Interview with the Pros: Craig Treble
By NHRA Communications
He finished second in the 2002 Pro Stock Bike point standings and while he may have come up short of earning his first NHRA POWERade championship, Craig Treble did have a career-best season of competition. He snagged the first two event victories and went on to win four races in six final round appearances. Treble is driven to win even more in 2003. He has worked throughout the
off season preparing his new Matco Tools Suzuki and wants this to be his championship year. The Pro Stock Bike category opens the 2003 season in Florida at next week's Mac Tools Gatornationals at Gainesville Raceway. In this Q&A session, Treble talks about what it is going to take to knock Angelle Savoie out of the championship race, why he gets better every season and why he can't stop bracket racing in his spare time.
Q: What do you think about the 2002 season considering you had such a good year, but still finished in the No. 2 spot?
TREBLE: It was good and bad. As far as feelings, we were totally happy with our performance and the new bike and the Vance & Hines motor. Everything was good there. As a team, however, we are still maturing and we made some crucial errors. We went out in the second round five times and that pretty much was our Achilles tendon last year. We definitely need to improve on going more rounds and that is why Angelle is the champion and we're not. We shot ourselves in the foot less than we did in 2001, but (crew chief) Calvin Aswege and I are still learning and we are learning together. Calvin is loyal to Pro Stock Bike and me and I am as well to him. Calvin and I will be together for a lot of years. We'll learn more together as we go and hopefully we'll get a championship.
Q: What will it take to keep Angelle Savoie from making it four consecutive titles in 2003?
TREBLE: We had a winning record against her. We beat her three out of five times. Unfortunately, nobody else did. I said this on the Internet and its true - people have got to step up. I'll tell you what, this year is looking more promising for that because Geno Scali is going to be on a Suzuki, Andrew Hines is a hungry young lion whose dad happens to be Byron Hines, the world's best engine builder. This class is going to be pretty interesting this year. I don't know what is going on with (Shawn) Gann, but I am sure he will be back strong and Antron (Brown) and all the other piranhas will still be there. They just need to step up and take Angelle out.
Q: What is it going to take to win races and the 2003 NHRA POWERade Pro Stock Bike championship?
TREBLE: Winning rounds. It is very simple, you have to go one at a time, and win rounds. One of the problems we are having is that I think I am less consistent now than I have ever been. I think that is due to the fact that I have not been bracket racing nearly enough. That is why that shiny black Hayabusa is sitting outside of my trailer. When I am not riding my Pro Stock Bike and I have a little time on my hands, I am going bracket racing and I don't care where it is. Wednesday night in St. Petersburg, Florida, I don't care where it is, I am going racing and I am going to get more seat time. Last year I made about 160-170 passes total. That includes Pro Stock Bike and bracket racing. I did bracket race four times last year. But this year I would like to get 300-400 passes under my belt. That's how it used to be. I used to make at least 300 passes a year. I would be out racing every Friday and Saturday night. I raced my guts out. That's what it takes.
Q: How does bracket racing help you in your Pro Stock Bike events?
TREBLE: Seat time is very important. But I will tell you another thing that is crucial. Even on a Friday night, the $10 gambler is good for you. Nothing is better than seat time and competition rounds. You're a different animal when money is on the line and it all matters. You get more focused and sometimes you act a little differently towards the tree or whatever. Competition rounds is awesome and helps you perform better on race day.
Q: What's the biggest difference between bracket racing and Pro Stock Bike drag racing?
