Hello everybody! I hope that everything has been going really well for all of you . The last few weeks surely have been blessed by God for myself and my family with all the great things happening.
We got our season off to a really fast start a few weeks ago down in Gainesville and quickly now we have run our second race of the year. The entire team has shown off when it comes to the horsepower department, unfortunately we haven't been able to turn those into tons of round wins, but we got one in Gainesville and that's more than we had last year at this point. So we'll buckle down, make the bike more consistent, and I’m going to keep driving well so we will be fine when the countdown starts.
The trip for Gainesville was quite the fun family trip… Jennifer and I made plans back in the winter to load up Stinger and Ava then head east for the race, kind of like a big family road trip. I joked with everyone saying that I felt like Clark Griswold heading to Wally World, with all of our luggage unloading at a different location all across America for about a week or two. The dogs did really well sneaking in and out of the non-pet-friendly hotels that we found along the way, they never really bark at anyone so they know the code already of being quiet when they're inside.
The first stop for us was when we had to go Adel, Ga.,for a day of testing, the dogs haven't been to a race track together ever, Stinger went to Houston back in 2011 as a puppy so he was used to the noise. But Ava on the other hand really didn't like the big cars running, she wouldn't freak out but when they would whack the throttle she would jump and look around. She found herself enjoying cleaning up all the loose food that was laying around the track and helping us clean up the trailer when there were bread crumbs on the floor. The testing we did went really well for our first time back out on the track with our Buell since Pomona. I thought that we received great praise from Tim Hailey with Eatmyink.com, he said after watching you guys show up, just unload the bike, then go out and run an .87 out of the truck was amazing. He said he would've never thought we would've made it down the track considering how we showed up with zero testing.
So after a few good passes, GB said lets load that baby up and send it through tech on Thursday. So with us only being a few hours from Daytona Bike Week going on and us a few hours from there, Jenn, the pups, and I headed south to meet up with my father who'd been there for a few days. We hung out there Wednesday and some of Thursday then headed back up to Gainesville to get ready for the weekend. The race went really good for us this year, we stuck it up there on the pole and set a new career ET and MPH for the team. Once everything was said and done we won a round, got some bonus points, and headed back home.
We knew that Charlotte was going to be really good for us after our performance there. So fast forward with me through a few weekends of mowing the lawn and getting my yard all tuned up for the season we headed to Charlotte for the 4-Wide. We unloaded there and really picked right back up where we left off at Gainesville, on the pole and really fast every pass down the track. The next event for us is Atlanta which I'm really excited for, the last time the bikes went there I made it all the way to the my first final ever! Thanks to the help of my good ol' buddy and teammate Matt Smith.
Now most of you may have seen the shirt that I so handsomely wore at the Gators was made by Mr. Smith or Smitty as we'll call him… But he and I have really developed a great friendship since I left his team or at least I thought we were friends, he might say otherwise. I mean would a friend flatten all your tires on your rental car, this one would apparently. We all got up Monday morning to leave, drop the boys off at the truck, and I was going to fly home; well Smitty and those guys had other plans. After a two hour "team building" experience we installed 4 new valve cores and 4 cans of Fix A Flat we limped the car back to the track to fill the tires up to their correct pressure THEN it was time to go home. Now any other team would've been a little more upset than I was but I knew it was all in fun and I already had put an Uncle Hal sticker on the side of his trailer Sunday evening, that he obviously knows about now because he always reads my blogs or he surely has walked around his truck and noticed. I love you Smitty and I'll see you in a few weeks, I know you're going to make hell on my life so this season should be a lot of fun.
I know that I'm not going to be winning any Yard of The Month awards from my HOA but I try, last year was the first summer in our new house so we really spent most of it just getting the inside figured out, organized, and painted. Now that's all done I had to make my way out to the yard. I had a "Man" moment earlier in the season and headed over to Home Depot and splurged. I got a new mower, weed eater, fertilizer, weed killer, and anything else I felt I needed to get my yard from the dump to looking like Augusta. I've spent quite a few evenings out just watering the front yard standing there like a weirdo, we're not supposed to water our yard until at least 8 o'clock at night so I get out there with a cold beer, some flip flops on, and some music jamming and turn it into a little party. It's funny the first time I went out there i was solo with the music, now I go out and turn on the stereo outside and within about 5 minutes all my neighbors are out like I called them out with the music. The summer months will sure be hard on our poor yards unless we get some real rain here sometime really soon. It's been so dry in south Texas for the last few years that we are overdue on some good rain. I know this winter wasn't like anything I’ve ever seen, so hopefully that's a good sign that we're onto something good this spring and summer.
