National Hot Rod Association Media Conference
October 19, 2010
THE MODERATOR: With only two races remaining in the schedule, less than 100 points separate the first and second place drivers in all four categories in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series. Joining us on the call today will be our first and second place drivers in the Top Fuel category, Larry Dixon and Cory McClenathan, and our first and second place drivers in Funny Car, Matt Hagan and John Force. We will have a brief introduction of each driver, then open it up for questions from the media.
Cory has had a spectacular 2010, posting wins in Phoenix, Charlotte and Seattle and has kept his Fram Dragster in the Top 3 points standings all season long. But after a final round loss to points leader Larry Dixon two weeks ago at Toyota Tires NHRA Nationals at the Maple Grove Raceway, Cory's distance grew to 89 points.
How do you and your team battle back from the heartache you felt just two weeks ago and get back into the hunt for a World Championship?
CORY MCCLENATHAN: Well, obviously that one round would have certainly made things a lot easier going into the last few races.
But you know, 89 points is still not insurmountable. It's still a doable thing for me as far as I'm concerned. If Al-Anabi, if they slip up at all, you know, or if Larry has a bad day with his car, then we are going to be right there when it goes into Pomona.
Obviously it's hard to go out there and say, well, let's qualify one or two, and we have got to wait until the finals to race each other. It's going to be kind of up to other people to do my dirty work for me because obviously we want to qualify well in the field. We want to get those little points as well as the bigger points; to be the quickest car each session in the qualifying. There's some good points to be had right there and it might make a difference come Pomona.
We are going to go in business as usual, go out, get qualified, go for it Friday night, and then let everything kind of speak for itself on Sunday. Larry and I have had talks a lot in the past, we always like to leave it up to the cars, let the cars speak for themselves and that's what we are planning on doing.
THE MODERATOR: Larry has had an impressive season thus far with a perfect final round record of 12 wins in 12 final round appearances which includes three of the four races in the down the to the championship. He took over the points lead after his win in Las Vegas in April against Cory McClenathan and has held it ever since.
Larry, you're padding your points lead with your win in Redding two weeks ago. How do you keep your composure and winning ways heading into the final two races of the season?
LARRY DIXON: Oh, for me I just try to keep my head down and just worry about the run in front of me. It's great to read the stories that everybody is doing, but at the same time, I need to just pay attention to what we are doing with our car and our team and just try and make every run as great a run as we can and hope that's enough. Keep it simple.
THE MODERATOR: We'll now move on to Funny Car drivers.
After failing to win an event in all of 2009, John Force has comeback strong in 2010, winning the first race of the season, the 50th Annual Kragen O'Reilly NHRA Winternationals and following it up with wins in Charlotte, Las Vegas and Bristol.
John held the points lead for nearly the entire season until a first round loss two weeks ago at Toyota Tires NHRA Nationals dropped him down to second place. He now sits just 64 points behind first place driver, Matt Hagan, with two races left.
John, it's been an impressive season thus far. What do you need to do to move back into the top spot and win your 15th World Championship?
JOHN FORCE: Well, No. 1, I have got my daughter, Ashley, still trying to shoot, you know, for this championship, and Beckman's still got a shot. But at the end of the day, we can't count on Hagan to make mistakes. Too good of a race car with the tuners they have got and the financial backing that they have got from Schumacher. And the driver's good.
So we have to come home and make change. First of all, you can't allow errors and we had an error on the race car first round. And we have addressed that.
But we try to look at why Hagan's car would run and our car wouldn't run. And basically, the weight factor is the thing we found as the biggest problem, even though he's much bigger than me, the Schumacher cars are light.
So we put our car on a diet. I guess we have taken like 40 pounds off it. So we have got to go into Vegas, scale it, make sure it's right. We have got to do everything we can to gobble up the points like he did at the last race. He did everything right. We did everything wrong. And the fact that Cruz was able to get him in the final, it still kept our hopes open.
So some of the good news, the national event artists, bad for us that we couldn't run for it in that late session. We only ran 450 and we ran the 01. We were trying to get qualified. We have to get in on that first session so we can get in on that session.
