, it ain't the trophy, it's what it takes to get it. We'll have to dig really deep, and we'll have to work as a team. I think we have a collection of crew chiefs and an awesome facility and group of people that my dad has put together. So I see no reason why we can't go out there and give it an absolute fantastic run for a full throttled championship.
To be able to go out there and have that number six in a row out there and have to do it in a very difficult way beating Alan Johnson and some other teams, there are a lot of great teams out there. We're not going to be the only ones battling in the Championship, but it will be great.
Q. Can you talk about how much Alan's presence kind of cuts the growing pains for a new team? And can do you feel like now you're getting some war secrets from what used to be the enemy and use them against Tony now?
LARRY DIXON: Yeah, I just -- Alan has a way of running his program just in the fact that he took Jason McCullough and Aaron Brooks. You know, Aaron crew chiefed for a few races last season on the funny car class. But Jason has been his sidekick for a number of years at DSR, and they promoted him to crew chief.
To watch these guys in two months time, I mean, they drove the rigs back to Brownsburg, dropped their keys off, cleaned out their lockers, and literally went across the street and built a team from the ground up without even a desk or a phone or anything.
So to watch these guys put together a complete operation like they did, and then go out two weeks ago, you know, and just start shakedown runs, I ran quicker and faster and the same for del on the funny car. He ran quicker than he ever had in the 1,000 foot. To see that happening in a matter of seven or eight weeks time, it's just phenomenal.
So to make a long story short, you've got to surround yourself with talent and Alan has certainly done that.
Q. Do you feel like this will give you a little headway in terms of cutting the gap against Tony?
LARRY DIXON: There's a lot of teams out there that you've got to look out for. It's not just Tony and Spencer. But we'll watch Antron Brown make the quickest run in testing the other day. Then the same thing with Brandon. He ran 323 miles an hour. So there are a lot of cars that you need to look out for.
So it's not just, you know the three of us here. There's quite a few cars. And then the Kalitta Team which hadn't done any testing with the dragster yet. They're going to be a strong team as well. You've just got to go out there and try to perform against everybody.
But obviously having Alan Johnson in your corner, I feel pretty confident about that.
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 your 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 lineup 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 snow ball 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 him 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 2 or 30 winter nationals, 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 shovelling 12 inches of snow out of my driveway, I'll be plenty excited to go to Pomona.
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. So, hey.
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 Donny 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 gelling. 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. This car is very capable of take eight 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 caps, 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 Wac 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.
Q. All right, thanks to Larry, and Tony and Spencer for joining us. I'm going to turn the call over to Alan and Don, and I'll introduce them momentarily.
THE MODERATOR: I want to thank Larry and Spencer and Tony for joining us, and wish them the best of luck this season. Next up, I'd like to introduce two of the team owners involved in some of the changes in the off-season, Don Schumacher and Alan Johnson.
I'll begin with Don Schumacher, the father of Tony Schumacher and owner of Don Schumacher Racing. Which in addition to Tony Schumacher will have under its direction this year, a second Top Fuel car, three Funny Cars and one Pro Stock Motorcycle entry.
Don, can you begin with an opening statement on the turn of events that began with the announcement at Indy? And bring us up to date on the U.S. Army program heading into 2009 now that you've had a chance to test with the new team?
DON SCHUMACHER: Well, the announcement of the events of Alan forming his own team that was made at Indianapolis really began when Alan and I first got together. That was always something that Alan talked about and desired to do was to be able to go back and create his own team and be a team owner again. That was known by me, clearly told to me by Alan, and understood.
So all of that was something that wasn't necessarily expected but certainly accepted on my part. I certainly wish Alan and the whole team success, except every time they pull up against the Army car or the FRAM car. We all look to go out there and win every race and every round that we compete in.
But as a person and as a family man, I certainly can only give Alan every accolade that he deserves and has accomplished. Not only in this sport but in life in general. He's one of the best people in the sport, and certainly a great businessman. His tuning ability speaks to itself. Alan is one of the best out there.
THE MODERATOR: You moved some of the parts from the U.S. Army to the FRAM team in terms of personnel the U.S. Army team heading into 2009?
DON SCHUMACHER: It doesn't appear the U.S. Army team has missed a beat at all. It's going to be a challenge to go out there and race against Alan when we raced with him in the past. We'll see how his new crew chief, Jason McCullough is able to do. But Jason's been No. 2 man for a number of years, and certainly has a lot of talent and knowledge and experience.
So it's going to be certainly a challenge. I look for the U.S. Army team to be in the heat of the competition all year long.
Q. Next I'd like to introduce Alan Johnson. The long time crew chief of the U.S. Army dragster who in 2009 will be in charge of his own team which will include a dragster driven by Larry Dixon, and a funny car driven by Del Worsham.
Opening comment from you when this deal started to come to fruition? And can you bring us up to date on where your programs are heading into 2009?
