So the Countdown is the most important thing at this point? To be in the top ten?  

AFH: Oh yeah, of course being in the top ten is important. I’m sure other teams might be thinking differently, but we’re not thinking of the Countdown at this point, we’re looking at just getting qualified for the first race of the year, making some good laps, working as a team. We have a couple of new guys on the team this year, getting the team worked out. We got most of that worked out in testing, but it’s always a little different on raceday when you’re running, going rounds, just the speed of it all. So that’s kind of what we’re focused on for this weekend: To do well, and not have it rain out and go from there. It’s so tempting to look down the road and go, ‘Oh, I want to this, I want to do that’, but you’re not going to do that until you’ve done the baby steps. So we try to think of it that way and we seem to do better when we think that way.

When did you know for sure that you wanted to become a professional nitro Funny Car racer?

AFH: Probably some point during my A/Fuel years. I was in an A/Fuel dragster for three years, so it was probably toward the end of those years that I really started to get serious about it. You know, it was really a perfect stepping stone to move into the pro class because it was everything the pros did, the routine, the warm-up, what time you needed to be at the track, going up for your sessions. It was almost identical; it was just a step lower. A little less crazy, a little less fast, but it was the perfect place to kind of make that leap instead of trying to do it at once. But from there I was able to get a true glimpse, and not just the glamorized you see going to a race, or even growing up around it. You don’t see the whole picture, but A/Fuel car really gave me a true picture of it, let me say, ‘You know, I really do enjoy this. I want to take the next step.’

What did you learn from Jerry Darien that you couldn’t have learned from your dad?

AFH: That’s a new question. I’ve never been asked that. They have different teaching styles. And both ways helped me. I think working with Jerry was better for me. The car wasn’t the same as dad’s, and I wasn’t at the same competitive level as dad, so to be nineteen years old and have dad, who’s in the middle of his championship trying to teach me to race a car probably wouldn’t have helped me much. But to go to Jerry, who’d taken a lot of other young kids who’d continued and moved to the pro ranks, like Scelzi and Melanie Troxel and Bernstein, Morgan – all of them had worked with him. He has a way of teaching you without maybe overfilling your mind with too much stuff. And so you know, those three years with him he was able to make clear to me the basics of these cars: what to do with tire shake, what to do with smoke, all those things, so that when I did move to Funny Car, where everything seems to be bigger, faster, quicker, crazier, I had basics I could go to and learn better, I think, from that.

I couldn’t have imagined starting out as an eight year old, with dad as my only coach… It would have been too much, dad trying to prep a Jr. Dragster kid for finals at Indy. You need to take the right steps. Jerry’s personality, he will teach you something and let you take it in and work at it in your mind and understand it, where dad will tell you something, come back and tell you again, tell you again, so that by the time you get time to yourself, you don’t even remember what you were thinking about. So Jerry is a completely different kind of teacher, and at that time, was the perfect guy to help me understand.

Did you want to do something else as a kid, or was this pre-ordained that you would drive for your dad’s team?

AFH: Well, when I was little, before I really understood about jobs, I thought I just wanted to grow up and keep playing at the races. I figured I would just do that for my whole life. Obviously, as I grew up I realized I needed to actually do a job. Running around racetracks with my friends wasn’t something I could do for the rest of my life. Then I kind of went different ways. I got into college where I was introduced to all these different careers. And for a while I wanted to be a cop, I wanted to be a teacher. I took classes in both of them. You know, just kind of try out different things. But there’s so much more to it than the job you want to do. Are you the right personality for it, what about the other things that go with it.