Championship Drag Racing

Mac Tools U.S. Nationals
Indianapolis, IN
(August 29-September 3)

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with Hillary Will, driver of the Ken Black Racing Top Fueler
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Friday, February 24, 2006

A quick stop at home, then on the road again

Because of testing and the Winternationals in January and February, we were on the road for nearly a month. It was nice being back at my place in Michigan this past week even if it was just for a short time. I had a chance to get caught up on my laundry and my bills. It has been nice for me to get back to a regular routine as far as going to the gym. I usually go every morning. Itís a little bit more difficult to work out while weíre on the road. Some hotels have gyms so I use those. None compare to my gym in Michigan though. They have some kickboxing classes and other ones. I even tried Yoga last week. It was interesting but I donít know if I have the patience for it.

On Monday I went out to lunch with Shirley. We went to my favorite place in Ypsilanti called Sidetracks and then we did a little shopping. As always, I really enjoyed spending some time with Shirley and talking with her.

On Wednesday I flew to Phoenix. I went a day early for the Checker Schuckís and Kragen NHRA Nationals FanFast at the Arizona Mills mall. The turnout was great. I think we signed autographs for nearly three hours straight. The line stretched all the way around the corner. It was cool that the fans were willing to wait in line so long for our autographs. The fans that came through the line seemed very excited about the race this weekend. The driver turnout was good as well.

I had a lunch meeting with Jim Gintonio of the Arizona Republic. He is doing a story on women in racing. He even interviewed my Grandpa and asked him what he thought about women in racing. My Grandpa used to always tell me I could do or be anything I wanted to be if I put my mind to it. I never grew up thinking that I couldnít do something because I was a girl. My Grandpa probably told Mr. Gintonio something along those lines. I got a picture of the two of them talking.

The local news is coming to the track today and they are doing a similar story. Women in racing seems to be the popular topic right now, which is fine by me. The reporter should be here any minute. Iím in our pit area right now. We are preparing for our two qualifying runs this evening. We have wireless Internet here so hopefully Iíll have a chance to send another blog this weekend. Wish us luck!

Monday, February 20, 2006

The learning never stops

When I said I couldnít wait for Phoenix, I meant it for more reasons than one. The temperatures here in good olí Michigan are in the single digits. Itís been sunny but real chilly and I canít wait to get to some warm sun.

Since we got back, Iíve been spending some time at the shop. None of the race cars are here because they are already in Phoenix so itís been pretty quiet. Jim Becker, our machine shop manager is here working, as always. He usually stays at the shop and holds the fort down along with our office manager, Tammy Oberhofer. Becker, as he commonly referred, took some time out to explain to me what they do to prepare our cylinder heads and blocks. For example, after testing we sent a block back to him to fix. We have a number of different honing machines so he showed me the process the block goes through to be race ready again. All that is very interesting to me so Iím glad he didnít mind explaining things.

Becker also showed me the new CNC machine that just arrived. He is happy to have it because instead of doing things by hand they can use the machine more. They expect to be able to repair cylinder heads in about a third of the time that it took before. Scott Finnis, Brian Landry, and Dave Grifiths also do a lot of machine work and they will be using the new machine too once they undergo training. Becker said that because of the growth of our team, they really needed this CNC machine.

Sunday, a couple of us got together to watch the NASCAR Daytona 500. Rick Fischer let us come over to his house since he has a big screen TV. Not only does he have a big screen TV, but he also has a 1963 Chevy Impala parked in his living room. It is one of 57 ever produced and he is very proud of it. I made Rick, his girlfriend Katherine, Kalitta Motorsports PR Manager Todd Myers, and Chris Rose pose for a ďblog picture.Ē Fischer owns Fischer Honda here in Ypsilanti and is a big Kalitta Motorsports supporter. It was cool that he had us over. I canít say the entertainment was very cool though. I like to watch some of the driver interviews because I think I might be able to learn something, but it was a long, long race. I donít know that Iíve ever sat through an entire NASCAR race and I probably wonít do it again. Drag racing is much more exciting.

Iím not sure what other exciting or non-exciting things Iíll be doing between now and the next race, but Iíll keep you updated. Talk to you again soon.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

So much to share!

