PRO STOCK DRIVERS IN THE COUNTDOWN TO 1:
THE MODERATOR: NHRA would like to welcome the members of the media participating in today’s teleconference which will include the finalists who have advanced to the Countdown to 1, the two-race championship that will determine the 2007 POWERade Series World Championships.
The championship races will be held on back-to-back weekends beginning with the AC Delco Las Vegas NHRA Nationals October 26th through the 28th at the strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The teams will then make the short trip to Auto Club Raceway at Pomona where the championship will be decided November 1st through the 4th at the 43rd annual Auto Club Finals.
MODERATOR: Let’s start with Dave Connolly. Dave Connolly is in first place in Pro Stock. He’ll begin the Countdown to 1 with 3,030 points. Dave had eight wins this season which leads the category, and he’s won five straight, including all four races during the Countdown to 4. Enormous momentum coming into the last two races. Talk about trying to maintain it to win the championship.
DAVE CONNOLLY: We’re still out here at Farmington this weekend testing. We’re going to continue to test all the way till we get up to Vegas. We’re going to try to have the best race car possible when it comes down to that Countdown to 1. If we have the success we did with the Countdown to 4, we’re looking pretty good.
We’re going to take it one round at a time just like we have all season. With the pressure of Las Vegas, there’s going to be a little added pressure, but we’re going to deal with it the best we can, and whatever happens happens. It’s definitely not going to be lack of effort by no means.
THE MODERATOR: Second place in Pro Stock, Greg Anderson. Greg has 3,020 points entering the Countdown to 1. Greg, you’re one win behind Dave this season, 8-7, one round win behind him, 49-48. If you look at the aggregate for the season, those two cars couldn’t be any more even.
GREG ANDERSON: You got a point there. If you look at momentum, Dave’s definitely got that going right. We’ve got to find a way to slow him down. He’s doing a heck of a job. That team is fantastic. He’s on a heck of a roll.
Not only I, but obviously Jeggy and Allen have to find a way to stop him. That’s a He-Man chore right now. We’re out here in Vegas testing right now to see what we can learn. We’re looking for something, just trying to find a way to get around David.
Obviously it would probably be ridiculous for Dave and I to just think it’s going to come down to he and I. There are two other guys in this Countdown. There’s a whole lot of other guys in this class that would love to send us packing early and spoil this deal. We can’t just look at each other right now and think about that.
There’s certainly four cars very capable of winning this deal. I was thinking about it yesterday. I would just about bet the farm on the fact that any one of these four drivers this year has probably had a two-race stretch where they made more points than any other car in the class.
We’ve got a two-race deal. It’s all we’ve got. It’s certainly not a stretch for any one of them to put together a two-race run and win a championship. There’s no telling what’s going to happen. I’d hate to be the oddsmakers picking the odds on this deal.
THE MODERATOR: Well, in these two races, the two most successful drivers are the veteran drivers: Greg Anderson and Jeg Coughlin. Greg has two wins at Las Vegas 2 and three wins at Pomona 2. Right behind him in that category is Jeg Coughlin with one win at Las Vegas 2, and three wins at Pomona 2.
Historically the most successful drivers at these last two races in the category. I’ll turn it over to Jeg Coughlin who enters in third place. Jeg is a two-time champion. Jeg will start with 3,010 points. Quick opening statement before we move on to questions.
JEG COUGHLIN: We’ll, we’re definitely excited about the Countdown to 1 heading into Vegas and Pomona. Everybody here has heard a lot of the dialogue from the Top Fuel and Funny Car drivers. Much of a similar story with the Pro Stock cars as well. There’s four of us. All four of us are capable of winning.
I think that’s exciting not only for NHRA POWERade drag racing, but it gives us the drivers, the teams, the media, the opportunity to get out and promote the heck out of this sport that we know and love, and that’s great for all of us, the sponsors, great for the teams, the team owners and for the sport.
Exciting times. We’re glad to be a part of it. Obviously it’s been a fun stretch to this point. As Greg pointed out, any one of the two of us probably have had a good two-race stretch, although it’s tough to argue with Dave’s success here the last five races. But the other three of us are ready to mix it up and put our name in the books as POWERade champion.
THE MODERATOR: The fourth driver in the category in the Countdown to 1 is Allen Johnson. Allen will begin the Countdown to 1 with 3,000 points. Allen, we talked to Robert about what an emotional season it has been for John Force Racing. Same thing with your team. Do you want to touch on that quickly, what it would mean for you to put a great two-race streak together and win this championship.
ALLEN JOHNSON: It would mean a lot. I’m in very humbling company with these guys. They’ve kicked everybody’s butt for years, Greg, Jeg and now Dave. I’m sitting here thinking, I’m probably the veteran of these four. I think I may have about five or six races on Jeg. I think he started at Memphis in ‘96. I started in Phoenix. I think that’s right. They can correct me if not.
(NOTE: Allen Johnson has been to 267 races (with 5 wins and 0 titles), Jeg Coughlin 210 races (37 wins, 2 titles), Greg Anderson 195 races (50 wins, 3 titles), Dave Connolly 103 races (17 wins, 0 titles).
Yeah, there the first of the year when dad (Roy) had his (heart) problem at Phoenix, man, that was a close deal. I’m as glad to be in this deal for dad as I am myself. He’s been wanting to do this his whole life, and I was able to put together the opportunity for him. I always knew he would excel at it. He’s just now getting his feet on the ground the last two or three years with the motor program and doing awesome.
