(photos by Bruce Biegler)
It’s already mid-September! Where did the regular season go?! Can you believe we’re about to start the Countdown to the Championship?
My last post came just as the team was getting the Mopar Express Lane Dodge ready for the NHRA U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis after testing in St. Louis for two days.
Indy is always awesome event, but very long. It didn’t quite end up the way we had hoped. I’ll get back to that in a minute.
Away from the track there were some bright points. I took part in the 5th annual Eric Medlen Memorial Golf Tournament benefiting the Peyton Manning Children's Hospital at St. Vincent. The cause is awesome, and I got to play with ESPN NHRA anchor Dave Rieff and the whole event was really enjoyable.
On Saturday night, I invited all three Mopar teams (Johnson & Johnson, Jeg Coughlin Jr. and Team JEGS, and Vincent Nobile and the Mountain View Tire team) to an evening at one of my favorite places to visit while in Indy: the famous St. Elmo’s Steak House. There were 30 of us, and we all devoured a line-up of their signature shrimp with the famous (Real hot! Real good!) cocktail sauce, and some really rare prime rib. It was a great meal but it was having us all together that made for a fantastic time.
Me and Pam with Captain Mike Wilson and his wife, Pam
Back at the track, it was great to meet so many fans each day and still get congratulations on last year’s championship. While signing autograph or taking photos with fans, they often see my championship ring and ask if I always wear it, even on runs. My answer is always the same; “You bet I do!” It took a lot of work and years of effort, and I am very proud of our accomplishment. I will take advantage of every minute and every day to wear it as long as I can call myself the Pro Stock World Champion. It also motivates me in this final stretch to go out and do everything I can to try to defend that championship.
I got to be a fan myself during that weekend when I met Captain Mike Wilson and his wife, Pam, from the reality show “The Deadliest Catch.” It’s an awesome show, and to hear him personally recount some of the stories and experiences from aboard the ‘Kiska Sea’ was pretty hair-raising.
Getting back to our performance on track, it was not what we had expected and hoped. Indy was very eye-opening for me as a driver. The Mopar team dug down deep and got it done against Mike Edwards and I screwed it up losing on a holeshot in the second round of eliminations. Makes you realize how important it is during the Countdown to be up and on your game. I get real motivation by screwing up, makes me work very hard. So in that respect, maybe that is the best way to head into the Countdown.
On the bright side, we might have hit on something on that last run that we’ve been fighting for a few races that will hopefully give us some momentum going into the playoffs. I feel like we gained more for the Countdown there, even though the driver didn’t do his job on the track.
The good news is that as of this weekend at Charlotte, it’s a whole new season now. We’re 30 points behind instead of 150. While I wasn’t so happy about the points resetting last season, I am definitely liking it more this year as it helped erase the gap between us.
While I find myself in a different situation this time around chasing Mike (Edwards) and battling my own teammates, I learned some valuable lessons last year that should help; Consistency. Consistency. Consistency! And after consistency, we need have lots of communication within the team to cover all bases and remember to have fun along the way.
Keeping that in mind, before heading to Charlotte, I made a quick stop to see my friends Justin and Gina Humphreys in Maryland to take part in the 12th annual Fore Dood golf outing in honor of his brother who was killed in a motorcycle accident. The family has a foundation that gives to charities in the area in his honor.
But it’s now time to get back to work. The NHRA Countdown to the Championship is officially under way, and it’s going to be a ‘knock down drag out’ fight. Of all the NHRA races coming up, I don’t think I am looking forward to one event over another. Each will be equally very important in my mind. However, this first one is probably has a bit more weight to it because it can easily define and set the tone toward getting good momentum and confidence for the rest of the Countdown.
I’m focused and hungry! It is time for the Express Lane Dodge Avenger to get HEMI mean for the Countdown. Time to go to Charlotte!