Iíve been trying to write this blog for three days now. Thereís so much to tell you about I donít even know where to begin. I donít even know how to begin to describe the first race of my Top Fuel career. I could write pages on each day. I meant to update my blog a couple of times during the weekend, but things are a lot busier than I expected. Last year in Top Alcohol racing, I always had time to sneak up to the pressroom and send my blog. At this race, I felt like I didnít have one spare second.

I guess I should start by telling you about the things that stand out about the weekend. We showed our KB Racing dragster is running strong when we ran a 4.51 three times in a row en route to our No. 4 qualifying effort. Our team was rewarded for the hard work that I have been telling you about by winning the Full Throttle Pit Crew Challenge. I didnít make my teamís job any easier Saturday night. They gave me a clean, 327-mph race car and I returned it full of sand. They didnít complain or get mad; they stayed up late and cleaned every nook and cranny. I felt terrible and I assured them I wouldnít let that happen again.

The media coverage that we received also stands out. I hope it will be helpful in our quest to secure a sponsor. I was doing endless interviews and having a lot of photos taken. Louis Brewster (San Bernardino Sun/Inland Valley Daily Bulletin) did a story on our team. Damon Dottore (Orange County Register) ran a story. Jim Short (Riverside Press-Enterprise) wrote a story on Melanie Troxel and me, and even made us pose for a picture together. All of this kept me very busy. ESPN2 also gave me a couple of interviews after our runs. Iím still getting used to climbing out of the dragster and trying to put together a coherent sentence. Itís a lot harder than it looks. Iím glad it gave me a chance to publicly thank my team and the Black Family.

My family was on hand all weekend. I had aunts, uncles and cousins there. Of course my dad, Grandpa, my mom and my sister, Kim, were there. This was only the second race my mom has attended. Itís very, very rare that my dad, mom and sister are all together, but photographer Karl Gedris caught us all in the staging lanes before first round Sunday and gave me this photo.

If support can win me races, itís definitely going to be a winning season. Not only do I have my family and team but I have so much support from within our team. I mentioned on my ESPN2 interview how I have been getting advice from Scott Kalitta, Connie Kalitta and Shirley Muldowney, just to name a few. I also have so much fan support. It is really awesome and it means a lot to me. I was a fan before I was a driver. At the 1997Winternationals, I was running around with my sister admiring the drivers and collecting autographs so itís the coolest thing to see crowds outside of our pit area. I try to show my appreciation for the support every way I can. I couldnít stand outside of our pit and sign autographs all day, but I truly wish I could because I remember what itís like trying to get autographs. In fact, I was late to a very important event because I got carried away signing.

On Friday night, I was invited to the Night of Champions at the NHRA museum for what I thought was an autograph session. I showed up 5 or 10 minutes late. It was a full house with standing room only. When I walked in the door, I saw through the crowd that up on the stage was an empty seat between Morgan Lucas and Brandon Bernstein. My stomach turned because I realized that seat was for me and the entire place was waiting for me. It turns out that it was actually a question and answer session in front of an audience and the whole place was waiting for me. I cannot stand being late for anything and I truly hate making people wait for me. I didnít realize I was going to be in front of everyone and that still makes me nervous. I think it turned out okay. Bob Frey was the emcee and he asked the questions. I just answered honestly. I got to publicly thank my dad and my Grandpa for what they have done for my racing career so that was cool, especially since they were there. Wally Parks was on hand and I got to meet him. That was truly an honor. Iím not sure we would even have NHRA Drag Racing if it were not for him; Iím glad I got to personally thank him. Being invited to that event was definitely something that stands out about the weekend.

At one point during the weekend, my dad and I stepped back and absorbed everything that was going on and talked about how amazing my life is right now. Just nine years ago we were at this event sitting in the grandstands. Now, I get to be part of an awesome team. I have a fast, competitive dragster. I have tons of fans. Granted the weekend wasnít perfect but thatís racing. There are bound to be ups and downs but I am living the life I wanted.

Iím so glad we get to do this all again in very soon. I leave one week from today for Phoenix. Last year in Top Alcohol, we went to the Winternationals and then we had to wait two months for our next race. The next race can never come soon enough for me.

