Hey everyone! Hope you’ve all had a great off season and are as ready as I am to start the NHRA season!
Pomona started out great! We unloaded the car and right off the bat went a 4.09, which put us in the 4th spot. Everything looked good and it was just a good old solid run. On the 2nd and 3rd runs, we struggled with a couple issues that we had to figure out. By the 4th run, we had 2nd quick of the session with a great 4.06 at 310 mph, so we felt confident going into race day.
The very first run on Sunday against Hight, we broke a lock-up lever, which engaged the clutch early which caused it to smoke the tires. That’s happened to us a couple times over the years, so we recognized it right away and knew it was a result of the pedal not being adjusted properly, so we got it fixed. We have a new clutch guy, so he’s working on getting a better feel for it so it doesn’t happen again. After a long delay, we came back for 2nd round and had a good start and were pulling away from Tasca, but the blower studs broke again, which has happened more than I’d like to admit. We had a balance issue somewhere, causing a bad vibration, which sheared the aluminum studs off the blower, causing it to lift. Once it did that, it lost all blower boost and literally shut the engine off. I and the team really spent a lot of the day on Sunday and Monday to figure it out and made some changes to get the car ready for Phoenix. Overall, it was a good race. We overlaid the data from the run against Tasca and it lined right up with our 4.0 flat run so we figured it would’ve run 4.01-4.03 which would’ve been low of the weekend. We remained confident going into the next race.
As usual, we had a full house in hospitality on Saturday and Sunday. I want to thank Mike Gowey, Adam Chambers and staff for putting out the word and making it a great event in California!
We’ve also had a standing invite to go visit our piston supplier, CP Pistons, in Irvine, CA, so a couple of my guys and I went down there on Monday. We learned a lot about the business and what we can do to improve the pistons in our car. What a facility!
Between Pomona and Phoenix, I spent time with Nick Centrella and Snap-on franchisee Dale Warren. We stopped at a couple of shops to visit some customers. I met a lot of people and even signed a really cool Snap-on tool box with a racing stripe. After that, we went to the Bondurant School for a cookout. We had a good turnout, ate hot dogs, hung out and talked about the upcoming race.
As for the race in Phoenix, we started off strong again right out of the gate. We were the #1 qualifier with a 4.07 in Q-1 then proceeded to run three of four qualifying runs in the 4.0s. I’m going to have to make some adjustments on the steering because I got into the wall hard on the left side Saturday and the NHRA guys even came to our shop to download the data. They determined I hit the wall at 17 Gs of lateral G force, which is a pretty hard hit. The great part is it didn’t bend the chassis and we were able to fix it and be ready bright and early Sunday morning. I give a lot of credit to the team for staying up late Saturday night and busting their rears to get all our spare stuff on the body and get our Snap-on Toyota Funny Car ready to race!
On race day, we had a great 1st round, running a 4.09 against Jeff Arend. In the 2nd round, we had a lead on Capps, but the clutch wore more than we expected, which freed the motor up just enough to drop a cylinder. Even on seven cylinders we were hanging with Capps until mid-course and then the cylinder dropped on the right side, which pushed the car towards the center line. At that point, I couldn’t get it back and the car tapped into the foam blocks. I’m a little bit of a risk taker and admit I was on the throttle a little too long on both the Saturday and Sunday run. Other than adjusting the steering, we’re going to keep on pressing to run the numbers and those things might happen from time to time. I really have to thank the crew again for hanging in there and giving me a great car to run without a worry.
We also started a new program in Phoenix where we’ll recognize a Snap-on franchisee at each race. We will put their name on the window of our Funny Car and host them and their guest for a VIP weekend at the track. In Phoenix, we honored Darrell Malone as a “Master of their Trade.” Darrell was chosen for 37 years of service with Snap-on, 33 of those as a franchisee.
We have a little bit of a break in the shop, which is much needed, and then we’ll be heading off to Gainesville, which is one of my favorite tracks on the east coast. They have a great crowd and we get people from all over the eastern seaboard and tons of people who aren’t even from Florida, which is kinda funny. ? It’s a big event, especially for Snap-on and our hospitality program. I’ve been fortunate to win there a few times (’89 in Alcohol Dragster and ’98 in Funny Car). We’ll try to keep the gators off the track because we’ve got a fast car. I’m so happy with how the car’s running so far this year, and I can’t say enough about the team. We have a real happy, positive group and a lot of great sponsors we’d like to thank: Snap-on, Toyota, Sioux City Truck, Blue Media, Burris Racing and Garmon Diesel.
There’s a lot of good racing out there in Gatorland. We’ll see you at the track!
The team and I spent some time with the students and teachers at the UTI in Exton, Pa., Wednesday before the Reading race. I’m always amazed at the facilities they have available for these students. I would’ve really enjoyed some of the programs back when I was younger. The students are great too. They have a lot of enthusiasm and really enjoy looking at our race car and asking questions.
Thursday, I spent the day with Snap-on franchisee Jason Pearson and we had fun. We got back to the traditional ride along where I jump in the Snap-on truck and visit customers. It was kind of nice to do something different. The first place we stopped at was a body shop where they had quite a few Snap-on boxes. Chip Foose did one of his famous two-minute sketches on one of the boxes so it was an honor for me to have my autograph next to his.
Hospitality was a packed house both days full of Snap-on franchisees and customers. The northeast fan base is spectacular. I can understand why they have so many NFL teams. The weather conditions in Reading were crazy. It was cold, rainy, and then extremely cold on Sunday (like Antarctica lol). We had a great car and three out of four qualifying runs were great and capped off with our career best of 3.99. We’re the only team other than one from Schumacher to run in the threes which is unbelievable. It’s a credit to the team and the great equipment we have thanks to the support we receive from our sponsors like Snap-on, WIX Filters, Toyota, Herzog Contracting, and UTI. It was really an honor to be in that elite group. The interesting part is the car spun the tires hard toward the end of the run and slowed down to 313 MPH so it had more in it. Unfortunately, as the weather kept cooling, we went the wrong way with the set-up of the car and beat ourselves in the first round. That’s indicative of a cold track. If you have too little or too much power, you’ll shake right off the bat. We dropped in points one spot but we’re still very optimistic. Our team is focused on the last two races. It’d be great for our team to win at one or even both of the events in Vegas and Pomona.
I spent last weekend with some of the guys from my crew at the Hot Rod Reunion in Bakersfield. What a learning experience it was for me and the team. I have to thank Todd, Nacho, Chris, and Curt for helping out and working a lot of hours to get ready for this event and to test a week before in Indy. The whole team including Lee, Chad, Phil, Sterling, & Mike helped in the weeks leading up to the event. They really helped me reach my dream to be able to take another nostalgia car to this amazing event. I give Scott Bowen a lot of credit too, for building the car over the last year. What a beautiful masterpiece he built!
We made two runs at the Indy track to shake it down. It went down the track but didn’t really have the performance I expected. Between the test and the Hot Rod Reunion, I made a lot of calls and worked on the set-up. We did all we could at the event and had a great time. We made two qualifying runs but unfortunately with 32 cars, we were 18th best with a 5.97 at 216 mph and a 6.02 on the second run. It took a 5.94 to get into the show so we didn’t miss it by much. More than anything, we learned a lot and need to make some more changes to the combination of the motor during the off-season. Overall, the fans loved the car. It’s a piece of art as I see it and everyone recognized it from the ‘70s. It was replicated after the ’77 California Charger, run by Jerry Clayton and John Keeling. They had a vision and a race team that was very polished and their car performed well. Jerry and his wife along with Neil Leffler, who originally drove the car, were out at the event so it was great for them to be able to enjoy it with us. I also got to talk to friends of my Dad’s and they told me stories I’ve never heard, so that in itself was worth it. I love the nostalgia races and it’s definitely a growing sport.
Now, it’s back to work. Vegas is a cool race. What can you say, all the lights and big game. LOL. I feel like we’ve underachieved this year so we’re going there to win. It’s a fast track and I think it’ll be a little cooler there so we can yield some good times. We’d love none other than to close out this race.
Before the Charlotte race, I spent some time with Tom Kies and a group of his customers. There were a lot of race fans there and Tom gave away a bunch of prizes, including a custom Snap-on foosball table! Everybody had fun and ate some good old pizza.
Our whole team also went out to visit with the students at the NTI (Nascar Technical Institute) campus. It was great to see all the students excited about the car and what we do. We even had two of the students come to race and do a mini-internship. They helped a lot and we’re looking forward to working with them again in the off-season.
Charlotte and Dallas were two races that we felt we were on our way to victory unfortunately, parts breakage kept us from a win at both events. Charlotte was a fast track, we qualified 5th, and had low ET of first round. We were on a quicker run in second round when the input shaft broke against Capps. Looking back on it, that one really hurt because Capps went on to win the race and gained 60 points on us.
