NHRA Countdown to the Championship Interview with Eddie Krawiec
An audio version of this teleconference can be heard by clicking here
Eddie's Interview starts at 26:55
MODERATOR: Thank you all for joining us today for the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series teleconference. After 17 events we've had so far this season NHRA racers enter into the Countdown to the Championship, this battle to crown the world champions in the four Full Throttle Racing Series categories will take place during the course of the next six events beginning this weekend at the O'Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Nationals at zMax Dragway in Charlotte.
MODERATOR: Next up we have Eddie Krawiec. Eddie has yet to lose a final-round appearance in 2012. He's also been a No. 1 qualifier three times. Eddie is a world champion 2008 and 2011.
Eddie, going into this format, does having those two championships under your belt give you a little bit more of a leg up on the rest of the competition?
EDDIE KRAWIEC: I'd love to say it does, but honestly I really don't think it does. I think the key is performing under pressure and maintaining composure. It's worked for me in past years. I've had the opportunity obviously to win the championship in '08 without ever winning a race. To me, that was the toughest thing to do. You never think that would ever happen.
I followed it up in 2009 with a very dominant season. I went to I believe it was nine finals in a row, then a total of 10 finals that year, and I lost the championship by two points. I won five races.
It goes to show you, whether you have a championship or not, it doesn't really matter. It's the excitement and the drama that the Countdown brings. And more important, it gives the chance to everybody. It sort of opens up the door. The key thing for that is not to make mistakes and continue what we're doing.
Obviously I've had a successful pre-season, as I would like to call it, first half of the season going into the Countdown. For me, it's just not to change anything, but continue moving forward and just stay focused.
MODERATOR: Pro Stock, the air conditions are important. In the six races, where do you think we'll see some of the better conditions.
EDDIE KRAWIEC: Well, to be honest, Charlotte, Dallas, Redding, St. Louis. Vegas is probably the only one you're not going to see stellar conditions, but it's dry. Then you go to Pomona. All six of these tracks can result in some good times.
Obviously looking at the schedule, the one that sticks out to me is Redding. Redding is going to be the one, and you can't count St. Louis out, because you can have some pretty good air there possibly in October.
The key thing here is going to be making good runs and taking advantage of every single qualifying point you can. That means you need to come off the truck strong with the best tune-up and the right calls in order to make it down the track. It's going to be those little ones, twos and threes at the end of the Countdown that are going to impact sometimes where you lie.
I mentioned, I lost my championship in 2009 by two points. I went out in Pomona, we literally smoked the tire off the starting line, went with like a 118 60 foot for two of our qualifying runs. Hadn't we done that, I probably would be saying we won the championship in 2009.
The way I look at it is, you need to make it count for every single run down the track. You need to do the best results.
I think national record conditions could be possible in Redding if the right weather falls, and Pomona could be fast, too.
MODERATOR: The 200-mile-an-hour mark has been something lurking out there this season. Do you think we'll see that by the end of this year.
EDDIE KRAWIEC: Reading would be that place. It's tough to say. I'll be honest with you, I would have loved to see it happen in Gainesville. Unfortunately didn't have that opportunity. When we went testing in Valdosta at the beginning of the season, I went 200.08 unofficially. Everything was legal, the bike was legal, it unofficially happened. Without happening at a national event, it's not a national record, or recognized as a national record I should say. Obviously, everybody knows we did it.
After Gainesville, we got a weight penalty of 20 pounds. NHRA felt we needed to be brought back a little bit. I'm not going to argue with them. We just continue to move forward. There's nothing you can say or do. You just take it as it is.
We've been trying to get over that hump. We have the bikes working well chassis-wise. At the end of the day it's a little bit heavier and difficult to overcome. It's the second half of the track where you need to pick it up. As you carry weight, some of it may help in the front half of the track initially, but for us it definitely hurts you in the back half.
MODERATOR: We'll take questions for Eddie Krawiec.
Q: You talked about staying focused. That's a great general phrase. What specifically can you do, especially when I think your class is like the Pro Stock class, people like to talk and play head games, say things. How do you specifically stay focused?
