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National Hot Rod Association Media Conference

Drag Racing Topics:  NHRA

National Hot Rod Association Media Conference

Larry Dixon
John Force
Ashley Force Hood
Andrew Hines
Doug Kalitta
Morgan Lucas
Tim Wilkerson
August 27, 2008

THE MODERATOR: This is the driver of the Mac Tools Top Fuel machine, part of the great team Kalitta Enterprise, got 30 national event wins and a perennial runner in the POWERade Top 10, went to the final round here a couple years ago. His uncle Connie Kalitta won this race a couple times. How about a nice round of applause for Doug Kalitta.
First of all, this is one that you would like to put in the "done" category, winning the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals.
DOUG KALITTA: Yeah, it would really mean a lot to my team and my sponsor, Uncle Conrad Kalitta, he was fortunate to win this thing, and he's one up on me with this place here, so hopefully we can have a great run out here.
We're also trying to stay in the Top 10. We're right there on the bubble, and you know, I'm real encouraged with my team right now. We're running -- we've got some good consistency going here with getting down on the track. So hopefully it'll be a great event for us.
THE MODERATOR: You've been on both ends of the emotional spectrum, one run away from winning the championship and basically now one run away from qualifying for the countdown. You've been doing this for a long while. Do you get nervous going into a race like this where you know you need to do well to make the countdown?
DOUG KALITTA: Yeah, you try not to let it get to you too much or let any of the drivers see that it's getting to you. You just go out there and do the best you can and hope for the best. Fortunately I've got a great team and a great sponsor with Mac Tools, and we're hoping to get it done.
THE MODERATOR: Next driver that you'd like to talk to knows what it's like to win this race. He's a great historian and lover of the history of the sport. In his rookie season in 1995 he came here and won the U.S. Nationals. He then did it two more times, twice. He has also been in the final round including last year. Driver of one of the great teams in drag racing, drives for Don Prudhomme for U.S. Smokeless Tobacco, and right now an Indianapolis resident. How about of a nice round of applause for Larry Dixon.
Larry, I always say that there are few people out there that have been able to put this on their "hey, we won this category," we won the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals. You did it three times, including a very emotional in your rookie season. That had to be so cool.
LARRY DIXON: Yeah, just before you can get a chance to worry about it, we were fortunate enough to win that way back in 1995. It was a great way to start out, obviously.
THE MODERATOR: You've got a great race car. You have a chance to finish as high as second in the points in that countdown to the championship. That can mean an extra ten bonus points, the difference between second and third. Is that your goal for this weekend or are you strictly focused on winning the race?
LARRY DIXON: Well, if you go out there and win the race, the points will take care of themselves; you've done everything you can do. And I'm sure everybody is trying to do the same thing. For me at least, I don't think about points this weekend, you're just trying to get that trophy. It's the one that matters the most, I think, for anybody who races in drag racing. So we're going to go out there, do our best, see how it shakes out.
THE MODERATOR: You're also one of the few guys who could be racing your next-door neighbors. Tell the folks from this area exactly where you live and who else is in your community.
LARRY DIXON: Gosh, I actually live in Avon, which is on the west side near the airport. Just in our neighborhood you've got Bruce Litton and Lee Beard, and you go one subdivision over and you've got Tommy Johnson and Jimmy Prock and Dickie Venables and Ace McCulloch, so I mean, it's a great place.
You know, growing up in the sport, you know, traveling with my parents to all the different races, but you'd always go home and it would be like going back to civilian life. Now we moved to Indianapolis almost ten years ago full-time. This is racing heaven, living here, and I'm just proud to raise my family here and call this our home.
THE MODERATOR: You're driving for Don Prudhomme. Does Don keep reminding you how many times he won this race?
LARRY DIXON: Yeah, just about every day. I can't catch him because he's the team owner, so when I win, it just adds another one to his agenda, as well.
But it's all right. You know, he's been great to work for and really to be able to learn from him right out of the gates, you know, just as a rookie. You know, I never tried to take his spot in driving, just tried to learn from him and tried to represent the company the best we can, and now driving especially for U.S. Smokeless, which he spent the better part of his career and retired driving the Skoal Bandit dragster. I'm proud to be wearing their colors.
