Features

Posted by: Jack Beckman, Valvoline MaxLife Dodge

Strike up the band, notify Satan that the cold weather is approaching, and somebody bake some cupcakes, for God’s sake! I, the king of the cheap, finally bit the bullet, threw caution to the wind, and watched the bank account take a pretty hefty hit…but it was all worth it!

Yep, Captain Saves-a- Lot bought a new vehicle! Now, if you’re poo-pooing that, thinking that I’ve done this already, three years ago (with the Flex), allow me to clarify: THAT’S JENNA’S CAR…NOT MINE! Gee, I hope you caught that subtle message I sent your way. Yes, while my wife has been cruising in style, and leather (seats that is, not apparel), I likened myself more to poor Lamont Sanford (you’d probably have to at least be in your 40’s to get that reference), tooling around in either the beat-up old Nissan mini-truck or the slightly-less-beat-up PT Cruiser, with a combined total of 411,000 miles on them! You see, I’m a low-maintenance kind of guy…until now! In the interest of full disclosure, I did purchase my Yamaha brand new in 1985, for $2800, and I also bought a 23-foot motorhome to tow my Super Comp car, brand new in 2000, and its purchase price was almost exactly the same as the MSRP on my new Ram, though I took out a second on my house to pay for it!

I know I have mentioned much of this in a recent blog, but since I’m the one typing, I suppose I’m allowed to ramble somewhat:

In the market to “upgrade” (a lobotomy would have been an upgrade over the old truck), I’d casually looked at used trucks for the past year or so, figuring to budget about 25K. Once I started getting more serious, it became obvious that the quad cab units just didn’t have enough room for the kid seats in the back…not unless I wanted to have the steering wheel in my navel! So, I would have to go the crew cab route, and that really limited the choices. I was raised a Chevy guy, Jenna really liked the Fords, but Mopar is where my heart is, due to the racing. I always felt that the Dodge pickups historically were…err…um…can I just say, “ugly” and get past it? That being said, I think they hit a home run with the latest iteration, and I don’t think the other brands even come close in exterior appearance.

Having nailed down my manufacturer, the next step was figuring out where to find a nice, used unit. Mopar track representative Dale Aldo, who’s been encouraging me each step of the way, informed me of current rebates, plus my “employee discount” qualification, and that opened up quite a few doors, pardon the pun! Turns out that a brand new unit basically would be about 5-6 grand more than a used one (there were hardly any crew cabs available, and nothing around 25 grand unless it had very few options, OR 65,000 miles). So…I headed over to the Dodge dealer and sat in a truck…and nearly cried. With my short legs and long torso the bench seat just wasn’t comfortable, and I didn’t have the budget to upgrade to the leather buckets…big roadblock (another cool pun!).

Fortunately, with the help of the local (Browning) Dodge dealer, it turns out that I could get everything I wanted (okay, I didn’t upgrade the stereo or get the nav system, but I did get what I think is the perfect truck for me) in the Big Horn model, including bucket seats. I took delivery last week, and I really dig this thing. It’s SO much bigger than the PT that it barely, and I mean barely, fits in the garage, but I made it work. I’m going to hold on to the PT to tow behind the RV, take surfing (my board fits nice with the seats folded down), and generally abuse to keep excess miles off my truck. I already have my K&N air filter kit ready to install, and I’m looking for a quality lowering kit to drop it 2” in front and 4 in the back. Also, I may add some tasteful side “nerf” bars/rocker steps so everyone else can get in without a small step stool.


While Marla, Nate, Sterling and Chris look on, Jacob is all business in his cockpit. This guy loves to get dirty, loves to feel every inch of the mechanical stuff we have around the pits, and loves to chow down in DSR hospitality! My kinda man.

While his friend Derek attempts a headlock on our young soccer protégé, Jason uses his hand to acknowledge how many sizes too big his shirt is!

These fans obviously watched the ESPN special on my garage project (cleverly disguised as the “Houston race coverage”), and brought me the perfect finishing touch!

