DRO: Did you find driving in Top Fuel to come naturally to you?
JS: Honestly? It really feels like home to me. I really feel like this is what I was born to do.
The actual driving of a Top Fuel car is easier for me than driving a Jr. Dragster, because the steering is more free. The steering is built to be easy and work best at top speed, where the Jr. Dragster is built to maneuver more; it's sort of stiff like a go-cart. There's more stuff going on in the Top Fuel car and it's going on a lot faster, but it's still easier to drive, I think.
DRO: Have you experienced any of the tunnel vision that some drivers report in these cars?
JS: The first time I was here (VMP, for qualifying), I definitely did, because those were my first three full-track passes. And I still had some tunnel vision at Cordova a couple of weeks ago, but here, in my first pass, it was kind of weird because I remember thinking as I was slowing down at the top end, 'What happened to the tunnel vision?' It's kind of weird to me that you brought that up, because it's exactly what I noticed.
It's happening just like Richard said it would, because he told me the first few times I raced the car I wouldn't see the launch. But then my eyes started adjusting and I was able to see everything that happened at the launch, but by the time I got to about 500 feet I'd start getting the tunnel vision. Now, today, I saw everything that happened.
DRO: Have you had anything go wrong in the car yet?
JS: Oh yeah. Last weekend at Cordova we blew a motor and it caught on fire and that was the fastest I've ever moved in getting out of something.
We were racing Clay in the Saturday morning qualifying session and he was out in front of us, and I don't know what happened, but he suddenly slowed down and just as we passed him the motor just blew up and it got hot. I didn't think it would get that hot that fast, but I was sweating and I was just thinking, 'Whoa, baby!'
I felt the concussion and as soon as my head went forward, I pulled the chutes, shut the fuel off and grabbed the brakes. I wanted to get the heck out of there, and I stopped probably about halfway from the finish line to the end of the shutdown area. I stopped fast for it running a full pass, and as soon as I got out of there I didn't even turn around. I just ran a few steps and then I turned around because I didn't know if it was still on fire or what might happen. It was definitely a wake-up call. I mean, it was a good thing for me as a driver so I know what that's like, and I can think about different situations and I'm not so clueless about what to do. I know that I know what to do now.
DRO: Do you like signing autographs?
JS: Honestly, I love it. To me, the fans are what it's all about, cause I've been a fan. In fact, I was a fan last year. We went to Budd's Creek, where there was no Top Fuel, but I saw the Nitro Harleys run. They're definitely my favorite class in IHRA, other than Top Fuel. Those guys are awesome, but they're nuts, they're a breed of their own. There's no way I would ride one of those things!
DRO: Do you have a girlfriend?
JS: Used to, but I don't anymore.
DRO: Has that got anything to do with the racing?
JS: Yeah, definitely. She couldn't handle the fact that I'm gone almost every weekend. But that doesn't bother me any; I mean, I'm just 17 anyway.
DRO: Are you meeting any girls at the track?
JS: The Hooter's girls, man! One or two of them this week were
only 17. That was very cool!
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