Yesterday was a very sad day. It was the last time game show The Price Is Right was hosted by Bob Barker. Unfortunately, the old man is finally retiring. I heard they are going to continue the show but it just wonít be the same. I made sure to set my DVR so I can watch the last show. I used to love that show. It was always a special treat to watch it on days when I was home sick from school. My favorite part was the Showcase Showdown. I always felt sorry for the contestant that got stuck with the home furnishings set while the other contestant got to bid on the trip to Jamaica and the a new car. I always wanted to go and be in the studio audience but I have never made it. Someday I will get a group of friends together and go watch The Price Is Right in person even though Bob Barker is gone.
Someday sooner, I will also get to the winnerís circle with our KB Racing Top Fuel team. I think next weekend in Englishtown will be the time. Our car is running great right now. Iím anxious to get into the top eight. We moved up one spot in the point standings after the last race. We stayed in Joliet and tested on Monday after the race. It was the hottest day we were there and there were a lot of other cars testing. We managed to still get three runs in. Then my team packed up and drove about five hours to get back to the shop. They got in about 2 a.m. and then they were back at the shop working a couple hours later on Tuesday morning. Theyíre awesome.
For my sake, I wish we were racing this weekend. Thankfully for me team, it is an off weekend for us. Itís our last non-race weekend until August. Most of the guys will take three days away from the shop this weekend. Iím sure they will savor every second of the time to relax.
I am in Tallmadge, Ohio, this weekend for Super Summit XV. Itís an annual event and if I remembered how to read roman numerals, I could tell you how many years Summit has been doing this. At their headquarters in Tallmadge, they have a Show and Shine, a huge manufacturerís midway, and lots of prize giveaways. I came here last year. A lot of people came and it was pretty fun. Summit Racing Equipment does a lot for racers. We are very appreciative of the support we get from them so I figured the least I could do is attend their event. I get to hang out with my Pro Stock teammates, meet some fans, sign autographs, and enjoy their car show. Iím hoping Greg Anderson and Jason Lineís winning-ways are contagious and I will catch it. Their cars will be here and we will sign autographs and walk around the car show. I should have some good pictures to show.
I wish I was going to spend time with my Dad and Grandpa for the Fatherís Day but unfortunately I am 2,000 miles away. They are a huge reason why Iím able to drag race and make a living doing what I love. They have always been there for me and they continue to support me 100 percent. Theyíve been the ear on other end of the phone after bad race days like just last week. Iíll call them this Sunday, and be in a better mood than I was last Sunday, so I can wish them a Happy Fatherís Day. I know they read my blog so I can say, Dad, Grandpa, Happy Fatherís Day. I want to wish our team owners Ken Black and his son, Kenny Black, a Happy Fatherís Day too. Kenny has a son, Kenny, and a daughter, Brittni. Also a lot of the guys on my team are dads. Jim O, Beaker, and Mac all have daughters. Trucker Mike and Scott Finnis each have a son and daughter. Troy has a son. Happy Fatherís Day guys! I hope they get to spend some time with their families this Sunday. I know a lot of drag racing fans are dads, too. I get to see a lot of dads who bring their kids by our pits to say hi at races. I hope you all have a great day Sunday.
Iíll be at our shop in Michigan this week. My team will be busy preparing for our six-race swing in six weeks that starts in New Jersey and ends in California. Iíll check back before we leave for Jersey.
Wednesday, June 06, 2007
Keeping busy in Topeka
After three weekends in a row without racing, it was so great to get back in my dragster. As you can tell from my previous blogs, I stayed really busy with my time off but a lot of what I did made me more anxious and even more appreciative of what I get to do. Spectating at the professional lacrosse game in Boston, made me appreciate the heat of a battle and competition and that I can have career where I can be competitive. Watching the NASCAR race just enhanced my desire to get in a race car and win.
We were at Heartland Park Topeka this last weekend. I flew in on Tuesday night before the race to help promote the event. I went on a morning news show on Wednesday at 6 a.m. Usually we just do a quick interview, but this time I sat behind the news desk and was on a couple of different times throughout the news hour. I always wondered what it was like to be a news anchor. Then in the afternoon there was a Fanfest in downtown Topeka. It was during lunchtime so a lot of people came by to say hi and get an autograph on their lunch break. Itís always cool interacting with the fans. Iím not the only driver to do things like this. Itís common for other NHRA drivers to come early to races to help promote the event.
When I was at the NASCAR race, one thing a lot of fans pointed out to me is how much they appreciate the accessibility at that NHRA offers. Thatís what makes our sport so unique because the fans can go right into the pits at races and they can also interact with the drivers and teams at different times throughout the weekend. As with most races, I had the opportunity to talk to a lot of the fans over the weekend. It seemed like a lot of them had traveled to Kansas from neighboring states. I talked to people from Nebraska, Missouri, Iowa, New Mexico, South Dakota, and, of course Kansas.
On Thursday, I went to Wichita, Kansas to do a couple of TV interviews to promote the race. Wichita is an easy two-hour drive from Topeka, so we tried to draw a lot of fans from that area. Brian Hacker of the NHRA public relations department picked me up and we drove through lots of Kansas farm country to get there. It was a pretty drive and I had never been to Wichita before. The TV interviewers asked me questions about what itís like to be a woman in Motorsports. They always ask how I got my start in racing and what it feels like to drive 330 mph. I answer their questions plus try to fit in other things that will encourage viewers to come out to the race.
Now we are focused on our next race in Joliet. My team is already there. They stayed in Topeka and serviced the car on Monday and then traveled to Joliet on Tuesday. Unfortunately, we didnít move up any in the points at Topeka. We know that we have to go rounds this weekend because itís critical that we start working our way into the top eight. Wish us luck!
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
My trip to Charlotte, N.C.,exceeded all my expectations from a business standpoint and an entertainment standpoint. Iím really glad that Bill McKnight of Clevite invited me and Iím glad that I went.
The main reason they invited me was for me to make an appearance at the annual Mahle Clevite Engine Builderís Showdown held at the NASCAR Technical Institute in Mooresville. Itís a four-round competition for professional engine builders who are employed on various NASCAR teams. I was there for the finals where Dennis Borem and Darrell Hoffman of Pro Motor Engines took the crown. I got to stand right up close to the action as they built their engine in a record 16 minutes and 25 seconds. They edged out Kevin Webber and Scott Vester, of Hendrick Motorsports, who finished with a build time of 17 minutes and 47 seconds.
Those guys are very talented and I was so impressed. I was fortunate to have met them at a reception before the competition. Dennis and Darrell were eating some chicken and various appetizers. I told them it was the meal of champions and I turned out to be right.
My meal came after the show when I went to dinner with some editors from various motorsports publications. Clevite flew them in to cover the showdown. We talked nothing but racing over dinner which was great because if Iím not racing, the next best thing is to talk about it. I also had the opportunity to go with the journalists on a tour of the Rousch Yates Engine shop. Itís a 75,000-square-foot facility with 120 employees where they produce engines for 10 different cars on the NASCAR Nextel Cup circuit. That whole building was amazing and the tour was very informative.
The rest of the weekend was a whirlwind of meetings and activities. The Kalitta Motrosports marketing team of Rachel Brunner and Ben Marshall came in with the Kalitta Motorsports general manager and KB Racing crew chief, Jim Oberhofer. On Thursday night, we enjoyed a great meal with Tony Merritt and John Suggs of Mac Tools.
It wouldnít be a trip to Mooresville without visiting our KB Racing Pro Stock teammates at their shop in Mooresville. When we got there, Greg was busily working in the engine room. He showed us some stuff at the shop and then we went to lunch with him and some of the guys. We later learned that he ended up staying at the shop until midnight that night to make up for the lost time. After lunch, we found Jason Line, Rob Downing, and some of the other guys at their neighboring dragstrip. They were working and making laps down the track in the 90-degree heat. Greg, Jason, Rob and all the guys are constantly working. They have earned every piece of every trophy that that they have. For that, I am motivated and inspired by them.
In addition to their shop work, Greg and Jason also had some appearances for Coca-Cola with Ron Capps. I joined them Saturday night along with Ben, Jim O, Rachel for a reception in downtown Charlotte hosted by Coca-Cola. We all got our picture taken together with Mike Adams of IMG which is the company that handles the marketing for Coca-Cola. Senator John McCain, the governor or Tennessee, Elliot Sadler, and a lot of the Coke executives were in attendance. After the reception, the party moved outdoors for a concert by Cheap Trick on the Coca-Cola stage. It was cool for all of us to spend some time together outside of a race.
During the day on Saturday and Sunday, Rachel and I did a lot of walking around. We had a couple of different meetings which Iím hoping to be able to tell you about soon. We observed some of the ways that companies promote their products at the track. We had garage passes so it was neat to walk around and see the teams up close. We I caught a glimpse of a few of the drivers as they walked from inside the coach to their cars in the garage area. It was really neat to be on the infield during driver introductions before the 600 on Sunday. They amount of people they draw to the race is amazing.
The whole weekend was a great experience. Bill McKnight from Clevite made sure we had garage passes and suite passes so I was very thankful for that. We had to get up at 3:30 a.m. Monday morning for our early morning flight back to Michigan. As is the normal routine, I had enough time to unpack, do my laundry, and repack. I spent one night at home, flew to Kansas City last night, and then drove to Topeka where we will be racing this weekend. I got up at 5 a.m. for a television interview at a CBS station here in Topeka to promote our race. Thereís lots of promotional events planned for me over the next couple of days. I can tell that everyone around here is excited to have the NHRA in town. Iím excited to get back in my dragster on Friday; itís been way too long.
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
On Friday morning, I flew to Boston for my five-year college reunion. I graduated from Wheaton College in 2002 and have not seen a lot of the people I went to school with since our graduation. It was great seeing everyone again. It seems like everyone is still pretty much the same, only five years older. Itís weird thinking about all the things that have happened to us in the last five year but we end back at Wheaton again and itís as if no time has passed.
We were supposed to have a lot of outdoor things to do at the reunion but it was cold and rainy which ruined a lot of our plans. It didnít really matter though, because all we really wanted to do was reminisce and tell stories. We did a lot of laughing. That can be done anywhere rain or shine. Most of us stayed in the dorm rooms. That was an interesting experience. Those rooms are so small they remind me of prison cells and they smelled funny. When I first arrived on campus for my freshman year in 1998 I had to share a room the size of a closet with two other roommates. I didnít mind the dorms back in the day. It was actually fun because everyone was required to live on campus all four years so it was actually a lot of fun. However, I couldnít imagine doing that now.
My Wheaton friend, Caitlin, and I decided that one night of Wheaton nostalgia was plenty so we left and went back to South Boston where she lives with her boyfriend, Dave. On Saturday night, we went to Mexican food at Borders in Cambridge. Then we went to a lacrosse game at Harvard. Dave plays professionally for the Boston Cannons. It was cool being at the game, but we got soaked from the rain and then I was freezing. We ditched the game at halftime and met up with some friends in South Boston. I really like that city a lot and ďSouthBĒ as they call it, seems like it would be a fun place to live.
On Sunday, I went up to Maine with Caitlin and our two friends, Robin and Heather. We went to a wedding shower for our friend Megan who is marrying our friend Chris. All of us are Wheaton alum. We had good stories for the car ride and the shower was pretty fun too. The August wedding is going to be really fun. Iím really glad we donít have a race that weekend, at least not as of right now.
I flew back to Michigan really early Monday morning. I had enough time to practice on the Tree at the shop and take care of some odds and ends. I unpacked, did laundry, and re-packed. I just flew to Charlotte, N.C., for the Coca-Cola 600 this weekend. Iím going to do some things for Clevite over the next couple of days. They supply us all our rings and engine bearings so I occasionally make appearances for them at some of their events. Bill McKnight, director of brand development at Clevite, has some different things scheduled for me this weekend in North Carolina. He got me tickets to the Busch race on Saturday and the 600 on Sunday. The next few days should be really fun. Itís also a great opportunity for me to meet people and make business contacts to help our team in our sponsorship quest. Plus I have never been to a cup race so it should be interesting. Iím sure Iíll have lots to talk about in my next blog.
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
The No Resting Zone
As you all know, our Bristol race scheduled for this weekend was postponed until July. Obviously itís going to be a pretty grueling summer for all the teams. Itís great for the fans though. Years ago when I used to follow the races on the Internet, I would have loved for NHRA to have a six-race swing. The Western Swing is now being dubbed the ďNever-ending SwingĒ this year.
You would think that means time for a little rest and relaxation for my team while they can get it right now. Well, not my team. They are working more than ever. Monday we rolled the car out into the parking lot of the shop and fired it up. Then all three dragster teams packed everything up and hauled it all to Indianapolis. They unloaded and set up what some call our three-ring circus at OíReilly Raceway Park. We made three laps yesterday and will make as many laps as we can today.
Iím at the racetrack now writing to you from the inside of our trailer. Itís really cold and windy outside. The heater is running strong. Yesterday it was sunny and nearly 90 degrees. The air conditioner was running strong. We just have to be ready for anything.
This last Saturday and Sunday was my last full weekend to spend at home in Michigan until late August. I didnít do a whole lot and tried to enjoy staying home. I finally got a DVR last week and I love it. I canít believe it took me this long. Over the weekend, I was able to watch some of the drag races that were on ESPN Classic during the week. Itís pretty entertaining to watch those.
I didnít just sit on my butt and watch TV all weekend though. I did my usual kickboxing classes at the gym. They kicked my butt because I havenít been going as regularly as I would like because of our travel schedule.
On the way back from my gym, there is a Dunkin Donuts so thatís my reward for working out and my motivator to get the gym. Now that the weather is warmer, I get iced coffee. I love the iced coffee at Dunkin. I even took a picture of it.
All that coffee gave me an energy boost so I decided to go for a leisurely walk to stretch my legs out after kickboxing. I found a park near our shop that has lots of good hiking trails. It was great being out in the fresh air and the scenery was nice too. Then I decided the scenery was going by too slow so I decided to run. Well I was on a loop that turned out to be really long. I didnít want to turn around so I just kept going and going. My legs are still paying for that one. I guess if I want the scenery to go by faster, they have bikes for that.
Also over the weekend, I went out with the Oberhofersí to celebrate Ashley Oís 12th birthday. We went to the Mongolian Barbeque in Ann Arbor. I took a photo of Ashley and her mom, Tammy. Jim O, Jon O, Kim, Jessica, and Julia also went. Julia decided to have a milestone at the Mongolian BBQ when she lost her very first tooth at the dinner table.
I will get to fly from Indy to Michigan tonight on Connieís plane which is a nice treat. Usually we fly commercial but a person could really get used to flying to races on a private plane. Iíll be back at the shop all day tomorrow. Then on Friday Iím flying to Boston. The postponing of Bristol means that I get to go to my five year college reunion at Wheaton. Iím really, really looking forward to seeing my friends and going back to visit the campus. I loved my four years of college. I have such great friends from there. I would have chosen the six-year college plan if I could have. However, my student loan debt is painful enough as it is. Speaking of paying off debt, I better go earn my living (I definitely canít call it work), Iím off to make another lap in my dragster. Iíll check back soon.
Wednesday, May 09, 2007
Focusing on the positive
Itís been a tough couple of weeks for our team. I could bring up all the reasons why it was tough, but thereís no reason to dwell on the negative so instead Iíll tell you about the best things that happened.
Our KB Racing team qualified for our 30th race out of 30 that we have entered. Itís becoming more and more difficult just to make the 16-car field at every race and our team is proud to have made the show at every event. In St. Louis, we only had two qualifying sessions because of rain and we went into the final session not qualified. As always, I have a lot of confidence in my crew chief, Jim Oberhofer, and the rest of my team. Being in that position makes my heart beat a little faster when I pull up to stage the car because I know any little thing can go wrong and we donít get to race on Sunday. The car launched and felt pretty good. I could almost breathe a sigh of relief by the time we made it to half-track without pulling the tires loose or shaking. I was pretty sure by that point that if I just kept the car in the groove we could make the show. It actually felt like it took forever to get to the finish line. We ran a 4.71 but it was enough to get us into the 13th position.
As most of you already know, another good thing that happened within the last couple of weeks is that we brought Dick LaHaie in as a tuning consultant. I have a lot of respect for him, as does our whole team. I was first introduced to Dick-o, as he is commonly called, in 2005 when I was at the Seattle race with my family running our Top Alcohol Dragster. I talked to him for a good amount of time and he gave me some driving advice. At that time he was tuning for Larry Dixon but he told me some stories about how he helped Scott Kalitta out with his driving in the mid-Ď90s when he worked at Kalitta Motorsports and they won two back-to-back championships. Talking to Dick-o in 2005, I never would have thought that just two years later I would be teammates with Scott Kalitta and Dick-o would be a part of our team.
On Saturday night in St. Louis, I went dinner with Dick-o, Jim O, Jon O, Dave Grubnic, and Rick Fischer. Grubnic and I got to listen to them reminisce about old times. Jim O and Jon O worked for him for five years and they had a lot of great stories. I could have sat and listened to their stories all night. We did a lot of laughing.
There wasnít much laughing or smiling going on the next day. We had a tough day at the track. However, I know we will turn our season around. We have moved up in points but as of right now Iím really thankful for the new points system. Itís very feasible that we could still win the championship. We arenít in the top eight right now, but Iím confident that we can get there within the next 10 races. My team is a championship-caliber team and our points position right now does not do them justice. They are a relentless and hard-working group of guys.
Thatís why I was glad to hear that they took a much deserved day to relax and have some fun. In between the Atlanta and St. Louis race, my team spent a day at the lake, which was another good thing that happened within the last couple of weeks. I canít even imagine them relaxing and lounging on the water because every time I see them, they are busy working, but thatís what they did. The rented a boat, a couple of jet skis, and had some fun. Trucker Mike was too stubborn to wear sunblock so he got a sunburn that was redder than my light in Atlanta second round. Other than the sunburn, it sounded like they had a much deserved good time.
After being out on the road for a couple of weeks, everyone is back here at the shop in Michigan. Hopefully some of the guys will take the weekend off to spend some time with their families for Motherís Day. Iím not going to see my Mom but for once I planned ahead and made sure to get cards and gifts in the mail to her, my stepmom, Chris, and both my Grandmaís in California.
Our next race is in Bristol, Tenn., May 18-20. However, we are busy getting ready to take all four Kalitta Motorsports cars out to make some laps before the race. Iíll keep you updated.
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
Dancing with the real stars
In my last blog I mentioned the Night of Champions banquet honoring Ken Black at the Belagio in Las Vegas. The entire KB Racing top fuel and pro stock team attended the event that honored our team owner. Various people from Kalitta Motorsports attended, the Technicoat Cowboys came, and a lot of people from the racing community went as well. It was great to see Ken honored because he has done so much for our sport.
I know our team always talks about how fortunate we are to have a team owner like Ken. We definitely couldnít ask for a more understanding, patient, and generous person to own our team. It was nice that he was honored for his support of drag racing. It was also nice to have the opportunity to publicly thank Ken. Although, I have to admit I was really nervous getting up on stage that night. I didnít even need to say much. I just wanted to thank the Black family, but it was intimidating being up there on the same side of the podium as Jason Line and Greg Anderson and being up in front of my teammates. Plus, thereís nothing I could say that would show enough appreciation to Ken for giving me the opportunity to pilot his fuel car. Other than my ramblings, it was a great night. It was really cool to have our whole team together. Kenís wife Judy was there along with their granddaughter, Kori. Ken and Judyís son, Kenny, and daughter-in-law, Michele, came with their two kids, Kenny Jr. and Brittni. They had a lot of other family there as well.