THE MODERATOR: Next driver that we'd like to talk to as part of that great parade we just saw coming in. He is a three-time POWERade champion. He has also won the special race for the motorcycles, the Ringers Gloves Pro Bike Battle, on three different occasions, looking to close the deal here at the big show. Another driver that's now living here locally, how about a nice round of applause for Andrew Hines on the Pro Stock motorcycle, Vance & Hines Screamin Eagle and Harley Davidson.
I'll ask you the same thing I asked Larry. Does your brother remind you how much success he's had at this track?
ANDREW HINES: He does. He won the Ringers battle four years in a row, so he's doubled up once or twice. I can't remember how many times. But I'm sure he will beat it into my head before Friday. It's just great to be out here at the U.S. Nationals with the Ringers Pro Bike Battle because we get to race for money on Saturday and points on Monday. So it's something we're really looking forward to.
We've won the battle the last four years with myself winning it the last two, G.T. Tonglet before that and myself again before that. So it's in our history, so hopefully Vance & Hines and Screamin Eagle can get out there and clinch that win again. We've got both Screamin Eagle V-rods in this year. Eddie Krawiec qualified fourth and I qualified third, so we're on opposite sides of the ladder, which is a great thing. So we're just going to go out there and shoot for the moon.
THE MODERATOR: You're another guy now that's transplanted from out west, now living here in town.
ANDREW HINES: That's right. I live out in Avon. Like Larry said, you've got Larry in one subdivision, Dickie Venables and Jimmy Prock in the next one, and I'm the next one over from that. So we're right down the road from each other.
There's been a lot of people coming into town, now Eddie lives across the street from me, so everybody is here. It's local.
THE MODERATOR: You've done just about everything you can do in the sport except be the last man standing at this race on Monday.
ANDREW HINES: It's been tough. Our team just hasn't been able to come together on Monday and quite get to the final round. Seems like every year we have a gremlin, or I go out there and red light which has been the latest thing. I need to go out there and make sure the bike is 100 percent and I'll go out and do my best job.
THE MODERATOR: I want to thank you and all the folks that drove the Harleys here, that's a pretty nice selection of bikes.
ANDREW HINES: It is great. A lot of the '09 models are here. They just brought them over from the racetrack. We've got Night Rods and Heritage Soft Tails and you name it, it's over there. Go check them out. They're great bikes. I've had a chance to ride most of them, and they're really fun.
THE MODERATOR: Just joining us because he's been very busy here in this neck of the woods, a lot of you folks from Indianapolis, if you're not already familiar with the name Lucas Oil, you will be when they open the brand new stadium. I'd like to call up Morgan Lucas, driver of the Lucas Oil Top Fuel dragster. Came by last night driving down the highway, looked over and saw the stadium there, and Lucas Oil name up top, and that's pretty cool, so it's going to be a busy weekend for you and your family.
MORGAN LUCAS: Yeah, it's already been a great week, and the game tomorrow night is going to be a lot of fun, but Sunday night, grand opening, first home game couldn't have went any better other than the team losing. But you know what, I'm just excited about this weekend and excited to be home here in Indianapolis with all these great fans and great people.
You know what, hopefully this weekend goes great for all of us. Would like to get in the Top 10 but I've got to get around Dougie and Dave, and that's going to be tough.
THE MODERATOR: Doug says you have so much going on down at the stadium you should just concentrate on football here this weekend and let that 10 spot go to him.
MORGAN LUCAS: No, I'm letting that all go with dad, believe me. I'm just going to concentrate on the race here and have fun with this this weekend. From here on out, you know what, it's going to be all about football and racing for the rest of this year because I'm a die-hard Colts fan just like everybody else in the city, which is just great. There's nothing better than looking at that crowd at the games and seeing an ocean of blue jerseys and people just hanging out cheering on their favorite team.
THE MODERATOR: And you guys will have the name of the stadium on your car this weekend?
