What’s your outlook heading into the 2019 season?
It’s very positive and bright. My race car has been running awesome at Spring Training. Connie Kalitta and Kurt Elliott have done a great job along with the rest of the team. I’m really excited heading into Pomona. We’ll be coming out swinging.
Kurt Elliott has joined the team as a co-crew chief. What’s your relationship with him?
Kurt and I have worked together in the past (at Morgan Lucas Racing) and it’s fun to come full circle like this and work together again. He’s an awesome guy. He’s a lot of fun to be around and really good with the team. He did a great job working on Shawn Langdon’s Funny Car last season. To have him over here helping Connie, I think I’ve got two bad dudes working in my corner for the 2019 season.
Does working with Kurt Elliott in the past help the learning curve with the DHL Toyota dragster?
Having worked with Kurt and calling him a friend has definitely helped us hit the ground running at Spring Training. There was no time wasted in acclimating ourselves to one another. We knew each other and it was just time to go race. We have accomplished most of the things we wanted to do in testing. The car has been super fast and now we’re going to work on the consistency to keep it that way.
Last year you had a huge win at the Gatornationals, but then suffered an up-and-down season, will having a year under your belt in this car help the process?
Every season is tough. Sometimes you make it look easy and sometimes you don’t. We started out the year strong with a win at Gainesville. Then we showed signs of greatness throughout the season, but for one reason or another our 10,000-horsepower racecar didn’t want to cooperate sometimes. You’ll have that. Sometimes these racecars just don’t do what you want. But last year was a building year. It was my first year driving with Connie in his car, so we have that behind us now. Our team has pretty much stayed together and that’s really what makes a great team. The longer you can keep together and work well together, the better it is. Everything is in place to have a very successful in the DHL Toyota.
What are you looking for in 2019?
Man, I’m dying to stand in the Winner’s Circle with Connie Kalitta again as soon as I can. I’m trying to win a trophy for everyone up there in Ypsilanti, Michigan, and for all of my team’s families who let them come on the road and do this. And for me, I want to get as many trophies as I can in my career. I’m just excited to get this year going and put this hot rod in the Winner’s Circle.
You’re sporting the DHL colors this year, tell us about that?
To have this new look DHL Toyota dragster out here is awesome for me. To be part of a great brand and be a teammate with the championship-winning DHL Funny Car with J.R. Todd is great. I think we’re already seeing some of the signs of that DHL magic carrying over to our dragster in testing. All in all, it’s a great fit and I’m looking forward to it.
What did you do in your off-season?
I was lucky enough to break up the off-season with a race when I traveled back to Australia with my family. We had a great vacation, but I topped it off with a race event at Willow Bank Raceway. It was nice to get some runs in a Top Fuel car to break up the off-season. It helped me and I had a chance to shake off some of the cobwebs heading into spring training when not many of the other Top Fuel drivers had that opportunity.
How big is drag racing in Australia and are they familiar with NHRA?
Drag racing in Australia is huge. It’s obviously on a smaller scale, which is the difference between the pinnacle of drag racing here in the U.S. with the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series and racing in Europe and Australia. But the fans are passionate and there’s a lot of competitive racing. Obviously, that’s where I came and where I started working on the cars. Race fans all over the world know who Connie Kalitta and with my being able to drive his race car, a lot of people acknowledge that when I go home. They know how fortunate I am to drive for him, but they also have a lot of questions about him. Connie’s a true legend worldwide and everybody wants to know all about him when I get back to Australia.
Toyota Racing PR