Norwalk was a decent weekend for us. We went three rounds, pulled back into the top 10, and spent time with a wonderful young man. Many of you will remember Jacob Delling, who twice has hung out with my team at the races, the last time being when we won the Traxxas Shootout last year in Indy. Jacob also has been interviewed on the ESPN2 show, and he’s a die-hard Mopar dude. In fact, Jacob is so “normal” in every sense that I tend to forget that he can’t see…at least not with his eyes. Blind since he was four due to retinal cancer, Jacob doesn’t bitch or complain (except when he’s hungry); he just hangs out and keeps us all on our toes.

I must give high praise to Phil Shuler, Khalid al Balooshi, and the entire Al-Anabi group for taking care of all Jacob’s travel and accommodations…they just love my buddy! Jacob rode with me to the track Sunday morning, and we just chatted about whatever we felt like. Like Phil says, it’s impossible to have a bad day when Jacob is around!

Unfortunately, no one told Rahn and Ron, and the NAPA group ended our day in the semis. Talk about a group of “buzz-kills”!

Jason really has wanted to try soccer this year, so Jenna signed him up. Being as that he’s not necessarily the most athletic kid around (I don’t think being good at Minecraft qualifies), and he’s also a bit on the lazy side (hmm…wonder where that came from?), we thought soccer might be too much for him. But, we want to throw every experience we can his way to help him find his passions, so we also took him to a week-long, 3-hour-a-day soccer “camp”, hosted by chaps from the UK (yet another clever pun!). I must say (that sounded very British, didn’t it?), I was completely impressed by every aspect of this kid’s program, from the coaches to the curriculum. I thought it was so beneficial that we’ll sign him up for yet another at the end of this month. Money well spent, great training and exercise, and Jason loved it.

As far as my garage project, really the only things left are paint and concrete for the driveway. I was going to hold off on painting until after we made a mess with the concrete, but getting Sully’s tractor over here (he’s so busy right now, with operators and heavy equipment in high demand on projects all around) has been more difficult than either one of us thought. We were planning to have the grading done in May, but it now realistically (considering how many weeks I’ve been on the road and will continue to be) looks like September. With that in mind, I didn’t want to leave the eave wood unpainted throughout the summer, fearing it could split and cause me much mental anguish and suffering. So…we had our trusty painters come out and spray it on…and I now have a garage that truly matches the house. When time permits I can now hang the shutters, and it’ll just look that much cooler.

I suppose I should mention that we just got back from three days in San Diego, which I believe is Spanish for, “a Whale’s something” (if you never saw Anchorman, this would make no sense to you). Layla turned three on Saturday, and Jenna wanted to book us two days in the Disneyland hotel, complete with two days at Disneyland. I politely said, “Hell, no”, so I had no choice when she came up with plan B: Three days in a campground, plus trips to Sea World AND the Wild Animal Safari Park. I really was hoping for another option, maybe one that included parking overnight at Newport Beach and having the family watch me surf for two days, but I dared not make a sound after crushing the Disneyland fantasy for everyone!

So, the four of us and Cindy packed up and headed south…


 1 of 7 
 
My little guy and I…these moments are the greatest. The other great thing is, with this lighting, no one can tell how pale I really am!
 
Turns out we DID get to spend some time in the Pacific, as Saturday we packed everyone to the local beach, got wet (and sandy), and even borrowed a kid’s boogie board so I could tow Jason around and push him into some waves (not in an abusive way!). For a kid that swims like an injured dog when we’re at Grandma’s pool, Jason wasn’t too bad in the ocean. The waves were very small, I never let him more than 10 feet from me, and I held him nearly all the time…but he did well!

Layla, who wouldn’t even walk in the sand for the first few minutes, and was having NOTHING to do with that cold water, eventually got wet up to her waist and had a grand old time; splashing, running, kicking and laughing until it was time to go.