ALLEN JOHNSON: Sure, thanks. Appreciate the opportunity to speak with you guys. You know, I had a wonderful run there with DSR and the U.S. Army. It was something that I would never -- it's something that you just don't dream of. It's just something that happens.
I'll never forget the opportunity that I had there and the fun that we had racing together and winning all those races.
The middle of last year an opportunity came about to partner with Sheikh Khalid from Qatar and form the Alan Johnson, Al-Anabi team for 2009 and beyond.
And as our negotiations went on, the opportunity became more and more exciting as we grew. It certainly wasn't something I looked forward to making the announcement that it was going to break up that team over there. But this is drag racing and it's my life, something that I love to do.
The challenge of owning my own team and trying to win under the banner of Alan Al-Anabi is something I've looked forward to for a number of years.
We've put together a great team, we've got great personnel, two wonderful drivers, seasoned professionals. We're going to go out and try to create a top-notch professional race team and compete for a championship from the beginning of the year forward.
Q. Can you give us an idea what it's going to be like? There were so many great moments for you with DSR, the end of the season in '06 and '07 come to mind immediately. What will it be like the first time you're there in the staging lanes at the starting line not in the same lane at DSR, standing next to adjacent to it as opposed to next to Don?
ALLEN JOHNSON: I think we got a taste of that. We got to lineup against him a few times. But like the drivers said, you can't see the paint job when you're sitting in the car, and, you know, I'll be racing my crew chiefs will be racing. You know, the car in the other lane.
We're going to spend our time looking forward and the things that we need to accomplish and the things we have to do to get where we want to be. And we won't, you know, probably not spend a lot of time looking at the past. We're going to continue to look forward and try to get our team in a position, our U.S. Army team was in that great run for five years.
Q. Alan, your racing history is all about championships. Do you think champions have common traits and abilities? And if so, how has that made your job more effective? And how do you think it will help your future?
ALLEN JOHNSON: Well, I think you know the Championship thing is just a reflection of the dedication and finding the people who you surround yourself with that can help you do it. You can't do it yourself. I have to rely on the personnel that I've put together.
I think throughout the years winning the Championships and being able to recognize the people that can help me accomplish the goals that we set out to is the key here.
Q. Don, can you walk us through Phoenix last weekend, the test sessions you had with the U.S. Army team? Were there any runs that were particularly noteworthy?
DON SCHUMACHER: I wasn't really in Phoenix for that test session. I chose to stay back east with my family and actually enjoyed myself down in Florida rather than up in cold Chicago.
Today I'm actually down in Indianapolis in Brownsburg. And boy, they certainly did get a foot of snow down here. But the Army team performed at the level that they wanted to perform at. They came away from the test session in Palm Beach, Florida with high hopes and high expectations.
They left Phoenix with that same situation. They ran very good. All of the parts looked good, the team worked well together. They've certainly gotten to know each other and trust and rely on each other. Those were all of the keys to putting Tony together with a new team with Mike Green. Even though Mike Green's been in my organization for a year now, it was key to get them to understand and feel very comfortable with each other, and they accomplished those things in both of these test sessions down in Florida and in Phoenix.
Q. Alan, could you provide a little background in how this team is set up maybe in terms of funding? My understanding is that I guess it's being run by the Sheikh and everything, but do you have any other kind of sponsorship lined up as well?
ALLEN JOHNSON: Not really. You know, we formed a partnership between Alan Johnson racing and Al-Anabi Racing, which is led by Sheikh Khalid from Qatar. My responsibility in the partnership is to provide a championship caliber Top Fuel and funny car team. His responsibility is to make sure that the team is funded well.
So far everything is working wonderfully. Our testing has gone as good as we could expect after spending seven weeks putting the whole program together. So we're excited. We're looking forward to it. The people from Qatar are excited as well.
Q. As a follow-up, in I guess a sponsor driven sport like racing, there's not going to be plain brown wrappers or anything like that. They're going to have some kind of design to them, am I right?
ALLEN JOHNSON: Yeah, sure. We've designed the cars to try to represent the Al-Anabi, which Al-Anabi the English translation from that is Go Maroon. And their flag is maroon and white. And for seven years their brand recognition for a number of their sponsored sporting teams including their football teams and their -- even their pro mod teams has been Al- Anabi which is Go Maroon. It's almost like saying go USA, or go team USA for the Olympics. It's pretty much the same type of thing.
Q. What has been the biggest challenge that you've faced in the last seven weeks putting this team together in browns berg?
ALLEN JOHNSON: It's hard to pick one out, it's been quite a challenge. Fortunately for me I was able to put together a very strong list of personnel, including my general manager Chad Head who has devoted pretty much 100 hours a week to this project, and all the other crew members who have spent 12 hours a day plus getting to where we're at.
Just the challenge of logistics and having all the suppliers get our parts in time to where we can put this thing together is the challenge. Everybody's come through quite well, it's been exciting for us.