TREBLE: The actual racing? I think bracket racing is tougher. There are two ends to bracket racing. You have to tear that tree down and then you have to race on the other end, you have to hang a wheel on somebody. Or dump them. You have to make some split decisions at the top end. Pro Stock Bike racing? You try to hit the tree, but you are more focused on trying to hit your shift points and being smooth. So there are a lot of things going through your mind at the starting line and sometimes you are not always on the tree. Sometimes you set the clutch up differently for certain track conditions and your reaction times suffer. As far as going down the track, you are focused on your shift points in Pro Stock Bike racing. In bracket racing, you have to ask yourself whether you hit the tree or missed the tree. If you missed the tree, you have to feed that guy the stripe. You want to dump him because you don't want to breakout, but maybe you make him breakout. There are a lot of things going on in your mind. It's easier going down track because the shift points are coming so much slower and they are easy to hit and the bike is always going to go straight because it is so slow compared to the Pro Stock. But there are a lot of things going through your mind relating to the top end.
Q: Describe yourself in two words:
TREBLE: Hungry racer.
Q: What do you want to accomplish in 2003?
TREBLE: I think that is pretty simple. I want a POWERade championship. That is what Matco Tools wants, that's what we want. That's what everyone wants. That is why everyone is out here chasing that rainbow.
Q: What advantages does your team have over the rest of the competition?
TREBLE: We've got, I think, the best sponsor in the class. Matco Tools has sponsored us from day one since they came on three years ago. We have Matco Tools as a company and all of their 1,300 distributors out there supporting us from all over the country. Every race we go to we have our own cheering section. Those guys are great.
Q: What were your off season goals and did you accomplish them?
TREBLE: This year we worked hard in the off season because we have another new chassis from (Sandy) Kosman and we have two new bullets coming from Vance & Hines. We completed the bracket bike, we got the old bike ready to do some preseason testing and got that into race shape just in case the new bike isn't ready to go down the track in Gainesville. We are still working on everything. We have tried to avoid having to thrash on the new bike the week of the race. Last year we were testing the day before qualifying in Gainesville. The new chassis we have coming from Kosman is pretty awesome and we will do whatever it takes to get the bike ready to race.
Q: Why did you get involved with racing in the first place?
TREBLE: I was brought up by a relative that raced motorcycles in the early '70s when the Z-1s came out for the first time. He took me out there when I was a young kid and kind of stuck that needle in my arm. Unfortunately I was too young to do it at the time. I raced bicycle motocross until I was almost 20 years old. I had a lot of fun, it kept me out of trouble, it kept me focused and I got hooked on racing. When I got old enough to start drag racing, I did. I was addicted from the start.
Q: Will we see the first six-second run in Pro Stock Bike history this year?
TREBLE: You might. Gainesville or Englishtown, maybe even Reading if it doesn't happen early on in the season. Angelle went the (7.049) in Englishtown, but I will tell you that I was in the other lane during that run and I ran an .09, which was my personal best. It doesn't sound like we are that far off, but you have to keep in mind that those conditions when we both ran those numbers, which was the fastest side-by-side bike race ever, those conditions were absolutely perfect. We had tailwind, we had a barometer that was out of this world. It was overcast, it was 65 degrees and the humidity was low. It was perfect. You have to hit those conditions again to hit that 6.999. It might be the girl, it might be someone else, it might be us. Who knows? I'm not really worried about it. It would be a nice feather in your cap and $10,000 in your pocket (for being the first member of the Mickey Thompson 6-Second Club) but we are after the POWERade points championship and that's what we are focused on.
Q: What is the best thing about going into 2003 after the year you had in '02?
TREBLE: We know we had a career year, but we also know that we can do better. In fact, the best thing is knowing that we could have done better last year and that's what makes us strive to prove it this season. That is the beautiful part about drag racing. You can take a guy like Warren Johnson. Has he ever had the perfect pass? Absolutely not. I guarantee that. There is always room for improvement in drag racing. Everybody is working for that. You can ask Angelle about her .049 pass that she made and I guarantee she won't say it was a perfect pass. Everybody will tell you that even on his or her personal-best runs, there was something that could have been better.
Q: What is the key to keeping your sponsor happy and how have you maintained that relationship?