Saturday night we opened presents in the RV, and then opened each individual little pony, outfit, toy, etc. so our little princess could experience them all before bedtime.

Sunday it was off to see the Wild Animal Park, and we must’ve walked 3-4 miles up and down hills, pushing the stroller, carrying kids on the shoulders, and generally getting worn out. Still, a nice experience, and some good memories with the family. That night we made some S’mores on the fire, drank wine, and sung show tunes until three in the morning. Okay, we did one and a half of those!

Monday it was time for Sea World. Jenna scheduled this on a Monday so we could, A: save some admission money off the weekend price….check! , and B: avoid a hefty Sunday crowd…not so much!

Layla got to feed the sea lions, Jason and Jenna got to touch a dolphin, Cindy made the mistake of promising the kids souvenirs, and I got to pay $46 for lunch (I won’t even go into the 40 gallons of diesel fuel at 4-plus bucks a gallon. Oops, I guess I just did!). But, hey, I just chalk this up as “priceless” on the family-fun meter!

Once we got home, it was time to UNLOAD…EVERYTHING! Next week Jenna gets to repack for our Sonoma trip…and that ain’t easy. If I’m allowed to make a birthday suggestion next year, I may throw in, “a day at the local park” or, “a local matinee on dollar day”…you get the idea!

Anyway, it’s nearing midnight. I guess I didn’t mention that by the time we got finished, got in a work-out, got the lawn mowed, got Jason cleaned up and to bed, and ate dinner…it just kind of made the time fly.

I have to fly into Denver early to do media work for NHRA, so I’ll be heading out at 4:15am tomorrow to my most frequent destination: Ontario Airport! And, no, I won’t be taking the new Ram pickup…the PT can sit and get dirty in the parking lot…the truck stays in the garage!

Stay tuned…yes, it’s a HEMI!...yes, “them’s twenties”…and no, you can’t drive it!

Someone stole my birthday presentThursday, July 03, 2014
Posted by: Jack Beckman, Valvoline MaxLife Dodge

I’ll make this short and sweet. All I wanted for this birthday was a Wally. That’s it. Nothing more. Sure, world peace would be nice, and of course health and prosperity for all, and for my family to always be happy and secure. I just don’t want to seem greedy, so the trophy would have sufficed this year, thank you very much!

Seems that memo didn’t get over to Matt Hagan and the Mopar team, who cleaned our clocks first round (at least they went on to win the race… congrats, guys!)

Chicago marked the first race out for us after some changes in personnel. Chris Cunningham, formerly of Bob Tasca’s car, is now sitting in the second chair up in the front of the trailer. Terry Snyder is now over at Tasca’s (though still a member of DSR) as another set of eyes and ears to help straighten out that car.

Chicago also marked the third straight event where we didn’t get past first round, so I think we’re overdue for some racing fortune. We’ll see how the changes all shake out, and I shall endeavor to remain focused, optimistic, and motivated to give my best effort.


 1 of 4 
 
How come I look old enough to be Richard’s dad? God, I remember when we were 9 years old and wondering where life was going to take us!
 
Though Epping was a frustrating race, I did get to spend some time with my dad, who came out with his lady, Teri, and her daughter, Carol. Also, my buddy Richard Schwartz, who was a classmate from fourth grade through high school, came to witness his first drag race ever. Richard and I did all the crazy teenage stuff, including running around town in my El Camino back in the early ’80s… man has time flown!

Richard has a PhD in mathematics and is a tenured professor at Brown University in Rhode Island. I must have taken a wrong turn in 10th grade, as all I got was a GED, but I wouldn’t trade my vocation in chemistry (as in, “CH3NO2”) for anything!

The Blackbird trailer sold to the second person who came to see it, so now we’ve freed up more space in the yard, and I’ll be thinning my material possessions even further in the coming weeks. There’s a whole lot of nice racing inventory of new and used parts that I emptied from the trailer, I just have to get a list and start selling it.