The good news is the error is supposed to be a whole different front than we thought in Vegas that we are going to have, even with the altitude -- that record is still out there and I need every point I can if I'm going to catch this kid.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks, John. We'll now move on to our Funny Car points leader, driver Matt Hagan.
Matt's third season in a Funny Car has been more than just a Cinderella story. He raced to his first career win in Funny Car in Houston, and then followed up with wins in Chicago and Dallas. After setting a national record for time at the recently completed Toyota Tires NHRA Nationals, a feat that secures a driver 20 bonus points, empowering his Diehard Battery's Dodge Charger to the final round, Matt moved from second to first in the Funny Car points standings.
Matt, you had a storybook season all year long. What do you need to do to finish that story with a World Championship?
MATT HAGAN: We have had a great year all year, and you know, I can't say enough about my guys and Tommy DeLago tuning the race car. That Force camp over there is a first-class operation and John, he's a World Champion for a reason.
We can't make any mistakes. We have to go out there, do some good, solid racing, go some rounds. I don't feel like we have to set the world on fire but we need to go some rounds and keep kind of matching John round for round, and it will hopefully fall the way we want it to. This drag racing, you never know how it's going to end up.
Q. Cory and Larry, when was it that you guys went to lunch, and who picked up the check?
CORY MCCLENATHAN: Well, you know what, I'll go ahead and do that one. You know, I'm storing my car over at one of Larry's shops, so it was kind of one of those, hey, I'm going to bring the car over, drop it off. And hey, while we are at it, let's catch up and go to lunch.
It's funny because Larry paid the check, and he said: "You know, I probably made a little bit more bonus money than you did last weekend."
And I remember laughing thinking, okay, you got me there.
So as we were walking out, he said, "You know, we can probably do this a couple more times, I'm hoping to be able to pick up that check."
I said, "Well, I'll be trying my hardest to make sure I get to pick up the check for those next two." We'll see how it rolls when it comes down to it.
Q. Is that this week that you guys went to lunch?
CORY MCCLENATHAN: Last week.
Q. And a question for John Force. What's it like to come down to championship battle with a driver like Matt who is young enough to be your grandson?
JOHN FORCE: I always try to find a way, try to get my head again, the kid already has me with my back up against the wall. I always try to look things happen for a reason. A good driver, I saw his emotion when I couldn't make the run there first round, and you know, he ran over to me at the end of the track and said, hey, I'm sorry, I didn't want to see it happen this way, and I liked that attitude.
I liked -- you know, maybe I watch too many movies but I when see movies about, you know, the warriors in the old days, they have got a dollar in the battlefield, they want to die by somebody worthy. And he wanted to fight the fight. And he didn't want me going home because I had some dumb mistakes. I told him, hey, that's all part of the deal. Hey, we made the mistakes and you gain on it and I'm hoping he'll make mistakes but he doesn't make too many. Not as a driver that I can find, and the car is just -- it just seems to have the magic.
But I went and saw a movie over the weekend, Secretariat, about a young racehorse that just talked him in the round and I have to look over the years that they called me Seabiscuit because I was so old and it was Seabiscuit that made a run that came from behind. It's just a movie, but my life has been about dreams. Seabiscuit went to California and won the last two.
Well, I've got to make a stop in Vegas, too, first, and that's what I'm going to have to do, I'm going to have win two races if I'm going to get this guy. The air is coming in and we know there's going to be a shot at maybe the national record, if that doesn't -- a week ago, Neff told me no national record in Vegas, altitude is too high and sessions are not at night, but if we get a cold front, I'll get that shot that he got to get that record and gobble up some of them points. And then every round you've got to run hard because he picked up a bunch of points on me there. I think he got points every round, and I got him in one session. So, that's what I'm up against.
Q. With NASCAR, it's like, okay, which two drivers are going to try to crash the other one out. A lot of comments directed towards their competitors are not the nicest in the world. Listening to the four of you, it's a whole different world. You guys respect each other, aren't afraid to say it. You like each other; you're not afraid to say it. Is that just the drag racing community? I mean, you guys seem like you're going into this hunt where you sure want to win it, but, there's positives to be gained if the other guy does. So could you guys maybe comment on that? John, you can go first because you're the oldest.