TREBLE: I am a people person. I like people and that doesn't hurt. Performance on the track is obviously going to be a big aide in your sponsorship program, but you have got to take care of those people. You have go out like we do on the (Matco Tools company) trucks and meet the people who sell and use the actual products and thank them. You also have to take care of the media and keep yourself visible. There is a lot to maintaining a good sponsor. There are a lot of people who are out there trying to find sponsorship. I was so lucky when I got hooked up with Matco. I didn't have a PR guy, I didn't have anything. Calvin and I were just two good ol' boys from Chandler, Arizona out there racing. I was spending every penny I had in racing and I was thinking I wouldn't have enough money to retire until I was 682 years old. Then Matco came on board and things got a lot better. Things were tough before that. We were just in the right place at the right time. The sponsorship gods fell upon us that day.
Q: Describe your relationship with your crew chief.
TREBLE: The Iceman? If you watch him on TV, you will see that he never shows emotion. I have seen him do one interview, he just hates talking. Calvin likes to speak with his actions and he does that. He does an awesome job and he is very focused. He is the silent but deadly type and I am the vocal obnoxious one. Calvin and I think alike - as far as the racing goes anyway. As far as life in general, Calvin usually looks at me and rolls his eyes. When we are out here, under the Matco Tools canopy working on this bike, we are thinking the same things all the time. Half the time we don't have to talk to each other. He does what I was thinking and I do things he was thinking. We do communicate, don't get me wrong, but most of the time it is very smooth working between us.
Q: What is your dream race? Where are you racing and who do you beat to get the victory?
TREBLE: Everybody wants to win the U.S. Nationals. It is a Mac Tools race and I am a Matco kind of guy. But we went to the final round last year of the Matco Tools race in Englishtown and most of the distributors of the company are at that race. It's a huge Matco event and everyone comes out of the woodwork for that event. To win that race, I am getting goosebumps right now just thinking about it. To win that race would just be awesome. Englishtown first and the U.S. Nationals would be second on my list of dream races, but they are real close to each other. I would want to race whoever is sponsored by Mac Tools, and beat them for the win.
Q: What do you do beside race?
TREBLE: Why does everyone keep asking me that? To be honest, not much. I eat, breathe and sleep this racing stuff. If I am not working on the bike, or washing the truck or reorganizing the trailer or bracket racing or anything like that, I am watching TV and that happens about twice a year. This is a full-time job. I worked in construction for 15 years before I got into racing full-time to the point where I'm at right now. I am working harder now than when I had to carry around a 70-pound tool bag on my back, climbing up and down a wall. I used to be a carpenter and I worked my tail off. It paid well and I was in great shape. It was an awesome experience. It was always a satisfying thing to be able to walk away from the job, look at what you did and be happy with the results. This drag racing thing is very hard work. There is always something that can be done and I love it. I would do it for free, I love it so much. I did race for free for a lot of years. I'm getting paid pretty good right now to do what I love by Matco and all of our associates and I consider myself to be an extremely lucky guy. There are about 10 million racers out there who would kill to do what I am doing and I am just fortunate enough to get out of bed, have goosebumps and pinch myself.
Q: Would you like to see the Pro Stock Bike schedule expand from the current 15-race schedule?
TREBLE: Yes, I want to race at all 23 national events. I don't get enough racing as it is. I would like to have about four more guys on the crew preparing the bikes with a killer shop in the Midwest. Unfortunately that is a Top Fuel budget and that is not realistic for a bike team right now. Maybe one day it will be. If we get all 23 events and get a little bit more TV time then corporations will step up and start throwing more money at us because I think we give them a good bang for their buck. More companies need to step up and start sponsoring these Pro Stock Bike teams. We are professional racers, we put on a good show and you can see that in the way the spectator count went up 10 percent in Sonoma (Calif.) this year when we showed up at that race for the first time. Obviously the fans like it and we love it. It will happen one day, and we will be at every national event. Hopefully it will happen during my professional career.