EDDIE KRAWIEC: Well, you need to mentally keep your head in your game, not in the others. People love to talk trash, say everything. I've been fortunate enough, I have a lot of experience in the motorcycle world, not just there, but my background and history as a racetrack manager. I've heard it all, seen it all, seen a lot of people do it, and I've seen it get to people.
The key thing is, you can't pay attention to them. If you sort of block out what people have going on, worry more about your lane, that's the best way to get it done.
I personally feel my biggest competitor is myself. It's nothing against anybody else in the field, but if you let your mental guard down and you let people get into your head or say stuff to you that is going to make you start thinking, then you failed personally.
I need to keep it at the point that I don't fail personally. So your biggest competitor is yourself. You need to understand the key thing is just keep cool, calm, keep your composure, go up there, do the same thing you do every single run, regardless of how much pressure is on you.
I feel I'm a better pressure racer than I am a regular racer. If there's something on the line, I feel I can rise to the occasion a little easier and I bring myself to that point to sort of overexcel myself rather than if there is no pressure. It sounds crazy, but I think it's the way certain people are driven in certain areas.
For me, I feel very comfortable when I have a lot of pressure on my shoulders.
Q: So you've always been that way; that's just your personality?
EDDIE KRAWIEC: Yeah, yeah. I enjoy the pressure. It makes you have to compete and strive towards something. When you can look back after the whole thing is done, you can give that big 'aah', but it's one of those things I feel I perform better.
Q: Eddie, you mentioned your success this year. Coming into this year, competition level has fallen off from you guys, you're so successful. They made a little change. Do you hear a lot from your fellow competitors about how well your team is performing race after race after race? Do you expect more changes coming with the next year?
EDDIE KRAWIEC: I can't speak for NHRA. You never know what's going to come down the pike, to be 100% honest with you. I'm really unsure. I know they've been looking at the class as a whole and in general.
But I think if you analyze the whole Pro Stock Motorcycle class and not just us, if you look, we haven't gained performance, I don't believe. I don't think we're light-years ahead of where we were last year when you look at the two Hectors and you look at Andrew and my bike.
I think we're a little better than we were last year, not much. The Suzuki package is obviously struggling a little bit. To be 100% honest with you, towards the end of last year, there was a lot of mechanical problems. At Vance & Hines here, we build a lot of the engines for them. We got hung out for a while with parts through suppliers. We had to make the business decision of moving forward and trying to build the platform.
To be honest with you, we've struggled a little bit in that department. We've manufactured some new parts, crankshafts, some other items. We're just trying to get those guys up to speed.
They're starting to get out there now. We're starting to get some of our customers new parts, get them in their engines. It's been a long process.
But when you look at the overall performance of the class, yes, it's been down a little bit. I think some of it is obviously due to some budgets and stuff like that. You look at Matt Smith, how he started to perform in Indy. He started to run really well in qualifying. He went, tested, came back from testing after the first part of Indy and said, Hey, I found something. It obviously showed the second half of Indy, until he broke a transmission first round and had some unfortunate luck.
It's due to a lot of testing. I don't know how much the other teams are testing. We struggled to find a tune-up, although you wouldn't think so, our bikes always ran I would say mediocre in the heat. We did a lot of testing towards the middle, end of last year, beginning of this year. Andrew's bike we went to Indy in April and May, made a bunch of runs, really trying to sort the tune-up out.
The testing side of it is also a big factor. Yes, we are one of the larger-budget teams, so we can afford to do that. When some of these other engine platforms are having a hard time staying together, they're getting bad parts, the end result is you're scared to go test or scared to go figure things out unless you have a budget. If you have a budget, you chalk it up as R&D, research side of things.
I think it's one of those things, if you have the budget to do it, you can go out there and perform a little better and find a tune-up better.
MODERATOR: Thank you, Eddie, for your time. We certainly appreciate you taking time out of your schedule to join us today. We look forward to seeing you later this weekend.
EDDIE KRAWIEC: Thank you.
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