Volume X, Issue 6, Page 99

: Have other crew chiefs caught up to you in performance?

AJ:   In performance? Sure. Sure. Yeah. They’re capable of running just as good as we are. I don’t think we’ve had a really great year, outside of testing, so far this year. But I know we haven’t even run as quick as some cars, Conrad [Kalitta] has got his (cars) better than us at half track. He’s had some engine problems down track, but at half track he’s run better than us, so they’ve covered us performance-wise. It’s just, you have to race on Sunday!  And that’s when you have to know when to pull it back and when to stand on the gas, and that’s the difference.

So, time trials are one thing, and…

AJ:  Yeah, we have an experienced team; they don’t make mistakes. There’s a lot of runs wasted, and a lot of races lost because there was a mistake made somewhere in the preparation of the car. It doesn’t matter who’s tuning the car, if it wasn’t put together right…like in a final. Can’t get the body up. (That problem) wasn’t particularly the fault of the guy tuning the car made them lose the race. It wasn’t the driver. Somebody in the crew didn’t prepare the car right. 

: You’re one of the main manufacturers of Top Fuel components. As a manufacturer, do you see any sensible way the NHRA could cut the costs of running a nitro motor or running Top Fuel?

AJ:  Uh… You know, possibly. But that’s not something you can give a quick answer on. Is there a way we could cut the costs? Well, one thing, we don’t need to be spending $1,250 a drum on nitro. [Ed. Note: after this interview, the price went to $1405.] Over the course of a year, a buck is a buck. It adds up. Is there a way they can save money? Probably, but that would take some work.

: Is the cost of racing a real issue for professional nitro class team owners?

AJ:  Yes sir. Most owners run this (nitro classes) for kicks. Some don’t have sponsors. They aren’t all Jim Head. Some just love drag racing, and they’re scraping money together wherever they can to get a car out there, so yeah. Every little bit helps. I’d love to do it professionally myself, but try and make money. You have to work hard to break even, or just lose a little. It’s a business just like everything else. Anywhere you can cut costs, you do it. You have to.

: The number of competitive Top Fuel teams out there in NHRA is dwindling, and IHRA has eight-car Top Fuel and Funny Car fields. What do you think can be done to increase the number of teams in the NHRA?

AJ:  One, there’s a lack of crew chiefs. I mean there’re only so many crew chiefs to go around, so having another team doesn’t mean you’ll have a competitive car, because there’s just not enough crew chiefs to go around. How do you solve that problem? I’m really not sure.

: Where do you train them? Where do they come from? From alcohol ranks or from IHRA?

AJ:  You know, I’ve had a thought for years that they should make the Top Alcohol Dragster class, which has about half a dozen Top Alcohol cars in it, some are injected nitro. They should allow that class to have all the tools we use to run our cars. You know, clutch management, fuel management, they should be able to use all the same stuff so those guys can learn how to run the cars that we do. It’s cheaper for tuners to learn (on A/Fuel teams), because they can go out there and make a lot of runs with clutch management and learn how all that stuff works. So they’re not jumping into a Top Fuel car team and trying to make that thing work when they have no idea. Or they have to work on a team and try to learn while they work behind a crew chief or something. That takes a long time, because there’s no class right now for these guys to get hands-on experience.

: So right now, there’s a big difference in tuning and racing an A/F car and a Top Fuel car?

AJ:  Yes, similar cars. It seems like a complete waste of time to have that class that could be developing workers, crew chiefs, and it doesn’t.