Thereís nothing I would have loved better than giving the Black family a Top Fuel Wally at their home track, but that will have to wait. None of them are easy but that first-round loss at Las Vegas was tough. It took me awhile to get over. Itís a good thing I live by myself because Iím not fun to be around after a race like that.
Now Iím looking forward to our next race in Georgia. I have been using our practice Tree all week. I used Doug Kalittaís and then we set one up to my dragster. Our whole team is ready to turn our season around this weekend. Itís the first time we have back-to-back races two weekends in a row. Iím happy about that. As a driver, I prefer running two or even three weeks in a row.
This last weekend was pretty uneventful for me here in Michigan. I was so thankful for some warm, sunny weather. I went for a couple long jogs outside. I cleaned out my garage. Saturday night I went to Ford Field in Detroit for the AMA Supercross Race with some my teammates. It was cool to spend some time away from the track with everyone, but watching anything go around in circles isnít that exciting to me.
Thereís been some TV shows on lately that arenít that exciting either but I find myself watching them anyway. When Iím home, I always have the TV on while Iím packing, doing laundry or whatever. Iíve been following American Idol and Dancing with the Stars lately. I think that Apolo is going to win, but Iím hoping that Ian Ziering gets better. Iíve been a big fan of his since my days of religiously watching Beverly Hills 90210 in junior high. I always thought Ian was the cutest. I think heíll do good on Dancing with the Stars; he just tries too hard.
Our team is en route to Commerce, Ga., today. They loaded everything up last night and will set up at Atlanta Dragway tomorrow. Our KB Top Fuel teamís quickest run came at this track last year. Iím sure we can run well again there this weekend. Wish us luck!
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
What really matters
Sunday I went to Jon, Kim, Jessica, and Julia Oberhoferís house for Easter dinner. Jim, Tammy, and Ashley Oberhofer came and so did Rick Fischer. It was really nice to spend the holiday with them since I didnít go back to my hometown for the holiday; they are like a second family to me. Jon ďOĒ and his wife, Kim, prepared a great meal for all of us. We had prime rib, ham, asparagus, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, sautťed mushrooms and onions, and lots of good stuff.
Lately Iíve taken a little bit of extra time to appreciate the people around me and the friendships I have. We have all been reminded how precious and short life is and that life is not about how much stuff we have or many trophies we have on the mantel. At the end of the day, I think the thing that matters most is the people in my life
The passing of Eric Medlenís has really affected me, as it has a lot of people. The way the racing community came together made me realize how much of a family it truly is. It was tough to see everyone hurting so much. Eric touched a lot peopleís lives. I really admire him for that. He built a lot of friendships and bonds with people and I think that is the important thing in life.
I love hearing the stories about all the ways he was able to make people laugh or smile. Even if heís not physically there, he is still making people smile. It was really tough not to have Eric at the Houston race. You could definitely feel his absence. However, stories about him were being told throughout the pits. His presence was felt and he was still making people smile and laugh. It rained all day Saturday and half the day Sunday. I told my team that Eric just wanted us all to go to the movies because thatís what he liked to do when it rained. Our team lost in the first round and we were pretty disappointed about it. I had some ice cream though, in honor of Eric because he told his friend, Brandon Bernstein, that you canít eat ice cream and be unhappy. I think a lot of people have been eating more ice cream lately.
I got to know Eric a little bit before he became a professional driver at John Force Racing. I was pleasantly surprised when he continued talking and being friendly to me after he went pro. I was a Sportsman racer at that time and thought he would have forgotten all about me. Then when I went pro, he was always there to encourage me and offer advice. We had similar experiences because we stepped into high-profile fuel cars with little prior experience in them. We both knew we had the opportunity of a lifetime. He understood what it meant to try too hard and knew what it was like to want to win too much. I struggled sometimes last year and he really helped me out a number of different times.
This photo was taken last year by Kim Oberhofer during a rain delay when Eric came over to our pit to hang out. Jon ďOĒ is to Ericís right. Julia Oberhofer is in front of him and Jessica is in the middle.
One of the most recent stories I have of Eric was from this last February. I told this story to NHRA.com for their quotes page. Eric really knows how to light up a roomÖor a bus. On Friday morning of the Phoenix race, I had a breakfast to attend near the track with a big group of fans. I was sitting with them on a bus at 7 am. The atmosphere on there was kind of dull and lackluster reflecting the fact that no one had had breakfast or coffee yet. There was very little energy. Then Eric and all his energy jumped on the bus and it was like the electricity came on. It didnít matter that it was 7 am and people were barely awake. Eric seemed as though he had just won a race and his enthusiasm was contagious. The whole atmosphere of the bus changed. He had everyone talking and laughing. This was common whenever Eric came around. I know that race fans loved seeing Eric, and I know I especially looked forward to driver appearances when I knew Eric was going to be there.
So we continue on with heavy hearts, and I continue on, trying to be more a little more like Eric by being a better friend and cherishing the people who I am surrounded by. I will really enjoy Wednesday night when the entire KB Racing top fuel and pro stock team will be together in Las Vegas for the Mel Larson Night of Champions at the Bellagio. Our team owner, Ken Black is being honored by Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Speedway Childrenís Charities. Kenís family will be there. My Grandpa will be there, members of Kalitta Motorsports, and the Technicoat Cowboys are attending. Iím very proud and very thankful to be able to say these are all my teammates and they are also like family.
I will get to be with a lot of my family this weekend at the race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Some of them are making the trek all the way down from Northern California to be in Las Vegas this weekend. Iím looking forward to spending time with them.
Iíll check back in real soon. Sorry it has taken me so long to write but I wanted this blog to be about Eric and I was having trouble finding the right words. I still donít think I expressed all that I was trying to say but hopefully you get the idea. I have a new camera too so I should have some good photos for you within the next couple of days.
Monday, March 26, 2007
Eric and Ashley
With Jim Oberhofer (Jim "O"), KB Racing Top Fuel dragster crew chief
The other day Hillary and I were talking and she told me anytime I wanted to write a blog for her I could. So I started to think what to write about, maybe I could write about our KB team or maybe I could write about how I spent the weekend before Gainesville watching all of the Star Wars movies for whatever reason and how my 11-year-old daughter Ashley started calling me a nerd while watching these movies or maybe I could write about the new Powerhouse Gym that opened up down the street from the shop and how I have been making my way there in the evenings torturing myself. After thinking about this I decided I wanted to write about my buddy Eric Medlen and one of his biggest fans, my daughter Ashley.
Ashley is a fan of Eric Medlen because he would always spend the time to talk to her whenever she would make her way to the races along with my wife Tammy. The first time Ashley met Eric was at a restaurant in Columbus during a race in 2004. Tammy, Ashley, and I were sitting down eating when Eric, John Force and others came in, Eric saw us and sat down and started flapping with Ashley like they were old friends, needless to say Eric left a lasting impression on her. Anytime I saw Eric at the track he would always ask me how his girl Ashley was doing, every now and then we would call her from the track and Eric would talk to her, which made her day. Whenever Ashley would come to a race the first thing she always wanted to do was to go see Eric and one of the first things Eric would ask her is if she was doing well in school and being good to her mom and dad. One of the biggest dilemmas we have had in my house lately was when Scott Kalitta made the switch from Top Fuel to Funny Car in 2006, Ashley wasnít happy because she didnít know who to cheer for if Scott raced Eric. I told her she could cheer for whomever she wanted, sorry Scott but I think Eric won out but you were a close second.
After Ericís accident during testing Monday at Gainesville I wasnít sure if or how to tell Ashley about what happened to Eric. Ashley had a friend of hers staying over for a couple of nights and I didnít want to tell her while she was having so much fun with her friend Cassie. On Wednesday night I decided to tell her what happened and was not surprised by the tears and crying that came afterward. Later that night I found Ashley in her room in tears looking at a picture of her and Eric from last year, it about brought me to tears which is not an easy thing to do. I told her to just keep Eric in her thoughts and prayers and that he will be okay.
On Friday we received the bad news about Eric. Words canít describe how we all felt, it was just the most empty feeling you could have. I made my way home and both my wife and I told Ashley about the passing of Eric, it was one of the toughest things I have had to do in my life as a father. We spent the rest of the weekend looking at pictures that we had of Eric and also on the internet, it brought smiles to our faces.
Drag Racing is a tough business in many ways but it is toughest when something like this happens. I know that after watching Hillaryís accident during testing in Las Vegas I was devastated to say the least. One of the most amazing things I saw afterwards was Hillary standing there saying she was okay. I know that accident took its toll on Ken Black, myself and our team because Hillary is like family to us and we donít ever want to see anything happen to her. Hillary reminded us afterwards that this is what she wants to do. Eric would tell us the same thing.
Right now our thoughts and prayers are with Eric, his father John and the rest of the Medlen family along with everyone at John Force Racing, I can only imagine how tough the last week has been for them and how upcoming months will be. I am going to miss a lot about Eric, his goofy text messages, his goofy phone calls, how he would call me ďPopĒ and I would call him ďSonĒ but most of all I am just going to miss him because of the good person he was. Thanks for being my friend Eric and thanks for making Ashley feel special when ever you talked to her. Rest in peace, Eric.
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
What really matters
Monday after the Gatornationals in Gainesville, Fla., my team and I went back to the track for a day of testing as we often due after races. I decided to write a blog first thing in the morning while my team prepared our dragster. I wrote about how we had a decent weekend and I was pleased with the way things went. Then something happened that made none of that seem to matter anymore. Funny Car driver Eric Medlen was in a horrific crash. He was airlifted to the local hospital where he remains in critical condition. The racing community is pretty close and Eric is a friend of ours. I canít even express to you how saddened we are that this happened. I am still in disbelief and at a loss for words. I know that Eric is tough, heís strong, he has a big heart, and he can get through this. I think I speak on behalf of our entire KB Racing and Kalitta Motorsports team when I say that we wish Eric, his family, and his team the very best. Our thoughts and prayers are with them all
For what itís worth, here is what I wrote before the crash.
I think we had a pretty good weekend in Gainesville. The beginning of the season has given us all kinds of interesting challenges so our first-round victory on Sunday was much needed and very rewarding for my KB Racing team. All the guys have remained determined and hard working through everything. I was glad to see them smiling and a little more upbeat than normal on Sunday. They always work fast and efficient and after we won, they seemed to have more energy. If you were watching a video tape of them servicing the car after first round, you would have thought it was on fast forward. I had barely changed out of my firesuit, watched the tape of the run, packed the chutes, and we were ready to warm up the car for second round.
We were on a pretty good run in the round two, but started to spin the tires pretty good at the top end of the race course. I try not to look over at the car in the other lane in order to concentrate on reacting to my race car and keeping it in the groove. I didnít see our opponent for at least half the race. I felt like we had a good chance of winning. Then, I felt the tires start to spin and the car got a little bit whippy. I kept my foot pressed down on the throttle as if I was going to smash it through the floor, but our opponent, Whit Bazemore, went around us to end our day.
Now the stands have cleared, race car trailers are exiting in droves, but we stayed at the track for yet another day. We will make as many test laps as time will allow. Then the guys will pack everything up and get on the road. They will drive a couple of hours tonight. Then they will spend all day Wednesday driving to get back to Michigan. Everyone will be back at the shop first thing Thursday morning because there are only a couple of days to prepare for the next race in Houston.
Saturday, March 17, 2007
My secret identity
Iím so glad to be back at the race track. Iím writing to you from the Gatornationals in Gainesville, Fla. We completed one day of qualifying yesterday. We have had the last two weekends with no races and it is the only time in the 2007 season that we will have to go that long with no racing. Thank goodness because I am glad to be back in the race car. I managed to stay pretty busy over the last few weeks.
As you know, my job as a driver keeps me doing different things. My latest venture is definitely something I would have never imagined doing. I found myself in a Hollywood studio, standing in bright lights on a neon platform, surrounded by actors and actresses, in front of a clapping and cheering studio audience. Last Sunday, I flew to Hollywood to be on the hit NBC game show Identity. Emmy Award-winning comedian-magician Penn Jillette ("Penn & Teller") hosts the show which airs on Friday evenings at 8 p.m. The way the game works is, one contestant faces 12 strangers and a list of 12 traits to identify them. The contestant picks a trait -- ranging anywhere from a profession to a shoe size -- and tries to match it with one of the 12 strangers. I was one of the 12 strangers and my identity was a ďprofessional race car driver.Ē They arenít sure when my show will air yet, but I will let you know when I find out.
The producers from Identity heard about me when I gave my speech at the North American International Auto Show. They contacted me and asked if I would be on their show. I figured it will give our sport some good exposure. It was a pretty cool experience, too. They wouldnít allow me to take a lot of pictures but I got some.
I spent nearly 10 hours on set on Monday the day we filmed. I was really nervous about what they were going to have me wear so I brought a whole suitcase full of clothes. However, they had their own ideas. I had to go to their wardrobe department and they dressed me in couple different outfits and then the producers picked what I had to wear. It was kind of fun trying on different things. I got a photo in the wardrobe room in one of the outfits that they didnít choose for me to wear on the show. What I ended up wearing was nothing that I would ever choose myself. It included shiny, high boots up to my knees that I could barely walk in and some short shorts. The worst part about wearing that was the set was seriously like 40 degrees. We would wrap up in blankets whenever the cameras were off.
I got to meet a lot of really cool people. Some of the other ďstrangersĒ on my show were Lance Burton, the magician of Las Vegas; Chewbacca of Star Wars, and the most downloaded woman on the Internet. I also met a woman who holds the world record for sword swallowing. I met and got a photo with actor Felix Silla, who was an Ewok in one of the Star Wars movies. I had to laugh when we were on stage and Lance Burton reminded me in the middle of the show from his neon platform not to lock my knees or I would pass out.
I had the opportunity to meet and talk with a lot of aspiring actors, producers, fashion consultants, and screen writers. There are a lot of people my age who come to Hollywood chasing their dreams. I think itís really cool to see people take a chance, follow their passions, and try to make a living doing what they love. Itís got to be very tough to ďmake itĒ in the film industry. I give them a lot of credit for trying.
Now Iím here in Florida this weekend chasing my dream of becoming a winning top fuel driver. It was almost two years ago to the day that I left my office job because I was an aspiring race car driver. I didnít know how I was going to make it happen or if I was going to make it happen but I had to take a chance and give it my all. I wouldnít want to be anywhere else right now. Wish us luck this weekend and hopefully my next blog will be about the KB Racing Top Fuel being in the winnerís circle.
Friday, March 09, 2007
I got a lot of positive response from Troyís blog so hopefully you can expect more blogs from him and maybe from some of the other guys on my team. I donít like to bug them too much about it because they already have enough stuff to do as you could tell after reading his blog. The one thing that is really evident, is that most of the time, the whole team loves what they do. Iím a big advocate of people making a living doing what they love.
I try to do what I can to encourage students to follow their passions and choose a career that is meaningful to them. I think there are lot of avenues in racing to do that. Wednesday I went to a career fair in Royal Oak which is a town just north of Detroit. John Williams of Ed-connect.com organized the event for The Royal Oak Neighborhood Schools. He invited me to attend. I was more than willing because I remember what it was like being in high school and wondering what careers were out there. I also remember having a job after college that I dreaded going to everyday. I think itís important for students to have career goals because then they are more likely to end up doing something they like. However, itís difficult to do that unless they know what kind of careers are available to them. There are so many careers and varieties of jobs out there, but students donít know about them.
I set up a booth where I tried to convey to students all the different career opportunities that exist within racing. There were about 700 high school kids who attended. I explained to the students that we need smart, educated people in our sport. If they want to be involved in racing, they could be a clutch specialist, an engineer, a graphic designers, a marketer, a photographer, and the list goes on. As always, I also encouraged the students to make sure they choose a career that is meaningful to them so they make a living doing something that they love.
I tried to convey the same message on Friday at the Detroit Autorama. I spoke to a couple thousand high school students from Detroit area schools. They came to Cobo Arena for education day at the annual Autorama. Custom Hot Rod Builder, Chip Foose, Pro Stock Motorcycle driver, Steve Johnson, Team Jegs Chef, Nicky Morse, and other racers also spoke to the students. We all encouraged the students to seek careers in something they are passionate about.
Then all the students got to walk around and see the show before it was opened to the public. I went to the show with the Kalitta Motorsports marketing team of Ben Marshall and Rachel Brunner. We saw a lot of cool hot rods there. Some people spend serious amounts of money fixing up these cars. Iím sure thereís some a lot of opportunity for students who want to pursue careers in customizing hot rods.
Iím glad I got to attend the Autorama. Itís only about a 45-minute drive from our shop in Ypsilanti. My condo is only about 10 minutes from our shop and thatís where Iím going right now. The sun is going down now, but next week when we all go home at the end of the day, hopefully the sun will still be out since the time is changing this weekend. Iím really happy that daylight savings is earlier this year. I like it being light out in the evening. Anyway, enough of my rambling. Have a good weekend.
Tuesday, March 06, 2007
The glamorous life of a Top Fuel crewmember
Hello everyone, Troy Fasching here, assistant crew chief on Hillary Will's, Ken Black Racing Top Fuel dragster. I told Hillary that I would write a blog for her, so here goes.
People often ask us what it is like being a member of a race car team, so I will give you some insight about our last two months. We returned to work on the third of January from our Christmas break, had that first weekend off in January, and we worked all day, every day from then until Feb. 13. In other words, we worked 37 days straight without a day off. Generally our work days last much longer than eight or nine hours. We get to the track about 8 a.m. We work all day. Weíre lucky to leave the track before 7 or 8 p.m. We usually grab some fast food for dinner, go back to our hotel rooms, and go to sleep before we do it all over again. We donít complain about these things because this is what we love doing and what we get paid to do, but if you are only doing this job for the paycheck, you would often ask yourself if it is worth it. Being away from home for that long can often take a toll on your personal life, and most of us on Hillary's team are married and have kids, it makes it even harder. Like I said, you really have to love doing this.
When we left the shop Jan.18, we headed to Vegas for the first test session. We made nine runs there in three days, drove down to Phoenix where we made 11 runs in four days. Then we loaded up and went back to Vegas and made nine more runs there before finally heading to Pomona for the Winternationals. We figure that each run takes at least three hours worth of work for each person on that day.
As most of you know, we also crashed a car at the second Vegas test session so that added to the workload for all of us. We put our spare car together on Super Bowl Sunday and made some test runs the two following days, so needless to say we listened to the game on our satellite radio.
We raced at Pomona, serviced our parts on the Monday after, and we all finally got some much needed time off the week between Pomona and Phoenix. We all came back to race in Phoenix, made six more test runs on Monday and Tuesday and finally loaded up and made the two-day trek back to our Michigan shop. We will spend the next week and a half servicing our parts from our three test sessions and two races as well as putting together our new Attac dragster that was just built to replace the one we crashed. We will leave the shop on Wednesday for the Gatornationals, so we have been and will stay very busy.
So, to make a long story short, when people come up to us and tell how glamorous of a lifestyle working on a Top Fuel race team must be, we find ourselves biting out tongues because we all know how much work we do. This is a lifestyle for us more than a job and for most of us it is the only thing we know, good or bad. Like I said before, we do this for the love of the sport.
Wednesday, February 28, 2007
Putting the "drag" in drag racer
The last time I wrote to you was when I was flying to Phoenix. That was almost exactly a week ago and now Iím at the Phoenix Airport waiting to fly back to Detroit. We missed our flights on Tuesday because we decided to stay in Phoenix for two days of testing instead of just one. To be honest, thereís nothing else I would have rather done with my time. I get to enjoy the Arizona sunshine a little longer and get to make some more laps in dragster.