I look forward to seeing you guys out at some races real soon if you can make it out. Please remember that if anyone is looking for a great deal on a Harley that we always deliver for free and can bring it to a race for you anytime, Grueneharley.com is where you can go check out what we have in inventory anytime of the day.
Hi peeps! I hope that everyone has been surviving this crazy winter that we all have been experiencing. I know living in Texas for nearly nine years now I have seen more snow/ice here since we left Pomona than I've seen in years past, the sad thing about us is we rely on a lot of the rain during the winter to live during the summer and we really didn't get much. Hopefully we will get some good rain this spring since we really need to get out of this horrible drought we've been in as well these rivers need water so we can go toobing and playing on the rivers this summer, Lord knows it's going to be hot again.
I guess that all being said about rain and snow I sure got a good dose of it and then some about two weeks ago when I had to make a trip up to Fall River Massachusetts, that's where Vanson Leathers is based out of. They have been making some of the best leather driving suits that we have to wear since I was a little kid and that's all i've ever worn since I started drag racing and had never had the opportunity to check out their facility is so I cashed in some miles and peeled out that way. Little did I know and to the lack of knowledge with meteorologists predicting weather I got snowed in! It just so happened that a good old buddy of mine, Mr. U.S. Nationals winner himself John Hall lives about an hour from Vanson so instead of living in a hotel room for three days snowed in I headed to his house to hang with him and his family.
I've known John and his family since 2003 when we all started out racing 600SS together in AMA/Prostar and started our trek up the drag racing ladder to NHRA. I spent a couple’s night up there with them and actually enjoyed a nice Valentines French Toast breakfast that Ivette (John's wife) made for the family. It was funny the first night I stayed there before the snow really came in, John and I went out for a few cocktails then it was like someone turned on a switch with the snow. I woke up the ned the morning to Ivette laughing at me telling me "no one ever stays here one night Michael Ray". Now for a guy that has never seen snow other than at a ski resort I was BLOWN away! Once the snow really came down and people had to get out, start shoveling, and then get going with their day I completely understood why people hate snow. John and I spent the entire day riding around plowing out his family and friends houses for them since he has a good little plow truck. The really weird thing about the snow thing to me is how the world just STOPS for it. I mean it's just frozen water, we have the technology to send a human being to space, but we can't figure out how to survive this!
So the real fun started when I was supposed to get on a plane Friday to fly home from Providence Road Island but my flights were cancelled. I started getting texts from US. Airways on Thursday telling me to call them and they will get me on another flight, but when I would call I would literally sit on hold for 45-60 minutes at a time. Then the automated person would say "sorry we're experiencing high call volumes, please call later." to my disgust I would wait about two or three hours than call again. Finally I found a flight leaving Philly Saturday morning at 7a.m. instead of the scheduled Sunday flight were going to put me on and I peeled out south. I made it out safe, got my new suit fitted, and saw my good buddy so I guess the trip was a success. Hopefully I will have my new suit for the Gators and I can show them off, they should look pretty dang fancy…
Now that the season is right around the corner it seems that the world of money has just fallen out of the sky. I mean MSR lost their deal with Viper and we out of the blue lose Sovereign with big daddy Jeno. It really sucks that he is gone and we are really stuck in between a rock and award place with finding the funding it takes to run this operation, but we will move on. I honestly have to stop and say thanks to him for his interest in our sport as well as his participation in NHRA.
I remember the first time I met him back in 2011, I had put a three-race deal together with Star to run the first three races so we were all in Valdosta before the season. So we pull up to the track at about 9:30am and for anyone that knows Rugger that is early enough for a morning beer, we get out of the car to see these three european dudes, one of them being Jeno and what does he have? A morning beer! It was like we were all destined to race together and little did we know that just a few years later that we would all team up for what was a dream year for me. That all being said, I have to say thank you Jeno for all you did to help me with last year. But like everything in life, it wasn't forever and we will all move on.