I also bid a tearful farewell to the old, trusty Nissan. Yes, thirteen years and one hundred and fifty thousand miles (it had over 100K on it when I purchased it), and it was time to cut the purse strings and let it go free… literally. My buddy Jerry Sanchez (the one who basically built my garage while I handed him tools and complained about the heat) really wanted it, and boy did he get it! I told him not to call me next week when he’s broken down on the side of the road… not my fault.

Sorry for the quick entry, but I’m off to Norwalk to pick up my belated birthday present!

Stay tuned, happy birthday to me, PhDs are impressive, and so is my team!

PS: Happy Birthday to a country that, although its government could stand a long look in the mirror at times, really is the greatest country in the history of this planet. Though I’m tired of the political rhetoric and pandering, consider me a proud American!

Posted by: Jack Beckman, Valvoline MaxLife Dodge
Though sometimes they’ve got Jenna and I feeling “upside-down”, we are so fortunate to have two healthy and beautiful children. Here Butch Cassidy and the Sunflower-dress kid exercise the bounce house…and Jenna’s patience!

My life certainly seems to have followed a 4-cycle route, as the automotive internal combustion V-8 engine has truly shaped so much of my existence. Before you go thinking that Jack is getting all existential on you (or perhaps I had one too many explosions), I’m just trying to cleverly frame the opening to this blog.

For more than a decade, long before my pro career began, a fuel-burning Chrysler Hemi has been my main “motivation”, and lately that powerplant has been more than just my vocation. Back in December I had participated in the filming of a pretty cool show at Irwindale Raceway.  Heck, now that the producers have the product finished, why don’t I just post the link and you can check it out for yourself here. My clever reference to the Hemi powerplant will make a bit more sense after viewing the show:

Pretty cool piece, huh? Another fun day at the racetrack, surrounded by V-8 Hemi’s…and that’s NEVER a bad thing! Now, the REAL news around this household has to do with the fact that I just ordered my very own, honest-to-goodness, genuine Hemi-powered (not the 426 version…c’mon guys!) vehicle. Though I am certainly partial to the Chargers (I make my living in one), and I think I like the new Challengers even more (both a bit pricey for me though), my new baby will feature a bed on the back. Yes, El Cheapo del Norco (that’s me) bit the bullet and ordered a new Ram 1500. For over two years I’ve really wanted a newer truck, and finally I set a budget to pick up something nicer, newer, and obviously a marked upgrade over the old Nissan. Well, thanks in large part to my buddy Dale Aldo, who works for Chrysler and attends most races, I found out that, with my “team member” discount, plus the current rebates, I can get into something brand new for about five grand more than I was going to spend for used. Ad in the fact that I couldn’t find any crew cabs (the quad cab just doesn’t have enough back seat room for the huge kid seats. {I meant that the seats were huge…not the kids!}) with the options I wanted (sorry, but the Laramie version is a bunch more than I can spend on a pickup truck), and you can see how I arrived at this decision.

Though I had taken a couple of months to educate myself as to what suited my needs, my pal Matt Deane at Glendora Dodge (as well as fleet manager Tony Miller) guided me through my first “hands-on” day of looking hard at specific options. A visit to my local Dealer, Browning Dodge in Norco, sealed the deal. Manager Chris Muller not only hosted Jack Beckman Day there back in August of last year, but really went out of his way to help me get the perfect truck. It should arrive sometime in the next 2-3 weeks, and I must say that I’m really excited. Jenna got herself a new Flex 3 years ago, but I’ve only purchased two new vehicles for myself. The first was my 1985 Yamaha FJ600 (those initials spawned the “Fast Jack” moniker), and the second was my 23-foot RV back in 2000, specifically to tow my racecar and save on hotel expenses. As you can see, I’m not prone to “splurge” on myself with impulse buys, but this truck has me pretty jazzed!

If things go according to plan, I may have some other interesting stuff to share with you regarding my new pickup…fingers crossed!