Testing is a lot of extra work for my team. Iím sure the guys were hoping to be on their way home by Tuesday. They have families back in Michigan to get back to. Both Mac and Chris have new baby girls, Reece and Kylie, who are nearing four months old. Iím sure they canít wait to be back home. However, everyone agreed Monday night after one day of testing they we needed to stay and run some more. If you have been following the progress of our team at all over the last year, you know how dedicated Jim O, Troy, Jason, Scott, Chris, James, Mike, and Mac are. Iím thankful for them and I know all their hard work will pay off soon.
We didnít have such a great day of racing at Firebird Raceway. None of the Kalitta Motorsports cars advanced passed the first round. That has not happened since I joined this team in 2005. All four teams tested on Monday and Iím sure we will turn things around go rounds in Gainesville. Our KB Racing teammate, Jason Line, did go to the finals so that was the one good thing about this race.
Iím over Phoenix and already looking forward to Gainesville. Iíve been here since last Wednesday. As drivers, our jobs are never boring and never ordinary. On Thursday before the event I participated in a different sort of ďdrag race.Ē I went to Scottsdale for an in-studio radio interview at The Edge 103.9. The producer decided he wanted to have a foot race against me. Since Iím a drag racer, he decided we should dress in drag. I had to wear a suit, tie, and his heavy, sweaty boots that were way too big for me. He wore a dress and high heels. We took off together and ran for about 100 feet. He tried to leap across the finish line to get ahead of me, but I beat him anyway. He went skidding across the pavement and almost got tangled up in my feet. Then he tried to say I pushed him down. As quick as he was to come up with a lame excuse for losing, he really could be a drag racer.
It was a fun radio show and Iím glad they invited me. I did some other pre race things to help promote the event. We had a fan fest on Wednesday night at the Arizona Mills Mall. Then I got to the track at 7 a.m. on Thursday for a TV interview on the local news. I raced a reporter in the POWERade funny car simulator. I had never done that before. Itís pretty tough to drive those things. I can see why fans like driving them. Some members of the local media came out for lunch at the track on Thursday afternoon. Then J.R Todd, Hot Rod Fuller, and I raced them down the track in Pontiac GTOs.
Next time I write to you will be from Michigan. Iím going to miss the sunshine but itís in the mid-30s in Michigan so itís like a heat wave there. Iíll be doing various odds and ends over the next couple of days and I donít have anything exciting planned for the weekend but Iím sure Iíll come up with something to ramble about in my next blog.
Thursday, February 22, 2007
Catching up ...
Sorry I have not written in awhile. I had to check myself into rehab. It seems like there is a rehabilitation center for everything now so for the last week and a half I have been in post-crash recovery after my 300-mph hour wreck in Las Vegas. Mostly I needed it to recover from the loss of my first dragster. Actually, thatís not true. It sounded good though, since the ďin thingĒ to do right now seems to be to check into rehab. The best rehab I could have had was getting back in the car two days after the crash. Actually in all seriousness, my new dragster did speed up any recovery I needed by getting me a Valentineís Day card apologizing for treating me so bad and promising to behave better.
If you ever want to know how many friends and how much support you have, just get in a accident going 300 mph. I appreciate the support from everyone so much. Like I said over the PA at Pomona in an interview with Alan Reinhart, I was over it 10 minutes after it happened. I know the risks involved with what I do. I have dedicated my life to racing, I love driving, and Iím thankful I get to do. Larry Dixon, a Top Fuel driver who has seen his share of crashes assured me that itís better that I got that crash out of the way and now I should be good for about 500 runs.
Since you know I wasnít in rehab, I do apologize for the lack of blog updates lately. I have no good excuse. We had the last week off since our grueling preseason testing schedule had us working every day from Jan. 3 until the Tuesday after Pomona. I flew back home to Michigan and Iíve managed to stay busy for the week since Iím not very good at sitting at home and relaxing. I was glad to be home even though we left sunny Southern California and flew into a blizzard and single digit temperatures. I took photos from the airplane to show the contrast in weather that a four hour flight will give. I will admit that I slept in until about 10 am. for two days in a row which is very rare for me. Itís easier to do when I get used to West Coast time and then you go back home to Michigan and am on East Coast time.
Last week, I wrote my ďOn the RunĒ column which will be printed in National DRAGSTER soon. I booked some plane tickets for upcoming races. I went to a U of M gymnastics meet with the Oberhofer girls, Ashley, Jessica, and Julia. I think I managed to hit the gym almost everyday, mostly for kickboxing classes. I approved the rendering of our KB Racing Dragster which will be on the new NHRA video game.
On Saturday, I drove four hours to Indianapolis in the middle of the snow storm. It was slow going and there were cars and trucks spun out all over the road, but I made it. My friend, Kelly Bustos, was having a birthday party. She is the team manager for Dexter Tuttleís Top Fuel team. We have been friends for about a year now and she was with me in the ambulance after the crash. She ended up being sick on her birthday but I was glad I was able to make it. We went with some friends to dinner at Rickís in Brownsburg.
Sunday was my dadís birthday and I definitely didnít make it to California for that. I intended to call him when I first woke up but thought since he was on PST, it was too early to call. Then I got distracted all day and didnít call him. I fell asleep at one point in the day because I was watching the Daytona 500. It wasnít until my little sister sent me a text message to remind me about my dadís birthday that I called him. I felt terrible for waiting so long because heís always calls me first thing in the morning on my birthday. I do have a cool present to give him that I ordered back in December that was handmade. I was going to give it to him in Phoenix but he has to skip the race this weekend because work has him pretty busy so maybe Gainesville.
I think we are going to have a good race this weekend at Firebird Raceway in Phoenix.
Unfortunately I didnít get to make very many runs at Pomona. We improved each time we went down the track during qualifying but didnít even get a chance to go down the track first round. Unfortunately the clutch linkage came off when I did the burnout. I went to push in the clutch after the burnout, it was like the pedal wasnít even there. It took all the strength I had just to stop the car after the burnout. We wanted that first round win really bad. Not just because of whom we were running but because we had been on the road for a long time and we made a lot of runs in testing. We have put all that behind us and our ready to win four rounds this weekend. We overcame a lot of adversity and we are more determined than ever.
I am actually in flight to Phoenix as I write this. I have a lot of media events and radio/TV interviews within the next couple of days to help promote the races. I canít wait to get back in the car and start driving on Friday. Talk to you again soon.
Monday, February 05, 2007
RIP, my car
I dedicate this blog entry to the passing of my Top Fuel dragster. This is the car I drove to start my Professional career. I have a lot of respect for these cars, but perhaps it was time for this one to go. It was the car that I drove for the first half of last season. I mentioned in some of my blogs last year how that dragster and I had a tumultuous relationship. We had it front and back-halved over the winter so it was like new for this year. It made its final pass in the left lane at the The Strip at LVMS on Feb. 3, 2007, at about 2:13 p.m. (PT).
I never thought I would have to put a dragster to rest at that track. In the past, the left lane at LVMS has been really good to me. It is that same track, in that same lane that I won many of rounds in Super Gas. It is that same lane that I went down the track in my Bucky Austin-tuned Top Alcohol Dragster with the quickest elapsed time and fastest speed of the race. It is that same lane that we won four straight rounds to clinch my first national event win in April 2005. It is the same lane where I ran my career-best E.T. (4.48 seconds) last year in testing. It is the same lane where we ran back-to-back 4.49s just two weeks ago with that car.
I remember everything very clearly. The entire thing actually felt like it lasted forever. My eyes were wide-open through the entire ordeal. I felt like I was on a decent run. When I was between half track and the finish line, the car started to move around a little bit so I tightened my arms and had to work a little to keep it in the groove, which was nothing out of the ordinary. Then in an instant, it just took a hard turn to the right and the car felt weightless. I remember thinking, ďOh no, here we go; so this is what this feels like.Ē Iíve seen so many replays of dragster crashes. I was going head-on into the white retaining wall on the right side of the track and I thought I was going straight into it. For some reason, I never hit it. I saw blue sky as my cockpit tipped backward and I lost track of where I was, which was up. I remember feeling like I needed to do something. I couldnít just close my eyes. Auto-pilot kicked in and I reached up and tried to pull the chutes which I didnít know were already out. Then I grabbed the brake handle and gripped the steering wheel hard. It wasnít doing any good but I felt I needed to do something. Pieces were flying everywhere coming at me. Some object came into the cockpit toward my eyes, but the Simpson visor deflected it. Next thing I know, I was upright and gently broadsided the left wall. Then I skidded along the left wall for what seemed like forever. I didnít think it was ever going to stop. I was pulling the brake handle as hard as I could but it wasnít doing anything. I had no idea that the back half of the car had detached and was hundreds of feet from me.
If you saw pictures of the incident, itís pretty obvious that thereís nothing left of the car. I didnít bother taking pictures of the debris. Unfortunately, our team owners, Ken, Judy, and Kenny Black will have a little lighter wallet now, but Ken did get a nice souvenir from it. It was also his first Top Fuel dragster. He said he was going to give that piece to his son, Kenny, who is part owner as well. I took a photo of him with one of the pieces.
Amazingly, I donít think I ever slammed into anything. I donít recall hitting anything and I donít feel any soreness. The only thing thatís sore is my right arm between my wrist and elbow. Thereís a bump and some bruising which was probably caused by the steering wheel. I remember before I got out, I took a brief moment to wiggle my toes and fingers to make sure everything was still functioning. I had to pinch myself as assurance that all that had just happened.
The ambulance was there by my side before I even stopped. I unbuckled myself and got out on my own as I always do. My team all made it up to the top end. Needless to say, that seemed pretty relieved that I was walking around. The EMTs made me go to the hospital, but I didnít need to go and I definitely didnít want to go. My main priority was figuring out why it happened and if there was anything I could have done to prevent it. Iím not going to speculate about what caused it. Thatís not my job. I trust my team and I know they give me a good, safe race car every time I get in it.
I still feel like Iím beginning the 2007 season surer of myself than I was a year ago. Honestly, this whole ordeal gives me confidence because I know I can get through something like that. Everything did what it was supposed to do. The driverís compartment kept me protected. My seat cushioned me from any hits. As always, my seatbelts were very tight and secure. I didnít move around at all. My Simpson safety equipment protected me as it was supposed to do.
I have to thank the LVMS EMTs and safety crew who ventured out into the flying debris to get to me and were there before I was even stopped. I wasnít very appreciative to them at the time because they made me go in the ambulance and I didnít want to, but they needed to check me out for precautionary reasons. I also want to thank Chuck and the guys at Attac Race Cars for building me a good, safe dragster. I have to thank Top Fuel driver Cory McClenathan, who was the first non-EMT on the scene because he had just ran in front of us. I have to thank Kelly Bustos for being there for me. It was nice to have a smiling and friendly face when I had to be in the ambulance. She also loaned me her cell phone to call my family. I have to thank Linda Smiley of Racers for Christ. She was there to say a prayer with me before the run, as she often does. She even went to the hospital and we said a prayer after I was released. Ken Black, my crew chief, Jim Oberhofer, Cowboy Bob Coffman, and Kelly all went to the hospital. Iím thankful to have such supportive people around me.
Yesterday, my crew worked from morning until night to rebuild our backup car. Iím so thankful that the Black family gives us the resources we need, and we everything to rebuild a new car. Iím also very thankful that my team continues to work so hard. They missed the Super Bowl to make sure our car is ready for testing today. I know that Princeís half-time show was going on when we fired the motor. I donít know that they were too bummed about missing that. Everything went smoothly with the warm-up. I felt very comfortable in the car, and canít wait to pull to the starting line at The Strip on Monday. My KB Racing teammates, Greg Anderson and Jason Line, also will be testing on Monday.
After that, weíll head to Pomona on Tuesday as we get ready for the 2007 season opener. We did a lot of testing but itís almost like we are starting from scratch now for the first race. Like I always say, I have a lot of confidence in my team. I have not doubts that we will I have a quick and fast racecar that we can win with at the Winternationals.
One final thing, thanks to all the fans for the support and words of encouragement. I truly appreciate all the phone calls, text messages, and emails. It truly means a lot. See you at Pomona.
Saturday, January 27, 2007
Touring the southwest
Now Iím writing to you from beautiful, sunny Phoenix, Ariz We are just beginning our five days of testing here at Firebird International Raceway. We did four days of testing in Las Vegas. Itís safe to say that we had a successful couple of days in Vegas. We ran a 4.492 two times in a row into a really, really strong head wind. The next day we were on an even quicker run but shredded our blower belt at 1,000 foot into the run.
Las Vegas Motor Speedway is definitely one of my favorite facilities on the tour and it is the place that we go to the most often. As always, the track operators gave us a great race track to run on. Mother Nature could have given us a little warmer weather. The strong winds were extremely cold. My crew chief, Jim Oberhofer, said he had never seen the track temperatures that cool before and humidity so low.
Las Vegas is the hometown of our team owner, Ken Black. He came out to the track a couple of times to see us run and he took our team out to dinner one of the nights. We ate a great dinner at Landryís seafood place which is near where we stay.
When we were finished in Vegas, I flew to Albuquerque, N.M. I figured I need to go to a spa retreat after all that. Just kidding. I think I would go crazy from too much relaxation at one of those things. I actually went to New Mexico on behalf of Clevite/Victor Reinz/Perfect Circle. Bill McKnight, their Director of Brand Development, asked me to attend. Our team gets all of our engine bearings from them and they are the only brand that will hold up in a top fuel dragster. They give us a good product. Clevite also sells a lot of their engine and performance parts to Engine and Performance Warehouse (EPW) who then sell to machine shops nationwide. EPW has warehouses in Colorado, California, Washington, Oregon, Arizona, Texas and Oklahoma. EPW is Cleviteís second largest customer and they were having a business meeting in Albuquerque. I made a presentation to them about me, my team, and NHRA drag racing in general.
It was an honor that they invited me to speak for them. I put together a PowerPoint presentation with lots of cool photos. I hadnít used power point since my days as a financial analyst but it was good to refresh my memory. I used to make presentations involving budgets and forecasts with lots of graphs. Thankfully this one had no graphs and very little numbers. The EPW people asked lots of questions and I think everyone liked the presentation. You all know how much I love racing so of course I like talking about it and I really like sharing my enthusiasm about it.
I enjoyed seeing a little bit of New Mexico as well, even though I was there for less than 24 hours. That was one state I had never been to before and I would like to go back someday and spend a little more time there. It has a very distinct look and feel. It seems like most places we go, look the same. There are the same big box stores everywhere you look. New Mexico, however, has a lot more unique architecture. Maybe someday Iíll make it back.
Right now, Iím very happy to be in at Firebird Raceway in Phoenix. I have no more presentations or speeches for awhile so I just get to focus on driving. Right now, it doesnít matter to me if we go out and run 4.40s, 4.50s, or smoke the tires; itís all good experience for me. There are a lot of other Pro teams here and the weather conditions are supposed to be nice all weekend for us. Wish us luck!
Sunday, January 21, 2007
Here, there, and everywhere
That last seven days have been a little bit of a whirlwind. I was in Southboro, Mass., Newport, R.I., Detroit, Mich., Nashville, Tenn., and now Iím in Las Vegas, Nev. I only spent one night at my house in Ypsilanti, Mich., and I wonít be back there for another month. I have enjoyed the last week a lot, but I love being here in Vegas because Iím back in my dragster. I have been out of it for over two months and trust me when I tell you my team isnít easing me back into it, which is a good thing. We have only made two attempts down the track so far, but our KB Racing dragster is running great.
Just last Wednesday, our dragster was on the showroom floor of the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit. This is the show that brings in more revenue than any other event, including Olympics and Super Bowls. We were fortunate enough to be able to display our KB Racing Dragster. A lot of people were there and I signed autographs all day and talked with people who stopped. It was really cool that my team took the dragster all the way over to downtown Detroit because I know how busy they were trying to get it ready for testing. Not only did they have it there, they had it sparkling clean, as always. Special thanks to Trucker Mike, Mac, James, and the whole team.
Every year at the NAIAS, the Detroit Auto Dealers Association (DADA) organizes and sponsors Automotive Education day with the sponsor dollars from State Farm. They were expecting 7,500 kids from Michigan, Canada, Ohio, and North Carolina. On Wednesday morning, I delivered my speech to them in Cobo Arena. I mentioned a couple of times over the last couple of weeks that I had been practicing my speech and that I was a little nervous. I was even more nervous when I say how big the arena is. Cobo Arena seats about 10,000 people. I think the speech went well though; I had a positive response. Some other schools and teachers asked me if I would speak at their schools so thatís a good thing. Also, a lot of the students told me that what I said inspired them, which was what I was aiming to do. Even if I just reached one kid, then I feel I succeeded. I am very thankful that Sandy Herp and Ken Schewe of DADA gave me the opportunity to be a part of the show.
The next day, DADA hosted Race Day at Cobo Hall. Other drivers such as Sarah Fisher, Dan Wheldon, Sam Hornish Jr., Frank Kimmel, and Helio Castroneves were also there signing autographs with me. It was neat to meet some of them. I wanted to stand in line for their autograph so it was weird for me to be on the same side of the table as them.
My Grandpa and my Dad were there for the whole thing. They came all the way to freezing cold Michigan from California. It was a real busy couple of days and we spent most of our time at the Auto show. I didnít get to take them sight seeing, but we made some time for a speedy tour through our shop and they got to see where I live for the first time. We got to relax for all of about 15 minutes. I caught a picture of them in my living room.
Then I left them in Michigan to go to the Mac Tools Fair in Nashville. Mac Tools does a lot for us racers so we thought it was important to be there. We flew in late Thursday night. We went to the kick-off speech for all the Mac Tools distributors. John Aden, the President of Mac Tools, talks with the hundreds of distributors about their accomplishments over the year and how they can all work to improve the company. They show a video and itís pretty inspiring. The whole Mac Tools Top Fuel team was there. All the John Force Racing drivers were there, and the many drivers that Mac Tools supports.
Last year, I stayed for the whole show, but this year I left Friday afternoon for Vegas. Our team will be here at Las Vegas Motor Speedway until Wednesday making lots of laps down the track. I canít tell you how excited I am to be back in the seat. Iíll keep you updated.
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
New England: Home of weddings and winners
Like most of my trips to New England, I had a wonderful time with my friends. I feel so fortunate to have the friends that I do. We were joking that lately all of our spare money has been spent on weddings: the traveling to and from, the gifts, the engagement parties, bachelorette parties, and all the stuff that goes a long with occasion. I donít mind a bit though. The time spent with my friends is priceless and nothing I could buy would be better than that.
On Sunday, my best friend, Abby Nelson, married to Noah Cirincione. Both of them went to college on the East coast. Noah was a swimmer at Brown University and Abby was a springboard diver at Wheaton College with me. Ironically, Noah and Abby were probably at the same pool numerous times, but never met until after college when they both lived in Southern California.
They had a beautiful wedding at The Ocean Cliff Mansion in Newport Rhode Island. It was truly an honor for me to be one of the bridesmaids in their wedding. Both Noah and Abby was a very calm, cooperative, and organized throughout the planning so everything went very smoothly. I didnít realize how many little details go into planning a wedding, but everything went absolutely perfect.
I got to Boston a couple of days before the wedding so I could help out with little things. I donít know how much of a help I was, but I enjoyed staying at Abbyís familyís house near Boston. Abby, her Dad, Steve, his fiancť Rosemary, and her brother, Pete are like a second family to me. Their home is so warm and inviting. While Abby and Noah did some planning, Pete made dinner and Steve, built a fire every night like he always does for us in the winter. Rosemary and I did the dishes. Then couple of Abbyís friends from California came, too. We definitely had a house full.
On Saturday, we all drove down to Newport, R.I., where the wedding was held. Itís a quaint little tourist town, right on the ocean thatís a great place to stay, even in the middle of winter. Newport is known for their mansions and the wedding was at the Ocean Cliff Mansion. The wedding party got to spend the weekend there and we pretty much had the whole place to ourselves. We had the wedding rehearsal and then a rehearsal dinner at Lucciís Italian Restaurant. All the bridesmaids and groomsmen had the chance to ďroast and toastĒ the bride and groom. It was fun telling and hearing stories from Abby and Noahís past.
