The following are excerpts from a teleconference featuring NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series driver Eddie Krawiec.
MODERATOR: Thank you for joining us for today’s teleconference. We’ll start our call today with Eddie Krawiec. Eddie is the rider of the Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley Davidson. He enters the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship with three wins, three runner-up finishes, and two No. 1 qualifying positions. He has led the points since the second event of the season. Eddie, looking back at your season to date what you have gone through to date, are you satisfied with what happened so far?
EDDIE KRAWIEC: Yeah, I would definitely say we started out the year really well, going to three final rounds. I was plagued by a couple parts failures that really in my eyes kept me from getting a few more wins this season. As we went on into the middle part of the season, early on, we struggled a little bit with our whole entire bike setup, fuel setup. With the new current switch to Sunoco Race Fuels, it took us a while to learn what our motorcycle is like. Gradually worked towards getting the right combination at the right time. Denver for us, we turned the corner. We didn’t do too well in Chicago, Norwalk. Had some second-round losses. Wound up winning Denver, Sonoma and Brainerd. Also the NHRA Pro Bike Battle. So it’s definitely been a great year as of now. I’d like to keep the roll going.
MODERATOR: You talk about the wins and early losses. When we get into the six races, how important is it to get those early losses just out of the way and really be able to go as many rounds as possible?
EDDIE KRAWIEC: Well, I’d say that’s the key to the championship. I don’t necessarily believe winning races guarantees anything. The reason why I say that, I’m probably one of few to ever do it, but winning a championship without ever winning a race, I proved that you need to be consistent. Doing that back in ’08, it was kind of an odd feeling as I explained years ago. You don’t win any races, but to win a championship is kind of odd. That’s the great thing about the Countdown. It really resets everybody back to equal. So whether you have the most dominant front half of the year, it doesn’t really matter. Once you hit Charlotte, it changes. It’s a whole different ballgame. It’s now who can be the most consistent through the final six races.
I think the key is semifinal- and final-round appearances. You don’t want to go out early. You can’t afford any second-round losses. It’s definitely very important and key to be consistently going rounds at every race.
- As a former champion, do you expect this time to be the same or a little bit different for you and your team?
EDDIE KRAWIEC: I think it definitely gives you a little experience having won championships. I have a great team behind me. Vance & Hines and Harley Davidson have been together for 14 years now. I’ve been fortunate to be a part of it since 2007. They taught me a lot since I’ve been here. I think that’s where having the experience of going into the Countdown, understanding what you have to do. Sometimes it doesn’t mean going to a race changing your whole setup because you may not be the fastest bike there. I think it means more having a consistent motorcycle and keeping a good stride going through the Countdown. I would say yes it’s an advantage having been there before and done that. I feel I’m a very good performer under pressure. I’m looking forward to the battle.
- Indy this past weekend, might not have been the results you and your teammate were looking for. Does any of that give you cause or concern going into Charlotte or do you put that behind you and just look ahead?
EDDIE KRAWIEC: Not at all. You know, I think when you look at it, both rounds that Andrew and I lost in the second round, races I should say, were great drag races. When you look at the time slips, that’s the time slip you look at and say, I was on the losing end of a great drag race.
I ran into Chip Ellis. That was due to not qualifying well. The reason I didn’t qualify well with my bike is we were trying a couple different things. We had the luxury of having a good enough points lead that I wasn’t going to lose first. I just had to keep consistent. So it was a great opportunity to try some stuff. We put my bike back to the way we usually run it for Monday. I came out of the box and ran really well. First round, I was low ET of the round. Second round, just spun a little bit due to the really hot conditions. But overall I feel it was a very successful weekend. The reason why I say that is we didn’t get a chance all year, we had phenomenal weather at every race we’ve gone to, we haven’t seen hot, humid conditions. We did this weekend here at Indy, so it allowed us to I think figure out a tune-up and get a baseline in case we run into any hotter tracks over the next two or three races.
- Very short list of people that have won the championship without winning a race during the season. With all the competition really stepping up, you have had a great season so far, but the Suzuki’s have stepped up. Does it motivate you more going into the rest of the season to really perform well?
