Rod "Hot Rod" Fuller concedes he will take to the track at Indianapolis this weekend with mixed emotions. The Yas Marina Circuit Top Fuel racer's preparations for the Abu Dhabi team's third National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) outing of the summer were thrown into chaos when his mother suffered a stroke.
"It's really exciting to be back here, but I'm full of mixed emotions at the moment," said Fuller, who has suffered two previous finals defeats at the famous track. "My mother had a stroke last week and was rushed to the hospital," he said. "Fortunately, I was in the States and could rush home." While Fuller admits that the six days he spent sleeping on a couch in the hospital were not the best preparation for the race, an upturn in his mother's health has handed him a much-needed pre-race boost.
"She was moved out of the intensive care unit a few days ago and the first thing she said to me was 'What are you still doing here? Get your butt to Indy, win that trophy and bring it back for me.' "My mom has been the biggest catalyst in my career. She has helped get me to where I am today and I always feel like I am racing for the both of us. Her words give me extra motivation and fire me up. This is a huge opportunity and I have a great shot at winning - it would be a life-changer to win this race. I need it."
At Indy, Fuller's "race of all races", the 2007 season series runner-up faces a tough Labour Day weekend assignment if he is to beat the assembled Top Fuel field. "This is our World Cup, our Super Bowl - it our race of races," Fuller said. "It's not the best track, or the biggest city we travel to, but it is the most prestigious and has always been that way. This is the US Nationals, the biggest of them all. It has been ever since the various sectionals used to come together here in the 1950s to see who was the best.
"It's an old, historic facility, but it has presence. I've been coming here for 20 years and nothing has changed - I even know where all the potholes on the surrounding roads are." Fuller's inside knowledge will be vital at Indy, the first of six, season-ending rounds which will decide the 2010 Top Fuel champion. With the series' top-10 drivers having had their point tallies for the season scratched, the best driver over the next half-dozen rounds will be crowned champion.
As it is only Fuller's third race of the year, he has no hope of claiming the series crown. But with the elite 10 competing against the lower-order drivers, Fuller is determined to upset the prospects of those still coveting the championship. "Now that the top 10 have been pooled, some of them will be nervous and edgy," Fuller said. "They know a poor performance could cost them the championship. "We're just fighting to win this race. We're not thinking about championships and that makes us dangerous. We have nothing to fear."
After exceeding expectations in the Abu Dhabi dragster's first two outings, Fuller, who finished a credible third in July's Denver meet, is eager to keep improving results and continue pushing the UAE capital's motorsport credentials stateside. "Things are going better than expected," he said. "We've put together a remarkable team that is second to none - people will be watching out for us at Indy."