The bride and all the bridesmaids started getting ready at 9 a.m. on Sunday and the ceremony didnít even start until 4:30. I never knew it was such a process but there were a lot of us. I think the photos will turn out great. We even had to go outside in the freezing cold. My blog camera didnít really take good photos but you kind of get the idea.
Abby and my friends from Wheaton came to the wedding and we all had a good time together. If it werenít for weddings, we all would never see each other. We canít wait for the next wedding. The one problem is that they never seem long enough.
We did miss the Patriots game and there were a lot of die-hard Patriots fans there. The bartenders were somehow able to give us updates. I think some of the groomsmen may have snuck upstairs during the reception to find TVs.
I will probably miss the game this weekend. Too. because I will finally get drive my dragster. It seems like it has been too long. We will start testing in Vegas this Saturday. Tomorrow, Iím giving my speech at the North American International Auto Show. They said that they are expecting 7,500 kids from surrounding schools. I canít even imagine what that many people looks like, but I think I am ready. Trucker Mike, Mac, and Chris are taking our KB Racing dragster to Cobo Arena tonight so they can set it up to be on display tomorrow. Iím going to pick up my Dad and Grandpa from the airport right now. This is the first time they have been to Michigan since I moved here over a year ago. They want to see my speech, see the shop, and where I live. Needless to say, things are pretty busy this week so I will get back to you as soon as I can.
Sunday, January 14, 2007
Meet the team, part 4
The next three guys on the team I need to introduce or re-introduce are James Holifield, Mike LaJoice, and Mac Savage.
When I caught up with James, he was in the clutch room using the Rockwell machine. He is going to be the clutch assistant this year on our team. He has to weigh each section of each clutch and spends a lot of time doing it. It usually takes him about five minutes per disc. We use five discs per run, and will probably make at least 200 runs this season. James just started working for Kalitta Motorsports full-time last July.
Although the Rockwell machine may seem tedious, James loves being part of the race team. Last year at this time, he was working at Parisians as the Office Manager. He actually has a bachelorís degree in business communications and has always worked in management. However, he always wanted to go racing and he tried for years to land a job on a team. He got some experience working as a volunteer on Bobby Laganaís Top Fuel team. Then one day he met Shirley Muldowney when she came to Parisians. He told her about his dream of working on a team. She gave him the right contact info, he followed up on it, came out to a couple races as a parts washer, and was hired on Dave Grubnicís team last year. Now heíll continue living his dream on the KB team. His wife, Rozlyn, has been very supportive through his career and lifestyle change. James said ďI canít think of anything else I would rather do.Ē I couldnít agree with him more.
James is a new addition to our team and so is Mike LaJoice, or ďTrucker MikeĒ as he called by everyone on the team. Although he is new to the KB team, he has been with Kalitta Motorsports for five seasons. He has been driving truck since 1975 and thatís how he got his nickname. He worked for Connie Kalitta in the early Ď90s delivering airplane motors. Trucker Mike always wanted to work for the race team so he kept begging Jim O for a job and he would go to races and volunteer services. Then when they were putting together the new team for Scott in 2003, Jim O asked Trucker Mike to drive a truck to Elite in Minnesota to pick up the new trailer. Trucker Mike ended up having to stay there for two weeks and because of his dedication, he was hired on the team.
This year, he will be in charge of rods, pistons, tires, and ďwhatever Troy can throw at him.Ē Heís also in charge of and making sure all five trucks at Kalitta Motorsports are maintained. Of course, he will share driving duties. He likes cruising and being on the open road. Like most truck drivers, he doesnít like to stop much or talk much. He lives in Dearborn, Mich., with his wife, Shawn, daughter, Samantha, and son, Shane.
Both James and Trucker Mike are dedicated new additions to our KB team. Mac Savage is a returning dedicated member of our team. Like last year, he will be responsible for dismantling and assembling cylinder heads at races. As I was talking to him last week, he was putting together the pressure regulator for the air system. Mac is known for being very hard working, thorough, and meticulous in his work. He grew up around racing because his Dad his dad, Curt, owned 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 he has been at Kalitta Motorsports for 3 and a half seasons.
Mac and his wife, Heidi, just built and moved into a new house in Michigan that is close to the Kalitta race shop. They also have a new baby girl, named Reece who was born on last Nov 3.
So now you know a little bit about every member of the KB Racing Top Fuel team. Over the course of the year, you will be seeing them and hearing a lot more about them. Our main priority is getting to the winnerís circle as soon and as often as possible. We canít wait to get our team ownerís, Ken, Judy, and Kenny Black to the winnerís circle. We also canít wait to get the 2007 season started. A week from tomorrow we will be in Las Vegas, testing.
Right now, I am in Boston. Iím looking for Tom Brady so I can tell him good luck on Sunday. Actually, thatís a like. I would assume heís already in San Diego. Iím here because my best friend is getting married on Sunday and I am in the wedding. The ceremony starts at 4:30 p.m. which is the exact same time the Patriots vs Chargers game starts. Most of the people at the wedding will either be from California or New England so there is a big dilemma about how we will follow the game. The brides Dad asked if we could have a TV on during the ceremony. Game or no game, Iím sure it will be fun. Iíll have good stories and good photos next week!
Thursday, January 11, 2007
Meet the team, part 3
Iíll introduce the rest of the team to you in alphabetical order.
Next would be Jason Davis. He was bleeding the clutch system when I caught up with him the other day. Most of the time when you see him at the shop or at a race, he is doing something having to do with the clutch. He is the ďclutch guyĒ on our KB Racing Dragster. He makes sure we have six clutches serviced and ready to begin each race. He said for each run we make, it takes about 80 minutes worth of time away from the car, per clutch setup. That doesnít include the time taking the clutch in and out. We made 196 runs last year so clutch work kept Jason busy. The work can be day in the trailer at races or at the shop.
Most recently he did the clutch on the winning dragster that Scott Kalitta drove in Australia. Not only did he do the clutch, but he helped on the motor too, which he doesnít usually have time for at races in the states. Jason said he really enjoyed their trip down under and he wouldnít mind living there one day. He now resides in Belleville, Mich., and is originally from Miamisburg, Ohio.
Scott Finnisís job on our team probably couldnít be more different than Jasonís. At the races, Scott does one side of the cylinder heads. In Michigan, he doesnít even work in the same part of the shop. Most of the time, he works in the Kalitta machine room with Jim Becker, Bryan Landry and Dave Griffiths. Scott has also been learning about, and running the new CNC. When most of the team is on the road traveling, Scott stays working in the shop, doing a lot of fabricating. Then he flies into the races on Friday with Connie and Doug Kalitta and flies home with them on Sunday night.
Scott used to work on Dougís sprint car team. He started out as a truck washer, stayed with the team for five years, and was a contributing team member when they won the sprint car World championship in 1994. By 1998, he was recruited to work on Connieís dragster and has been drag racing ever since. Scott and his wife, Andrea, have a son named Cola and a daughter named Lola.
Chris Glass, who is in charge of short blocks and doing the bottom end for our team, just added to his family. He and his wife, Lisa, had a baby girl last November. He was a little nervous at our last race in Pomona, because he was in California and Lisa was in Michigan ready to have the baby at any time. Kylie, waited for Chris and was born on the 18th. The three of them reside in Livonia, Mich.
Chris is working on getting his CDL license so he can drive either our KB 18-wheeler or the support truck and trailer. He now has a permit and his first driving experience for the new license will be to drive to Vegas for testing (with two other team members in the rig as well). On typical days at the shop, Chris is in the motor room assembling motors. He likes to keep eight motors ready at all times. We keep six in the trailer, one in the car, and one in the support trailer. He does spend a lot of time on the phone ordering parts. Jim Becker orders the cranks and blocks, but Chris orders the other stuff for all the KB top fuel motors.
So thereís a little bit about Jason, Scott, and Chris. That doesnít even scratch the surface on talking about all the work that they do. I keep hoping one of them will write a blog. Jason actually said he would write one about their Australia experience but theyíre pretty busy right now. Tomorrow, Iíll include James Holifield, Mike LaJoice, and Mac Savage.
Wednesday, January 10, 2007
Meet the team, part 2
Instead of always talking about what I do, I thought you would like to hear more about my team. Last year, I did a profile on each of the eight members on KB Racing Top Fuel team and I thought I would do something similar to that this year. The team consists of Jim Oberhofer, Troy Fasching, Jason Davis, Scott Finnis, Chris Glass, James Holifield, Mike LaJoice, and Mac Savage.
Iím sure you know that Jim Oberhofer is our crew chief. More commonly known as Jim O, he has now been with Kalitta Motorsports for 19 years and is now beginning his second year with KB Racing. The other day, when I went to ask him stuff for this blog, he was working on the injector for the dragster. He said this year weíre going to try a new style injector and he was ďmaking everything fit.Ē Last winter, the injectors consumed a lot of his time so our team jokingly gave him a hard time about it. This year, he said he stayed at the shop until 11 p.m. to get it done so it didnít end up taking day after day like last year. Throughout the season, when we were back at the shop, he spent day after day working on fuel pumps for the three dragsters and the Funny Car. He says working on those can be tedious. While he prefers to be wrenching on the racecar or racecar parts all the time, he is the general manager of Kalitta Motorsports and has to tend to some of those duties during the day. He usually spends a couple of hours a day at his desk, taking care of other business involved with managing the four race teams. He spends a lot of time on the phone talking with sponsors, potential new hires, and variety of things.
When he has time away from the shop and the racecar, which isnít very often, Jim O likes to be at home, relaxing with his wife, Tammy, and his 11-year-old daughter, Ashley. He watches football and wrestling on his prized big screen HD-TV. Recently, he and Ashley have become fans of Rachel Ray and some of the other cooking shows. Jim O says he and Ashley used to go shopping together but since sheís gotten older, their shopping trips have become more difficult than tuning the racecar.
Helping him tune the race car is his assistant crew chief, Troy Fasching. Troy is in his fifth year at Kalitta Motorsports. I noticed that he is always at the shop when I arrive and still there when I leave. He said he usually comes in about 7:30 a.m. and rarely leaves before 7 or 8 p.m., especially this time of year. Troy oversees everything on our team and keeps everyone in line so to speak. He said he and Jim O think alike so they work well together.
I learned early on how tidy Troy keeps everything. I bet our pit area is the cleanest one at the race track. The working area at the shop is spic and span as well. You could eat off the floors. Troy prefers everything to be this way because he knows Jim O wants it to be that way; he knows itís important for our image at the race track, and he was raised that way. Troy says his Mom always kept his room and everything very tidy so he got used to things being very clean and organized.
Before we leave for testing and stay out West for four weeks, Troy will spend a weekend at home in Howard Lake, Minn., with his wife, Veronica, and son, Wyatt. Monday is Wyattís third birthday so Iím glad Troy will be there to celebrate it this year. Iím pretty sure he didnít get to last year because we had so much to do. He was home for Christmas break, but being the dedicated team member that he is, had to spend some time at Elite Trailers, overseeing the remodeling of the Kalitta support trailer.
Needless to say, both Jim O and Troy are very dedicated to the team. They surround themselves with similar type people and tomorrow, Iíll talk about the other members of our KB team.
Tuesday, January 09, 2007
Meet the team, part 1
I got caught up on some of my fan mail last night. A lot of you have been sending me e-mails commenting on the article that Rob Geiger wrote on NHRA.com. Thanks for the support. Rob did have one thing wrong though. I weigh more than 105 pounds.
I appreciate that people have been writing to me about that story and my blogs. I try to write back to everyone, but I can only do so much. Last night after kickboxing and after I ate dinner, I answered fan mail until I couldnít hold my eyes open any longer. Most fans are very supportive. For every one person who says something negative, there are 100 or more who are very positive. I appreciate it so much. Thank you!
I was surprised how many of you said you enjoyed just hearing about what I do everyday, so I thought you would like hearing about the kinds of things my team does everyday. Today I went around and talked to the guys. I interrupted their work day and asked them some questions and took some pictures. The next couple of blogs will be devoted to talking about the KB Racing Top Fuel team. I can honestly say that I think I have the best team in drag racing. They are very thorough, hard-working, and dedicated. I remember being kind of in awe of their work ethic. Last year I talked about them a lot in my interviews and people told me they got tired of hearing about it, but I just want my team to get the credit they deserve.
There are other people who work here in the Kalitta Motorsports office that also deserve a lot of credit. Tammy Oberhofer is the office manager. She works all day, everyday. I donít think most people realize how much she is responsible for doing. She says her biggest job is keeping track of invoices, which is mostly purchases by our four teams. Tammy says that the Human Resources side of things takes up a lot of her time too because we have nearly 50 employees. She keeps track of the insurance, 401K, and all that stuff. She also makes sure we all get paid. Iíve never had a problem getting my paycheck or with my insurance, so I thank her for that.
Helping Tammy in our front reception area is Patricia or Pat. If you ever call Kalitta Motorsports, she is the one who usually answers the phone. She also takes care of the credit cards. A lot of us have company credit cards, so there are bunches of receipts to match up with the bill when it arrives. Pat is here everyday, except today, so I couldnít take her picture. She has strep throat and is getting some rest.
Todd Myers is the Kalitta Motorsports public relations rep and self-proclaimed graphics geek. He forbid me from posting a picture of him, but it looks like I did anyway. He designed all of our hero cards, brochures, hospitality badges, and anything graphic. His office is right next to mine. He stays pretty quiet for the most of the day because heís usually busy writing or designing. He does the press releases and various PR for Dave Grubnic, Doug Kalitta, and Scott Kalitta. Todd is also responsible for the Kalitta Motorsports website, which is www.KalittaRacing.com. Yesterday, he also organized the BCS office pool which was won by Jerry Cook.
Ben Marshall is the Team Manager. He does a wide variety of things. Oftentimes he is the liaison between our team and the sponsors. He makes sure all uniforms, paint schemes, and decals are correct. Ben receives a lot of the applications for employment when they come in. He has been employed by Kalitta Motorsports for eight years.
Tammy, Todd, Ben and I all have our offices in the same hall, along with Jim Oberhofer and Jon Oberhofer. Itís cool coming to work everyday and liking the people I work with. Tomorrow, Iíll tell you more about the other part of the team who I work with at the track.
Monday, January 08, 2007
Here in Michigan all the buzz is about the North American Auto Show which got started this weekend. I hear about it every time I turn on the radio or TV. Every time I hear about it, my heart beats a little faster because I know the day of my speech is approaching. Every year the Detroit Auto Dealers Association and State Farm Insurance hosts Automotive Education Day at the show. They bus in students from schools in the Detroit area. This year they are expecting 5,600 kids, which is the most they have ever had, and they asked me to be the speaker.
It is an honor to be able to do this but I am really nervous about it. I have never spoken in front of that many people before. But mostly Iím nervous because I really want to do a good job. I want to connect with the kids, I want them to be able to relate to me, and then maybe something I say will stick with them and inspire them. Iím trying to convey that they can be successful and have a career that is meaningful to them through dedication, education and confidence. Iím also trying to convey that there is a lot of job opportunity within the racing and the automotive industry.
I wrote the speech and had it approved before I left for Christmas break. Now Iím working on memorizing it. I went on a drive down to Indiana on Saturday. Being the multi-tasker that I am, I worked on memorizing it while I drove. I also worked on it when Iím on the treadmill at the gym.
I watched some football over the weekend. I actually enjoy the pregame shows as much as the game. I feel I can learn a lot about being a successful competitor. I have recently become a big Tony Romo fan. Early on, I noticed his unwavering confidence. Even the commentators pointed out his confidence level and they contributed that to his successes. I think thatís important. I did feel sorry for him though when he dropped that snap on Saturday. Iím sure he will learn from it, forget about, move on and be a better player because of it. I can relate to that. It was interesting to hear one of the TV analysts talking about how good athletes have amnesia. They learn from experiences but they donít dwell on the bad things nor do they dwell on the good things. I forget exactly how they put it but it was something along those lines and it sounded believable.
Tom Brady, if you are reading this, donít worry; Iím not a traitor. I like Tony Romo, but you are still my favorite. Just look at the little shrine of you that I have in my office. I just recently got the helmet as a Christmas present. The bobble head and cards are from some of my very cool fans. The Pats won on Sunday, so that made me happy.
I am off to kickboxing. Talk to you tomorrow.
Friday, January 05, 2007
It has been a fast week. I canít believe itís Friday already and now the day is nearly over and Iím just now starting my blog. Iíve been really good about keeping my promise of seven blogs in seven days, so I couldnít flake because itís Friday. I had the chance to read some of the fan mail from my blog. I appreciate everyone writing to me. I sometimes feel like Iím boring you all, but someone assured me that just writing about what I do everyday is interesting. I actually read some of the other NHRA.com driver blogs for the first time in a long time and found them very interesting.
Itís funny how the day goes by and I managed to stay busy all day but I donít even know what I did. This morning, I met with Matt Ilas, the photographer and producer for Summer Nights Film and Video. Iím sure a lot of you have seen him at the races. He does a lot of the filming for ESPN2 at the NHRA races. He is going to put together a DVD for the KB Racing top fuel team. Today, we talked about what kinds of things we want to include on the DVD. It will be a fast-paced video intended to hook the viewer and show what NHRA drag racing and KB Racing are all about. It is also aimed at showing a potential sponsor the value of investing in our team. We brainstormed ideas about what to include. Ben Marshall, the Kalitta Motorsports marketing manager, and our new marketing guru, Rachael Brunner, helped out as well. Itís just one of the projects weíre working on.
After the meeting, I went through all our team hotel lists. We generally reserve 25 rooms at each race for our four teams. Each crew member is paired with another crewmember and they stay the same for the whole race season, so I made sure everyone was content with the way the list ended up. I matched certain rooms with certain credit cards and faxed it to Racing Circuit Travel.
Then I bought some plane tickets online for myself and other team members for our January traveling. We will be going to the Mac Tools Fair in Nashville, TN as well as the three test sessions out West. Some guys will travel back and forth and others will stay on the road. This takes me way longer than it should because I have to look at multiple websites and find the best deals. There are some good January deals right now.
Then my computer just blacked out. It has this annoying little problem where it decides to shut off whenever it feels like it. Maybe itís been through too many airport screenings. When it does this, I move to the phone. I talked with Bob Frey today. He is always good for offering different types of advice from writing and delivering speeches to marketing and finding sponsors.
I had an interview with Phil Burgess, the editor of National DRAGSTER. He was asking for my comments about finishing in the top ten in 2006 and my goals for next year. He asked some of the questions that appear in the Out of the Groove section of the magazine. I always enjoy reading about what the other drivers have to say on that page. He asked things like what my most embarrassing moment at the track was, what my pet peeves are, and if I could pick someone to play me in a movie, who would it be? I couldnít answer that one. Iíll have to think about it and get back to you all.
I tried to get in touch with the Simpson people. I need to find out when our chutes, packs and seatbelts will be here. I need to order my 2007 firesuit and Iíve been playing phone tag with them all week. I love my old suit though, so if I have to use that one, I wonít be that disappointed. I know itís ugly but itís very comfortable. Iíve been told that I canít get a firesuit made like that anymore because that material isnít available so thatís a bummer. I also ordered the No. 10 decal from ProCal. Instead of having 763 on the back wing, we will have the 10 since thatís where we placed.
Those are the kind of things that occupy my time during the day. I do most of it from my office. I must also admit, I email and/or text message with friends here and there between all this. I took a photo of it for you to see where I spend my days. Iím thankful to have a good working space. Itís in the new office area that was added at Kalitta Motorsports last spring.