I know that everyone at Star and everyone in my camp are really working hard to come up with some great marketing partners to ensure us racing all year so we will see what happens. I know that we really haven't let all of this crimp our plans on getting to Gainesville and running up front. The guys are heading down to SGMP this week to put some final touches on the bikes before we head back down for the Gators. I unfortunately can't make it down to help but I know that this week’s test session will be great for Chaz because he will get to make quite a few laps before we start the season. We are supposed to test on Monday and Tuesday before the Gators at SGMP so that will actually be the first time I will see the bike before Q1 in Gainesville. So I hope I know which side the clutch and brake are on….
You know as we get ready for the first race of the season getting everything prepared can be as stressful as actually being there trying to qualify. It really seems that getting 6 people to go take a passport photo can be one of the most challenging. Now I know I am a professional procrastinator and I can't really complain, but why would you give me something and tell me that it's not due for 6-8 weeks and expect me to get it to any time before the last second. When I went on the passport photo hunt in January I had honest intentions to have them submitted by February 1, I sent them off last Friday… I wasn't late right? They had to be in Monday and they made it!!!! Thank you very much to Jennifer Gregg-Lowe or as her email says "Jlowe" for always bailing my slack @!! out of trouble. Needless to say we got everything submitted, entered, and ready to go enter our Buell in a few weeks to see how it runs in the pack.
So on a side note, it's so cool to think of the list of drivers in PSB that came from an all-motor class like 600SS where John and I came from. Here is the list I can think of (I’m sorry if I forgot you) maybe "Stat Guy" Lewis Bloom can help but here we go; Ryan Schnitz, Chip Hunter, Chip Ellis, John Hall, Michael Phillips, Eddie Murphy, Eddie Kraweic, Rickey Gadson, Keith Dennis and Marty Ladwig. Marty had a really great career in the import series for cars. That class really has really bred some of the greatest racers/riders to ever come out of drag racing in my personal opinion… We didn't grow up with sliders, nitrous, turbos, or fuel injection. We had to truly make an all motor(pump gas), foot-shift w/ a stock clutch, 54-inch wheelbase street bike GET IT, and you had to leave on people. There wasn't any rev it up and chunk the clutch or let off a button to make these bikes go fast. Now please don't let my words create drama, it's like a dirt track guy telling a road racing guy that that can't drive… I just feel that class or style of racing a no-bar bike has been the breeding ground of Pro Stock Motorcycle riders/drivers since motorcycle classes were brought to drag racing. I know that there are a few of us out there that have joked about grudge racing with no-bar and I really think that NHRA should consider doing a race like that. It would be really entertaining for fans, a lot of us grew up riding no-bar fast bikes and like I said quite a few of us would love to take it old school and get after it. I'm off my kicker now….
I'm going to wrap this up by saying congrats to Alexis for winning her first nitro Funny Car race. I have watched her for quite a while and seen her really put a ton of pressure on herself to win. There were times she struggled on the tree or didn't drive well but she stuck with it and her team stuck with her. There isn't much cooler than seeing a great team win, her team as well as all the Kalitta Racing teams celebrate and I wish them many more. I will see you crazy NHRA fans really soon and I can't wait. You know that if you have a question or just want to say hi please catch me on Twitter at @michaelstingray or on Facebook as well, my name Michael Ray. I love you guys for reading this; it's so cool to hear you all talk about when we see each other at the races. I really can't thank you enough.
Well first off let me start by saying Happy New Year to everyone! I hope that you all had the chance to see family, friends, and loved ones over the holiday season. I know this year was especially cool for Jennifer and I being able to have our families come and celebrate with us in our new home. I remember Jennifer's father Roland telling me on Thanksgiving, your house, your bird, you cut. I thought to myself I better not screw up this turkey because it was the only one we had. But all in all it worked out, we all ate good and watched some football. Then for Christmas my mother and father came over so that we could do a little Christmas brunch then it was off to Del Rio to see Jennifer's family. The shop was closed the 24th and the 25th so we did my family Christmas Eve morning then peeled out for Jennifer's family. This year was pretty special for Jenn being able to stay Christmas Eve night and experience Christmas morning with her family. With them living a few hours away and our limited holiday time off we usually have to come flying in to town, stay for a few hours and peel right on out again.
This year when we were opening gifts it was really funny. I only asked for socks, a coffee maker, and Home Depot gift cards. So when I was opening presents to find these gifts I was like a little kid again! I mean come on, who doesn't need something from the Home Depot? I really wanted them so I could get some paint and finish painting the inside of my house, but I already burned them babies up too! I got some paint that I like and started a bathroom, but I really used them on myself for my mancave. I completely finished the mancave, building shelves and what not so that I would be ready for playoff season. As most of you know I am Baltimore Ravens fan and have been for quite some time. I always get the weird look being in south Texas when I roll around with my Ravens jersey on but who cares right! Last year was a great year for them but like most teams right now spent all their money on their QB and we just had to let go of too many good players to keep him, the 49ers being the biggest beneficiary to the trades, but that's hearsay. They missed the playoffs so the mancave will have to wait another year before we host a home Super Bowl party for the Ravens. Then yesterday the Packers went down at home! But I still got good ol' Tom Brady and the Patriots to root on so there is a chance a favored team of mine will go all the way. The shop has been doing pretty good the past few weeks since winter time and the holidays have come through. The weather around here has been a little crazy for this time of year around here, pretty wet and cold for right now so naturally everything has been a little slow around here. All in all it's been actually nice since we had such a killer year to be able to close down the year right, get all the paperwork ready for that ol' guy Uncle Sam and recharge for when the weather breaks and we go crazy again.
Back in the middle of December Rugger and I had the privilege to fly to Americus and spend some time at the shop. This was really cool for him because he has never been to the shop and seen how everything works day-to-day from that standpoint. With me having worked there and lived in Americus it was just like being back home for me. Plus he had the chance to meet the team that's responsible for all the success that we have at the track every day. It was really unfortunate the night we flew in our flight was delayed about an hour and a half getting in because we were late for the annual Star Racing Christmas dinner with all the family there. We came rolling in late as usual so we got to spend some time with a few of the guys and their families but most of them had roll to get home so we had a few drinks and left. The next morning is when we went to the shop for a few hours, I showed Rugger around the awesome mega city that is Americus, Georgia, then it was south to go testing.
I know you remember George talking about getting a Suzuki going again and trying to make that thing fast again, well the monster has been built! Ken really did an awesome job building this bike and making everything fit how he wanted and some of the little things that they did to the body and chassis make this bike really cool. We tried to get it down the track a couple of times with no real numbers on the board that we wanted to see because of a bad tire that wouldn't stop spinning, but we accomplished a lot in my eyes. We built a brand new bike that goes straight, it shifts, and most importantly it stops. So even though we didn't set the world on fire it wasn't a bad attempt at a Suzuki for the team, after all it's been 10 years since they ran a Suzuki in NHRA.
Another reason we went down and tested was needed to make sure that we fixed our problems we found with the Buell program. The last half of the season we really couldn't find any consistency with our engines, they would run great for about 3-5 runs then be just dead slow for no reason and the 3-5 runs it would make weren't stellar. The numbers on the computer showed everything really fast, but they didn't translate over to the time slips and the run sheets. So when we got back from Pomona these guys went to work and found quite a bit of things we needed to fix. So when we went testing, Chaz rode the Buell and made several consistent runs that were fast. The big thing we wanted to see was consistency, the elapsed time was nice to see be fast, but we needed to see it happen all day instead of once or twice. We got wrapped up for the day said our goodbyes then Rugger and I were out of there to get back home for a few weeks. I will go back down at the end of this month and run the Suzuki again, hopefully now we will have the tire problem fixed and the new motor combination that NHRA is going to allow us to run. They (NHRA) really did a good job this year with helping the Suzukis, they have always been behind the curve since the Buell came along and really changed the dynamic of the class so this year should be exciting.
You guys please remember to bring in your animals this time of year! I don't care what it is, a dog, cat, or a giraffe, no one likes being cold so neither do they. Bring em in and give em a blanket.
Well I guess we are about to wrap up another season of some great NHRA action. I can’t believe how much fun this year has been and I never thought I would experience the emotional roller coaster of running for a championship and to tell the truth if it was up to me, we’d go STRAIGHT to Gainesville to start next season. The last few races have really gone well for us seeing as how we have qualified really well and gone to three consecutive semi-finals, so that has really helped us move up to second in points before we run in Pomona this weekend.