JOHN FORCE: I've had the media say, you know, and the PR people, this is bad for ratings. You guys got to get in each other's face, and every time I ever got in somebody's face I got a $10,000 fine.
And it's kind of like, you get mixed emotions here. But at the end of the day, I've seen drivers die out here, you know what I mean. And I've seen people on fire and I've seen Hagan shoot the body into the air and I stand there praying, is he okay, yet I know he's in the points Chase.
At the end of the day, I don't know why they do what they do in NASCAR. But I know in this world, I don't want to see anybody get hurt, you know what I'm saying. I want to race the safest we can, because I care about these people. Probably the only friends I got. I've got a helmet that sits in my museum with a big set of horns on it that says diehard that comes from this kid.
He did it because he cared. He was doing something, so -- I don't know, I just can't seem to find the hate that they seem to find in NASCAR, and if that's wrong, I don't know what to say. But by the way, earlier, you said on a serious note, I was being serious, about going west to California.
Might have thrown in Seabiscuit, but at the end of the day, I dropped ten pounds off myself, I have a few pounds to go to get to where I want to be and still trying to figure out how his car runs and stays light. But we are bringing a racecar with no paint on it. We are putting letters on it, we are going everywhere we can to lighten the load. You are not going to see me fight with nobody unless somebody gets in my face.
Q. First time in two years, you've been in the car for two years, your first time leading the points and late in the season, two races to go for the championship, how much extra pressure are you feeling?
MATT HAGAN: You know, I think there's definitely pressure the whole season. It was pressure to get into the Countdown. It's pressure to try to win every race.
So you know, obviously, there's extra pressure. I mean, you've got a camp like force and my teammate, Jack Beckman right there knocking on the door. Force has led the points all year long and we just got lucky enough to take that lead over.
But these points change so quickly, I mean, one day you're on top and the next, you're sitting second or third or fourth. And you know, so we're glad to have them but right now we have two big races ahead of us and I think that we are just going to treat them like every other race and just we are going to go out there, try to get it past the first round and what will be, will be.
So I will try not to add any extra pressure on myself. Obviously it's there. We just have to step up and do what we are paid to do and that's drive these race cars and have fun doing it.
Q. John, after your devastating accident in Dallas, to be in the position that you are in, right now, how excited are you to be able to have that 15th championship in sight and in reach?
JOHN FORCE: You want to get it, naturally. You know, it's funny but in a light time, I've been real lucky. I've got a lot of chances to win. I did. I took every opportunity, against great drivers like Ron Capps and just over the years, the guys, Hopp and kids that I fought with -- and luck is a big part of the game.
But at the end of the day, the investment that auto clubs made, and Castrol, and 25 years with Castrol, Ford Motor Company, all of the money they spend on engineering studies.
I want to clarify, when we drop the weight on our car, we didn't drop any safety. We looked at the things we could do, driver, as much as I've been in the gym, I tried to build muscle and I built body weight and I'm trying to take some of that back. But at the end of the day I've got an opportunity here because with Mike Neff leading the charge in tuneup with Austin Coil and Bernie Fedderly; I may not have a car that's as good next year.
And I'm not young, so I know my day of going downhill, you know, I'm not in the -- I can't go out and arm wrestle with Hagan. I can't get in a fistfight with Hagan, and you don't intimidate a cowboy. I know the game. I've seen this kid. I've studied him on the farm with his bulls. I've met his lovely wife, a little gal that plays piano. I'm starting to understand where he comes from.
So I've got a competitor here that I've got to keep my nose clean, do what I do, and take every opportunity, and weight is the only place -- and a few mistakes that I think that we are missing. I just can't figure out, this kid's big enough to run full back for the Green Bay Packers, how the in hell is he carrying all that body weight. I can't seem to figure it out. So we are making changes and I just hope we don't go the wrong direction. Hell, maybe my car needs more weight, because he sticks his foot in places, you know, that we can't do, and we are trying to figure that out.
Did I answer the request he? I forgot what you asked.
THE MODERATOR: You did, John, thanks.
Q. Larry, you've been a champion before, what kind of experience, are you relying on that experience of those championship years to kind of keep you focussed and motivated for this time around?
LARRY DIXON: Well, first of all, I didn't get a chance to say it yet, but I just want to -- and I probably can speak for all of the drivers on here that our hearts are hurting for the Jeff Berg family. We lost him over the weekend and he's a big supporter of drag racing, you know, running the Bristol track, but before that for years at Winston and he carried the banner for our sport for a number of years. And we're just sending our condolences out from Al-Anabi and Allen Johnson and the whole team.
But to get to your question, I guess this is what we all, you know, live and dream for is an opportunity to race for not just race wins but championships. You just -- you try every week to do your best, and some weeks it works out and other weeks it doesn't.
But you know, for me, I can't try any harder at these next two than I've been trying every week, every race, every year. If you go up like it's the final round and all of the chips are online, and it's only the first qualifying run, you put it all on the line for that run.
So when you get an opportunity to get in that position, it's no different. At least in my head. Everybody has got a different way of motivating themselves. And I've worked with a lot of great crew chiefs and obviously working for Snake and now Allen Johnson, you know, but crew chiefs, too. Dale Armstrong and Wes Cerny and now Jason McCulloch, Dick LaHaie, and working around these guys, there's things that they can feed ya to help ya and guide ya along. I've learned something from everybody I've been around and you hope what you bring to the table is enough to get it done.
Q. You have got 14 titles and you've been in this business for a long time, considering the adversity that you've overcome the last couple of years, do you consider this to be your greatest achievement in the sport?
JOHN FORCE: You know, probably my greatest achievement is my daughter, Ashley. Watching her every day, the explosions, two of them that she went through. She was shellshocked at Redding, and getting out of it, "Where am I in the points, Dad?"
I said, "Boy, you look busy, like you can't even stand up and you're wondering where you're at in the points."
But just to put a woman into that position, that was huge for me. You know, even though Shirley Muldowney had done it and others had done it. I always looked at Funny Car as a different animal. It takes a guy like Hagan, big and strong to muscle that thing, and could a little girl do it, and she does it well.
Me, when I laid in that hospital bed, I just wanted to race again. They kept telling me it was over but when I came back, it wasn't good. My kids were growing up seeing me when I was winning, but now they are in the sport and now dad can't hit his tail end. I have a lot of reasons but the biggest reason is this economy; we are in almost a great depression that Seabiscuit raced in, and at the end of the day, people need to be entertained and I want to be part of that.
If Hagan takes me out, I ain't going to like it, but I'm going to shake his hand and he'll do the same to me, because it's what we do. It's good to have a job in this economy. But if I can't prove that I can comeback and win, then as much as I want to win for my family, for the fans, for my sponsors, and for myself, that I've got to be real careful here. If I can't deliver as a driver, I'll be replaced, even though I own the car, because when you take away the money, then you can't drive.
And then when they start thinking that I can't compete, and I was looking real good all year, until Hagan did all the damage on me. So you know, luck is part of it but you make your own luck and right now I'm in a fight right now to keep my job. And I'm going to give that kid everything I've got but I've always played the game straight up. If I can't do it, I can't do it and that's why we addressed everything from tune-up, who has got mental problems, is anybody on too much medication, and where are the problems. And I will not give up my safety because I know a lot of the things that we run other teams don't run, and that's why my Ford's are dump trucks.
They are heavy. So we went back because in the economy we can't afford to put lightweight bodies on it. We run them until they are packing too much weight. I said go home, throw the bodies off, get band new ones, don't even paint them, put the decals on them and let's send them and see if we can do what Hagan did to me at Redding, and that's get every point that's on the table.
If it wasn't for Cruz, he would have got it all. I show respect where due, and earned that right at Redding, but he's got two races to go and my daughter and myself and Robert Hight, we be in the thick of this.
Q. Larry, how does it feel to be the one who is in line to finally end Schumacher's streak?
LARRY DIXON: I think Cory would have something to say about that. I think I'm no different than everybody else. Tony has been on a run for the past half a dozen years and not just me; everybody in Top Fuel has been trying to take him down a spot or two, and it hasn't happened. But we are going to keep trying and you keep plugging away, and you know, there again, you hope it's enough, but you just keep trying. It hasn't happened yet. He's still got a No. 1 on the car and he will until somebody does and we are going to give it our all in the next two.