Anyway, enough of my rambling. I should tell you that when I said seven days of blogging, I meant seven ďweekĒ days. My next blog will be on Monday and I will fill you in on how my weekend was spentÖmaybe. ;-)
Thursday, January 04, 2007
Everyone got back to work yesterday here at the Michigan-based Kalitta Motorpsorts shop. We thought last year was busy and hectic building our new KB Racing team from the ground up, the Funny Car team from the ground up and preparing two other dragsters. Well, this year is 1,000 times more hectic. We are changing everything. Actually, Iím just kidding. Although Iím obviously not the one working on the cars, it doesnít seem to be as hectic, especially for my team. For the most part, no major changes are happening. We arenít trying to prepare a new hauler and new dragster in the short off-season.
The major project for the guys before the Christmas break was to actually take a dragster hauler apart in order to turn it into a support trailer. They completely gutted one of the dragster haulers that was formerly used by the StriVectin-SD team. It was rebuilt over the holidays at Elite Trailers so it has more useful shelving for spare items and a machine shop area in the old lounge. The rebuilt trailer will be used by all four Kalitta Motorsports teams and go to every test session and race.
Another thing the teams do is have the dragster chassisí front and back halved. They cut the front end off and the back end off so itís just the roll cage. Then they take it up to our chassis builder, Attac RaceCars, in Charlotte, Mich. Chuck Lett and his guys rebuilt the front and the back portion of the dragster will all new tubing. This is common to do with dragsters. The car that I drove for the first half of the season was finished and we got it back before Christmas. Itís basically a new car but with the same roll cage. Doug Kalittaís and Dave Grubnicís carís are currently at Chuckís shop getting the same treatment.
I happened to answer the phone yesterday when Chuck Lett, who owns Attac, called the shop. He said that they have been extremely busy getting our dragsters and spare dragsters done in time for the new season, but they were handed another project at the last minute just before the holidays. Connie (Kalitta) called Chuck and needed him to build five funeral carts for Doug Kalittaís charter company, Kalitta Charters. The airline is going to haul military coffins from Washington D.C. to different destinations in the U.S. Each of Dougís planes can haul two of them. Chuck had to make the karts that can carry the coffins. Chuck said they had never undertaken such a project before but they did some research, worked night and day and got the carts done over the holidays. Apparently they look really nice with Formica tops and everything. Now they have returned to building race cars. Chuck says as soon as we leave to go out West for testing, he is going on vacation.
We leave for testing in just over two weeks. We will attend all three test sessions which include Las Vegas, Phoenix, and then Vegas again. We will then stay out West and go to the season opener in Pomona Feb. 8-11. We will be gone from home for nearly a month. I really canít wait to get back in my dragster. Thereís still enough to keep us busy though before we head out West. I would say it will be nice to leave the winter weather here in Michigan, however, it doesnít feel like winter. Even the radio DJ said yesterday it feels like spring training for baseball should be starting soon. I donít mind the warmness a bit.
Iíll check back in tomorrow. Iím not quite sure what Iím going to talk about, but Iíll think of something. At some point in the next coming days Iíll do a profile of each member of the KB Racing Top Fuel team as I did last year. The deserve lots of recognition for all the hard work they do.
Wednesday, January 03, 2007
Christmas in California
Okay, so here is the first of seven straight blogs as I promised. I have a lot of lot time to make up for.
When I went home to California, it took me about 16 Ĺ hours Ė without airline delays -- to get from the doorstep of my condo to the doorstep of my Grandpaís house in Fortuna. It was a long trip and it reminds me why I donít go back there very often. At least on the way home, my Grandpa and his wife, Lonnie, were kind enough to drive me five hours south to the Sacramento airport so I wouldnít have to rent a car and drive alone. I didnít want to put them to all that trouble; but my Grandpa insisted and wouldnít take no for an answer. He dropped everything and drove me five hours. Then we stayed in the Motel 6 and he got up at 4 a.m. to drop me off at the airport. It reminds me of how he used to drive me to and from gymnastics practice nearly everyday when I was growing up. He also used to drive our truck and trailer to races day or night. I have an awesome Grandpa!
On my first day home, I went to lunch with my kindergarten teacher, Paula McHenry. Iím thankful that she has kept in contact with me. Iím also thankful to have had her as my first teacher. Because of her, my education got started off on the right foot. The world needs more teachers like her.
I was glad to spend time with my family while I was home. My sister, Kim, came up from Southern California where she attending Cal State Long Beach. Kim, my dad, my other sister, Jessica, and my two brothers did our traditional Christmas shopping trip two days before Dec. 25. We are super speed shoppers. We even made time for lunch. I took a photo of my two sisters in Applebeeís. This photo was right before an argument erupted between all of us. I still donít know what it was about, but it almost ended our shopping trip. We managed to patch things up.
My twin brothers, Kevin and Austin, couldnít shop with us much because they had to leave for basketball practice. They even had practice on Christmas Eve. I guess it paid off because they did really well in their game that I got to catch before I left. They are both part of the starting five and I was a proud sister watching them play. I wonít be able to go to any of there other games this season, but Iím sure they will do really well. I took a picture after the game. Kevin is on the left, Kim is in the middle, and Austin is on the right.
Something else they do really well is play Monopoly. After dinner on Christmas Day, we decided to start a family game of Monopoly. I played with my brothers, Jessica, my stepmom, Chris, and my dad. They are all pretty competitive so I think the game would have lasted for days. You can tell by the expression from my brother, Kevin, the intensity level of the game. One of the rules before the game started was that we couldnít fight or argue. Well no one abided by that rule but we played and played and played. The clock clicked 3:30 a.m., no one could hold their eyes open, and we finally called it quits. I think they were afraid I was going to win. I had hotels on Boardwalk, Park Place and that entire block, including all the green property. It was just a matter of time before they all went down. The next day we bought the newest version of Monopoly for our rematch.
Maybe when I go back next year for Christmas we can play again. Maybe when I go back next year, I will have better presents for all them. I got my two sisters some nice necklaces, but I think everyone elseís present was kind of lame. I just got my brothers some t-shirts. Sorry guys. Iím not very good at shopping for people. Since I travel so much, I have the perfect opportunity to shop all year long and buy unique gifts from all over the country. Iím going to make more of an effort to do that this year. Although I have to admit it is difficult to find items that are authentic to the places we travel. Oftentimes the only stores I see are Target and Wal Mart, and I can buy those same items from anywhere.
Anyway, Iím rambling which you can expect a lot of for the next six days. I have been back at the Kalitta Motorsports shop for a few days now. Thankfully, everyone else is back and itís a normal workday today. Iím ready to get back into race mode. We have a lot to do before we leave for testing in just over two weeks. Iíll talk to you about that tomorrow.
Tuesday, January 02, 2007
What I did on my winter vacation ...
First of all I want to start by wishing everyone a very happy New Year. I truly hope that 2007 is a happy, safe and healthy year for my family, friends, sponsors, team and fans. I am truly thankful to have all of you in my corner.
I know itís been a long time since I have written a blog. If there was ever a time for me to be slacker, I guess this was the time. Now to make up for my laziness, I will write one blog a day for the next seven days for all of my loyal blog fans. I owe it to you and I think it will come at a good time when most people are back to work and may need a small distraction. As long as my fans, sponsors, family and friends are still reading, Iím still writing. I have so much I could talk about. Even though itís the off season, it seems as though everyday has been blog worthy. I canít write about everything.
Iíll give you a sort of laundry-list-recap now, and then over the next couple of days Iíll reflect back on the last couple of weeks.
Since the last time I wrote, I spent about three weeks in Michigan going to the Kalitta Motorsports shop just about everyday preparing for Ď07. We chose new uniforms for our KB Racing Top Fuel team. We decided to step up our marketing program and work on some new things. I wrote letters to potential sponsors. I worked on a speech that Iíll be delivering to more than 5,000 kids at the North American Auto Show. I worked on a power point presentation that Iíll be giving this January in New Mexico. My new car got smashed. I had a house guest stay with me for a week which was the first time anyone has stayed at my condo since I moved there in 2005. Ellen Cobb, who runs Kalitta Motorsports West, came out to do some work at the main Kalitta Motorsports office in Michigan and stayed with me. My laptop computer, which is my most cherished, most precious and most expensive item I own, got a terminal virus. I went Christmas shopping in downtown Ann Arbor. I went to downtown Detroit twice in two days after avoiding it for the year that I have lived in Michigan. I went once for a Detroit Lions game and once for a dinner with Connie Kalitta and friends. I went to a sushi dinner with Shirley Muldowney. I procrastinated writing my blog.
We went to Orlando, Fla., for the PRI Show. We walked the convention center floor for two days straight talking with all our suppliers. I went to a great dinner at Del Friscoís, near Orlando, with Ken Black, Jim Oberhofer, Jason Line, Rob Downing, Jon Oberhofer, Rahn Tobler, Ben Marshall, Jim Becker and the our Red Line Oil sponsors Cameron Evans and Kelly Kerrigan. I celebrated Jim Oís 40th birthday at the surprise party his wife, Tammy, threw for him. I went to the Kalitta Motorsports Christmas Party. I got a very special Christmas present from Judy Black. I procrastinated writing my blog.
Then I flew home to Northern California to spend Christmas with my family. I had lunch with my kindergarten teacher, Paula McHenry. I went on the annual shopping trip with my four siblings and my Dad. I sprinted after one of my siblings down a crime- and traffic-ridden street. I played monopoly until 3:30 in the morning with my family. I became a text messaging addict influenced by my 15-year-old sister who sends and receives messages at the dinner table and even while on the ski lift. I got a very special necklace from my great grandfather who lived to be 101. I went to my brothersí seventh grade basketball game for the first and last time. I procrastinated writing my blogÖ.
And that leads me to some guilt that I will spill out and admit to right here. I am guilty of getting greedy with my 2006 frequent flyer miles and scheduling my flight from California back to Michigan before Jan. 1, 2007 losing out on time with my family. Iím guilty of checking valuable items in my luggage and then worrying about it because Iím too lazy to carry it on. I am guilty of December indulging and now my clothes fit more snug than I would like I am guilty of failing to write a blog for much too long. Now Iím guilty of making a promise I must keep but wonder if I can write something that is interesting for you all to read over the next seven days. Wish me luck!
Thursday, November 30, 2006
101 things to talk about
Well this is blog number 101 for me and I feel like I have 101 things to say. These blogs get harder and harder to write the longer I procrastinate because I have more and more to say. Here we go!
The last time I wrote was before the season ended. You already know how everything played out, so thereís no need for my comments. I am already thinking about and looking forward to the 2007 season. I havenít been in my dragster for 18 days and it feels like it has been months. Honestly, Iím ready for the new season to get started already.
Iíve had the last few weeks to spend with family and friends. I rented a car and pretty much lived out of my trunk for awhile as I traveled around to see different friends and family members throughout California. Nothing is better than having a full tank of gas and the time and freedom to go anywhere with no schedule. I started out in Huntington Beach and went wherever and whenever I wanted. I made sure I ended up in Northern California for Thanksgiving. Itís where I grew up and I still call it home. I hadnít been there since January, which is the longest I had ever been away from home.
I stayed at my momís house for a couple of days and made sure to visit my Grandpa, Lonnie, and both my Grandmas. My Grandma Marge and my Grandma Helen kept a racing scrapbook for me. Iím hoping that they can come to an event next year since they have only seen me race on TV. I also stopped by Pacific Lumber Co. to visit all the people I worked with when I was a financial analyst.
On Thanksgiving Day, I went to my dadís house to spend the day with he and my stepmom, Chris. We had a nice, relaxing day. My twin brothers, Kevin and Austin, didnít even get out of their pajamas. I took a picture of them playing video games. In order to build up our appetites for dinner, Kevin, Austin and I jumped on the trampoline out in the backyard. I used to be able to do lots of cool flips but Iím getting old and they can do as much as I can do now. Then to further build his appetite for dinner, Kevin decided to make himself an ice cream sundae before we ate dinner. He calls it a Monday because itís better than a sundae. My dad watched football. My sister, Jessica, showed me her Myspace.com page and all the ways I could make my page better. Thankfully for us, Chris did all the cooking. Me and kitchens donít get along, although I did help with dishes and cleanup.
On Sunday before I left, I did an autograph signing at Big Louieís Pizza, the local pizza parlor that really supports racing in the area. A lot of people whom I hadnít seen in a long time came by to say hi. My kindergarten teacher, Paula McHenry, even stopped by. Some of the people from Steve Willís Trucking & Logging stopped in as well. Itís really cool to have so much support from all the people in my hometown.
Overall, I had a fun time being in California. Iím kind of a creature of habit so I end up going to the same places no matter what city Iím in. My rental car had a GPS so I was easily able to find what I was looking for. I love to go to Whole Foods because they have good free samples and they always have fresh food. I went to one in Hollywood, Tustin, San Rafael and San Francisco. Of course I found kickboxing classes at 24 Hour Fitness in Irvine, Huntington Beach, Long Beach, San Francisco, and Santa Rosa. I went to sushi three different times in Santa Monica, Huntington Beach, and Eureka. I found a 7-Eleven everyday that I was in SoCal but couldnít find one once I got north of L.A. It is a good thing my car got good gas mileage. I didnít get any speeding or parking tickets this time but I did have the police called on me for napping in my car. Apparently some people thought I was dead.
Iím actually glad to be back in Michigan now. I think itís warmer here than it was in San Francisco when I flew out. Now we are already preparing for next season. We will begin preseason testing in mid-January. Here at Kalitta Motorsports we have three dragster teams and a Funny Car team to prepare, so thereís a lot to do. Iíll keep you updated.
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
Back in SoCal
Tuesday morning, I boarded the plane from dark, dreary, and rainy Detroit and walked off the plane to be greeted by warm, sunny Southern California. I didnít get away without voting first. I made it to the polls in Michigan when they opened at 7 a.m. so I could vote for the first time as a Michigander. (Sorry no voting photos. I tried to take a blog picture at the polls but they definitely frowned upon that, even more so than the Wawa employeesÖI really thought the blog camera was getting confiscated for sure this time). Itís kind of difficult to know which way to vote since I havenít spent a lot of time in Michigan and am not real familiar with the issues. TV and radio has been annoyingly filled with messages trying to influence my vote but I donít see how anyone can decide on a candidate based on an information-lacking 30-second sound bite. Iíll save you from too much of my ranting about that. I did a little research on my Sunday off last weekend and decided how I would vote. I ended up crossing party lines for some of the candidates. Iím just glad that the election is over, and we wonít have to hear all the annoying ads again for awhile.
Iím also really glad to be in SoCal. It wasnít very long ago that I was living in Huntington Beach. That was the first place we went after we flew into LAX. We walked around on the pier and ate some really good Hawaiian food. Ellen Cobb, the Kalitta Motorsports activities/hospitality coordinator lives in HB and runs the Kalitta Motorsports West office in HB. She went with us and she and I bought matching hats to wear. I doubt we will be brave enough to wear them at the track.
I used to go to 24 Hour Fitness all the time when I lived in SoCal. I really like their kickboxing classes so I decided to go to a class on Wednesday morning. The class was a great workout but I was quickly reminded that I really stand out because I definitely donít wear enough makeup for gyms in Southern California.
In some ways it seems like we were just here for the Winternationals in February and in some ways it seems like that race has been a long, long time ago. I feel like I have gained so much knowledge since then. Iím feeling more confident than ever in the car so Iím really looking forward to this race. We want to end the season on a high note for sure.
I intend to have fun and enjoy the last race of 2006. Thereís a lot at stake with this race for our entire team. Doug Kalitta and the Mac Tools team want to maintain the number one spot in the POWERade points to take home their first championship. Our KB Racing team needs to maintain our spot in the Top 10. We are a little shorthanded at this race for some different reasons. One reason is that Mac Savage and his wife, Heidi, just had a baby girl last weekend. Congratulations are definitely in order for them. Also, Chris Glass, and his wife Lisa are expecting their first baby any hour now. Chris is here but he may have to fly out at any time and Mac wonít be arriving until Friday. Everyone has to do extra work and do what is needed to get done. I took a picture of Rahn Tobler, Jon Oberhofer, and Jim Oberhofer mounting tires. Itís not often you see crew chiefs doing this task. Everyone will work together to get the job done Ötoday, and for the whole weekend. Wish us luck.
Monday, November 06, 2006
On fame and Fortune
At McCarran Airport in Las Vegas, I picked up the latest issue of Fortune magazine for some reading on the four-hour flight back to Michigan. The magazine caught my attention because the cover story was about what it takes to be great. Iím constantly surrounded by these types of people and want to be great at what I do, so I eagerly read the magazine from cover to cover. I strongly recommend getting the issue and reading the article starting on page 88. The story was interesting because it cited research which confirmed people who are good at what they do. The really great achievers became great because of hard work, not because of an inborn talent. It cited Tiger Woods as an example. He is young and successful, but he started at golf at a very young age, three years old in fact. And heís dedicated his life to the game of golf. He has even changed his golf swing twice in order to become better at his trade. They also cited Warren Buffet, the worldís premier investor, as an example. He is famed for his discipline and hours of studying financial targets.
I donít need to look in a magazine to see that hard work can lead to greatness. We spent some time with our team owners, Ken, Judy and Kenny Black, last weekend since Las Vegas is where they live. They are prime examples of what I am talking about. Ken started out as a carpenter. He and Judy worked really hard together to build a multi-million dollar business. That business has then allowed them, along with their son, Kenny, to build a great race team. Their Pro Stock team just secured their fourth world championship works relentlessly. The day after Jason Line won the championship, he was back at the shop working on the dyno trying to find more horsepower.
Just that morning, I went to the SEMA Show with my Dad and Grandpa. We went to the NHRA breakfast where the Force family was the guest speakers. John Force talked about how he struggled and came from poverty to become great. Now he is on the verge of winning his 14th world championship. He is an awesome driver. He has his own reality TV show. He is definitely a fan favorite. I often ask fans who come by our pits for an autograph what is their favorite race car. Nine times of 10 the fans say John Force. He is an absolute great in drag racing. He didnít just become that one day. He worked really hard at it. From what I have seen, that team does more testing than any other team I have seen.
Then look at what Connie Kalitta has done. I believe he has at least 17 747s. He has built a first-class business and a first-class race team. The thing Iíve noticed about Connie is that if he wants to do something or accomplish something he just does it. He doesnít hear the word no; he doesnít think about not succeeding.
Iím really not trying to sound like a ďsuck upĒ here, as John Force would say. I donít really have to. My driving job is secure for next year. Iím just kind of rambling about whatís on my mind instead of rambling about where I have eaten over the last couple of days and with whom. That Fortune magazine article just sort stuck with me and gave me some inspiration which everyone needs once in awhile.
The great ones are the ones who overcome lifeís hurdles and keep working to become the best. Warren Buffet and Tiger Woods were not wired at birth to be great at their trade. For me it just reinforces what my dad, mom and Grandpa have been telling me since before I was even old enough to understand. ďYou can make yourself into any number of things, and you can even make yourself great.Ē The article goes on to say that unfortunately a lot of people hit lifeís inevitable bumps in the road; they conclude they just arenít gifted and give up.
My crew chief, Jim Oberhofer, told me from the beginning and he often tells me when Iím discouraged that Rome wasnít built in a day. I want to be the best at my trade which is driving a Top Fuel dragster. I had pretty high expectations for this year and, yes, I have had some very frustrating days this year. Iím definitely not the best at it. However, I will be the best because I will continue to work at it until I become the best.
I hope you will read the magazine if you need some inspiration. It worked for me. Now Iím off to the shop to get some good use out of Dougís practice Tree today. Iím really looking forward to our last race of the year, the Finals in Pomona, Calif.