Iím back in Michigan now. Iíll be making sure all the travel arrangements are set for the next couple of races. I have bills and laundry to catch up on. I really need to get my website updated. I already started sorting through our fan mail. I could spend a week just writing back and still donít think I would get through it all. I think thatís awesome, so thank you to everyone for your support! Talk to you again in a couple of days.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Ready to go

Today is the official beginning to the 2006 NHRA season. Itís early Thursday morning, the sun is still rising and Iím awake and ready to go. We have our first of four qualifying sessions this afternoon around 2:30 p.m. (PT). I would say let the fun begin, but the fun hasnít really stopped since I joined this team last August.

Last night, my crew chief, Jim Oberhofer took our team out for a spaghetti dinner at Vinceís in Ontario. He likes to take us all out. Over the winter back in Michigan, he would try to take our team for lunch about once a week so we could sit down, talk and make sure everyone was on the same page. Itís one of the few times I actually see the guys stay in one place and sit for a period of time. Jim O also usually takes us out after a good day at the track. Before the Christmas break, he and his wife, Tammi, took us all to Benihanaís, which is a really nice Japanese Steakhouse/Sushi restaurant. I donít know if itís common for a crew chief to take his team out for dinner, but I think I speak for all of us when I say we enjoy and appreciate it very much. So, thanks Jim O!

Before we left Vegas, Cowboy Bob and Cowboy Glenn took us out to dinner Monday night at Royís for Hawaiian cuisine. The Cowboys are the Vegas-based portion of Kalitta Motorsports, and they always take care of us. During the day, the guys serviced the car and I had a couple of interviews. One of them was with Damian Dottore of the Orange County Register which was cool since I spent time in Huntington Beach, Calif..

Tuesday, all the teams traveled to Pomona. I canít be in Southern California without visiting my old stomping ground so I went over to H.B. I also canít be in Southern California without going to 24-Hour Fitness; I made a stop there for a kickboxing class. Itís a cool class because itís very intense and I have to forget about everything else and pay attention to the instructor. Itís a nice escape. It was the first time in a long time where I went a whole hour without thinking about racing. Then, I went out to dinner with my sister, Kim, my best friend from college Abby, and her boyfriend, Noah.

I had a pre-race press conference on Wednesday at ESPN Zone near Disneyland in Anaheim. I think it went well. I had an interview with Martin Henderson (pictured on the right) from the LA Times. Iím starting to get used to these interviews. Mickey Schultz, the KB Racing public relations manager, is going to keep me busy this year, which is a good thing. I know itís just part of my job to do the interviews, but I really like doing it. I get to talk about myself and about racing. Who wouldnít like that?

The morning of the press conference, Abby, and another one of our friends, Shauna Kelley, helped me get ready. They did my hair and make-up because Iím not exactly the best at doing it myself. Iím sort of a tomboy that way. Then we met up with Brea Walker, our other college friend, for a photo shoot so that I will have good photos to go along with some of the press releases that Mickey sends out. Brea graduated with a degree in documentary photography and she does some amazing stuff. You can look at some of her previous photos at Iím honored that sheís doing my photos. Some of them will also be used for our college magazine, The Wheaton Quarterly. Abby is going to write a story about my latest career move. She is a great writer and helped me with PR work last year when I ran Top Alcohol and didnít have a clue about any of that stuff. Itís cool that I have friends who know how important my career is to me and are willing to help me out.

Iím pretty fortunate to be surrounded by good people no matter which way I turn. Iím about to leave for the track now to begin our season opening race. I would say, let the fun begin but you can see that Iíve been having lots of it already. No matter what happens this weekend, Iím just loving life and enjoying every second of it.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Testing wrap up

I apologize for taking so long to update my blog. I havenít spent much time sitting in front of the computer lately. My team and I have been eating, sleeping, and breathing drag racing.

The past couple weeks of testing reminds me of my days as a springboard diver at Wheaton College in Mass. My swimming and diving team used to go on a winter training trip every year. We would leave the frigid, Massachusetts winter and go to sunny Florida for intensive training. Our team would eat, sleep, and breathe diving. It was a time to prepare for the season by perfecting old dives and most importantly trying new things. So, itís a lot like our testing.