Q. Obviously you are paid to win, but you have the opportunity to knock off a guy who is arguably the most popular driver in the whole sport. Have you thought about that? Does that enter your mind? Do you think about that possibility?
MATT HAGAN: You know, absolutely. We have a job like you said to do with this diehard Funny Car. But to be able to race John Force, first of all, is an honor and to be able to win against the guy is something else, you know what I mean. He's got a great racecar and he's got a lot of strong cars running against us. Back to kind of what he was saying about weighting stuff, my teammates, we are all running the same stuff and they are all little guys, too. I keep telling Ron, you need to eat some more but I'm just messing around.
Anyway it would be huge to be able to win this championship, and you know, to beat John Force, at this deal, too, it's huge, you run a guy, I look at what he's done for the sport, and obviously fan favorite.
So it's just awesome to run him and we have a great racecar with this Diehard car, and we are just going to line him up and let the cars do the talking. I like how Force is straight up, no games, and that's how I race, too. We just let the cars -- the cars will finish it out and it will be what it will be.
We just got to go up there and basically just race our race and not worry about who is beside us.
Q. Just wanted to ask Larry, what the difference is between racing for Snake and racing for Allen, how are they different as people, and what will it mean in your opinion to Allen, to get this done after leaving Schumacher and starting his own operation and kind of taking a bit of a risk there and to get this done if it happened. So if you could answer those two for me, that would be great.
LARRY DIXON: Well, first, racing for snake and racing for Allen, they are both very motivated and very driven to win. They just -- second place really doesn't do a lot for them but they have both got -- they are polar opposites from how they go about it.
Snake is very hands-on with the team and each person and the people and Allen, he relies on the guys to handle their areas.
So from that standpoint, there's not as much interaction that goes on with Allen. You know, great guy and just there again, I'm very honored to be a part of this.
Sheikh Khalid, he had this goal of his, you know, a long-term goal to build championship, winning teams, and you know, we almost even got it done in the first year. So but second, I think Allen is obviously in a better position as far as being in charge, you know, managing our two-car operation.
So I think it's -- I would assume it would be better, he's more in control like he was when he owned his own teams previously. You know, when Selsey (ph) drove and obviously with his brother, and racing the Alcohol cars and Top Fuel cars.
He would be better suited to probably answer that question, but I think, you know, just probably being more in charge and in control.
Q. I think some people might be surprised in the fact that you say Allen isn't that hands-on. A lot of people are under the false impress that he's the pseudo-tuner as many people consider the greatest tuner of all time in Top Fuel, so people might be surprised to learn that he never doesn't really get in there, you know, between rounds and tell what you to do on the car.
LARRY DIXON: He relies on his people from that standpoint. I guess where he's hand on is the manufacturing side of the things, with AJPE. He manufactures, you know, the blocks, the heads, clutches and manifolds and fuel systems and clutch systems, and probably sells to 75 percent of the teams out there, the same parts that are on our cars go on other cars that we compete against. So from that standpoint, you know, our cars, sometimes it's a test model for components that he eventually goes out there and sells.
But as far as the micromanaging and in the middle of everybody, he doesn't do that. When I had trouble driving the car last year, and he is just -- he wasn't in there. He has driven cars, but he wasn't in there telling me how to do it or anything like that.
He's behind me 100% and just got to sort things out and get it done. But he was behind me 100% and he let me know they are in this together, what we have to do, let's make it happen and I was just -- all of it did was make me feel bad, go out there and try and do better for the team. We got things sorted out and you know, the rest is history.
Q. Matt, in Fort Worth, there's a big history of cattle ranching and taking care of livestock and all that. I didn't know that was a part of your background in Virginia until you got on the scene. Can you give me some background about your family business, how big the operation is and how much you do hands-on at the ranch and a little background about your racing -- before you got to the NHRA big time, how you got through the ranks.
MATT HAGAN: Texas has been good to me, first of all. We won Texas, Dallas and Houston, so got my first win there in Houston. I told them when we won Dallas, we ought to try to buy some land down here or something.
Farming, I've always been around horses and cattle growing up and stuff. And then I kind of come across some land and had the opportunity to farm it aggressively, and actually make a little bit of money doing it. I'm never going to get rich farming but it's a rich, honest, hard-working job and it's the kind of work I like to do.