Monday, October 23, 2006
My weeekend in New Hampshire
My weekend of catching up with friends from college was SO much fun. We went up to New Hampshire for Breaís wedding in the sleepy, but cute little town of Peterborough. We drove from Southborough, Mass., on Friday afternoon. It should have been a pretty and relaxing drive through the winding roads lined with fall foliage. However, I was afraid we were going to be late so I drove like a maniac for the hour and half trip. My passengers were white knuckled the whole way, but somehow I got us there safely, on time to the wedding, and without a speeding ticket.
I had gone to yoga that morning and after my aggressive driving, Abby recommended that maybe I should stick with kickboxing instead.
Right before we went into the church, I got a picture with my friends, Abby, Heather, and Robin. The next picture is all the Wheaton people who were there. From left to right, Heather, Chris, me, Megan, Brea (the bride), Robin, Andy, and Abby. (I finally got to wear the dress that Shirley Muldowney picked out for me in our shopping trip together earlier this year)
Brea and her new husband, Gordon, had a beautiful wedding and a fun reception. The only problem was that it went too fast. I loved catching up and reminiscing with friends. We laughed, we danced, and we had a really, really great time.
I had a great time the night before when a bunch of us girls got together. Abbyís East Coast friends decided to throw her a little ďlow-keyĒ bachelorette party since sheís getting married in January. Abbyís West Coast friends will also be throwing her a party in Vegas after my season is over. Fortunately I get to go to both since I am formerly a West Coast friend, formerly an East Coast friend, now her only friend from Michigan, and obviously very mobile.
The East Coast party started out as a purse-making gathering. I was kind of skeptical about it and wasnít sure what to expect, but it ended up being really fun. This company called 1154 Lill Studio brings in different fabrics and purses. Each guest picks out a purse style and then which fabrics she wants on her purse. The company takes the order and makes it back at their factory and then ships each personís creation to her house a couple of weeks later. Itís a pretty cool idea.
After all that creativity, we were starving so we went to the Melting Pot for dinner in Framingham, Mass. I had never been there before but the food and atmosphere was good. I laughed a lot throughout the night and had a great time.
My whole weekend was so much fun. I even had a nice time Saturday night relaxing and doing nothing. Abby, Noah, and I hung out at her Dad, Steveís, house with him, Abbyís brother, Pete, and some of their other family. Steve built the first fire of the season. Abbyís brother, Pete, and some other family members came over. We ate some pizza, watched the World Series, just relaxed, and enjoyed each otherís company.
I realize I have said I had a fun or really great time over and over now. The whole weekend made me remember what great friends I have and how fortunate I am to have them.
I was sad dropping Abby and Noah off at the airport in Boston. I made them pose for a picture at Logan airport with all their stuff while all the cars behind me honked their horns. Then I flew back to Michigan Sunday because we have a display to do with our dragster today and I will be signing autographs. Iíll tell you about the next time I write -- which hopefully is soon. Itís really cold here and Iím really glad weíre leaving for the warmer climate of Las Vegas in a couple of days.
Friday, October 20, 2006
Like going home again
After the Richmond race and one last trip to Wawa, we flew back to Michigan for a day. I had enough time to get some work done at the shop, unpack my suitcase, do a couple loads of laundry and re-pack. It is already getting cold in Michigan. Before we left for Richmond, it snowed and I took a picture outside of our shop. Can you believe, snow in October?
Tuesday after the race, we flew to New York City. I love that place, but we spent less than 24 hours there because it was a business trip. We are hoping that what might result from the trip will be great for the future of myself, Kalitta Motorsports, KB Racing, and also NHRA POWERade Drag Racing. Time will tell.
I left New York Wednesday afternoon for a little vacation. I rented a car from La Guardia and drove to Boston. Some of you know that I went to college near Boston. At times when thereís a lot going on, getting in the car, driving alone and being on the open road for awhile is really nice. I had a lot of time to myself to just think and clear my head. The fall foliage appears to be peaking right now so it made the drive that much more enjoyable.
My close friend Abby and her fiancť, Noah, who now living in Huntington Beach are staying with her dad in Southborough, Mass. I decided to drop in on them and stay there too. Their house is only about 30 minutes from Wheaton College where Abby and I attended college. During our four years there, Abby and I would always go to her house whenever we needed a break from campus life. My home was 3,000 miles away, so Abby, her dad and brother were kind enough to give me a second home. I used to spend Thanksgiving, Easter and some other holidays there because it was too expensive to fly all the way back to Northern California.
When I arrived there last night, Abbyís brother, Peter, made us all dinner. It was so nice to sit at a dinner table and have meal made for us. I seriously canít remember the last time I had a home-cooked meal. At my place Iíll microwave a frozen dinner and I donít even have a dining room table. When we are on the road, we eat out most of the time. Sometimes if we get back to the hotel late, dinner for me is a quick package of hot oatmeal and then sleep.
Tonight weíre meeting up with a bunch of other friends from college who I havenít seen in more than four years. Iím really looking forward to it. Itís a sort of bachelorette party. Then tomorrow, weíre driving up to New Hampshire because another college friend, Brea, is also getting married. Brea was my roommate for three years of college and she also was on the diving team with me.
I love being back in this part of New England. They donít have Wawa around here, but Abby and I went to Dunkin Donuts first thing this morning. Iím not sure if Iíll have time to visit the Wheaton campus because my time here is limited, but I will really enjoy reconnecting with old friends. My mind rarely ever drifts from racing but maybe it will this weekend, which is a good thing. The break will do me some good. I should have some cool photos by the end of the weekend. Have a great weekend everyone.
Monday, October 09, 2006
At least Virginia has WaWa
Well I guess weíre going to have to wait one more week to try and win four rounds at Virginia. I knew it was going to be bad when I turned on the TV Friday night and warnings about flash flooding rushed across the screen and then I was kept awake half the night by crashing thunder and torrential rain.
Nevertheless, our whole team went to the track Friday and Saturday ready to run. We all sat around speculating as to what might happen in different scenarios, twiddled our thumbs, read the paper multiple times, told some lies, ate, and waited and waited for the rain to quit. Saturday it got colder and colder as the day went on and then they finally called it around 2 p.m. Immediately everyone started packing up. I began making phone calls to change plane tickets and hotel rooms for the next weekend.
My team was scheduled to have next weekend off and some of the guys had plane tickets to go elsewhere, however, we will all be back in Richmond again. I know a lot of people who already had plans. I was going to go to Boston next weekend because my friend, Abby, is having her wedding shower that weekend. I was really excited to go back because I havenít been to Massachusetts since I graduated college over four years ago and I havenít seen a lot of my college friends. Oh well, a race is a race and Iíll never complain about getting to go to one.
At least Virginia has my favorite store. I was delighted to find that when I arrived in Richmond and exited the airport, the first thing I saw was a Wawaís. I talked about how much I like their coffee in my last blog and I received a lot of response. It seems that many other people share in my appreciation for Wawa.
Dave of Yardville, N.J., even sent me directions on how to get from Virginia Motorsports Park to a Wawa. Pete from Montreal sent me directions to a Wawa near Englishtown for when we race there next year. Kevin from Pennsylvania wrote, ďI nearly jumped on top of my desk at work when I discovered that much of your last blog post was about WaWa. I've been going to Wawa's all my life, and the overwhelming sentiment of people in these parts is that life without Wawa would never be the same. That's why it was so exciting (and validating, as well) to read that someone else discovered one of our regional treasures and liked it so much.Ē Yes Pete, Wawa is a treasure. I tried to take a picture so my other blog fans could see their wonderful coffee station, but I didnít get close enough with the camera and then they told me no photos were allowed in the store. I didnít push it because I donít want to have my camera confiscated and then be without blog photos again. Just take my word for it and go to the store. They have lots of great things there not just at the coffee station.
Okay, enough about Wawa. Sunday, we left the hotel in Richmond at 4 a.m. and flew back to Michigan. (Of course, I made time to go to Wawa and back before we left for the airport) I tried to enjoy a relaxing day at home yesterday, but I really donít like doing nothing. It was actually warm and sunny outside so I went for a nice long run and enjoyed what may be the last days of pleasant weather in Michigan. I watched NHRA2day and I read the entire Sunday paper. The whole area around here is a buzz because of the Tigers win in Detriot and the U of M win in Ann Arbor. Iím not a huge fan of either team but I am glad the Tigers beat the Yankees. Actually, Iím becoming of fan of the Wolverines by default because thatís all I hear about since I live near Ann Arbor and also because Tom Brady used to play for them.
Today Iím back at the shop. This week I have various things that I need to do like write an ďOn the Run" column for National DRAGSTER which is due in a couple of days. Of course I need to use the practice Tree here at the shop. Itís actually Dougís Tree and he often stops by to use it but itís been helping me. I also need to devote some time to the marketing side of things this week. We have a lot of white space on our trailer that needs to be filled. We have some things that weíre working on and I have some good ideas so wish us luck.
Wednesday, October 04, 2006
Good tests, good coffee, and good eats
Well, I have a lot to catch up on from the last couple of weeks. Iíll spare you from a lot of the details and give you some of my observations of the good and the not so good from the few races at Dallas and Reading. Obviously, the not so good is our early departure on Sunday at the last two races. The good part is that Doug Kalitta and our Mac Tools Top Fuel teammates are still in the points lead. Doug actually extended his lead on Sunday.
What you donít know is that we stayed and tested on Monday in Reading. It was a productive day for our team. I think we learned some things and our dragster went 329 mph, which is a career best for me. Sometimes during test days we learn what not to do, but during this last test session at Maple Grove Raceway, crew chief Jim Oberhofer accomplished what he set out to do. I could tell that everyone on the team was pleased with the day.
The other good thing about staying longer in Reading was that I had time to go to Wawaís one final time. It is a convenience store right down the street from our hotel. Everyone knows I love coffee from 7-Eleven, Circle K and Einstein Bros. Bagels. However, I have discovered that Wawaís coffee surpasses all those. Their mission statement on their cup says: ďCoffee is not an obsession, it is a passion.Ē We all know I feel that way about racing but itís also how I feel about coffee. Wawaís has a large coffee station with at least 20 pots of fresh brew. They have different flavors and even flavored decaf. They also have three different cappuccino machines with various flavored steamers and lattes. I was in coffee heaven! I got up a half hour early every morning in Reading to make sure I got to Wawaís. Just when it was time to leave Pennsylvania I found the right mixture for my 24-ounce coffee cup, consisting of half hazelnut-flavored coffee, half hazelnut decaf, a splash of cinnamon brown sugar cappuccino and a splash of milk. I just wish they had stores outside of Pennsylvania. See, you do find positives in rain outs.
Wawaís was the good part about staying longer. The not so good part was that I didnít make it home in time to see Driving Force on Monday night. I usually try to plan our Monday travel so that Iím home by 9 p.m. (ET) to watch it. However, I got home too late and missed it. I couldnít keep my eyes open long enough to catch the 12:30 a.m. repeat. I love that show. Itís the only thing on TV that actually makes me laugh out loud. Speaking of TV, thereís a lot of new TV shows on now. I havenít been able to see most of them but I caught Friday Night Lights last night and I thought it was pretty good. So now my Tuesday nightís will consist of kickboxing class at the gym and then rushing home to watch that show.
The past two Saturday nights before race day there has been lots of good eats in the Kalitta Motorsports pit area. In Dallas, ďThe Cowboys,Ē Bob Coffman and Glenn Williams bought steak and lobster for the entire team. AC Bill was kind enough to barbeque and prepare it all. Ken Black and the whole KB Racing Pro Stock team stopped by to enjoy the good eats. Then in Reading, we had a lobster broil put on by Joe Poulin, a Mac Tools distributor. He is from Maine, so when we race at Englishtown and Reading, he and fellow distributors Jay and Rodney go all out and bring tons of food for the team. Our menu was unbelievable. We had lobster broiled in Joeís ďspecial recipe,Ē steak, Cajun shrimp, salmon, sausage, cheese sticks, fresh French fries, and cole slaw. Needless to say, I was pretty full. As Joe began the arduous clean-up after all that, he joked that the menu for next year would be peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Thanks for the great food guys!
I guess I have had more good things to report than not so good things. Hopefully after this upcoming race in Richmond, Va., the only thing good thing Iím talking about is our win. I like our chances, especially after our test session last Monday. Iím going to do everything I can to get four win lights on Sunday because my team KB Racing team deserves to be in the winnerís circle.
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
It's all about the rain
After the race in Reading got postponed because of the rain, our KB Racing Top Fuel team decided to find some sunshine for a little rest and relaxation. We took off South to find some better weather and turned what would have been a race day into a Sunday of leisure under the sun along the sandy ocean shores. We enjoyed the soothing sound of waves crashing down and the fresh smell of the ocean all day long.
Actually Iím lying. Well, mostly lying. The only part of what I said that is true is that we did find sunshine on Sunday. We found it at Norwalk Raceway Park and enjoyed the soothing sound of our 7,000-horsepower motor and the fresh smell of nitromethane as the warm sun beat down while our team and David Grubnicís team tested. We made a bunch of test laps on Sunday afternoon.
Thankfully, the good folks who run Norwalk Raceway Park are very accommodating. We made a last-minute phone call to them on Saturday after the Reading race was postponed and they said it was no problem for us to stop by since it was on our way back to Michigan. They were hosting the Chrysler Dodge Jeep Nationals, but they let us interrupt over the course of the day to run our car. The fans and racers were very friendly to us; some of them said they had never seen a nitro car in person.
I had not been to a regular bracket race like that in a long time. It reminded me of when my dad, grandpa, Don Ringler, and I used to go to those types of races all the time. I would drive my dadís 1971 Dodge Challenger. It can be fun dialing in your own time and racing the finish line. We would race at Samoa Dragstrip, Redding Dragstrip, Infineon Raceway, and Sacramento Raceway. Too bad we didnít write a dial-in on our Top Fuel dragster and bracket race it. That could have been fun. Sometimes I think we are consistent enough to have a nitro bracket car.
So, Iím back at the shop for a couple of days trying to reorganize our travel plans and hotel accommodations to go back to Reading. Obviously, it ends up costing our team a lot of extra money because we have to pay for flights, rentals cars, and hotels for an additional weekend. Plus, itís kind of last minute so there arenít many travel deals. The other problem is that there isnít a large supply of hotels in the Reading area and apparently there are a lot of events, like PBR bull riding and some dog show going on the last weekend of September when we go back. Hopefully everyone will have hotel rooms without having to travel too far.
Rain has sort of been the theme around here. At the Kalitta Air picnic the weekend before the Reading race, it also rained. However, unlike at Reading, the rain was intermittent so we still got to enjoy the outdoor picnic.
In between the thunder and lightning some attendees were forced into the dunk tank. I caught a photo of Jon Oberhofer, co-crew chief of the StriVectin-SD Top Fuel dragster, in the tank. His daughter, Julia, took full advantage of the opportunity to dunk her dad. She had a good aim even though Jon ďOĒ was trying to distract her with threats of grounding.
Our KB Racing Top Fuel crew chief Jim ďOĒ also went into the dunk tank. I didnít make a single attempt to do any dunking. Doug Kalitta also went into the tank.
Weíve definitely had our fair share of water around here. Hopefully now we can be precipitation-free for the last five races of the season. I leave for Dallas tomorrow to do some pre-event work for POWERade and will check back soon.
Friday, September 08, 2006
This one's for the crew ...
Itís been a busy couple of weeks and Iíve been procrastinating on writing this blog because thereís so much to tell you about. I could spend all day writing. I knew it was time to just start writing when I was talking on the phone with Ken Black and he asked why there hasnít been a blog updated in awhile. Since we got back from Indy, Iíve been busy catching up on some things at the shop. I have this problem that when I am at a race, I forget that the world is still going on around me. Visa, Comcast, Geico, etc., still demand payments every month, but I tend to neglect them. I also neglected some family birthdays. In the last month, my mom had a birthday, my sister Kim turned 22, my other sister, Jessica, turned 15, and my twin brothers, Kevin and Austin, turned 13. Not one of them received a present from me. Sorry guys. My dragster just demands so much attention these days. I promise to make it up to you when Iím home after the season.
I canít even imagine how my guys feel. They are on the road more than I am. After they left for Brainerd, they were on the road for 20 straight days. Between Memphis, Indy testing and the Norwalk race, we ran the dragster nine out of 10 days. On the tenth day, we ran the final round at Norwalk at 10 a.m. on Monday morning. The guys were back at the shop working on the dragster early that afternoon. My crew chief, Jim Oberhofer, gave them the rest of the afternoon off, but no one left because there was too much to do in preparation for Indy. They had a couple of days back at the shop to catch up and then we went to Indy for the longest race of the year where we run four days instead of the normal three. They probably spent at least 12 hours each day at the race track. You can see from the photo that they are burning the midnight oil at the track. After all that work, they wouldnít have minded making four runs on Monday. However, it wasnít meant to be. When I got back from Indy, Jim Becker, our Machine Shop Manager, who refused to go to Indy this year, said that Kalitta Motorsports has an Indy curse. Maybe heís right.
Lately, there have been a lot of people expressing interest in coming to work on our team. I guess that around this time of year, itís common to get a lot of job applications because people know that teams are beginning to think about next season. Not that I have any kind of say in who does or does not get hired, but I have told people, point blank, that they wouldnít be able to handle it. I donít mean to be rude or callous, but the truth is I donít think many people could handle the hard work and dedication it takes to work on a race team and be gone from home so long. For my team, working on the KB Racing dragster is not a job; it is a lifestyle. What people donít realize is how much work goes into making these cars go down the track in 4.5 seconds. Ken Black allows us to have everything we need, but just as with his Pro Stock team, all that is useless unless you have smart people behind it who are willing to give endless time and effort to the operation. Even after Indy, the guys drove back to the shop on Tuesday and worked for the rest of that day and have worked all week long. I hope they will at least take Saturday and Sunday off. I wish I could talk one of them into doing a couple of blogs so you all have a better idea of how much they do. I do really appreciate all the support they give me, so thanks guys!
Iím home this weekend. I havenít spent a weekend here since the beginning of July. Iím sure I will stay busy though. The Kalitta Air company picnic is Saturday, so I will stop by there and hang out. I hear rumors that some people you know will be going in the dunk tank at the picnic, so hopefully I will have pictures from that. Have a good weekend, and I promise to update more often.
Thursday, August 24, 2006
Building momentum for Indy
My first trip to Memphis was sort of an odd experience, but it ended pretty well on Monday afternoon. Our KB Racing Top Fuel team went to our first final round. It was almost a year ago to the day that nearly the same group of guys who got us into the final, were there to help me get my Top Fuel license during Indy testing. Saying we are hungry for our first win is an understatement. We came up only 12-thousandths of-a-second short. If there was a bright spot in the defeat, it was that we lost to our teammate Doug Kalitta and he extended his lead in the Top Fuel standings. I think this will give our team the momentum and confidence we need going into Indy next weekend.
Going into Memphis, I decided I was going to stop being so ritualistic and such a creature of habit. I got to thinking that if you get too caught up in having everything a certain way, you are setting yourself up for a disaster when things happen out of the ordinary, which is often in drag racing. Ironically, a lot of things happened that were out of the ordinary last weekend.
It all started with breakfast at the Cracker Barrel on Friday morning. The lady at the table next to us decided she wanted us to see her already chewed breakfast. That was a lovely sight, let me tell you. Even if we turned our backs to avoid seeing it, we couldnít miss the cacophonous sounds it produced. Yuck!