MORGAN LUCAS: Yeah, we've got a pretty cool paint scheme in my opinion, we've got a lot of details in it tied in with the Colts' helmet and some other stuff with the Lucas Oil stadium logo and I think it's going to draw a lot of attention, but we still can't forget about our sponsors and Mac Tools. Everybody takes care of us, and it's fun to be able to represent your sponsors and come out and do this.
Our family is going to be here, and got some of the Colts players coming out on Friday or Saturday, a couple offensive linemen, so it's going to be interesting. We'll see basically hopefully this weekend if it goes all as planned, it just goes smooth. I just don't want any stress, don't want to do anything, no major trauma in hospitality or anything like that, so just want to have fun and relax and get to show everybody around and just, I guess, be a host.
THE MODERATOR: I think what you need to do is when a couple of those offensive linemen come out, point out Doug Kalitta and say, "that's him."
MORGAN LUCAS: Actually Doug is a pretty big guy. I think he could probably handle a couple of them.
THE MODERATOR: Let me tell you, if Doug Kalitta can handle a couple of your offensive linemen from the Colts, you guys have got big troubles this year.
MORGAN LUCAS: Last year we had a lot of injuries and stuff with the Colts' offensive line. I think this year they've got a lot of good guys there, a lot of strong people, and I think this football season is going to even go better than last year, hopefully get back in the Super Bowl again. It would be nice to hold a great team and come back for '12 and actually represent there, too. It would be nice to bring the Super Bowl back home for everybody here. I don't think anything could be bigger than that for the city and state.
THE MODERATOR: Coming into this race, the entire Funny Car class for the Countdown to One has been decided. All ten teams are already in place, and one of the drivers who will be running starting with our next race and trying to go the distance, won his first POWERade championship, is with us right now, he drives the Levi, Ray and Shoup Chevrolet. He is your POWERade points leader, Tim Wilkerson.
First of all, I know you like to put it in its proper perspective. We'd like to congratulate your son, who went to a Lucas Oil division race this past weekend, speaking of all the folks from Lucas Oil, went the distance and won the race.
TIM WILKERSON: Yeah, it was a pretty good weekend for my boy Daniel. They went down there and took it home like they knew what they were doing.
THE MODERATOR: You had a great race car all season long. That big points lead that you've built up will be 30 points after this weekend, but you feel pretty confident that you can stave them all off and win that first championship?
TIM WILKERSON: Well, I think we have a pretty good car, there's no doubt about that. My guys are doing a terrific job. The folks from Mac Tools have been behind us all year. That's been a great result to our success, no doubt about it. Dealing with Don Prudhomme all year long, that has certainly helped my team and helped all of our progress based on using his equipment, so I want to make sure to thank him and the folks from U.S. Smokeless, thank you very much for that. That really went a long way to making my car good.
I think we have No. 1 locked up, unless I oil the track nine runs in a row, which I don't plan on doing. I've got a hold of my guys, and I said, this is going to be a fun weekend for us. There's no pressure here, let's go in and see if we can win a little bit of money.
THE MODERATOR: You've got a chance to win a lot of money with the U.S. Smokeless Showdown on Sunday and then the race on Monday. How do you keep focused on the job at hand?
TIM WILKERSON: Well, I really don't get too excited about all that stuff. You know me pretty well. Every run is the only one that we're concerned about, and we don't care who we race. Every car in the Smokeless Showdown is a great car.
I mean, both the Force cars, they get to race each other first round which is really good for a guy like me. I need to concentrate on winning the rounds and whatever comes, comes. Hopefully we make it to Monday where we're qualified and we can go on from there.
We've qualified for every race this year, and that was one of my first goals at the beginning of the year. I talked to some PR people in Pomona, and they asked me a goal, and I said, I want to qualify for every race, and they looked at me like I had horns growing out of my head. If you look real close, through the years, especially last year, it was tough to do that. I think if I can qualify my car first and then whatever happens, happens, like Larry said. We're a tough car.
THE MODERATOR: Tim has won this race before, and it's always interesting when you meet up with Ashley Force down there, because you've got some family members that are torn between who to cheer for when you guys race.