EDDIE KRAWIEC: Absolutely. You know, the years, of I would say, Pro Stock Motorcycle where you have a 10th on the field is no longer. When you look at every Mello Yello category out there, Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock Car, including Pro Stock Motorcycle, we’re all packed pretty tight, especially from 12 on to No. 1. When you look at the top 12 from the first day of qualifying, it’s a group. Everybody is together by only a few hundredths or thousandths in some categories. I think it really makes the driver have to step up their program and really be on their game because we know there are no gimmes in drag racing. We don’t have 500 miles to get it right, we have 1320 feet to get it right every single time. For us, the driver, there’s a lot of things that equate into that one-quarter-mile run. That’s the driver, that’s the crew, everybody standing behind you, and everything in general to really make sure that all things come together.
- What do you and your team do over the next four to seven days to ensure that you’re fully prepared for the final races of the season?
EDDIE KRAWIEC: Well, we all go on vacation (laughter). No. Really, I mean, what we did, and I’ll tell you, right after Indy, we came back to the shop, we tore our bikes down to bare frames right now. We’re going through them 100%. We know these next six races for us, starting on September 18th in Charlotte, are the six most important races of the season. This is where having a little bit of an extra budget, everything really comes into it. We’re fortunate to have a great partnership with Harley Davidson and all the other people that help support us. They make sure we’re able to replace all the parts that could be worn out or could become a problem to our motorcycles. We’re changing a lot of little things. We have six engines total that we keep between Andrew and I, seven to be exact, but one stays in the shop. They’re all going to be fresh. We’re going to go into a three-race swing, then we’re on a week, off a week, on a week, off a week. It’s very demanding. The nice thing about this year’s schedule I like is we don’t have four in a row. We actually have three in a row. I think that helps definitely give you a little extra time to do some maintenance. We go through, replace everything, make sure our bikes are 100%.
- What you said about liking the fact you have three in a row versus four in a row, how demanding is it when you race week after week after week after week?
EDDIE KRAWIEC: That’s a good question. It could depend on whether you’re winning them all or losing them all. You know, really when you’re on a roll, you’re moving forward, you have that forward momentum, it’s definitely a good thing, I believe. It doesn’t allow people to really start regrouping, is the way I’d like to put it. It’s a good thing to have a little bit of a break no matter what because it lets you still maintenance your stuff. It’s a lot of work and a lot of effort. The drivers get patted on the back for everything we do, for races that we win. Ultimately it’s the crew and everybody that stands behind us that makes it possible for us to go down the track as a driver. There’s a lot of things that go into it and a lot of maintenance that happens.
- Continuing on the schedule theme. It’s been jumbled up this year, tracks have been moved around, specifically the Motorplex is number four where it was number two. Does that go into your pre-Countdown planning going to a track like that, all concrete, et cetera?
EDDIE KRAWIEC: You know, we do. We have to run our motorcycle different just about everywhere we go. The thing I really like about it is you never know what type of weather you’re going to get in Dallas. There’s years it’s been hot, humid, 100 degrees. There’s been other years it’s been 70 and beautiful. You never know what you’re going to get weather-wise, so I think moving it later in the year helps. The other thing I like about it is the fact it’s now at the later part of the schedule and it gives you a week in between. For us, the great thing about the schedule that we have this year is it goes Charlotte, then we go to St. Louis. Well, in between that time we actually have to pass by our shop. We’re based out of Brownsburg, Indiana, in the Indianapolis area. The nice thing is you get to drive through it. Then to go to St. Louis, we have to drive through again to go to Reading. We’re constantly crossing by our shop. The reason why I say that’s so important, it’s the same for a lot of Top Fuel teams, if you hurt anything or have any problem, you still have the opportunity to swing by your shop and get things fixed. Sometimes out on the road you don’t have that opportunity. For us, I like the schedule. I think it’s good. It plays in our favor. I’m excited. I like it. I’m looking forward to it. Hopefully we have great weather at all six.