On the racing front, I haven’t updated you guys since last I blew up in Atlanta. Well, I’m proud to report that Topeka was relatively uneventful, but regret to inform you that I broke your throttle cable bracket in the first round…sorry about that! That was a definite case of the proverbial $5 part potentially costing us the round win, as opponent Jeff Arend was only able to muster a 4.50, which really added some sting to a freak event.

Did you think I was kidding when I said there was a funny car in front of the castle?

Englishtown went much better, and we’re doing a solid job of carrying the Infinite Hero colors deep into Sunday. With E-town being the second race in that livery, we ran our round record up to 5-2 for our injured heroes. I truly thought we had the car to beat, but less than one foot into our semifinal round run against Cruz, we just blew the tires off. Again, the frustration was amplified by the fact that he only ran a 4.59, and that should have been a relatively easy victory for us. Breaking our two- race first-round losing streak was nice, but we really need to close the deal on one of these upcoming races and make a move up in the points standings.

I flew into Jersey early so that all the DSR drivers and crewchiefs could attend a function at the NJ Make-A-Wish headquarters. They had TJ’s car on display outside the “Castle” (not only is it shaped like one, but they do plenty of magical things for the kids there), and many of the staff came out to the track to see “what all the noise was about” (that was a clever reference to the decibels emitted from our fuel-burning hemi's…and THAT was another brilliant iteration of my engine- themed blog…damn I’m good!)

The next day I spoke at Sandvik headquarters in Fair Lawn, NJ. They tore down the old building and just completed a new one since my last visit. I was a bit disappointed when I found out it wasn’t constructed just for my edification, but it was still impressive. If you’re not “up to speed” (another good racecar allusion…you gotta keep up with me!) on the company, Sandvik is the world’s largest manufacturer of cutting, grinding, and machining tools. Twice they have been the primary sponsor on my car, and they will adorn Antron’s ride in Seattle. Great company, great people, and great new building…even if it wasn’t for me!

I landed back home at Ontario airport at 3 pm on Monday, headed over to the Dodge dealer to place my truck order while the rebate was still current, then we sprinted over to Jason’s baseball game. It was one of the longer days I’ve had lately, and I hit the pillow at 11:15 that night.

Jason and his bestest school buddy Derek may be short on teeth, but they sure had a wonderful teacher in Mrs. Whitlow. I wish she could stay his teacher, but I take solace in the fact that Layla will be able to disrupt her class in four years!
I missed Jason’s piano concerto while I was on the road, but Jenna said he did an amazing job on “Chopsticks” (the song…not the eating utensil), and even got to take a bow.
There’s nothing like tying up a section of parking lot before a baseball game…hoping your kids don’t run out in front of a drunk and spill his/her beer.
Me, Kohl, Truman, Matthew, Jason, Jenna and Jeff enjoying ourselves at a memorable baseball game. Them Angels are exciting!

When the alarm clock went off at 4:15 the next morning, I really thought it was a cruel joke someone was playing on me. That wasn’t the case. After a shower, shave, making some coffee and oatmeal to go, I was in the PT (which is definitely NOT a hemi!) for the four hour drive to Las Vegas.

Before you go thinking, “man, Jack must REALLY have a gambling addiction”, I assure you that’s not the case. Frank Hawley was having a program that day, and I drove the two-seat dragster for the ride-alongs. Tom Bayer did likewise in the Firebird and, though I probably shouldn’t tell you what the event was, I will say that there were five nitro funny car drivers, plus one top fuel pilot, ALL from Southern California, present that day. That’s all you get….

It’s not like the pace let up once I got back home. Jason finished first grade, and our little man keeps yanking teeth out like he’s allergic to them. Number six fell two nights ago, and I’m going to leave a sponsorship proposal for the Tooth Fairy next time.