TIM WILKERSON: Well, unfortunately I'm pretty sure that they're cheering for Ashley, and I really don't blame them because she's more than a class act. I've said that before and I mean that from the bottom of my heart, that she's great for drag racing and she's great for us, great competitor, and I think John has done well there. I think that was Lori's fault. I don't think John had a lot to do with it, as cute and as cool as she is.
But anyway, that's a great group over there and it's going to be a tough rest of the year. We need to get by the Forces and the Pedregons and a couple Schumacher cars and maybe at the end of the year we can hold the trophy and it would be great.
THE MODERATOR: I pretty much echo everything that he said about our next driver that I'm going to introduce, and I'm also pretty sure that John may have had a lot to do with the cool, but I believe mom may have had to do with the cute for this next driver. It's also the first time I've done a press conference and used the word "cute" before introducing a Funny Car driver. Ladies and gentlemen, Ashley Force driving the Castrol GTX Ford.
Ashley, coming into this race, she'll be the No. 1 qualifier in the U.S. Smokeless Showdown. She does get a chance to race her dad. She also has been part of the victory circle here, won your very first race here, the Alcohol Dragster class here a couple years ago on the same weekend when one of your dad's cars doubled up, won the showdown and won on Sunday. With a great race car like you have right now, coming in knowing you're going to be in the Top 10, any pressure on you, or can this just be a fun weekend?
ASHLEY FORCE: Well, really, our team, we do well when we're just consistent and we don't get too excited about everything. It seems like it distracts us. We're just going to go out there, we know we have a good car, we know we have a good combination. If we can keep doing what we're doing, we'll have a good chance of winning.
But we're excited more than anything to even be a part of everything. The competition is so great in Funny Car especially that we get a chance to play with the big boys, it's pretty exciting. So we're going to do our best out there this weekend. But Indy is a fun place. I've come here probably almost every year of my life, and it's just fun to be a part of. My family will be here, my younger sisters are going to be racing in A-Fuel against each other this weekend, so I'm pretty pumped about that. I'm just very excited.
THE MODERATOR: Both of her sisters, Brittany and Courtney, will be running in another one of our Lucas Oil classes, the Top Alcohol Dragster class. It's going to be interesting; you came in here obviously very highly touted, a lot of pressure coming on as the daughter of John Force, but I think especially over the last year you've really established your own identity, and that's got to be a good thing for you.
ASHLEY FORCE: It has. The fans have been real supportive and real great, and I think they're proud to see that women can do this, as well, especially the young girls that come up to the ropes. I think I have a lot of dad's fans children at my ropes, so that makes it kind of special. It shows just what a mixture of personalities and ages and genders in the Funny Car category, especially that it's nice that we're able to have that in NHRA drag racing and I'm able to race with the guys and it's not an issue whether I'm a girl, whether I'm John's daughter. I'm a competitor, I'm a driver, and I'm fortunate that I come at a time when we can say that.
THE MODERATOR: And I think you might also have some of your dad's grandchildren's fans over there. That's how long he's been out there racing.
ASHLEY FORCE: Yeah, maybe.
THE MODERATOR: I just mean he's been around a long while.
Have some fun, especially that first round on Sunday, Round One of the U.S. Smokeless Showdown, 100 grand to the winner. You get to run your dad in the first round. Not a lot of people have beaten him in Round One in that event.
ASHLEY FORCE: I know that. I was a kid watching him when he doubled up and it was the Big Bucks Shootout years ago. A lot of people have brought that up, are you bummed that you have to race him? And really we're excited. Up until last weekend he wasn't even going to get to race in that race, so that he made that spot, we knew he'd probably be either running me or Robert, and he drew me, so we'll have some fun out there.
We know one of the Force cars is going to the semis and hopefully one of the Force teams will get into the winner's circle.
THE MODERATOR: Our next driver is going to come up and he's had as much success here at this racetrack and almost anyplace else, won it four different times, but he is the consummate professional in our sport, 126 national events, 14 POWERade championships, like I said, four wins here, and huge success at the U.S. Smokeless Showdown. Ladies and gentlemen, John Force.
It used to be that we introduced drivers after you and you were a tough act to follow, but your kid is a tough act to follow.