Next stop was the Dallas cook out. It was a fun event and was our first evening cook out. There were two franchisees there and one of their Dad’s owns the Division Street Diner where the event was held in Arlington. They had a good turnout and even had the Rock n’ Roll Cab rig there. It’s a big red Peterbuilt truck pulling a custom trailer that showcases all the different tool storage options that Snap-on provides. It’s a nice way for the franchisees to show their customers what’s available. If you haven’t seen one, ask your local franchisee to bring one by. It was definitely a nice, relaxed atmosphere so we’re looking forward to more events like this to come.
We also visited a newer UTI campus right near the DFW airport in Irving, TX. It was a smaller campus but I was still amazed at all the opportunities they have for their students. My favorite part as usual was the diesel engine section. I would’ve loved to go to a school like this when I was young!
The race in Dallas was going along well. It was a hot track, different conditions from Charlotte, but the Snap-on car was on a rail. We qualified 4th and had quickest ET in Q-4, E-1, & E-2! We just stumbled out of the blocks against Tasca in the semis. The car didn’t feel right in the burnout and dropped a cylinder shortly after the launch. It still ran a 4.26 on seven cylinders so it wasn’t too bad.
Upon further review, Lee discovered it had a broken piston from the burnout which made sense because the motor kinda bogged and it wasn’t running right. That obviously hurt us because that was definitely a shot for us to go to the final round for the 2nd time in a row there in Dallas but it wasn’t meant to be. We’re looking forward and ready for the next four races. The car is fine-tuned now and we can out run anybody. We’ll get to test it out again this weekend in Reading, then on to the last two of the year.
We did have some special guests in Dallas, the return of a few of the crew from the 301st Maintenance Group. They even presented us with a really cool plaque that we hung up in the race trailer.
I want to thank all my guys for their hard work and their families for supporting us and everything we do!
The Western Swing was solid but we felt like we left something on the table at all of the races. We dropped cylinders at two of the three events and smoked the tires at Seattle which is not what we had planned. We qualified well 4th, 1st, and 3rd and were bouncing between 6th and 7th in points so we’re going into Indy feeling confident. Between all of the races, I got to spend some time with Snap-on franchisees Kenny Wells, Elson Chan, & Kenny Voss. It was great to meet all of their customers and host big groups out at our track-side hospitality.
After the Swing, I headed out to Vegas for the Snap-on Franchisee Conference, where they host a large group of their franchisees and their families. It was held at the South Point hotel and we had a lot of fun. We had three show cars at the event. The Snap-on Masters of Metal Tour was there which has one of our cars on display, and showcases everything from their diagnostics machines to their latest greatest hand tools. If you’ve never seen it, check it out online for their tour dates. We also took our other two show cars and they were looking good. One of the cars is a running show car so we can start it at any event. We hung out with a lot of franchisees at SFC and went out each evening to participate in the events and meet new people. What’s really cool about it is with every race I go to and do a ride along; I meet new people so I know more and more people each year I go to this event. It was really awesome and I look forward to seeing them out at the track. We’re hoping to get a win for those guys soon!
Brainerd overall was a good race for us. Again, we didn’t close the deal like we wanted but the slowest the car ran in the three runs it made it down the track, was a 4.07 at 311mph which is stellar. We did experience some issues like losing a blower belt and losing blower studs against Force in the 2nd round so we did have a little bit of trauma going on in the engine. We’ve checked the car over with a fine tooth comb to get ready for the US Nationals, our biggest race of the year.
People ask all the time what my favorite track is and I’ll say Denver, Charlotte, or Pomona but really the number one race in my eyes is the U.S. Nationals. It’s the biggest race of the year, pays the most for a win, is the cut off for the Countdown to the Championship, and I just love the history behind this track. It’s the most prestigious race. I think I’ve won more rounds at this event than any on the circuit and I’ve won it three times. I’m looking for that fourth win so I can be in line with some of the all-time greats.
We’re also having an open house at our shop this Thursday before the race, from 3-7, for any fans who’ll be in the Indy area and can stop by. There will be plenty of food and beverages as well as raffles every hour. Please plan to join us.
We’re bringing a great Snap-on Toyota to the party. This car has made a number of great runs this year and has gone a lot of rounds; we just haven’t punched it through. A win this weekend would definitely make our season and get us ready for the Countdown!