This year, my team and I left the frigid Michigan weather for warmer, sunnier, racing-friendly conditions out west so we could prepare for the 2006 NHRA season. We ran for four days in Las Vegas, traveled to Phoenix and ran for five straight days. Then, we went back to Vegas and made even more runs. None of this is easy and the rewards are not immediately realized. I could definitely say itís like intensive training for me and for the guys. I used the time to perfect my driving and get used to the car. The guys used the times to perfect their routine in between rounds. Hopefully the practice pays off starting Feb. 12. We have been trying to figure out and break in all of our new parts and pieces on the KB Racing dragster. Weíre also trying some new things to improve the performance and pick things up.

Like diving, you take a risk when you do this. Sometimes when I was trying a new dive, I would smack the water hard and be left black and blue. Risky or not, I always had to learn more difficult dives to be a better competitor. I think the mentality with our race team is similar. Weíre testing and trying new things. Obviously itís risky. It can leave the ego a little bruised when things donít always work as planned, which is common during testing.

My crew chief, Jim O, has told me that he has learned from his years of working with Connie Kalitta that you either lead, follow, or get out of the way. Well, heís made it clear that our team is not about to be followers. Weíre definitely not getting out of the way. Weíre trying to get in the way of the other top players in the class. So by process of elimination, you can begin to understand the kind of philosophy our team is embracing with regards to the upcoming season.

We learned a lot on our winter ďtraining trip.Ē We struggled in Phoenix but we are pleased with our progress thus far. We ended our testing with three strong runs on Saturday. Our best run was a 4.48 at 327 mph. That is the fastest I have ever gone. Ken Black and his son, Kenny, were on the starting line watching on Saturday to see our progress, so that was really cool for them to see.

On Sunday, we went over to Ken and Judyís house to watch the Super Bowl. They have a very nice house. (Sorry I didnít take pictures but I didnít think Judy would want pictures of her house on the Internet.) Greg Anderson and his Pro Stock team were also there to watch the game. It was nice to sit and relax for a little while and we had some good refreshments. I was watching it but, I have to admit that I wasnít really paying much attention to the TV. Even if Tom Brady had been playing, I donít think I would have been focused on the game. A certain race coming up in less than a week has me little bit distracted. I wasnít lying when I talked about eating, sleeping and breathing racing.

We are as prepared as could be for our first race of 2006. Tuesday, we will leave Vegas and set up in Pomona. Iíll try to check back within a couple of days before qualifying on Thursday.

Monday, January 30, 2006

No lack of productivity here

I just read in an interesting article about blogs in an Arizona magazine. It was titled ďBlogs Zap Productivity,Ē and it talked about how one in four workers is distracted by online blogs for more than three hours each week. The article cites a study by Advertising Age that claims that traffic to blogs heavily increases between 8 a.m. EST and 5 p.m. EST, which shows people are visiting during work hours. It goes on to say that U.S. workers will spend 2.2 percent of workforce hours reading and posting blogs within the year.

Well, Iím glad I could contribute to some lack of productivity. Actually, Iím sure reading about racing is a good break, and I tend to think that maybe it helps productivity in the long run. Maybe they should do a study on that. I know reading about racing online used to help me get through my days at work when I sat behind a computer all day. It provided a refreshing break from staring at numbers and spreadsheets.

That was what I was doing last year at this time. This year, Iím at Firebird Int'l Raceway in Phoenix, where the only sitting Iím doing is when Iím behind the wheel of the KB Racing Top Fuel dragster. I donít think my team ever sits. The guys havenít had a day off since Ö well, I canít even remember back that far. They get to the track at about 7:30 or 8 in the morning and rarely leave before 8 in the evening. Lack of productivity is not an option around here. I remember when I was asking them questions for this blog before we left the shop, one of the guys said that a lot people think working on a race car is a glamorous job, but most people donít realize how much work it truly is.

You can see from the photo that we are using a one-piece carbon fiber body. Most dragster bodies are made up of multiple, magnesium panels that latch onto the chassis one by one with Dzus fasteners. We have been running our unpainted body to see how it would respond going down the track. The chassis flexes a lot, so we werenít sure how the body would flex, and we werenít sure if it would crack at all. It did in some places, but it was minor, so we fixed it and then tried to prevent it from happening on the painted body. Sunday, we finally ran our painted body.