JOHN FORCE: I know, Bob. I heard all the insults. I used to be The Champ. I fought for years just to be like Don Prudhomme, they finally called me The Champ, and now I'm just Ashley's Dad everywhere I go.
THE MODERATOR: I remember the very first race that she ran, you went out and promoted and you signed the hat that I gave her in the winner's circle, Ashley's Dad. You should have known what was coming.
JOHN FORCE: Well, you know, she's really evolved as a driver. She grew up, Shirley Muldowney was her hero and just all the excitement of can a woman do this in this sport, and again, she's showing that she can. She represents Mac Tools, everybody, and coming into this operation, she drives for Castrol, so many people, Ford, but at the end of the day she really loves what she does and she's having a lot of fun.
We've got a big shop in Brownsburg now, we're Indiana, too, we're rooting for the Colts. But at the end of the day we work on safety working with NHRA and Ford Motor Company and Merv McKinney to build cars that are safe because we want our children in the future, Lucas and Bernstein and all the young ones to help -- Wilkerson is young to me. I'm waiting for him to fall off the planet. I'm trying to explain to Ford why I've got four Funny Cars and I can't whip this guy, and now his kid shows up.
The neatest highlights of my career was standing -- you have highs. We were at the end of Norwalk in the final at a match race there, and I was out, Wilkerson was out, and it was Ashley and his son, and we both found ourselves not praying for who would win but praying for the kids to get out at the other end and be safe. It's really quite a trip to be part of it.
Coming here to Indy I'm excited, and I just want to put on a race, and I'm just glad to be coming here to Indy walking. That's quite a deal just for me.
THE MODERATOR: You gave up two races in the Run For the Countdown of the U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Showdown when you were out there for that Dallas thing. Going into the last race, I mean, you needed all the stars and planets to align perfectly just to have a chance to continue your streak of being in that thing for 24 consecutive years, and it worked out right. In your wildest dreams did you think you'd be racing for that 100 grand on Sunday?
JOHN FORCE: No, I was in bad shape over the winter, but you just work and do what you do, do what you love. In the name of Eric Medlen that's what it was all about, and so many people involved to build a program to build better race cars, and there was expense to a lot of the teams. All of us had to scrap our cars by Denver.
But at the end of the day we all felt like we did something right. And me, I just wanted to come back and play the game, whether I stunk or not. I just wanted to get in the car, especially with Ashley and her sisters. You go back to when I won the Shootout, and I did this whole deal with winning Indy, and her mom says, "You're out there parading, put Ashley on your shoulders." I put her up on my shoulders, and her ice cream cone fell right in the middle of my hair. I was like, my big day here and my kid is ruining it.
But then you realize what's most important, it's your children. Yeah, I got her in the first round and she's going to be driving a AAA of Southern California Rookie of the Year car, and it's all pink. It's for the women, but Girl, move over, your old man is coming out swinging and you're going out, trust me.
THE MODERATOR: You think a little ice cream in your hair is bad, wait until she puts you on the trailer in Round One.
JOHN FORCE: At the end of the day, if she does, I'll be just as proud. The one thing, I spent -- if you look at the category of Funny Car today and all the categories, Top Fuel, Pro Stock and the bikes, but if you look at Funny Car, it's the toughest that I've seen it. I worked just to beat Don Prudhomme and Bernstein and Tom the Mongoose McEwen, and then Prudhomme went to Top Fuel and left me there, but I've never seen a field as tough with the Pedregons, with the Worshams, with the Capps, with the Schumacher teams and Wilkerson leading the way just killing us. You know, I've never seen it so tough since I left Prudhomme.
I was talking with Prudhomme last night at the shop, and he has teamed up here with Wilkerson and they're doing a heck of a job. What I said to Ashley, just being a part of this era of race cars and that a female, however you got to that lead in the Shootout, I don't have a clue, but you did, and you ought to just be honored to be there with them, whether you get spanked or not. But she said, "Dad, I ain't getting spanked or I'm going down swinging."
THE MODERATOR: We'd like to thank everybody for coming out. Our drivers will be available for one-on-one interviews with the media members.

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