When we were up in St. Louis we were invited by the amazing folks with World Wide Technology to come enjoy a Cardinals game in their suite that have. It has really become a tradition if the Cardinals are playing to go hang with these guys and catch a game. This year since we have really built a great relationship with these guys over the years, they decided to let us host a weekend at the track for them where we rented them a suit at the track and treated them to a great VIP experience at an NHRA event. Once the weekend was over they were all jazzed up and were already making plans to attend next year’s event as well as a few more along the tour. One of their executives Scott has two young daughters who happens to be a HUGE NHRA fan named Sam, so this year when they all came out I made sure to bring Sam up for driver into and get her all decked out in Star Racing gear for the weekend, she even sported her Star hat at the Cards game saying that these were her two favorite teams. Thanks for the love Sam and see you next year. Another really fun first time for me in St. Louis was attending the Rams game on Thursday night. I had never been to NFL game before so being inside that place live and not watching on TV was awesome, that’s really the same for anything live. When you’re at home you don’t feel the energy like you do being there when the crowd gets all fired up. But after all that fun stuff we did have a race going on that we happened to do really well at until I came up a little on the wrong side of the green light and went red against our new champ Matt Smith. That weekend was a little crazy for the team with the surprise exit of Scotty, but I thought that the entire team did a really good job staying focused on our performance and not the outside drama. From there we loaded straight up and headed home for a few days, then it was immediately back up to Reading.
The guys just headed straight there since there was no reason for them to come home, then I flew up Thursday morning so I could stop at the all the good steak sandwich shops in Philly before making the trip out to Reading. This trip was going to be huge for us with Chaz making his debut, the championship really getting tight with a few races left, and like the last two I won I was SOLO. With us running four races in a row all of my GOTTSPEED crew stayed in Texas and shipped me out east to kick ass and come home with the points lead and a Wally. The weekend went really well for us with us getting our third number one qualifier as well as Chaz making his first NHRA field, also Big Ken made his famous “Ass in The Trash” pork butt. He uses an aluminum trash can to smoke the pork butt all day, then after a few minutes with a cutting board you have some great meat. It was really funny watching everyone from the track as well as the locals looking at all us rednecks cooking in a trash can, we invited them back later to sample it but no one came and that just meant more goodness for us. I really had fun in Reading and look forward to going back there next year, the track might not be centrally located to anything but the woods and the world famous Finish Line Bar, but I love racing there because it’s so beautiful and really fast. I know the guys were excited to get to go home after that race after being on the road for so long, but they really had to hurry since we only had two weeks before Las Vegas and that’s a 4 day drive out there, but for me it was an easy three and half hour flight out there…
Since everyone loves a party and that’s pretty much all that Vegas is, I think we had 25 guests with us in Las Vegas this past weekend. Starting to just name a few, I had the entire GOTTSPEED crew and family with me, GB had his family, big daddy Jeno was in the house, and then we had the awesome guys from Renalta Rentals, and Marla Enterprise as VIP guests of our for the weekend. So needless to say, my father was a busy man shuffling everyone around, the hardest thing about having guests like that in my eyes is tickets. NO ONE ever remembers to bring there ticket back with them the next day, so this time bought day passes for everyone so they wouldn’t lose anything, once they were in they were in. I have to say THANK YOU VERY MUCH to my father, he busted his butt all weekend and all year for that matter really helping keep people organized and having fun at the races, thanks dad for all of your help buddy, love you pop! For the business side of the event it went really well, we had Jeno there showing him how brutal the competition has been and how good we have been doing so that we can keep going for several more years. I think it worked because we are really close to putting a multi-year deal together with Sovereign and Jeno that will let us do more R&D, testing, and let us go run for a few championships for the next few years. The race went really well with us going out in the semis against Jerry Savoie, I left on him and just like in Reading we slowed down for no reason. But we showed all our sponsors that were there that we are no joke and we just need another shot at this to come home with more hardware. I want to say congrats to Matt Smith and Viper Motorcycle Company on their championship this year, you guys stepped up when you had to.
Well I’m done typing and going to go hit the sales floor so I can sell some bikes before I leave tomorrow. I think for the banquet Andrew and I are going to wear some crazy tuxedos since it’s our last night to party together for 2013 we are going to make it an epic evening. Stay tuned for details and thanks for being such amazing fans that read this. It really means a lot to me when I hear someone talking about reading my blogs.