The following excerpts are from an interview with NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Pro Stock racer Allen Johnson, Funny Car drivers Cruz Pedregon and Johnny Gray and Top Fuel points leader Shawn Langdon.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you all, members of the media for joining us today. We are nine races into the 2013 season and we have some incredibly spectacular racing. We have got some great tight points battles going on in all of our classes. Today we are joined by four racer who is have enjoyed success thus far this season, Pro Stock racer Allen Johnson; Funny Car racer Cruz Pedregon; Johnny Gray and then Top Fuel racer, Shawn Langdon.
Talking about next weekend, the series will enter into a four race stretch, what some in the drag racing community have been calling the Eastern Swing, comparing it a little bit to the Western Swing that will follow in July and early August.
This four race stretch will go a long way to let drivers amass championship points and we'll start to see some contenders come out of this stretch. Joining us first today will be 2012 Pro Stock world champion, Allen Johnson who will be racing at his hometown track at Bristol Dragway. First off, thank you very much for joining us today, Allen.
THE MODERATOR: You raced at Bristol Dragway in the past, runner up finish in 2012. This season overall, Johnson has two wins, spent time atop the points standings and is currently third in points. Starting this four race stretch at your home track, does that give you a bit of extra boost of confidence going into that event?
ALLEN JOHNSON: Well, we always like to come home and it gives us an opportunity to sort of give back to all the people that let us go and do what we do all year, all our employees, friends and family and all that in itself lends to a little extra motivation here at Bristol.
THE MODERATOR: Does it lead to a busy cell phone during the course of the week, as well?
ALLEN JOHNSON: Yeah, busy e-mail, cell phone, everything. Everybody wants to come out and be a part of it, just one race. We try our best to not leave anyone out, and that takes a lot of our time.
Q. Could you compare what your expectations were at the beginning of the season to now after you've had this opportunity to go racing with teammates?
ALLEN JOHNSON: Well, you know, we've had two teammates before and one teammate the last couple of years. So you know, Jeg [Coughlin] is a very class act. His family is a class act and him coming on more allowed us to have extra opportunities for R&D and testing time. I think our expectations were high right from the beginning and I think we've lived up to them.
Q. And I remember taking a photo of you two guys doing a mock thing in Bradenton with boxing gloves on, have you done anything like that since?
ALLEN JOHNSON: Well, we duked it out in two or three finals this year. I think we are about even Steven on that. So he and Vince have both made me a better driver because they are both exceptional drivers, and if I'm going to have a chance, I'm going to have to do as good as they do. In one way, it's uplifting for me and a challenge.
Q: Earlier this year you were recognized by the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame as your team was sports team of the year coming off your championship season last year. What was that honor like for you guys?
ALLEN JOHNSON: Oh, that was just an awesome award. To be in the same room with a lot of those people that are not only from Tennessee, but they are national champions, too, in basketball and football, and Vince [Gill], and people like Brandt Snedeker in golf, just to be in the same room with them was awesome. It's pretty big deal to be an athlete in Tennessee.
Q: Talk about Tennessee, Bristol Dragway, you raced to a runner up finish there last year. What would it mean for you guys to come away victorious at that event?
ALLEN JOHNSON: Well, you know, it would be huge for two reasons. One, you know, for your family and employees and all the people like I said that allow you to do this all year and take care of you while you're gone. Another one, it's Father's Day and me racing with my father and close to my father, it's been an exceptional deal. Also, we were here last year in just a dead heat. We almost got it done last year and that fueled us for the remainder of the year and we are hoping to do the same thing this year, but come away with a win and fuel us for the championship race.
Q: We were talking about it is Father's Day weekend in Bristol, and you touched upon your dad. He's been such an integral part of your racing career, you guys have done a lot of things together. Is there one memory that really sticks out that you and your dad both have as you've been racing over the years?
ALLEN JOHNSON: It would have to be the first one in Richmond together in '99, and then the championship last year at the banquet when I brought him on stage and it was pretty emotional for both of us. That's just something you'll never forget.
Q: Pro Stock has been known as an ultra-competitive category out here. What do you think we're going to see going forward the rest of the season in this category?