 His team lasted three games into the double-elimination playoff format, meaning they finished with something like 4 wins, 18 losses, and two ties (and I thought that I was having a tough year!). I do appreciate the experience he’s got from playing on a team, and our coaches were great with the kids this year…though I do believe all our blood pressures permanently increased from yelling at ‘deaf’ ears for months!

Several of his team went to see the Anaheim Angels last Saturday, and the game certainly did not disappoint. The last time I went to a major league game was to see the Angels back in 2002. I attended many a Dodger game in my youth, but I think it’s been 30 years since my last trip to see the Boys in Blue.

Anyway, the Angels were getting trounced, having only two hits by the seventh inning, and trailing 5-0. I was thinking perhaps it was time to head home, but fortunately we decided to stick around. After a 6-run bottom of the 8th, which included a grand-slam (a four-run homer, not the Denny’s breakfast), I think Jason experienced something rare and magical for his first major-league outing. Mike Trout is fast becoming one of the most popular players in the league, and he sure gained a lot of fans with that fantastic full-count blast. I can imagine how “bad-ass” that feels to accomplish something so cool.

Layla is talking more clearly every day, and I suspect that sometime in the next two months she will be easier to understand than her mother. You know I’m totally kidding on that one…it’ll take at least four months! Our little princess (and she just loves to wear her pretty Disney dresses) is one month away from “the big 3”. I suppose that also means she’ll be able to drive during daylight hours and vote in the primaries…how fast the time goes!

Apparently that was the extent of my fun, as the lack of waves has precluded any surfing so far in June. Instead, Jack got to do the maintenance on the RV generator. Funny how that thing holds more oil than any vehicle I have around here, except the Blackbird dragster.

Speaking of that, now that the ‘bird is safely nested (see how I used more ‘rhetorical figure of speech’ so wisely?) in the new garage, it’s time to put the trailer up for sale. Emptying everything out of it was much more labor intensive than I originally thought. Wow, was it ever packed with tools, gadgets, spare parts, and “stuff” that I forgot I had! Short of finding Jimmy Hoffa, or clay jars with ancient scrolls, pretty much everything else was in there. Once I got it emptied (thankfully I have a garage to stack all that extra equipment into!), it was cleaning time. I dusted, removed, soaked, sprayed, wiped, scoured, waxed, painted, and detailed until my heart’s content. Why is it that we take the best care of something once we decide to let someone else take possession of it? Point being, someone is going to get a pretty nice trailer out of this deal. It’s got tons of memories, and has carried my stuff to dozens of victories, a divisional and national championship, and two iterations of my dragster (it wasn’t always called the Blackbird). However, with two small kids and no spare time, it makes no sense to let it sit for three more years. Plus, we could use the cash and the backyard space. If you’re interested, shoot me an e-mail.
Here are the details on it:

 
Let the bidding wars start on the trailer that won it all…plus my own personal scooter…battery not included.
 
  • 26-foot Pace Shadow (white) enclosed trailer. 10,400-pound capacity. Twin 5200# torsion axles with EZ-lube and 4- wheel electric brakes. 8 foot inside width. 8’ beavertail. 8 foot ramp door with 12-inch flap. Aluminum wheels and fenders.  Extra wide 36-inch side door.  2 5/16” hitch.  One piece aluminum roof. Built in 1995. Many upgrades, including:
  • 54-inch tongue for RV towing, equipped with Tuff-Tow wheels at front to reduce hitch load             
  • Extra interior height (6’9”), walls and ceiling are white aluminum; floor is polished aluminum diamond plate                               
  • Set up for dragster up to 245-inch wb with <42 ½-inch front width; includes tool box, cabinets, wardrobe closet and work surfaces. Can haul auto up to 17’10” as-is, or 19’10” without wardrobe cabinet.
  • Generac  5200-watt generator w/remote start. Custom aluminum large-capacity fuel tank
  • Craftsman 1 ½ hp, 4 gallon compressor, plumbed with inside and outside fittings
  • 110v lights inside and out. 12v lights inside plus ramp loading light. Two 500 watt outside lights
  • 3 inside and two outside 110v outlets
  • 5 D-rings for vehicle tie-down
  • Air conditioner plus one roof vent
  • Two in-floor storage compartments for spare tires and equipment
  • Electric heavy-duty tongue jack
  • Pit Pal products: aluminum storage rack for oils, etc., rack for 15 gallons of fuel, rack for floorjack. Includes aluminum jack.
  • 12v battery with charger/maintainer
  • Front stone guard (aluminum diamond plate)
  • AM/FM cassette player with amplifier
  • 225 /75R15 trailer tires. Tires are 4 ½ years old but have less than 1,000 miles on them.
  • 5 spare wheels and tires. 2 spare Tuff-Tow tires and wheels
  • Comes with 50cc scooter. Very clean, less than 500 miles.
  • Priced to sell at $9,250; contact me at jack@gofastjack.com