Q. You guys being the ones signing the paychecks here for the whole deal, how does this thought of a natural rivalry that you're obviously going to have this year. There are two of you guys?
DON SCHUMACHER: I'm excited about this season as far as the rivalry between Alan Johnson and Don Schumacher. I consider Alan a friend and, like I said, a great businessman and great family man. I'll always consider him that.
I don't really consider anything personal or on a rivalry basis against Alan. Like the drivers have said and Alan said, when you pull up to the starting line you really don't know who the car is and the other lane or who the owner is, you just look to try to win that round and go on from there.
So I respect Alan as a person, and a family man and look forward to racing any car that's in the other lane. And there's a lot of other teams out there that are going to be really tough this year as they have been in the past.
ALLEN JOHNSON: Well, I think if there's going to be a rivalry develop between the teams it's probably something that's going to happen on its own just from a pure competitive nature. I don't think there will ever be anything personal involved.
But if it comes down to we're number one and number two going into the end of the year, we're certainly going to want to beat each other. That is the nature, that is the reason we compete in this.
We don't spend this much time and this much energy creating a race team just to go out and have a good time together. We're competitive. I mean, we're both competitive. We had a great time racing together. Now we're going to be racing against each other.
But it's all about the competition to us. If a rivalry develops between the teams or the drivers, whatever, that's going to have to happen naturally. That's not going to be something -- we don't have it now, there's nothing there for us to be a rivalry about. We're going to be two owners going out and trying to compete against each other.
Q. Don and Alan, you guys are probably a couple of the best financed teams. So I have two questions regarding money. Number one, how do you feel about the limit to four days of testing? And how will that effect your budget? And secondly, you've had a year now to run in the 1,000 foot, and I've read you guys have said it's saved you some money. I wonder if you might comment on that?
ALLEN JOHNSON: I think Don can attest and my crew members over the years can attest that I'm not a real big fan of testing any which way. That's kind of what qualifying, we try to use qualifying for testing as well. There are occasions with the U.S. Army car did some testing while I was there, but it was never -- it was never anything consistent. We didn't test after every race.
I think last year we may have tested after maybe one or two races. So the fact that they're going to limit us to four days is not going to be an issue for my team. I don't think it will be an issue for Don either being that we've never tested much in the past anyway.
So as far as the 1,000 foot thing, does it save money? Certainly it does. Is it going to be better for our teams? I don't know that that makes that much of a difference. But it's certainly going to help the teams that aren't funds as well be more competitive. Because their smaller budgets will make them more competitive on a race day basis. With us, it should be a more level playing field.
DON SCHUMACHER: I concur with what Alan had to say. The testing situation is really that. Unless you have some new parts to test and some, you know, a new chassis, a driver to get licensed or something that's really different, we shouldn't be out there just running on Mondays to learn how to try to race.
So the Army car did not test much to speak of in all of the years that Alan was aboard. And the way Alan runs things, that's the way it is, and that's the way it should be. So I support the restrictions on the testing on Mondays after the races.
As far as the 1,000 foot versus 1320 feet the cars definitely run with less part damage running the 1,000 feet than the 1320 feet. I think it puts on a better show for the fans. Most of the teams. Of there's closer racing, or most of the racing is much closer than it was in the 1320 feet. I think it's a better show, a safer environment for the teams, the drivers and the fans. It's exciting as far as I'm concerned.
Q. Alan, everyone knows how the economy has taken a down turn. And you've announced your decision to start your team. I'm wondering in light of that, have you ever second guessed yourself for going into a partnership at this point in time? Or has the Sheikh given you a blank check?
ALLEN JOHNSON: , no, there's no blank check. We have an agreement. We have just like anybody else would. I tend to not second guess myself. I made a decision a number of months ago, and I will maintain my involvement and work as hard as I can to make it work. Now the fact that the economy has gone a little bit backwards, that's going to affect all of us, not just myself. And I just I can't second guess myself.
I think that the people that I'm involved with from Qatar are certainly feeling the crunch as much as anyone else, but on the other hand, I think they're going to do their best to make sure that we stay funded well enough to be a competitive.
Q. This whole thing for you running a team, when you kind of look back on your career, where did you envision yourself being at this point? And how close has this come to kind of fulfilling that dream?
DON SCHUMACHER: In 1999 and 2000 I had a race team with a funny car and a dragster. We lost our funding for both teams in 2002. At that point my dream and my goal was definitely to have my own team again. And I knew that I wouldn't be satisfied with either one funny car or one dragster.
So the fact that I was able to get one of each has fit the plan perfectly. Would we have more cars in the future? That's certainly possible. But, you know, this is kind of where I wanted to get back as a team owner.
One of the exciting things for me going forward is to be able to watch my new crews for both teams be able to compete on on their own, and watch them grow as crew chiefs and crews together and be competitive in the sport of drag racing. My rule would be to guide them and provide them with the tools that they need and try to turn this into a championship operation for years to come.
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