The only thing wrong with it is that we need it to go quicker and faster. Weíve been working out some bugs this weekend with the car and with the driver. We are going to make some more runs here in the desert today and tomorrow. Hopefully we will run better. The weather is great here. This area hasnít had rain in nearly 105 days. When we heard that, we thought for sure it would rain on us, but the forecast is good.

Hopefully our work day is productive today. If you are a part of the American workforce reading blogs at work, I hope mine was a good break and will make your day more productive. Talk to you in a couple of days.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Success in Vegas

We had a great weekend of testing here at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. We ran a 4.48 yesterday in our first and only full lap down track during the four days of testing. It was, obviously, the quickest I have ever gone. I have had such good luck here that Iím beginning to think I should try my luck on the real Strip at the blackjack table or slots. Actually though, my good fortune is not a credit to luck, it is a credit to my great team.

I think Iíve conveyed to you how hard Jim O, Troy, Kent, Jason, Scott, Beaker, Chris and Mac have worked over the winter. Our machine shop manager, Jim Becker, also deserves a lot of credit. The guys assembled everything on this dragster from the ground up. When we got here, not one piece on that dragster had ever been down a race track before. We didnít know how everything was going to respond so each time we came to the starting line, I was instructed to take the car to half track and lift. We were very pleased with the incremental times. Right before we started the dragster on our seventh and final run of the test session, Jim O instructed me to take it all the way down the track if everything felt fine. I was really glad I could finally stay full throttle all the way to the finish line. It gives the guys a sense of satisfaction and itís like a reward for all their hard work to put a number on the board, especially a 4.48!

That run, accompanied by the Steelers making it to the Super Bowl, made a lot of people around our pit happy about the weekend. I personally donít care about the Super Bowl now that Tom Brady and the Patriots are not going to be a part of it. However, Jim O and Bob Coffman and Glenn Williams (The Cowboys) are huge Steeler fans. Bob and Glenn come to the starting line almost every time a Kalitta or KB Racing car makes a lap down the track no matter if itís in Gainesville, Englishtown or Vegas. However, they were nowhere near the track when the Steelers played on Sunday. They did call and give Jim O play-by-play updates throughout the day since he was busy formulating our 4.48 tune-up.

Today, we are still at the track and all three Kalitta Motorsports Top Fuel teams are servicing parts for this weekendís Phoenix testing. I just went to Jack-in-the-Box and got everyone lunch. I showed up in the middle of the lunch rush at noon and ordered 30 double cheeseburgers, 10 hamburgers, 25 large fries and 10 tacos. The lady at the cash register said it was the biggest order sheís ever had from one person. For some reason she didnít seem very excited about that milestone. Iím guessing I was a little more jazzed about that 4.48.

Tomorrow we leave for Phoenix. We are hoping to run as well or better there than we did here. Jim O says thereís still potential to improve on our 4.48. The track and weather conditions will be different at Firebird Raceway so it will be a challenge for all teams. Iíll talk to you in a couple of days.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Up and running

I canít tell you how nice it was to finally get in my dragster, fire it up, and run it. Just to hear it and smell it, was awesome. On our first attempt, I was just supposed to take it to about 330 feet and click it off. The tires shook pretty good so I lifted right away. On our second run, it shook pretty hard again. My teammates Doug Kalitta and Dave Grubnic were experiencing the same problem. Not many dragsters were getting down the track. For our third run, we made a bunch of changes and conquered the tire shake. It was a really smooth, straight run. I wanted to stay on the throttle but my instructions were to lift at 330 feet, so I did. The entire team was pleased with that run and with our progress so far.

I wish I could express how relieved I am to just get in the car and make some runs. I have to say that over the off-season I was more nervous laying in bed at night thinking about the season than when I actually get to drive. Once I finally get in the car and get strapped in, I can take a deep breath, relax, and just do my job.