We feel humbled to be here. We’ve got a very good chance. Like Greg said, starting at St. Louis, I think from there to Sonoma we kicked butt and probably won more rounds and points than anybody. Now we just got to do it for two races instead of four. We just got to have a break, a little luck. Of course, Dave’s used up all of his the last five, so it’s gone.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks, gentlemen. I’m going to open it up to questions now.
Q. Allen, do champions have common traits and abilities? If so, can you identify a few?
ALLEN JOHNSON: You know, I would think the main common trait and ability with champions is their competitive nature. I think everybody in our class — I know the four sitting here — they’re competitive as the devil. We go bowling, whatever we go do, we try to outdo one another. That’s a real, real strong trait, I think.
The other one is being able to motivate people. I know, of course, me and Jeg own businesses with hundreds of employees, so we learned that. Greg has put together a team of people over the last few years that is probably the most awesome in drag racing, period, bar none. He’s a good motivator.
I know Dave has been around the bracket racing deal and all that for years and has put together this program he’s got. I think his competitive nature brings the motivation. So those two I think is probably the most important.
Q. Greg and Jeg, it’s about the difficulty of winning a second championship. Can you identify what it takes and why?
JEG COUGHLIN: Without question, winning the first one is always the most gratifying because it’s something new, something you’ve strived to do your entire life. If you’re fortunate enough to win a championship, very, very soon thereafter your goal has now changed to win a second, third, fourth, whatever the case may be.
The common trait question, I think Allen hit it on the head, everybody’s got to be extremely competitive. I think, again, not to circle this thing back around to our Countdown to the championship format, but this year’s champion is going to see a new — is going to be the inaugural champion under the new points format. For some they’re going to look at it as bittersweet.
But I can tell you from sitting in the No. 3 spot, if we win this championship, it will be as special as the first one we won and equally hopefully as the next.
It’s going to be exciting. We appreciate everybody’s support on this whole subject.
I’ll turn it over to you, Greg.
GREG ANDERSON: I think on that deal, there’s no doubt, that first one, I’m certainly not going to say it surely was easy. It wasn’t. There’s no question that second one got a lot tougher. You’re just flat not going to sneak up on anybody anymore, and you probably could have said that during your first championship campaign when you weren’t expected to win.
Everybody guns for you extra hard when you come out the next year because you’re the champion. You’ve got a huge target on your back. For that reason, you’ve got to find a way to perform better than you did the year before or you won’t win again.
It definitely gets tougher with every one, without a doubt. If I could somehow pull this one off it would be my fourth. There’s no question each one has gotten more difficult to get. This one certainly will be by far the most difficult one yet if we can achieve that goal.
Q. Dave, obviously with a streak like this, do you wonder if what Allen is saying is true about your luck running out? Have you had a chance to really grasp what you’ve been doing here these last few weeks?
DAVE CONNOLLY: Not exactly. But Allen does have a point. We’ve used up some luck in these last five races, there’s no doubt about it. And in the same sense, I never dreamed of winning three in a row or four in a row, and before that the first and second one had to come.
To win six or seven is definitely going to be extremely tough. Like Greg said, each championship comes, it gets tougher and tougher each one. That goes the same for each event and each race. It’s getting tougher. Especially these last two, I mean, because not only us four in the Countdown, but we also have 12 other guys out there that are wanting to be some spoilers in this whole deal and take us out.
I’m real thrilled and excited about what we’ve accomplished in the past. But yet the job is definitely not done and championships are on all of our minds right now. We’re going to do everything in our willpower right now to go out there and pick up the sixth or seventh in a row and try to win this championship for everybody involved.
That’s kind of what’s cool about our class, you know, it’s such a team effort. There’s so many other guys that are working forward for this whole program, too. There’s so many people that get enjoyment out of each win you get. We’re just going to go in there and see how it plays out in Vegas. Hopefully Allen is wrong and I can still have a little luck left in me and use it up these last few races.
Q. Obviously with two races left, if the streak ends at Las Vegas, you just have to win one of the next two and figure you’re in good shape in the big picture.
DAVE CONNOLLY: No, no, definitely not. I mean, you look when they made the cut down to four, it was me and Greg both in the last two final rounds. Jeg had a couple (inaudible). A.J. has got on hot streaks, too. The way I look at it, in my shoes, I’ve got eight rounds to win to secure it and lock it up.
If something happens differently then you just have to see what each race brings you. Vegas being first off, you have to see how everybody does, how it pans out, see where the points lie of after that.
I think Pomona is going to be real exciting. Whether you get an early exit at Vegas, you’re going to have to play the ladder, catch who you can to win this championship. But by no means, no, it’s not going to take one race to win. There’s four great cars in this Countdown. I think it’s going to at least take six, seven, eight rounds to win.
THE MODERATOR: We’ll have one final teleconference on the Monday or Tuesday after the season with each of the four champions. Each of our final two races will be televised at 7 p.m. eastern on ESPN two and ESPN-2 HD. Thanks, again, for joining us on today’s call, and we look forward to seeing you along the way to the 2007 POWERade Series championships at Las Vegas October 28th and Pomona November 4th. Thank you and have a nice afternoon, folks.
PRO STOCK DRIVERS IN THE COUNTDOWN TO 1: