you encounter this kind of personnel challenge when you were
in Funny Car?
Cannon: Well, we were running
pretty good with me, Jimbo (Ermalovich), and Phil (Schuler)
making the calls. I had last decision, but I’ll tell
you, they made probably about 75 percent of the calls. I could
overrule them, but if I ever did and it was wrong and we messed
up, neither one of them ever said one word. And trust me,
I made a lot of mistakes, but we did pretty good, too. That
was my best year and it was with my own guys, the team I had
put together based on what I had learned from racing all my
why did you move away from that?
Cannon: We hadn’t
planned to, but we thought if we added Wes Cerny to the team
that it would do even better. We didn’t fire anybody,
we just put Wes on and in his contract--and nothing against
Wes--it said he had the last say so. He was the crew chief
and he made all the decisions.
So when he came on, he had Jimbo, he had Phil, he had me,
and he had a car that just finished 6th, so we had a combination.
He left everything alone, right down to the clutch, but we
were burning motors up. Our car would haul butt to half track,
it would run with anybody, including John, to half track,
but we could not keep the heads on it. The first thing Wes
said when he got there was, ‘I can fix that in two runs.’
And he did. It went an .83 the fourth time he sent it down
the track where John only went an .81 in testing at Phoenix.
So we were real happy at first, but then it started getting
away from us as he made more changes. But it wasn’t
just Wes wanting to rule it all. We all knew he had been doing
it a lot longer than us, so we never questioned anything Wes
ever did. He was a one-man band on making the calls, but at
the same time if I had ever stood up and said, ‘You
know, Wes, we had a car running three races ago that was better
than what we’ve got now, and I want to suggest since
I own the team, let’s put it back.’ And I would
bet you he would’ve done it. But I never did that. I
never stepped on his toes, I never said anything until Oakley
got fed up with the car not running good and finally said
we had to make a change and I had to tell Wes to sit out the
last three races and I ran it by myself again.
Now, trust me, I think Wes is a bright, bright guy. He’s
created half of the stuff we use out there and I think he’s
one of the smartest guys, but even he can’t run one
of those cars all by himself. If anybody could do it, maybe
(Force crew chief Austin) Coil could do it, but if you gave
him three years out there like that I think he may not lose
ground, but he wouldn’t be able to make up ground against
the multi-car teams because he wouldn’t have three cars
running on Monday.
|Despite showing flashes of promise
and making it to three final rounds, Cannon never scored
a win in his five-year Funny Car career.
important is that post-race testing?
Cannon: Well, another thing
that proves my point is that on Monday, after John has won
the race and one of his cars is runner-up, I’ve seen
it happen more than once, they’ll run all three cars,
all day, as if they lost first round, like they didn’t
qualify, and then they’ll go to the next race and kick
your butt. Everybody else that went two rounds is loaded up
and long gone, but they’ll be out there testing by themselves.
It’s a big reason for why they win so much.
And another thing, everybody knows it cost a lot of money
to run these cars, but it costs only about a fourth of the
budget to run the car and it takes the rest to take care of
the crew, pay the crew chiefs, and to drag this stuff up and
down the highway to all the tracks, and to house the guys.
That’s where the money’s at. I mean, you house
10 guys all year, in some expensive places, and you need at
least two tractor-trailers and it all adds up. I actually
had enough money this year (2004) to run a fuel car, if somebody
else covered everything else, because it was going to cost
about three times what I had. It’s unreal.