ALLEN JOHNSON: Well, I think you're going to see more of the same. It's tight after the last couple of races, but Mike came out really strong the first of the year, but we've been able to make up a little bit of ground on him. The Summit team has been struggling a little bit but I expect them to be back. The great teams made some strides here lately and I'm part of the mix now, as is Erica (Enders-Stevens) and a couple others. So I think you're going to see a knockdown, drag out just like we did last year, and the person that can be most consistent in the Countdown is going to be the man.
Q: Has your team been testing very much this season so far?
ALLEN JOHNSON: You know, I think we have seen some good results and we are testing. I'm at Bristol right now, probably heard one of the guys come to the door and say we are ready for another run. So I'm going to leave this phone call and go jump in the car for another run. But we've tested a lot this year.
Q. Is there some point in the season like last season when you felt it was all starting to come together; do you feel that at all this year yet?
ALLEN JOHNSON: At the first of the season, we brought out a new car, and we struggled with it to be honest just a little bit. And you know, the three teammates, a lot of extra work, making sure we've got motors readily available. But I think we are starting to jell right now, so our team is right there.
Q: Talk real quick about Bristol, a unique track and surroundings. What's it like to race there down in the Thunder Valley as it has become known?
ALLEN JOHNSON: Well, you know, this is the mountains and this is where I live, so I'm very familiar with it. But just to be at home and all the friendly surroundings and the mountains and everything we enjoy every day just makes this place such a unique place. I won one of my first major races here in 1981 as a teenager, and it's got a lot of special memories. My dad won a lot of races here in the old Stock days and the people here are just really good people and just love coming home.
Q: Does it present any challenges with the atmosphere and conditions you'll see next weekend?
ALLEN JOHNSON: It can. This place can get really humid and hot and that's probably why we do real good in humid and hot weather. We do all our engine work here. Just to have all the people and camaraderie with family and friends, it has a little bit of drama, but to be able to block that out and go race when the time comes.
Q. I can't imagine you've been in a closer race than the final last year, just give me your thoughts of what you remember from that race and that final and how close that was.
ALLEN JOHNSON: Well, you know, the next few weeks of racing, we are very cautious, because you can get yourself behind in a hurry, but you can also do well and come out of this thing with a big lead, too. So we've got to keep stuff healthy. We've got to race smart. Got to be good to our employees; they wear out, and give them days off. We’ve got to get our stuff to race in a very safe fashion, so it can be very draining to do what we are doing. The race last year was just how do you explain it; it was the closest race in the NHRA history I think and it was the final and we were just on the wrong side of the bullet there. It was a great race and we knew it would be and we worked very hard and I'm sure we're going to do that a lot more this year.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much, Allen. We will now be joined by two-time Funny Car world champion, Cruz Pedregon. He's enjoying a resurgence for his team. He had two wins this season, two No. 1 qualifying positions and he's currently in third in Funny Car. Cruz has been doing double duty this year not only as a driver, but deeply involved with tuning of the car.
We talked off and on this year but how fulfilling has your success been with the current structure of your team?
CRUZ PEDREGON: Well, it's very fulfilling, but I must point out, I've had the same role for the last, well, since 2010 actually. I've had two different guys with the title of crew chief; and not that I want all the credit. But I know I have a lot of concern from a lot of fans and even some sponsors for that matter, that when we lose guys, whether other people hire them or whatever the case may be, that the car was going to change direction and maybe fall off performance wise, and I try to tell them, hey, guys, I make the decisions, I make the calls, and if nothing is going to change, we are going to keep on keeping on. So until we go out and do it, there's always that skepticism. So for me it's very gratifying. It's a lot of work, first and foremost, a lot of work, a lot of hours, but at the end of the day, it's the position I've been in. I didn't ask for this position; it was just something that came about. I've been doing it a lot of years, so I'm actually having the best time of my life. I mean, the fact that I can do this, and I can have performance on the track is the best thing that I can think of.
Q. Are you a strong believer in momentum and how does that affect your team and the mood and that kind of thing, how important is it? Sometimes when it slips away, it becomes even more important. Can you kind of define that for us?