Run about 300 cattle. We have all feeder cattle and we sell calves when they are about 600, 700 pounds. I take them to the market, then weigh them, grade them, sell them out west, wherever there's grain or whatever to put another 600 or 700 on them and sell them to a packer to slaughter. It's an all-grass operation. No corn, just alfalfa and millet. We'll plant crops and stuff like that, but mainly we calf twice a year and we calf out 200 calves twice a year.
Between keeping them alive and putting up feed over the winter to trying to play daddy back at the house, I haven't had a whole lot of time to worry about racing that much. It's something that kind of works for me as far as being able to come back home, decompress, let it all go.
What I do out here is definitely strong back, weak mind kind of stuff, so I don't have to think a lot about it. Just get out there and relax a little bit. But, you know, it's just -- it just works for me.
Q. Can you talk about your drag racing career before you got to Schumacher?
MATT HAGAN: I started off Bracket Racing a four-wheeler. I didn't have enough money to buy a racecar at the time. I had a family friend come over and he said, you know, you need to come to drags with me, and I went and had a blast and didn't have a car at the time. But I had a four-wheeler and he started loading his four-wheeler up in the back of his race car trailer and took me up there, and Thursday night, when they were doing testing tunings, we would run four-wheelers.
Call it beginner's luck or what, I got in the final first time I got a four-wheeler in Bracket Racing and I was hooked from there. Bought a Chevy 2 Nova with a flat stick and started winning a little bit there and got a taste for winning. And you know, I started to -- wanted to go faster and faster, and one thing led to another. I got a little bit of local sponsorship on the car, you know, and they started -- we started racing a little bit, started to branch out a little bit, and next thing you know, you step into a Pro-Mod and get corporate sponsorship on the car.
Well, at the time my sponsor called me up and said, look, kid we love what you're doing, but we want you in a fuel Funny Car; you're going to drive it or we're going to find somebody else.
I said, absolutely, let me go out here and get licensed, drove the car, obviously the economy turned bad and sponsor went away and we funded out of our pocket for a year and got on board with Don. He said, "Let's crunch some numbers and see what we can work out."
Long story short, it's been great. I been fast to get here, but I wouldn't have it any other way. You have a guy that you're racing like John Force, I grew up watching this guy, he's a legend, and to be able to go out there and race the guy, is something else. I mean, I never would have dreamed me and him would be hunting out a championship here. Pretty cool, for me, anyway.
Q. Without giving away any secrets, what would you tell young, aspiring drag racers? What would help them most be most like John Force?
JOHN FORCE: To be like John Force? I don't know if anybody wants to be like me. I have loved it all these years, when I was driving truck when I was a kid, when I was just out of school, and trying to raise a family, I would spend my weekends down at the racetrack. There was days I stood outside of Lion's and I didn't have the money to get in. I just was caught up with these Fuel Funny cars back from the beginning. They were Fuel Coupes and ugly and mean-looking things and it was just a turn-on and it just became a dream.
You have to chase a dream. You don't chase it for a paycheck. You don't chase it just for a championship. I mean, I always said, I dreamed, to do a burnout for Tom the Mongoose, never thought about beating them. Just wanted a photograph; and every week you follow the paper, just the hope that you would get in that drag news.
And then it became national dragster, and you just want to be a part of that. To say, one, he's smarter than me, get an education and only thing I don't know about my race cars are computers and the stuff that they do now, because you've got to -- inaudible -- Hagan was talking he found money; I talked to his dad, sharp cookie and that's why they work with Schumacher. Schumacher, it takes money to run these teams and at the end of the day, if you can get a good education, that will help you find the money if you want to own your own team, or even if you want to drive for someone, because you can bring money to the plate as part of your negotiation. So many kids have.
And the rest of it is, do it because you love it. Do it because you love the fans. And the dream is a journey and I'm still on that journey. I don't want to get off this train. I don't want Hagan to knock me off this train so I'm going to keep punching away.
Q. What do you think you have that just kind of comes along the lines of what John Force has?
MATT HAGAN: I think that you have to have a passion for the sport. You're not going to get on a plane and go 30-some weekends on the year doing PR stuff and racing and everything else if you don't love what you're doing. It all comes down to like John said the other day in qualifying, you have to have the heart for it.
You've got to want it. You've got to dig deep for it and you have to have that burning desire to go out there and you have to feel it in your gut that this is yours and this is what you're going to work hard to get; whether it's this year, next year or ten years from now you're going to do everything that you possibly can to be on top. And you've got to have that burning desire to win. I mean, you know, some people, they like to go to the races. They like to show up and just be there. And others come to race. I think that you have to be that guy that wants to be there that has that burning desire to win.
Q. Larry, I followed your career and you've always been one of the most composed drivers out there from your first blow over to the last engine explosion. You seem to be a lot more relaxed and confident in and out of the car this year. Is there a reason for that, that we can see it?
LARRY DIXON: Oh, I don't know. I think just you spend 20 years at one place, and it's going to take you a little while to find your position within the group. But I think, you know, with Jason and Allen, running our team, it's just -- it's a great team. I just really -- I'm happy to be there. I got a shot at winning races and obviously competing for, you know, for sure a championship this year.
And it's just having a shot at it, but being -- I don't know, you know, through the years, I guess that's maybe just my personality. I don't know. I just know a lot of years that my dad -- my dad raced for a hobby. He drove Top Fuel cars; 8 to 5 during the week, and on the weekends there was a bunch of tracks in southern California you could go to; or you could drive to Indy and other places. But you would drive through the night to get back to work to keep everything going.
But there were guys like Snake out there racing and they didn't have to go through the -- they didn't have to go home to their jobs. That was their jobs, and I just thought that was the neatest thing in the world and that's all I ever wanted to do since I was a little kid, and where I'm going with this, is, having the opportunity to do that, I just feel lucky.
I feel blessed to have a shot at doing that. And not just for one or two years for a number of years, being able to do that. You know, I feel very fortunate and this isn't a -- this is still a -- I'm trying to gather the word.
I don't feel that this is something that's owed to me. I just feel lucky to be able to still do this for a living, and so I just appreciate it a lot, every day.
Q. Cory, you've been at this for a long time, you have a multitude of wins, you're in second place again, but you're doing this with really a new crew. This is your second year together, how good does it feel to be in this position with a new crew?
CORY MCCLENATHAN: From my standpoint, great. Obviously the biggest reason, because the whole crew on the Fram team came off Funny Cars, so when they came into Top Fuel scene, it was all new for them and last year, and I have always said, guys that have been working on fuel funny cars find that they have a little bit bigger of a tuning window when this comes to the clutch and they find they can throw more at it and get away with it.
I just think with the Funny Car, it's more of a fine-tuning thing and there's more room in a Top Fuel car that you can get away with, and I see that with Todd Okuhara and Phil Shuler. I thought they did a great job with that.
We made great strides at the end of last year, but like what John Force is doing right now, we wanted to lose a bunch of weight and we did that with our car. And now it's a weight where we can go race it and we can put the cameras on it, because that's another 15 pounds when you start putting cameras on cars and that adds a lot to it.
We can go still race it and have it be a good, raceable package. But I think my guys have done a great job for the last two years, and I look forward to sticking it out with these guys and trying to win championships with them. Because I do think they have what it takes.
But I mean, I'm surprised, too, at the same time, we see the same thing going with Larry and the whole Al-Anabi team. Allen went over there; the guys went there from Schumacher. The only difference is they had all been working together, so I can certainly understand where you would see that.
Kind of the same thing with Mike Green and the guys that I had with me on the Fram team and they went over to Tony's car. It's all about the relationships with the drivers, the crew chiefs and the guys that you surround yourself with.
I've always said that and I'll keep on saying it, because that's really what it takes to go out and win championships. You work with the same people all the time. You start switching up drivers and crew chiefs and everything else, you start fading back, and it's hard to take two steps backwards when you've taken ten forward.
So you know, my -- I certainly think my guys have done a great job and to put us in a position like that. Still have a shot at the championship, I certainly think we deserve to be here.
THE MODERATOR: We would like to thank our drivers for joining us on this conference call, as well as media from around the country.
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