At the track, we faced some unordinary obstacles which may have actually helped us. We only had three qualifying sessions instead of four as a result of the rainstorm on Friday. That is the first time this season that we didnít get four qualifying runs. It also was the first time our team went into the final qualifying session not in the 16-car field. Usually, we are very consistent throughout qualifying and solidly in the field after the first few sessions, but because of some unusual circumstances we found ourselves on the outside looking in. The possibility of sitting out on Sunday never even crossed my mind. Going into our third and final attempt, I was pretty certain our dragster was going to go right down the race track and get us solidly in the show. As I was sitting in the van before the run, peacefully and calmly listening to my iPod, I couldnít help but notice my teammatesí unusual nervousness as they paced around the starting line. There are a lot of variables with these cars and one small thing could have hurt us, but as always, my guys gave me a great race car. We went flying down the track and got in the show at No. 13. I think it actually helped our confidence because it reinforced that we can persevere in tough situations. From then on, no obstacle was going to get in our way.
Even on Sunday when Mother Nature gave us record high temperatures, we did not let that stop us. My crew chief, Jim O, said that the amount of moisture in the air, or water grain content, was the highest he had ever seen. Add that to 100-degree temps and you have the worst possible air conditions for tuning a 7,000-horsepower dragster. You wouldnít know by the way our dragster ran though. In a first round full of tire-smoking pedalfests, we went barreling down the race track with the second lowest E.T. of the round.
Then it rained, so we had to play the waiting game, which is never really fun because itís nice to get into a rhythm. Again, we were taken out of our routine. On Monday, we continued our trend from Sunday and made solid runs throughout eliminations. I guess it wouldnít have been right for our KB Racing team to win our first race without our team owners, Ken and Judy Black in attendance. Also, ďthe Cowboys,Ē Glen Williams and Bob Coffman, werenít there either. Everyone, including my Grandpa Connie, will be at Indy, so we would like to use what we overcame at the Memphis race as momentum builder for Indy. With all that, I didnít even have ham and cheese all weekend. Like I said, Iím trying to break from some of my routines.
Iím especially glad that Memphis ended on a good note because now we have a much-needed energy boost because thereís a lot more hard work in the days ahead for my team. We finished the race around noon on Monday, but the work doesnít stop there. After tearing down, packing up, driving eight hours to Indy, sleeping about five hours, setting up again, our dragster was ready to go down the track at OíReilly Raceway Park less than 24 hours later. We made three test laps on Tuesday and then three more Wednesday. We were at the track for over 12 hours each day. Today, we will travel to Ohio for an IHRA event. If everything goes as planned, we will have run our car eight out of nine days. My guys are extremely dedicated and I thank them for that. From a driverís standpoint, thatís great! Iím in heaven getting to run the wheels off my race car. However, itís a lot of time and effort for the team. I said we are hungry to win, but my team will be extra thirsty after the next couple of days. Iíll check back from Ohio in a couple of days as long as I can get Internet at the track and/or the hotel. Also, I have a new camera so we should have some good photos.
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
Not a lot of fun in Brainerd
It was great to get back to B.I.R. However, things didnít end up the way we had hoped. We lost another close race. It seems like our KB Racing Top Fuel team just canít catch a break. The competition is so good, you have to be nearly perfect on every run or you wonít win races. I know our day will come. I have a great race team behind me.
As I wrote last Friday, I brought my white sunglasses back out, but I didnít get to wear them because the sun didnít shine a whole lot last weekend. The threat of rain loomed over us everyday with dark, gray clouds. Then on Saturday night, it finally broke loose and continued into Sunday. It rained pretty hard on Saturday night. I felt bad for all those in the campground. The start of eliminations was delayed almost three full hours. The race fans were very patient, but I was not. Iím not a big fan of waiting around and wondering if we are going to race, but I guess there are worse things. I tried to keep myself busy because we usually get to the track around 8 a.m. on race day. I went to the Racers for Christ (RFC) service in the morning, and we started the car about 9:30 as we usually do. We all watched NHRA2day in the hospitality area. I had my normal ham and cheese raceday breakfast. I recently started bringing my iPod and listening to that to help relax me. I keep trying to find some good race day music, so if anyone has any suggestions, please let me know.
I wish I could say that the first round was worth the wait, but we came up short against the Strivectin-SD team and my teammate David Grubnic. Our KB Racing team is ready for Memphis. The team is traveling as I write. They worked on the car all day Sunday and took off driving from B.I.R. to Memphis yesterday.
I didnít spend any time in the infamous ďZooĒ at B.I.R. The most I saw of it was on ESPN2 when we watched some of qualifying show on Saturday. Most of the fans I talked to who came by my pit said they were having a good time there. I had a lady e-mail me and say that she was having ďgirlís weekendĒ at the races with all of her best friends. They were leaving their husbands, boyfriends, and kids at home. In her e-mail she talked a lot about Girl Power Racing and said she and all her friends would be cheering loudly for our KB Racing dragster. I thought it was pretty cool because it shows the diversity of race fans that NHRA draws. I donít think a lot of people would expect a bunch of ladies to spend their weekend together at a drag race, but I certainly could understand why they would, and I think weíre getting more and more female race fans all the time. Hopefully, Melanie, Erica, Angelle, Karen, Ashley, and I give them someone to root for.
We drove back to Minneapolis and flew home on Monday morning. Now, Iím back at our shop in Ypsilanti for a few days. I leave for Memphis on Thursday. Hopefully, many of you great NHRA fans will stop by the Fan Fest on Thursday and say hello. I looks like it will be warm this weekend, bu tnot as warm as last year, from what everyone is telling me, so I guess weíre getting a break from Mother Nature.
Well, Iím off to do cardio kickboxing class and yoga at the gym. Iíll talk to you all in a few days.
Friday, August 11, 2006
It was only a year ago ....
As we were driving into the track at B.I.R. this morning, I couldnít help but think about how this day last year was the day that changed my entire life. It was here at Brainerd International Raceway that I had my interview and was hired to be the driver of the KB Racing-owned, Kalitta Motorsports managed-Top Fuel dragster. Jim Oberhofer had called me the previous week and expressed interest in hiring me to be the driver for the new team. I was at Mission Raceway where we were racing our family-owned Top Alcohol Dragster. We won the Division 6 race and then I had to do a last-minute scramble to get myself to Brainerd. I drove to Seattle where I flew to Los Angeles and then to Minneapolis for my job interview. I rented a car and drove a couple of hours to Brainerd. I had to stop at a Kinkos on the way to BIR to print out my rťsumť. I talked with Ken Black and Jim O before qualifying on Friday. I went to the starting line with Ken and watched the teams qualify. Then they gave me the chance of a lifetime that night when they told me they wanted me to be their driver. It was a good thing they hired me Friday because I showed up without a hotel reservation and would have been sleeping in the car, but thankfully they were able to get their new hire a hotel room
I canít believe how much has changed since that day. I canít believe how much I have learned since then. Sometimes it seems like that day was many, many years ago. It hasnít always been easy but Iím adjusting to this life and this new job and loving every second of it.
Part of my job requirement was that I move to Michigan where the team is based. I have actually grown to really like it there. I donít spend a whole lot of time in Ypsilanti, but when I am there I have a lot to catch up on because of my non-driving responsibilities. For example, on Monday I made sure all the hotel rooms were correct at our next three races in Brainerd, Memphis, and Indy. Sometimes things get confusing because we usually reserve about 25-30 rooms per race and we are always making changes to who is coming, going, and when they will arrive and leave. Then I collected hotel receipts from the previous three races and made sure we were billed correctly for every room. Our recent rooming disaster at the Seattle race produced a billing disaster. Iím still trying to get that sorted out. Of course I also made time to write my blog on Monday. Tuesday, I made different plane and rental car reservations for myself and others on the team for upcoming races. I also worked on our team schedule for the remainder of the season. In between doing my desk work, I get up and use the practice Tree at the shop multiple times a day. I also made sure to empty all my things out of the trailer. A lot of stuff tends to accumulate, especially on multiple-race swings. My loyal fans like to give me things. For example, Shelby Allen, from my hometown of Fortuna, Calif., brought me a sweatshirt signed by everyone from the Samoa Dragstrip. She also gave me a really neat piece of artwork that she made with my name on it.
I spent Wednesday traveling which I do plenty of; I have become very familiar with the Northwest Airlines terminal in Detroit. I flew to Minneapolis because NHRA asked me to do some media interviews to help promote the race. Promoting our sport and my team is also a big part of my job. I had an interview with the Minneapolis CBS station on Wednesday afternoon. Then on Thursday, I drove to Fargo, N.D., with Lachelle Seymour of the NHRA Media Dept. We drove four hours to the quaint, sleepy little town for a couple of TV interviews, and a newspaper interview. Then we drove three hours back to Brainerd. Iím all about promoting out sport, so I donít mind the long drive.
For the next couple of days, I get to do the best part of my job which is driving my dragster. Iím hoping to commemorate my one-year hiring anniversary by winning here at Brainerd. Iím also going to commemorate it by bringing back the infamous white sunglasses that I wore the last time a came here. They were good luck then and hopefully they will be this weekend, too!
Monday, August 07, 2006
Women in the Winner's Circle
Last week, I drove to the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway to attend the Women in the Winnerís Circle luncheon that brings together top female racers and technical experts in racing put on by The Lyn St. James Foundation. This was the fourth year of the event. I wasnít really sure what to expect, but Iím really glad I went. There were more than 40 female racers there. We were all introduced on stage and then enjoyed a social hour and luncheon.
NHRA drag racing had a very strong presence at the event. It was cool to be there when Barbara Parks was recognized with an award. Also, my fellow Top Fuel competitor, Melanie Troxel, won an award. Melanie, Ashley Force and I were the three NHRA drivers in attendance. It was nice to see that NHRA President Tom Compton and Sr. VP of Racing Operations Graham Light came to the luncheon. Being there made me feel proud to be a women racer in NHRA. After lunch, we all had the opportunity to listen to Anne Stevens, COO of Ford, deliver a speech.
The best part was when all the racers got together for a private, non-media panel discussion with Ms. Stevens and two other business women. Lyn St. James was the moderator. It was interesting to hear the parallels between being a woman in the business world and being a woman in the racing world. I could relate with a lot of what the panelists were saying because I used to work in the business world when I was a financial analyst and obviously, I could relate with a lot of what the other women racers were saying. I will definitely hold onto some of the advice that Ms. Stevens gave during the discussion. I felt like everyone had a lot to say and wish it could have lasted longer. I look forward to attending again next year.
After the event, I decided to stay in Indy for a couple of days because I have some good friends from racing there. It was fun to hang out away from the race track for a change. Itís funny though because everywhere we went in Indy, we would see people we knew since itís such a popular place to live for people in NHRA drag racing. I went to a lot of restaurants over the weekend.: Rickís Cafť Boat Yard, P.F Changs, McGilveryís Pub & Eatery, Howl at the Moon, Alcatraz Brewing Company and TGI Fridays. Itís a good thing I also found a kickboxing class over the weekend with all the dining.
On Saturday night, some friends from Kalitta Motorsports came to Indy and we all went to the NASCAR Busch Race at OíReilly Raceway Park at Indianapolis. The good people at OíReilly were kind enough to give me tickets. I had never been to a Busch race before. We had all-access passes so it was pretty cool. I got my picture taken with Carl Edwards before the race. Surprisingly, when I approached him, I turned into one of those giggly girls and I got kind of nervous. What a dork I am sometimes. The actual race part wasnít that exciting because Iíll never understand the excitement of watching cars go around in circles for two or three hours. However, the social part of it was fun because I was with good friends. I even happened to bump into Marty Reid from ESPN, Dean and Kelly Antonelli, Sherri Wolford and Karla Hauck from Mac Tools, along with Larry Dixon, Tommy Johnson Jr. and the Snake. We drag racers just love being at a race track I guess.
Overall, I had a really fun weekend off. I still got to be at a race and I got to hang out with friends. The only thing that could be better would be spending a weekend racing a Top Fuel dragster and thankfully I get to do it this weekend. Iím at the Kalitta Motorsports shop today and all the teams are preparing for our race at Brainerd International Raceway in Minnesota. They will leave on Wednesday and I fly out on Wednesday afternoon. As for the lack of photos, I apologize. I think Iím going to have to stop being cheap and just buy a new camera since I still havenít gotten mine back yet.
Iíll update in a few days following my trip to Fargo, N.D.
Tuesday, August 01, 2006
I have been doing this blog for nearly a year now and I havenít gone this long without checking in since I started blogging. I actually wrote a blog after Seattle race last week, but I was having a hard time connecting to Internet so I couldnít send it. Now, I have so much to say I donít even know where to begin. I still donít have my blog camera, but I have photos from other people. Larry McFarland from Grandstand Photos and Bill Archer gave me some pics to post. Also, Auto Imagery always gives me good photos of our team.
I canít even describe how cool it was to be back at my home track, Infineon Raceway, driving a Top Fuel dragster. I loved being in familiar surroundings. Every time we pulled to the starting line, I took a second to appreciate that I was sitting in Top Fuel dragster and to think about how many times I have been to that very same starting line in a number of different race cars. In July of 1999, at the Division 7 race at Infineon, I pulled up to the starting line about seven times in one day when we went to the finals in Super Street. It was that day, at that race track, that I decided I was going to be a drag racer.
I wish that things had turned out differently on Sunday. Obviously, losing is never easy to take. Itís even tougher when we could have won the semifinal round, if I had hit the throttle 49 ten-thousandths of a second quicker. I didnít get much sleep Sunday night over that one. I know I should be positive and be happy that we advanced to the semiís, but it really was a tough loss. Not that any losses are easy.
What I am pleased about is that all the KB Racing teams and Kalitta Motorsports teams advanced to the second round for the first time this year. Itís also cool that two of my teammates left Sonoma with POWERade points lead: Doug Kalitta in Top Fuel and Jason Line in Pro Stock. Also, our team owner, Kenny Black Ė son of Ken and Judy Black -- came to Sonoma, so it was cool to go to the semiís with him there.
Iím also happy that we did well at my home track. My dad, my mom, my Grandpa, and both my sisters and both my brothers came to hang out. My aunts, uncles, and cousins also drove down from Fortuna, Calif., where I grew up. They all have been so supportive. I felt bad because I didnít get to talk with them a whole lot and spend much time with them. This race was only the third time my mom has seen me race in person. She even had an ESPN2 interview. She was watching qualifying from the StriVectin-SD suite when Dave Reiff and the camera crew tracked her down and put the microphone in front of her. They really surprised her and she said she was nervous talking on the camera. I know itís not an easy thing to do.
A lot of people from Humboldt County (the real NorCal), where Iím from, came to the race. I was glad that a lot of them stopped by our pit area to say hi. There has been a tremendous amount of support from everyone in that area and from everyone at the Samoa Dragstrip where I first started out racing in Eureka, Calif. I wish I couldíve gone back to that area either before or after Sonoma. I was going to stop by there after Seattle on the way to Sonoma, but the vehicle I was supposed to drive broke down before I got on the road. I ended up flying to Sonoma so I could get there in time for some of my pre-race media commitments. I did some press work in San Francisco and Sacramento. I couldnít go after Sonoma because I have another commitment in Indy this week. Eventually I will make it back up there to visit with everyone.
It is nice to be back home in Michigan even though the heat and humidity are very severe right now. My condo was 92 degrees inside when I got home last night at 9 p.m. It took all night just to cool it off below 80 degrees. I donít usually like air conditioning much, but Iím thankful to have it now. Iím at the shop today catching up on some things. Iím hitting the gym tonight for some kickboxing that I havenít been able to do for a couple of weeks. Then tomorrow Iím driving to Indy. Iíll let you know why when I check back in a couple of days.
Thursday, July 20, 2006
Heading "home" from the mountain
We flew back to Michigan from Denver on Monday. I made sure I got home in time to watch the reality show Driving Force on A&E. It has been really cool to see and hear so many ads for it. When we went to New York back in June, the day before the Englishtown race, I saw the big Driving Force promo in Times Square. I also hear ads on the radio for it here in Michigan. There was a lot of build-up for the show. I thought the show was definitely worth watching. I think itís good for our sport, but it must be weird to get used to having those cameras around all the time. Whenever I see any of the Forces, there is always an entourage of camera people following them. I donít know how much they like that but for the viewers itís cool because the show was definitely entertaining to watch.
Speaking of cameras, I told you about the NORAD tour we went on last week but we werenít allowed to bring cameras. However, there was a professional photographer there and I got to have copies of them for this blog. I donít think I gave much information about it because a lot of people wanted to know more.
NORAD stands for the North American Aerospace Defense Command. It became completely operational in 1966 and was originally intended as a defense against Soviet bombers. Now, they monitor man-made objects in space; they detect, validate, and warn of attack against North America whether by aircraft, missile, or space vehicle. We learned that they chose Cheyenne Mountain because of its central location, its low seismic activity, and its close proximity to the military presence in Colorado Springs. What I remember most about the tour is that the buildings we toured underground donít rest on the ground. The buildings sit on hundreds of springs. Each spring weighs about 1,000 pounds. The reason for that is so that if a nuclear bomb hits close by, the building is able to move laterally about a foot. I learned a lot from the trip. As I said in my last blog, it was cool to be able to go on the tour and bring my Grandpa.
Grandpa is going to be at our race in Seattle this weekend as well. In fact, he drove straight from Denver to Seattle. Our team owner, Ken Black, goes to every race. In Denver, the other KB Racing owners, Kenís wife Judy Black, was also there as well as their son Kenny. I hadnít seen them for awhile. I wish we had gone more rounds while they were there, but itís cool for the KB Racing Team that Jason Line advanced to the finals. Keith Dochterman took the photo of Ken, Judy, and I.
My Dad and my brothers, Kevin and Austin, will be at this race in Seattle. They will arrive from Northern California later tonight. I havenít seen them since April. I arrived in Seattle at about 1:00 a.m. this morning after a delayed flight. Delays donít even bother me anymore; Iím just happy when my luggage shows up, which so far, knock on wood, I havenít had a problem with this year.
Iím glad to be back at Pacific Raceways. I have raced here a lot in the last two years for national events, divisional events, and also for match races. It will be nice to be back on a familiar track. Iíll also get to see a lot of racers I use to race with in Division 6 and 7 but havenít seen for awhile.
Hopefully we will have better luck here than we did in Denver. Kala Schmidt is a Jr. drag racer who I met at Bandimere Speedway. She painted her nails in the colors of our KB Racing Dragster. She was very supportive and gave me a couple of good luck notes and a good luck bracelet.
Itís awesome for me to have support from such cool people. Kala, Iíll be wearing your bracelet this weekend! Iíll check back in a couple of days.
Friday, July 14, 2006
Ready for the second half
I was watching Jay Leno last night and, Ross, the intern came on. He showed a short clip of his adventure on a pirate ship. I think that guy is so funny. He mentioned that he has blog, which I was surprised to hear. Is it me, or does everyone have a blog now? I was reading the Wall Street Journal a couple of days ago, and it said that Chinese kids are using blogs to speak out against their parents in a country where they are taught to be very obedient. I thought it was interesting. There are blogs on every subject. I barely have time to write my own much less read others. But it got me to thinking that they really are a cool thing and I should be glad people want to read mine so I should try to update it more often. With my mind on blogs, I fell asleep and actually dreamed that my blog included video clips. Iím not sure if everyone around me would be particularly happy if I started video taping all the time and posting it on the Internet. Iím told that my blog camera can get kind of annoying at times. But the blog camera is still MIA so no one will have to worry about that at least until next week. Any photos I post are old ones.
We are now in Denver, ready to begin the second half of our season here at Bandimere Speedway. At the beginning of this season I have to admit I was a bit uptight and I was a bundle of nerves. All this seemed too good to be true, if you want me to be real honest about it. Now, Iíve settled into this lifestyle. Iím more relaxed and Iíve gone back to having fun at the races and enjoying every second that I get to spend in my dragster.