Speaking of jobs, it looks like I get to keep my job as team travel planner. Everyone made it here and had a place to sleep. There was one minor glitch with the rooms for the Funny Car team. Some of the guys arrived a day later than originally planned. I didnít let the hotel people know so when no one checked into their rooms, the hotel just canceled them for the rest of the weekend. So for a little while the guys had no rooms but thankfully I did call the hotel before they arrived; the Palace Station was very accommodating and re-booked them. The guys never knew the difference and I didnít have to give anyone my room and take the trailer.

Our team owner, Ken Black, finally got to see his trailer. He came out to the track and brought his grandson, Kenny, and his granddaughter, Brittni. This was the first time he saw any of his stuff. You can see in the picture that heís already trying to learn about running these cars. Itís evident from talking to Ken that he really knows the ins and outs of his Pro Stock cars so Jim O. has started explaining things and answering questions about his Top Fuel dragster.

Ken and his wife, Judy, took our team out for dinner on Saturday night. We went to the Geisha Japanese Steakhouse here in Vegas. Itís the type of place where they prepare the food in front you. It was great food and nice to be able to talk with Ken and Judy away from the track. The guys and I really appreciated it.

Today we are going to be making more runs here at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. There are a lot of cars here so we havenít been able to make as many laps as we had hoped, but weíre learning a lot and definitely making progress. Iíll check back in a couple of days.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Hitting the big 5-0, Mac Tools Fair, and more

Itís hard to believe but this is my 50th blog entry. When I wrote my first one, I never would have thought that in my 50th blog entry I would be talking about going to a Mac Tools Tool Fair where I signed autographs all day long or about my Top Fuel team leaving for testing. I didnít even think Iíd still be doing the blog. So thanks all you readers for making the blog so popular.

I went to the Mac Tools Tool Fair last weekend in Nashville with Doug and Josie Kalitta, Jim O, Ellen Cobb, and Ben Marshall, our team manager (that's Ben, center, and Ellen pictured to the right, doing business). It is an annual event that Mac Tools hosts for their distributors located throughout the world. I believe they said that more than 1,000 of them made the trip to Nashville, which is a new record. Its purpose is to motivate and inspire the distributors. The fair also allowed them to learn about new products, selling techniques and various other aspects to improve the tool business. There were seminars and different vendors with booths set up for the distributors to browse through and attend. The distributors also got first dibs on Mac Tools hospitality tickets for the Ď06 race season. Ellen, our hospitality manager, was selling passes during the fair. Also, the Distributors had the chance to view the actual Ď06 Mac Tools Top Fuel dragster. Team members Shawn Dill and Ben Zipf brought the dragster down from Michigan. Do you think Shawn and Ben took some time to relax and enjoy the show? No, they worked in the trailer out in the parking lot during the fair to continue preparations for testing.

All the drivers that Mac Tools backs stayed inside and signed autographs for the distributors. For me, to be sitting on the same side of the table as some of these drivers was a very cool experience. It also gave me a chance to talk with some of them, ask questions and get some advice. We all went to the Mac Tools awards banquet Friday night where they honor their best distributors.

The nationally syndicated motor sports radio show SpeedFreaks was in attendance, so I had the opportunity to be a guest on their show. I think Iím getting used to doing that stuff because I wasnít as nervous as usual. It wasnít live TV or anything so that made it a little easier I guess.

The whole weekend was fun. Iím glad I had the opportunity to go. John Aden, Roger Spee, Tony Merritt, and the whole Mac Tools gang put together a really fun and well-organized weekend for everyone. I had a terrific time mingling with all the NHRA and NASCAR drivers, although my Friday night or should I say Saturday morning was as late or as early, depending on how you look at it, as Del Worhsam and Larry Dixon.

Now, Iím back at the shop waiting impatiently until testing. The truck, trailer, dragster and the team left around noon yesterday. Iíll fly out (commercial) tonight with Ben, Jim O, Rahn, and Jon O. Friday will be the first time we fire the KB Racing dragster. This also will be the first time Ken Black, his wife, Judy, and son, Kenny, get to see their new Top Fuel investment at the race track. They live in Vegas, so they will definitely be there to watch us roll out the dragster. Weíre going to run the body unpainted and let me tell you, I think it looks very cool and unlike any dragster Iíve seen.