CRUZ PEDREGON: Yeah, I wouldn't say strongly, but do I believe in momentum as far as our car seems to perform well no matter what part of the country we are in, whether it's sea level conditions or we are up in altitude or hot tracks or the cooler tracks, they all change and take a different setup. We maintain that performance throughout the process here. We are nine races in into the 24 race schedule, and so I wouldn't feel we have hit our stride yet but we've had some good races. Last week at Englishtown, I feel like that was our best performance race in three or four races and we came away with a second round loss. So I think that the momentum side of the original question is, the cars that are kind of already nudging their way up near the top winning races, I think those are the cars that are going to be there for the long haul, and in that case, I think the momentum is you may see one or two guys pop up from the bottom and can jump up there, but the (Matt) Hagans, the Johnny Gray car, (Jack) Beckman, certainly (Ron) Capps, and a couple others will probably be the guys that we are going to have to deal with down the stretch the rest of the way.
Q. Now that you've had two wins this season, how long did those wins last before you mentioned the work that you had to do to get right back at it?
CRUZ PEDREGON: Oh, man, I tell you what, it's really a confidence builder. It kind of gives you that confidence and what that allows to you do is it allows you to not be so careful and it allows you in your step and the car as a result benefits from that. Each win lasts us a few days. In fact, we go into these races now knowing that we can win and I know my guys feel pretty excited, bonus checks don't hurt, either. Wins definitely are a get well medicine without a doubt.
Q: You talked about trying different things and making sure you're always moving forward. How has your car responded to the changes that you've made these past couple of races?
CRUZ PEDREGON: Actually very well. I'm pleased that we have been able to make the adjustments on the fly and not fallen off too much. In fact, if you don't know any better, I would speculate, you would sit back and go, OK, these guys, they are just like everybody else, they fall off here and there but then they gather back up and then they go a couple good runs and then they fall off. So I would say that internally, we know what's going on and the changes we've made. I would say we've had a pretty fun, uninterrupted season so far. No doubt the couple of qualifiers we were down, I think a little bit the top half of the field, those are little signs that I can see where it's hurt us a little bit. But I think when we get back to race day, we are right back on it. In fact, Topeka, here is a good example. At Topeka, our only first round loss of the season, it was a broke piston that caused our demise. So it really was nothing that we were trying or experimenting with. It was just a broken part. I would say that we couldn't script any better, we would have a hard time doing that really, it's been good.
Q: Bristol is so unique, how much fun is it to race at that track?
CRUZ PEDREGON: Well, it's always fun to race there. It's a good looking place. They have got the mountains there. You know, it's a challenge up there, though, because you have some altitude up there in the Eastern Tennessee hills. I like it because we are going to get some temperature which I think is a good equalizer. It's a great track, but again, the heat, coupled up with the altitude, it makes it a little challenging more than other places to race. So you know, we look forward to it, and I think, really, we are starting a little mini stretch here, so you're going to really see some good races and points switching up a little bit here in the next, certainly that race, and then the three after that, three in a row or four in a row. I'm looking forward to it, looking forward to getting busy here and getting this show on the road.
Q: How do you communicate that to your team? You have your shop is based out in Brownsburg, Indiana. Do you have a lot of your equipment set up and ready to go for the next four events? Are you working towards that, maybe even two months ago?
CRUZ PEDREGON: Oh, yeah. You know what the schedule is and you try to budget wise, you try to purchase the equipment necessary and hopefully our season thus far has been uneventful in terms of parts attrition, and knock on wood, we have not in any major issues, just routine maintenance. So I think we are in pretty good shape. I heard Allen Johnson talking about your team and fatigue and that kind of thing, and that's always something we concern ourselves as owners. Fortunately we have the two rigs and we have the equipment that any of the other teams have, we have two drivers per rig, some we have three. So I think other than getting out there and racing in the heat and hopefully not having any major damages when we have to go back to the shop and rebuild anything major, I think we are in pretty good shape. We have been doing this for a few years now so my team is pretty geared up for that.
Q. Entering a stretch like this, four in a row, seven of eight, what's the key to you and how do you approach that mentally and physically to not only get through it but get some positive results, as well?
CRUZ PEDREGON: So, business as usual. I'll go in there and spend 20 minutes or so getting the setup to the guys and they will go out there and implement it. Sometimes like I don't even take off my fire suit. I leave it on and change my shirt and put my fire suit on, it's kind of funny.
Q. I guess when you're doing well like, this the season has been a success thus far, can you almost view it as a good thing where you've had a chance to go out there and race every week and keep this momentum going?
CRUZ PEDREGON: Yeah, absolutely. You know, it's easier for me, on one hand, it's harder because when you get in the car, you have to have a not think so much mind set. Out of the car, it's all about thinking. That's the only challenge. But I think for me, I would much rather have it on my plate or have it on my shoulders than anybody else's, because I know what I put into it and I know that I can take a day off here, a day or two off here and there during the week to get my batteries charged or rested up or whatever the case may be. So I feel like I can handle it and I feel like if it's not in my hands, then I would be wondering, in this business, hey, man, let's face it; I would have to be worrying about, A, is the guy focusing and doing the job; and B, is he planning on being recruited by somebody else to hire him away from me. So you always have those things as an owner but when it's me, it's good and bad, I only have myself to blame, but at the same time, I can keep the focus going where I think it needs to be.
Q: We talked to Allen, and Cruz, your family, the Pedregon name, is one of the most famous names in drag racing, your father and your brothers. Talk about Father's Day weekend coming up in Bristol, and is there a favorite memory that you have with your dad at a track, or is it just overall being able to spend time with your family through the years and how drag racing has brought everybody together?
CRUZ PEDREGON: Yeah, that's a good question. The only thing I remember about my dad racing was we were real little kids and I didn't really get to enjoy his racing. He retired at a very young age, and he had five kids to raise. And he wanted to go into business and he just completely forgot about racing and didn't even talk about racing and my brothers and I were stunned by that because we thought it was the greatest thing in the world. I lost my dad at 18 years old; he died in a plane crash at 41 years old. My memories of dad are very little racing and a lot about life and being there for us and teaming us right from wrong and how to take care of ourselves and try to take care of each other. He taught us a lot of life lessons and I always have a heavy heart when we race on father's days for sure because if it wouldn't have been for the tough life lessons my dad taught us, who knows where we would be. Certainly wouldn't be racing and competing for championships and racing like we are now. So I'm very, very grateful that I had my dad for a short period of time like I did.
THE MODERATOR: Cruz, thank you for joining us today. We have Johnny Gray, who is the Pitch Energy Dodge Charger Funny Car driver who has led the points during the course of the season. He has three wins this season which is a career-high for him, one to one qualifying position and second in points, 44 behind leader Matt Hagan. Talk about your season to date and are you surprised with the results that you guys have seen so far this year?
JOHNNY GRAY: You know, this season was going real good until that Matt Hagan kid came back around. I'm not too happy with him right now. No, it's going really, really good. Of course, this is my last year to drive, so the guys are, I'm not going to tell you that they are trying any harder than they ever tried, because they always try 110 percent. Maybe just a hair more driven because I've told them this is it, you know. But, gosh, there ain't nothing I can say. They have given me a great race car and all we have to do is just go out there and keep running like we are running and if we can pull that off, towards the end of the year, we are going to have as good a shot as anybody else.
Q: You joke about Matt Hagan, you faced each other in the second round, but still, you lost by I think by a two-thousandths, a great race; are you seeing a resurgence of maybe even Jack's car who raced to the finals and a resurgence of the Schumacher funny cars right now?
JOHNNY GRAY: Yeah, I think they are all running really good right now, and October will be right in our eye in just a heartbeat here. All of Don's stuff and all of the resources he gives us to run with and the camaraderie between all the different crew chiefs and thought processes and everything else, yeah, I'd rather run anybody out there than one of my teammates, because I know what they are capable of doing at any second. So, yeah, it's great; to have all that resources, I just wish they wouldn't use it on me when we have to run.
Q. On the same lines about that, having those teammates that sometimes come up and beat you, but could you talk a little about what the difference is, having three teammates or three of you sharing that information and taking that out, that really gives you maybe an advantage?
JOHNNY GRAY: Well, you know, first off, none of these cars are tuned exactly alike. Each driver is a little bit different. We do a little bit different things in the cars, and the crew chiefs, they will have a basic, what they are doing, but then they go off on their own little tangents to a certain extent. That is how we try to beat each other, you know. And so that all makes it real good. The beauty of it is if one of you gets lost, he can go sit down and talk to the other crew chiefs, and they will look all his stuff over and go, well, if it's mine, I'd do this, and the other will go, well, if it was mine, I'd do this. And when you have that, when you have that at your disposal, I think it shortens up the period of being a little bit lost. I think every crew chief out there gets maybe somewhat a little bit lost once in a while because the thing is just run on a ragged edge. If you get something just a hair out of kilter, it can take you two or three races to get back. And the beauty of being affiliated with somebody like Don's organization, where you've got all these brilliant crew chiefs; well, they will all sit down and go, well, I think right here is where you're off. So it brings everybody back together.
Q. And being that this is your last year, what do you feel like you're going to miss the most after you're not behind that wheel?
JOHNNY GRAY: The people, the little kids in the ropes back there behind the car when you're packing up the parachutes. And don't misunderstand me, the adrenaline rush in one of these things is unbelievable. I love to drive them, and that's the part I'll miss. The part I won't miss is the fact that if I decide I want to go fishing, I can't do it. If I've got something else going on, and here a while back, I was invited to go out on an aircraft carrier and spend the night and we had a race that weekend; I couldn't go. So there are other things, but, well, I'm going to have to wait and see how they compare to this.
THE MODERATOR: You talked about your chew chief. Rob Wendland has quietly become one of the better tuners in the sport and has quietly asserted his dominance so far this season. How has your relationship with him grown this year, and what are your thoughts on him and his tuning abilities?
JOHNNY GRAY: You know, the beauty of it is Robby and I used to run Alcohol Funny Cars and Dragsters and I always tuned my own car, and Rob, he was tuning somebody else's car. So we've been friends and acquaintances for a lot of years, and you know, so when Rob stepped in, you know, he's seen over the years what I've done and I've seen what he's done, and so we have the utmost respect for each other. When you start out like that, it makes it very good. We have a lot of faith in each other, so that makes it pretty nice on race day, you just get in, sit down, shut up and hold on.
THE MODERATOR: We talked to Cruz a little bit about fathers and sons, and obviously with Shane in Pro Stock and your dad in Pitch Energy. Can you explain Pitch, the card game, and your connection with your son and racing on Father's Day weekend?
JOHNNY GRAY: Well, the card game of Pitch, it's kind of comical, because typically the guys that come up and go, hey, we used to play Pitch all the time or we still play Pitch all the time, well, they are my age. The younger generation doesn't know much about the game. But it's just a game where you have high/low, Jack, joker game. You bid, everyone gets your hands and then you bid on how many tricks you think you can catch in that hand. And if you think you can catch five tricks, you bid five tricks. But the hand that's on my card is the card you'd better be sporting if you think you're going to be catching five tricks, and that's called a shooting hand.
My dad loved the game. The accountant called one day, we were setting up a new LLC and the accountant asked about our new corporation, what do you want to call it. And dad said, well, I don't know; think of something. Well, we are playing Pitch, so let's call it Pitch. My dad loved the game. He would come to the races, when I started running Fuel cars, he started showing up at the races there. He would bring up some of his cronies and we’d go warm up the car and they would go over there by the card table while we were getting ready and sit there and play a round of Pitch. He just loved the game and it's an honor to have him on the car and riding with us this year.
Q: What's it like to have your son out there in Pro Stock? You won and he came up a little short in a final this year. Is it nice to have that family connection out there during the course of a weekend?
JOHNNY GRAY: Yeah, we have a blast, and my younger son, Jonathan, he came out and ran for just a little bit and he looked at me and said, you know, I just really like the dirt cars. So, go run them then. I ran dirt cars for year. So he's still running the motor cars and running on dirt.
It's just, I've got two of my grandkids are now running the 600cc Sprint cars out there. So it's just great to have the whole family pulling together to do something. We are starting to get the Pro Stock car where it's coming around. We really struggled with it the last couple years and it's coming around. So that's another reason that I'm stepping out is I want to try to help that program go forward and you just can't really spend my time messing with it when you're trying to drive a Funny Car, you know.
Q: This stretch coming up, as a driver, how important is it for you to stay focused and what is your mind set going into this four race stretch here coming up in Bristol?
JOHNNY GRAY: You know, I'm two thirds ADD, so the best thing I can do is not worry about it until they put me in the car and then try to stay focused for that few minutes that they are asking me to do something. You know, it is hard on everybody but it's just part of the game. I worry about getting rained out as much as I do anything, because with the schedule we have got nowadays, if you get one of these big stretches going and then you have a rainout, well, then that really messes it up. But you know, go out and do the best we can.
THE MODERATOR: We'll let you get back to it and thank you for joining us today.
JOHNNY GRAY: Everybody, y'all come out to Bristol, we've got a big golf tournament out there for Father's Day, myself, both of my boys and one of my grandkids are going to play in the golf tournament, so we'll all be there. Y'all come out and say hey.
THE MODERATOR: We will definitely do that. Thank you very much, Johnny. Next up, we have our current Top Fuel point the leader, Shawn Langdon. He is enjoying a breakthrough season and it's his fifth full season in Top Fuel and he began his racing career back as a Junior Dragster in California. Thanks for joining us today.
SHAWN LANGDON: Appreciate you guys having me on.
THE MODERATOR: Glad you could make it. He leads the points for the second time this season following his third win of the year at Englishtown. You know, what's it been like this season for you in kind of a season where you're really starting to see a lot of the hard work and dedication of your team really paying off this year?
SHAWN LANGDON: It's been pretty good, just to see all the hard work starting to payoff. You know, last year was my first year with the Al Anabi Team, and I felt like we had a good season, to my standards. I finished fourth in the points and that was the highest that I have finished as a driver. But to their standards, obviously the team was built around winning and built around winning championships. So they were obviously looking to come into the 2013 season to improve on that fourth place finish. You know, we felt like we came out pretty strong in Pomona, starting off with a win, and we went to a couple race stretch where we had a couple little issues that we were dealing with the tune up, but these last couple races, we really feel that we got a good handle back on the car and the cars were responding very well to the changes that have been made in the last year and a half.
Q: You talked at Englishtown about what people were calling the little points, the bonus points that are coming from qualifying and how you're grabbing the sheets and looking at them. You know, how important are those going to become around the U.S. Nationals time and counting those points going into the Countdown?
SHAWN LANGDON: Well, they are huge. Just because looking at the last couple years, just how the championship came down to the last race, last year it came down to the final round between Tony Schumacher and Brandon Bernstein with the opportunity of Tony to win the race and win the championship. Or; if he lost, Antron Brown got it. And then the year before, I believe it came down to the semifinals between Del Worsham and Spencer Massey. Like I said, it's just every little point counts, especially just not knowing how it's going to unfold and with the oiled down points that you have, you get oiled down points if you get penalized or anything or what have you; it's those little points, they can really make the difference of a round win, because if you're trailing by 21 points and then you're able to pick up two or three small qualifying points with the bonus, you can really reel it in to make it within a round. So obviously every point is going to count at the end of the year.
Q. Are you a strong believer of momentum, and how does that affect your team? How are those wins affecting your team right now? Can you describe that?
SHAWN LANGDON: Obviously momentum is huge in the sport of drag racing. Drag racing is a very streaky sport. Just like any other sport. When you can get on a roll and you can start winning races, just build that confidence, and when you have that confidence in yourself and in your team, nothing can beat that. Going into the next race, coming off the two wins, we have got a lot of confidence. We felt strongly from day one about the direction of the team and what we have been doing and trying to accomplish. But just seeing those results, you know, it definitely pays off for me as a driver every time I roll up to the starting line. But for all these guys, all the crew guys that put in the hard work and the hard hours, especially in these summer months when it's long days and it's draining, a hundred degrees outside, and they are working and they just want to give that little bit extra effort to make sure the car is done just perfectly, just knowing because nobody wants to be the weak link on the team and everyone wants to give 110 percent to the team to accomplish something.
Q. And having three wins out of nine, did you have your expectations come into this season that you would be sitting here at this particular point?
SHAWN LANGDON: Well, you know, it's obviously something that when I got asked to drive, when Sheikh Khalid asked me to drive his car, it was definitely something that you can sit back and you kind of can envision what the possibilities are of what the team can accomplish. But it's tough. It's very tough. This day and age, there's not really two or three cars that are fighting for the championship. You really do have, every time you go to a race, you've got 16 cars that are qualified for the race that are well qualified to win it. It's just every car can run good. Basically every car can go up and run a 3.8 second run, and even the lower qualified cars, you're seeing some of the top five or six people in the points, they are even qualifying in the bottom half of the field. You know, it's tough. We definitely have been working hard at it, so winning three of the nine races is definitely something that we've been working towards. Obviously we go to every race with the intention of winning, so we would love to win 24 races a year, but, there's a lot of other people that have something to say about that, as well. So we just do the best job we can. We are very fortunate to have gotten three wins so far this year and hopefully we can get a couple more along the way.
Q: Your crew chief Brian Husen recently said he was so amazed by your driving skills and the way you're really able to dissect a run down to a tenth or a thousandth of a second and really give him strong information. How key has that been to your success, that relationship with Brian?
SHAWN LANGDON: Well, you know, I think it's gone both ways, because me as a driver, obviously coming from bracket racing, we race for thousandth of a second week in and week out. So that's something that I have always looked at is every thousandth, every incremental, every split time; and that's something that coming on to this team, that really impressed me by the knowledge that they had of all that stuff, with [team manager] Alan Johnson, with Brian Husen, they understand all that. They get that. And they understand that in order to achieve certain split times, you have to have the early split times to achieve the later split times, and it's just getting pretty in-depth on it. But they get all that, and I think that has definitely helped build a little bit of a relationship that we both understand where each other is coming from. You know, one thing that I tried to do as a driver is a try to stage shallow every single time, I try to flicker the bottom bulb to get into the shallow every time to give the team the best opportunity to keep that key every round, to keep that lane choice, to try to qualify a little better. I think we can both understand where each other is coming from in trying to achieve all these little split times and just basically dissecting the track at certain increments and not just looking at it as a whole; but when you're racing for thousandths, you have to look at every increment of the track.
Q: You talked about Lucas Oil; Shawn has won championships there in the past. Are you bringing some of that experience with you? You said you had never been in a position leading the points this late in the season; are you bringing some of that experience with you into this battle that we are going to see this summer?
SHAWN LANGDON: Well, you know, I would hope so. Obviously racing in Top Fuel is quite a bit different than racing Super Comp. I've been in points battles racing before in Super Comp categories. So I kind of understand what it takes in order to keep progressing as a driver and keep progressing as a team. These guys have been in this position before with other drivers, so it's really neat to be able to see how these guys basically attack everything; how to handle the points, how to handle the cars, going to each race. It's something that, you know, I think I'm just more kind of following their lead a little bit. These guys have been in the position of winning championships as a team before. I'm fairly new at this point in the Top Fuel category. Basically my feel is I'm just trying to do the best job that I can. Just not mess anything up as a driver. I'm just trying to give them the best opportunity that they can to have a winning car and hopefully, yes, things will play out right in the end.
THE MODERATOR: We've asked every driver, talking about their father and Father's Day weekend at Bristol. Talk about racing with your dad back in California and your racing relationship with your dad.
SHAWN LANGDON: Well, growing up, obviously my dad, he was very involved in NHRA Drag Racing, racing in the Sportsman categories, and doing quite a bit of bracket racing, as well. So that was really where I got my start where I learned all the basics from my dad. And starting out in the Junior Dragster category, it was just a great experience. It's kind of like a father/son relationship going out back and playing catch with one another and building that special bond like when the kid is growing up playing little league and the dad kind of gives him advice of how to hit the ball and how to field the ball. It's kind of the same thing with my dad and I. We would go out in the back shop, we would work on the Junior Dragster together, and we kind of built that special bond where we could work together and, you know, sometimes it goes good, sometimes it goes bad. But you learn how each other works and you learn just basically he taught me all the basics in drag racing, how to be a good winner, how to be a good loser. Just building that sportsmanship that you need to have as a driver and obviously he just taught me a lot of things that I've been able to carry over through the years of just how to focus and how to mentally prepare yourself to drive a race car on race day.
Q: Did I hear that your grades had to be in line for you to go to the track?
SHAWN LANGDON: Well, that was actually something growing up. Getting back to a little bit younger, kind of a thing that my parents always did; if I had good grades, my dad and I, we would go out to Pomona Raceway, and I wanted to go out there because I wanted to get all the autographs from Kenny Bernstein and John Force and Don Prudhomme. It was always a little treat for me because I always enjoyed it. I was a big fan as a kid growing up and I would want to get everybody’s hand out cards and autographs and hang them up on my wall and keep them up until the next time I would go. My mom hated it because I was always pinning them on the wall and she would have to patch all the paint and dry wall work because I would be putting them up and tearing them back down. But I always enjoyed it, and that was definitely something that kind of went along when I started driving in the Junior Dragster category, was as long as my grades were up, we were going racing. There was a couple times that my parents had to kind of reel me back a little bit and grades started slacking off and we couldn't go to a couple races. In the end, it got me through high school and I passed with flying colors and I'm still racing, so everything worked out good.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you for joining us and taking time out of your day.
FastScripts by ASAP Sports.