It will be a new dragster beginning at this race. This one is also an Attac chassis made by Chuck Lett and his guys. It is a one-piece body and is almost identical to the other one. The only difference is that this new one wonít have over 100 trips down the race track, it wonít have experienced any headache-inducing tire shake, it wonít have had bumpy trips into the sand, or down return roads. I always say that Iím married to my dragster. Well itís safe to say that this last dragster and I had a tumultuous relationship despite my attempts to just get along and maintain peace. Iím happy to have this new dragster and Iím hoping for a better relationship.
I raced at Bandimere Speedway one other time, back in 2003. My family and I brought our Super Gas car out here from California. It was a Dodge Challenger so we thought it would be appropriate to have it at a Mopar-sponsored event. We were slightly hoping/wishing that Mopar would want to sponsor us. We struggled a lot with the altitude because we had mainly raced at sea-level tracks in California. I remember we had to get a new converter and then we ended up changing it in the middle of a thunder and lightning storm at midnight while fighting to keep our awning from blowing up and over the trailer. It wasnít fun at the time but looking back, it was a good experience and Iím glad I got to become somewhat familiar with the track. It really is a nice place.
Iím looking forward to the race and Iím looking forward to being back on familiar tracks during the Western Swing which will include Seattle next and then Sonoma. Maybe the best part is that my Grandpa will be back at the race track for all three events. I havenít seen him since the April race in Vegas. He arrived in Denver on Wednesday when I arrived. I took him out to dinner with me and some good friends from the race track. We went to the Yard House and had a nice time.
On Thursday, Grandpa and I went to NORAD up on Cheyenne Mountain. We got to tour the underground facility and go down where all the operations happen. This is the place where they protect the U.S. and Canada from any kind of air strike. It was a very informative tour. I was very impressed and I learned a lot. My Grandpa used to fly in the Navy so the tour was right up his alley. I was very thankful that Col. Brian Lihani invited us.
Today we are out at the race track getting ready for qualifying tonight. Itís hot out here. At noon, the thermometer said it was 96 degrees. I donít care if itís 150 degrees inside my firesuit, Iím really looking forward to getting back in my dragster after a seemingly long time off. Wish us luck this weekend.
Monday, July 10, 2006
How I spent my summer vacation
Our KB Racing PR rep, Mickey Schultz, most recently asked me to give him some quotes regarding how I feel about our season thus far. I emphasized how much I have learned within the first 12 races of the 2006 season. Well we have had a few weekends away from the race track and Iíve even learned a lot during that time as well.
I learned how much I appreciate the ocean now that I donít live by it anymore. I went to Huntington Beach to spend the Fourth of July weekend to be under the sun, near the ocean, and near friends.
I learned other things as well, like what a bustle is a on a wedding dress. Apparently there is a French bustle and regular bustle. My good friend from college, Abby, and I went dress shopping for her wedding in January. She recently got engaged to Noah, whom she met a couple of years ago when she moved to Southern California after college. Iím lucky enough to be a bridesmaid for their big day. Iím really looking forward to going, and also helping to plan some of the stuff that needs to happen. There are so many things that have to get done. The wedding is still far away so we didnít focus entirely on the wedding plans. Abby, Noah, some of his friends, and I hung out around Huntington.
I tried to learn how to relax and do nothing. Usually Iím not so good at it, but we all went to the beach, hung out, and did nothing for a short time. We went out to eat a couple of times. One place we went was Moís Barbeque Pit on Main Street. Abby was surprised that I was willing to go there. I have also learned to like those barbeque-type places after having been to so many races in the South this year. My team likes to go to Sonnyís Barbeque and also Patís Pig in Topeka.
Iíve also learned that my sister Kim is a server at a great Japanese restaurant in Long Beach. I visited her at Wasabiís where she recently started working. Kim goes to Cal State Long Beach and sheís trying to earn a few extra bucks so if you are in that area, stop by and say hi and donít forget to tip her well. I hadnít seen her since April so it was nice to catch up.
I learned that Huntington Beach is a great place to be on the Fourth. The city blocks off the streets and has a big parade in the morning. The whole town becomes one big party. My friend, Rob, who now lives in Irvine, has friends with a house in the downtown area and they set up a Slip and Slide in their yard. It had a ramp at the end of it with a little pool for jumps. We spent some of the day there. I was among the many people who watched others hurl their bodies down the slide and fly into the kiddy pool at the end. I enjoyed being a spectator for that as well as being a spectator for the fireworks over the Huntington Pier. The city puts on a great show.
The whole weekend was really fun. Iím used to racing on Fourth of July weekend but Iím glad I got to see my sister and Abby, who is like a sister to me. Once it was over, I realized that I actually didnít mind going back to work after vacation; Iíve never had a job like that before. I enjoyed my time in HB and I enjoyed my time spent in the California sun, but it was nice to get back to Michigan. I was wishing that we had a race this last weekend. Iím dying to get back in my dragster.
Since I couldnít drive, I did the next best thing and went to a race. There was a three-day event at the track in Milan, which is only about 15 minutes from my condo. I decided to check it out. Then it turned out that my teammates decided to run there so they could get some things sorted out on the Funny Car before Denver. I ended up spending the entire weekend there even though I have a list a mile long of things I should be doing instead. But I learned that Doug Kalitta could probably drive just about anything you put him in. He drove Scottís Funny Car. The team went to the finals where they eventually lost to Gary Densham. It was a fun weekend and nice to be able to go home each day after the race.
It seems like itís been a month since our last race. I definitely learned that Iím looking forward to Denver and the second half of the season. Actually I already knew that but all this time out of the dragster really reinforced that. I promise I will update my blog more frequently. I have temporarily misplaced my blog camera so sorry for the lack of pictures. I had some good ones of my trip, too. Hopefully by my next blog Iíll have it back.
Thursday, June 29, 2006
I've got to hand it to my team (and, boy, do they have smooth hands)
Well, we finished the first half of the 2006 NHRA season. I try not to keep track of points, but they tell me we moved back into the Top 10 in POWERade point standings after St. Louis. We have won the Full Throttle Pit Crew Challenge five times this year, which is definitely a testament to Jim O and my entire KB Racing team.
Because I have such a strong team behind me, it makes me feel pretty bad when I make mistakes. I wish Sunday had turned out differently. Iíve spent a couple of days obsessing about my red-light and Iíve learned from it. Now, itís time to move on and focus on repeating what we did at Englishtown. Iím really looking forward to the second half of the season. Iím feeling very comfortable driving the dragster. We are going to some tracks that I am familiar with, so that is always nice. Remember, raced a lot in Divisions 6 and 7, so Iím looking forward to the Western Swing.
At least now I donít have to eat ham and cheese anymore. I really had to force myself to eat it last weekend, but since things didnít turn out as I had hoped, I can be done with that little ritual. This weekend proved that the KB Racing/StriVectin-SD hospitality trailer may be good for other rituals besides the ham and cheese. Since qualifying on Saturday started later than normal, there was a lot of free time during the day. Our hospitality coordinator, Ellen Cobb, started giving out what she called ďHand Facials.Ē StriVectin-SD has been marketing a new product to make hands appear smoother and younger. You would be surprised at the list of names who indulged in the hand exfoliation: Connie Kalitta, Scott Kalitta, Jim Oberhofer and Dave Grubnic from our team. Even some people from other teams even stopped by like Eric Medlen, Ron Capps, and Brandon Bernstein. The KB Racing Pro Stock team was pitted across from us but they declined to participate. I also declined. They kept teasing me for being a girl and not wanting to get pampered. I didnít want to make my hands too smooth for my driving gloves. At least that was a good excuse at the time.
Right now, all four teams are back and working hard at the shop. The KB Racing dragster and the StriVectin-SD dragster are pretty much all moved into the new portion of the shop here at Kalitta Motorsports. Since adding the fourth dragster, remodeling began on a new portion of the shop that was formerly used for storage. The guys got all their new Mac Tool Boxes assembled. Technicoat did the flooring on the new portion to match the old part of the shop. They also did the flooring on the new reception area. It turned out really nice. We didnít have a reception area before. Iíll show pictures of it once we get all of the teamís Wallys in there and some photos hung up. We also now have more offices. I think we are all moved for the most part. Itís good that we have a lot more room around here now.
Itís also nice that we will all have a little time off for the 4th of July weekend. I never thought I would need a vacation from racing because racing used to be my vacation, but I think it will be good for me to get away and think about something else for a little while. Iím going go find the sun and ocean. Normally I bring my computer everywhere but Iím not leaving it at home for a change. Iíll spend some time with friends whom I have neglected over the last couple of years. I really canít wait. I get back after the Fourth, so I will check back in then. I promise to take lots of good pictures. I hope you all have a happy and safe 4th of July weekend. Talk to you next week.
Tuesday, June 20, 2006
The Ham and Cheese Success Diet
I love watching racing and I love supporting my teammates and all, but Iím glad I got to do less of that and more racing this last weekend at our race in Englishtown, NJ. The only racing I watched on Sunday was the final so I got to see KB Racing Pro Stock teammate, Jason Line, win the race. That was very cool. It was also very cool that our KB Racing Top Fuel team advanced to the semifinals. I feel like it was a breakthrough race for us. I finally figured out how to get better reaction times in this dragster. Trust me; the problem gave me plenty of sleepless nights and stressful days. It seems like a huge relief. Now I just need to be more consistent, but at least I know what I need to do.
I really want my team to have confidence that their driver can get the job done when we go to the starting line. Fortunately for me, I can have confidence in the race car that they give me to drive. I give a lot of credit to my team for being patient and supportive of their rookie driver. After the race we just had, I feel a lot better going into our next race, which is this weekend.
Hopefully our hospitality coordinator, Ellen Cobb, will make sure to buy good ham and cheese again because it seemed to be good luck. In E-town, she had been telling me all weekend about the fresh deli items she bought. So Sunday, about an hour before first round I had a slice of ham and a slice of cheese. I donít eat that stuff much, but Ellen was right, it was really good. Then we won first round. Well since I like to keep everything the same, I had a slice of ham and a slice of cheese again. Then we won second round. I had to have yet more ham and cheese before the third round. However, I had a real dilemma. When I went into the KB Racing/ StriVectin-SD hospitality trailer, there was only one slice of ham left and we had two more rounds to go. I had to ration myself. I ate half a piece of ham, a slice of cheese, and saved the half piece of ham to have in case we went to the final round. I actually hid it in the back of the refrigerator so no one would take my ham. Well I guess the ham shortage broke the routine and we didnít get past the third round. My stomach was actually thankful for that because it couldnít handle any more of that stuff. However, it was good preparation because my stomach will hopefully have to be ready for four rounds worth of ham and cheese this weekend. Sometimes racers go to great lengths to keep the same routine; I guess Iím guilty of it too.
We are back at the shop now. The guys drove all day Monday from Englishtown to Ypsilanti. They are servicing the dragster today, and then they will be on the road again tomorrow headed for St. Louis. Hopefully they wonít have much to do on Thursday and they will get to have some free time in the evening on Thursday.
Going to these races all over the country has allowed me to reconnect with old friends that are living in different parts of the country. On Saturday in New Jersey, some friends came to the track that I had not seen in over six years. I met them back in 2000 when I was in college; I went to Hong Kong for a semester long study abroad trip. Fourteen other students from different colleges across the US went there on the same program. We became really good friends during our trials and tribulations in a foreign country. Weíve kept in contact over the years but havenít been able to get together because we are all trying to get our careers going and maintain our post college finances. However, four of them live in the New England area so they decided it was time to attend their first drag race. I knew they were going to be in for a surprise when they called before the race and asked when my ďgarage timeĒ was. I think they really had a good time and couldnít believe they could just walk through the pits. The StriVectin people had extra suite tickets so my friends got to watch qualifying from the tower. They took lots of pictures and sent them to me so I used some for this blog. I will also post more on my website. I finally took some new team photos so I will post those on my website soon as well.
Wednesday, June 14, 2006
In a "foul" mood ... but I'll get over it
All the teams are on the road again. They left our shop in Michigan for Englishtown, N.J., early this morning. They were only back for one full day. This is the second event of our three-race swing.
This race canít come soon enough for me. Obviously, Iím not happy with what I did Sunday in Joliet. I was surprised that I left too early. I felt good going into first round. I knew our KB Racing dragster was going to make a great run down the track. I just really wanted to cut a good light; I was really ready. I guess I was just overly ready and red lit. As soon as I left, I saw the big red light out of the corner of my eye. I was so mad I just kept my foot buried on the throttle. I would have smashed it all the way through the floor if I could have. It was the longest four seconds ever. We ran a 4.54, which would have been enough to beat our opponent, J.R .Todd. The photo to the right, from Auto Imagery, is appropriate because it looks like Iím trying to bash my head into the dash out of frustration. Any driver who has ever red lit knows the feeling.
At least my team knows they did their job. They have been doing a great job all season long and giving me an awesome car week-in and week-out. They know Iím trying my best, but I feel bad for them when I mess up. I could say sorry, but sorry really doesnít cut it. All I can do is get better. Iíll make up for my mistakes by improving; itís that simple.
We stayed in Joliet and tested on Monday and Iím really pleased with the way things went. I truly believe our season is going to turn around. Thankfully, Ken Black, his wife, Judy, and his son, Kenny give us all the resources and support we need. Jim O, Troy, Kent, Jason, Scott, Chris, Chris, Mac, and I have the potential to be a winning team and eventually our record will show it.
My brothers, Kevin and Austin, were also racing this last weekend. They were driving their Jr. dragsters at Samoa Dragstrip near our hometown in Northern California. Coincidentally, they red lit and lost like their older sister. They are great drivers though. If I was to give them any advice, I would say to forget about it and focus on the next race as I have done.
I am leaving for Englishtown in the morning. This will be the sixth race in a row where the track is new to me. I like going to all these new places. I couldnít be further away from my family this weekend. They are staying home because my sister, Jessica, is graduating eighth grade. I have to congratulate Jessica. She gets very good grades. I will see all my family again at the Sonoma race which isnít that far away. For everyone who has been asking where my Grandpa is, I think he will make it to all three races on the Western Swing: Denver, Seattle, and Sonoma.
Next time you hear from me, I will be in New Jersey.
Wednesday, June 07, 2006
Super Summit and my week in Joliet
Even though we didnít have a race last weekend, things have still been pretty busy. I havenít spent much time on the computer. When we got back from Topeka, the KB Top Fuel team changed places in the shop at Kalitta Motorsports. It is the new section of the shop that has been under renovation since last year.
I think the guys are really glad to move because they had to work in cramped quarters in between Scott Kalittaís Funny Car team and the StriVectin Top Fuel team. Now they have a lot more room to work. Before they could even unload the car, they had to get things set up. They spent a majority of the weekend moving things from the old section of the shop to the new section. They put together a lot of Mac Tool boxes and set up work stations. Iíll show more photos when we get back next week.
Saturday morning I drove about three hours down to Tallmadge, Ohio. Kirk Heinbuch, the Manager of Motorsports and events at Summit Racing Equipment, invited me to visit their retail store. They also have a store in Georgia and one in Nevada but I had never been to any of the stores so it was interesting to see it. I remember growing up, some of my dadís favorite Christmas presents came in Summit boxes. Throughout my many years of racing, we have always used Summit products.
It was no ordinary day there. They were having their annual Super Summit. The whole place was packed with people. There was a show and shine with a lot of cool muscle cars, street rods, sports compacts, customs and street machines. My teammates, Greg Anderson and Jason Line, came and brought their Summit Racing Pro Stock cars for everyone to see. This is the first photo with all three KB Racing drivers. ďBig DaddyĒ Don Garlits also came. The best part for me was that I got to meet and thank the people who make Summit Racing Equipment possible. The company is obviously very supportive of the racers and Iím proud to have their logo on my race car. It was fun day and it was definitely worth the drive.
I had just enough time in Michigan to unpack, do my laundry, and then re-pack. Actually I did take some time to catch a movie and it was well worth the time and money. I saw Break Up with Tammy Oberhofer and Kim Oberhofer. (Tammyís husband, Jim O, is the crew chief on our KB Racing dragster and Kimís husband, Jon O, is the crew chief on the StriVectin dragster) The movie got really bad reviews but I think those movie critics tend to over analyze things. Itís not Oscar material by any means but it was so funny. The three of us laughed the whole time, which makes the moving worth seeing.
Right now Iím in Joliet for our next race. I got here on Monday and will be here just over a week. Iím actually very content to be here. Our hotel is within walking distance of a 7-Eleven and a McDonaldís. Also there is a nice gym close by. I think I get up an hour earlier every morning just so I can get to the 7-Eleven coffee. My favorite is the blueberry-flavored kind with a little hot chocolate and steamed milk added. I saw those cold pizza sandwiches there that they did the promotion for on The Apprentice. I donít think Iím brave enough to try one. Iíll stick with my Asian salad from McDonaldís. Thatís my new favorite fast food meal choice. McDonaldís has really done a complete turnaround. I think itís funny that they even give out fitness DVDs with their salads. I havenít watched them yet but maybe I should try. Iíve found it really challenging keeping in shape when traveling so much. Iíve been making time to go to the gym near here for some kick boxing classes.
But Iím here this early for reasons other than the gym, 7-Eleven, and McDonaldís. Yesterday I went to Rockford, Ill., for a media tour. Lachelle Seymour from the NHRA PR department took me to some TV stations in that area for interviews to help promote the race this weekend and encourage people to come out to Route 66. Today Iím going to downtown Chicago to do more of the same type of thing. I definitely think that as drivers, it is our responsibility to help promote our sport. Iím really looking forward to the race this weekend. I tested here last year but I have never raced here. Iíll check back in soon.
Tuesday, May 30, 2006
Focusing on the positives
Sunday at Topeka didnít turn out the way I hoped. To put it mildly, I really, really do not like the way it turned out because I wanted that first-round win real bad. I know what I need to do; I can and will do it. I know it and my team knows it so rather than dwell on that, Iíll talk about some of the better parts of the weekend. My KB Racing teammate, Greg Anderson, went to the semifinals and gained POWERade points on the Pro Stock field. My other teammate, Doug Kalitta and the Mac Tools Top Fuel dragster, also gained points on the field with their third victory of the season. I was glad to at least see them have successful Sundays.
Saturday night the whole team ended up at Patís Pig BBQ for dinner after qualifying. Itís a little place close to the track off of Topeka Blvd. I knew it had to be good when the entire team ended up at the same place. Itís very rare that all four Kalitta teams go to the same place unless itís after a win. Ken Black, his friend, Chuck, and Jason Line were there, too. I got a picture of them standing outside. The restaurant is owned by Tamara and Shane and they really support racers.
On Thursday, I tried to create some new race supporters. About 100 kids from the local Boys and Girls Club came out to the track for the day. Most of them had never been to a drag race before. I got to talk with them and show them around our pits. Besides talking about racing, I explained to the kids that it is important to have goals and dreams. I emphasized that they need to build a good support system, and stay focused on their goals. I kept my talk short and then let them all come over to our pit area so they could see our KB Racing dragster. They seemed to have a good time and maybe they learned something, too. The KB Racing PR Rep, Mickey Schultz, and Jamie Overocker, the Media and Public Relations Director of Heartland Park Topeka (HPT), set that up with the Boys and Girls Club and I was glad they asked me to help out.
The owners of HPT, Mr. and Mrs. Irwin, give the racers and fans a great facility. They take a lot of pride in their track and itís greatly appreciated. I look forward to going back next year and being a little quicker about things.
Actually Iím looking forward to being quicker about things at our next race in Joliet. Iíll have to wait another week and a half for that race because we have this weekend off. All the teams are back at the shop here in Michigan. Iíll check back in a couple of days.