It wonít be my first time in it. Iíve spent a good amount of time just sitting in the seat. Itís very comfortable and I really like how I fit it in. As Iíve said before, the throttle pedal, clutch pedal, brake handle, steering wheel, chutes, and all the stuff are exactly how and where I want them. Now I canít wait to take it down the quarter-mile at The Strip. Iím not so nervous about that, but what I am nervous about is that our whole team makes it there and everyone has a place to sleep. Iím in charge of the travel planning for our team, so this will be my first test. We have four teams and more than 50 people; letís hope I got enough hotel rooms, plane tickets, and rental cars for the right amount of days. Iíll let you know how that goes in my 51st blog entry. Oh yeah, Iíll let you know how the dragster runs, too, but Iím sure most of you will have checked out the results online.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Meet the team, part 3

I mentioned in the last blog how a lot of the guys on my Top Fuel team come from racing backgrounds. Chris Glass grew up racing with his dad. He even turned a wrench on his dadís drag boat and Super Gas car. He summed it up best when he said that usually if you grow up around racing, youíre going to go through the rest of your life either involved in it or wanting to be involved in racing. Chris decided he wanted racing to be his career. In his mid-twenties, he started saving to attend a racing mechanic school. He even gave up his apartment and moved back in with his mom so he could save for the school.

Chris never made it to that school because he ended up at the Kalitta Motorsports school instead. It happened by complete chance. He bought Kalitta Motorsports hospitality tickets for the Houston race and happened to meet Jim O and had a couple of chances to speak with him over the weekend. It was 2003 and they were beginning to put together a second dragster for then retired Scott Kalitta. Jim O hired Chris and saved him from spending all his money on the school. Chris is now in charge of bottom end and short blocks on our team. I donít think he would respond if you called him by his name because most people on the team call him by his nickname that a former teammate gave him. He was telling a story and talking fast one day in the team van when he was called Beaker after a character on the Muppet Show. Like it or not, the name stuck. A lot of the guys on the team have been given nicknames. Thatís pretty common on the racing circuit.

Our teamís other Chris, Chris Rose, does not yet have a nickname because he is still new to the team although heís not new to racing or you blog readers. You all have seen him before because he worked on my Top Alcohol team. The 26-year-old from Ferndale, Wash., has proven that he is dedicated to racing. He picked up and moved to Fortuna, Calif., to work on the alcohol team and now has picked up and moved to Ypsilanti, Mich., to join Kalitta Motorsports where he will be in charge of rods and pistons on the KB Racing dragster.

On our Top Alcohol team, he was always the first one to start working in the morning and the last one working in the evening because working on a race car is what he loves to do. For Chris, racing is his hobby, but he has been able to make a living at it as well. He likes being at Kalitta Motorsports because everyone on the team shares that same sentiment. I have to agree with Chris. Itís very cool being around people who like racing and are as dedicated to it as we are. Everyone likes what they do and racing is their primary focus.

Mac Savage concurs with Chris and the rest of his teammates when he says that racing is his job as well as his hobby. Mac likes to ride motorcycles and golf, but the motorcycles have dust on them and he hasnít seen a golf course in a long time. The 29-year-old from Kansas City has worked for Kalitta Motorsports since he joined Scottís team in 2003. Mac decided to move over to the KB Racing team because he wanted to continue working with Jim O and Troy. Now he will be specializing in cylinder heads for our team.

Mac, like much of team, grew up around drag racing. His dad, Curt, used to own a blown gas dragster in the 1970s. Mac used to watch all the time and at a young age made it his goal to work for a professional race team.

Now Mac, the seven other guys on the team, and I are ready to begin the 2006 season. The average age on our team, including the crew chief and driver, is only 30 years old. We have bright futures in NHRA Drag Racing. As you can tell, we come from all parts of the country and have a variety of backgrounds yet we share the same desire to race and win. The new truck, trailer and dragster will leave the shop tomorrow and wonít return to Michigan until after the Phoenix national event in late February. I think we are ready to go. Let the testing begin.

Iíve just covered the eight guys who make up my team but there are many more people who are also a part of the team that I havenít yet written about. Iíll introduce you to them soon. Next Iíll tell you about our trip to Nashville this past weekend for the Mac Tools Fair.

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