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Fri, 19 Sep 2003, 10:45 AM

O'Reilly NHRA Mid-South Nationals Pre-Race Quotes
Courtesy of NHRA Communications

Gary Scelzi - driver of the Oakley Dodge Stratus, one of three Funny Cars for Schumacher Racing. Scelzi, a three-time Top Fuel champion, is competing in his first full season for team-owner Don Schumacher. - "We have done a lot of testing and Don Schumacher has spent a lot of money on Schumacher Racing. We're making these Dodge's perform like we want them to perform. We're still not happy yet, but we've had remarkable improvements in both cars. We have (teammate) Whit (Bazemore) running for ( a POWERade championship) and you have us winning races. Us taking home No. 1 qualifying position isn't out of the norm either. We've learned a lot and we have a good combination now, and hopefully, by the end of the year, we'll have stuff figured out. So when we start next year, we'll start swinging that bat for the fence. You have to start early because normally everyone that wins a championship has a certain time that they stumble. All you can do is try and control it. We stumbled early, but now we're coming on strong. When we line up next to our competitors and let them know that they've got a race on their hands, they really notice. (Crew chief) Mike Neff and the team have been so good to me since the beginning. They treated me like I was an all-star and it's made me comfortable sooner. The car does what it's supposed to do -- it responds. It 's fun to drive. When you know you don't have to man handle it, or stage it crooked, that gives a driver confidence. When the driver has confidence, and the car is fast, those are two deadly combinations."

Whit Bazemore - driver of the Matco Tools Dodge Stratus and a leading contender for the 2003 NHRA POWERade Funny Car championship. - "We've got to gain (championship) points every opportunity that we have, so whether it's one point or 20 points it doesn't matter as long as we're going in the right direction. That's all we're really concerned about right now."

Phil Burkart - driver of the blue Checker Schuck's Kragen Pontiac Firebird for Worsham Racing. Burkart was filling in for injured racer Arnie Karp in one of the three Funny Cars for the team. Johnny Gray, following his runner-up finish at Indianapolis, resigned from the team effective immediately and team-owner Chuck Worsham asked Burkart to replace Gray in the Firebird. Gray resigned to focus his attention and time on his oil business in New Mexico. - "When (teammate) Del (Worsham) called a few weeks ago to tell me Arnie had injured his leg and they wanted me to fill in, I was extremely excited. Even though I knew that driving the '(Artisan Home Entertainment) T2' car was a short-term, fill-in type deal, it was great to be welcomed as a part of Worsham Racing. I guess these things happen for a reason, because now I'm moving over to the blue Checker Schuck's Kragen car as the full-time driver. Johnny did a great job in the car, as well as with the fans and sponsors, so I know I've got a high standard to live up to."

Johnny Gray - former driver of the blue Checker Schuck's Kragen Pontiac Firebird for Worsham Racing. Gray resigned from the team following the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis. - "As I told (teammate) Del (Worsham) and (team owner) Chuck (Worsham), I'd already made up my mind that I wasn't going to come back in 2004. Our oil business is keeping me extremely busy, and the pace of flying back and forth across the country every week is too much, for me and for the business. Watching the Budweiser Shootout at Indy, it occurred to me that the best thing to do was just to step aside right now, so that the team can get on with the transition and start collecting 2004 Shootout points with the new driver."

Jeg Coughlin - driver of the Jeg's Mail Order Chevy Cavalier and the defending NHRA POWERade Pro Stock champion. Coughlin won eight of the last 12 events of the 2002 season, including the O'Reilly Mid-South Nationals at Memphis, Tenn., en route to his second career series title. - "In the last (few) races we have scored a win and two semifinal round appearances. We are making moves in the right direction as a team and that's something we are pleased with. The guys in the engine shop have been busy making more horsepower and that's a contributing factor to our increased performance on the track. All things considered, we are going in the right direction and we want to end the season on a high note."

Gene Wilson - driver of the Team Mopar Dodge Stratus and the winner of the 2002 Automobile Club of Southern California Road to the Future Award, given annually to the NHRA's top performing rookie. - "We've made a 180-degree turn with this program. We have a lot of confidence in the abilities of the guys in our engine shop. (Team-owner) Larry Morgan and (team consultant) Bob Glidden, especially, have really been turning in the late hours to make sure this program picks up and succeeds. I believe we have just as good of a chance as any come race day. I'm trying to get back into the race day groove. Sunday afternoon is so different from qualifying, so it takes a lot to take it to that next level."

Greg Anderson - driver of the Vegas General Construction Pontiac Grand Am and the leading contender for the 2003 NHRA POWERade Pro Stock championship. - "I don't know why, but I am pretty comfortable (with leading the point standings). I'm not going to each event to score more points than Kurt (Johnson), Warren (Johnson), and Jeg (Coughlin). I'm going to win races, and right now, the way we are running, I feel that we have a better shot at winning than anybody. I have said it once and I'll say it again, the most important thing to me is winning races. Since I haven't won a championship, I don't know how special that is. I do know that right now, as good as my car is, I'm suppose to win these races, and when I don't, I am not happy. If we win, then everything else will take care of itself. If we don't win another race this year but go on to win the championship, that won't be any fun to me. I enjoy winning. Maybe I'm wrong there. Maybe winning the championship is such a bigger deal, but winning races is what people want to see and it's what makes me feel good."

Reggie Showers - rider of the PDI/Damp Rid Suzuki and the recent winner of the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals, the NHRA's most prestigious event. Showers, a double-amputee as a result of a childhood accident, hired renowned crew chief George Bryce in the offseason. Bryce tuned the Suzuki that Angelle Savoie rode to the last three Pro Stock Bike championships. - "I've been on an incredible journey. Last year I made a tough decision to change crew chiefs even when I had no idea George Bryce would be available. But I guess God had a plan and he got us together, and look what's happened. I used to know my place. I was a bottom-half qualifier who maybe could luck-out and win a race. Now we're a team that can run with anyone."

Craig Treble - rider of the Matco Tools Suzuki who had a career-best year in 2002 but has struggled in 2003. - "Let me be the first to congratulate Reggie Showers on winning both the K&N Filters Pro Stock Bike Klash, and the U.S. Nationals Pro Stock Bike title (at Indianapolis). He had a great weekend and I am really happy for him, I just wish I could have gotten in his way a little more than I did. Our Matco Tools Suzuki team has been working on many different things to try and slow this bike down on the starting line. I am really proud of my two All Pro/ Bumper to Bumper Reaction Time Challenge Championships (given to the rider with the best average reaction times over the course of the season), but this season leaving quick is not an advantage. I think we have that issue about settled with this bike, now we just need to get to our next event and apply what we have learned."

Antron Brown - rider of one of the two U.S. Army Suzukis from Schumacher Racing. -- "This U.S. Army Pro Stock Bike team is getting better and better with each race. Before too long, we're going to be making a lot of noise."

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