GLENDORA, Calif. -The NHRA will launch its 52nd year of championship
drag racing when two 6,000-horsepower Top Fuel dragsters approach the
starting line during the K&N Filters Winternationals at Pomona
Raceway, Feb. 6-9.
Here are some preseason thoughts from some of NHRA's top competitors.
Larry Dixon, driver of the Miller Lite dragster and 2002 Top Fuel
champion, on not taking anything for granted when it comes to winning:
"It takes the same effort to be champion that we gave last year. I am
really focused at the race at hand. I am not thinking about anything
beyond that. I am just not (ready to think of a repeat) yet. I am excited
every time I get to race. I've driven enough nags in my lifetime to
appreciate the Secretariat that these guys are giving me."
Brandon Bernstein, driver of the Budweiser/Lucas Oil dragster is
approaching his rookie season and replacing his father, six-time NHRA
champion Kenny Bernstein: "With any rookie, there is a learning
curve. I have a lot of advantages with having (crew chief) Tim Richards
and my dad with all the experience and knowledge that he has. Knowing he
is going to be right there with me, teaching me things that he has
experienced really helps. It's an amazing deal. This ride here is one of
the top rides out there. There is a little bit of pressure there, but not
"We want to go out there and win a POWERade championship. That's a
goal that I have set because I know this team is capable of doing that. If
we win some races along the way, then that's great. It's one of those
things that we are going to be out there and we are going to try our
hardest every time. Hopefully we will win races and be contenders for a
Doug Herbert - driver of the Snap-on Tools dragster - on being a
contender for the 2003 Top Fuel championship: "We all feel good about
the new season. I'm excited about Ron Douglas being our new crew chief and
being able to work with (tuning consultant Jim) Brissette again. We
definitely have a good combination and a good crew to make a run for the
championship. We are probably in the best position we've been in to start
a new season."
Del Worsham - driver of the red Checker Schuck's Kragen Pontiac
Firebird was the only driver in the top four of the 2002 Funny Car
standings that didn't come from John Force Racing - on ending the John
Force championship streak: "I know a lot of us have said this every
year for the past three or four years, but I honestly believe we're about
to see the toughest competition ever in the Funny Car class. Whether
anybody can end the John Force dynasty is just something we'll have to
see, but I can guarantee the jockeying for the top 10 positions in the
POWERade point standings is going to be fierce.
"There are far more good teams than there are spots in the top 10,
nonetheless the top five. Maybe the best thing about that is that the
pressure to win is going to spread across the whole category and as a
group, we're all going to be pressing the Force camp."
Johnny Gray - driver of the blue Checker Schuck's Kragen Pontiac
Firebird, finished in the top 10 of the Funny Car standings in 2002 for
the first time in his career - on earning his first victory: "I've
done a lot of stuff in race cars and won a lot of races over the past 34
years, but I have never won an NHRA race as a professional. I'd be lying
if I said I don't have that exact item in my sights for 2003. We have the
resources, we have the team and it's my job to be the driver that gets
this car in the winner's circle."
Gary Scelzi - driver of the Oakley Dodge Stratus R/T - on making a
return to full-time Funny Car racing: "To be with a stellar team like
Schumacher Racing is like taking a bottle of No-Doz. I can't sleep at
night. I am absolutely thrilled to be with Oakley, (crew chief) Mike Neff,
and Don Schumacher. This team is ready to rock. We worked together in
Phoenix during the test session like we have been together for years and
that is rare. I think there is a lot of chemistry there and that is what
you need to have results."
Jeg Coughlin - driver of the Jeg's Mail Order Chevy Cavalier and 2002
Pro Stock champion - on making a run at the title in 2003: "We're
definitely exited for the season to start. We have worked extremely hard
over the winter and when everyone makes their first shout at Pomona, we
are going to be ready to make a stand. That race is going to set the tone
for the rest of the year. We're going to see more than one person qualify
for all of the races. We are looking to adding our names to that list and
I think we are capable of it. I think there is going to be exciting racing
this year in Pro Stock. We certainly feel like we are going to be able to
defend our championship."
Jim Yates - driver of the Splitfire Pontiac Grand Am - on looking
forward to the 2003 Pro Stock season: "I'm excited about having a new
car. The Grand Am that we ran last year had approximately 800 runs on it.
I felt like we wore it out. We may start off a little slower this year
since we have a newer car, but I think we have more potential and a large
part of that is due to having a guy like (newly hired team engineer)
Donnie Gardner. Donnie's a thinker and doesn't mind looking outside the
box. You take (crew chief and son) Jamie's ideas and Donnie's ideas, put
them together and good things are going to happen. I'm really excited
about where we may be able to take this program with the additional
Ron Krisher - driver of the Krisher Racing Chevy Cavalier - on keeping
his record streak of qualifying for 70 consecutive races alive in 2003:
"It's a heck of a streak and something we're all extremely proud of.
Especially when you consider the closeness of Pro Stock racing and some of
the guys who didn't qualify last year. We dodged a couple of bullets last
year ourselves. There will be more good cars and teams racing this year
than there ever has been, so keeping it going won't be easy either."