Okay, now that I’ve turned Phil Burgess’ website into a classified ad consortium, I shall wrap up the blog. By the time this gets posted, I should be well on my way to Bristol. I actually fly into Knoxville, which is a solid two hour drive to Bristol, but knocks nearly $400 off of the airfare. I try to treat Don’s money the same as I treat my own, but I’m not looking forward to that drive, especially late into the night on Thursday. Actually, I’m hoping that I miss my return flight Sunday, as I plan on spending some quality time with my crew in our first winner’s circle of the year!

Stay tuned, buy a trailer, buy a truck…get a hemi, and go fast!
 

Posted by: Jack Beckman, Valvoline MaxLife Dodge

Right now I find myself in a rare situation (at least since I became a father) of having some “idle time” (pardon the pun). It’s not that I don’t have plenty of projects, it’s just that I don’t have enough time to really even start one right now. I just came in from the backyard, and I was really tempted to start digging a trench to add another sprinkler in an area that’s perpetually brown, when a quick glance at the watch brought me back to reality. With Jason having “half days” this week at school, I need to leave in a few minutes to pick him up. What I would have accomplished in my few minutes of shovel work basically would have left Jenna and the kids with a big, nasty, ugly hole right on the edge of the driveway, and it may have remained that way until after I got back from E-town, which is about 10 days longer than my wife would tolerate. Nope, for once I let prudence dictate my decision to NOT start a project (normally, laziness controls that just fine, thank you).

That hissing noise that originally took me outside was the sound of money flowing into the atmosphere. Yep, I just refilled the propane tank on the forklift, and apparently the fitting to the tank had developed a slight leak…about $22.00 worth! So, with that repaired, I’m just going to have to satisfy myself with a blog, a quick workout, and a trip to the airport to head off to Topeka.

Lest you think that I’ve been lazy lately, I’ll assure you that’s not the case. I’ll discuss the Atlanta events in a moment, but just wrap your head around my activities since then:

Man, there are rocks in them thar hills. Living on a huge chunk of granite has some serious disadvantages when it comes to digging. Having a friend named Randy Sullivan has some huge advantages when it comes to solutions!

Due to the rain delay, I did not land back home until 11:30pm Monday night. Because Jenna’s mom Cindy was visiting her father Bill back in Delaware for the past week, my lovely wife was home alone tending to the little ones (or, “Hellions” in this case). To make things easier on her, I just left the car at the airport this time (typically I either will be dropped off or, if an early morning flight, Jenna and Cindy will retrieve the car to avoid airport parking fees). Anyway, I got back home shortly after midnight, and at 8am the next morning, Mike the Entertainment Center Guy (not sure if that’s his legal name, or just my description, but you get the picture) was here to install Jenna’s new 401k TV holder (meaning that I, the Captain of Cheap, would have put the money into a retirement account…but Jenna chose differently).

Once Mike got started, I headed outside. I unloaded all the dragster body panels from the trailer (see last blog), reinstalled them on the dragster, and attempted to use the Nissan to back the trailer into its spot. When all that resulted was tiresmoke (this trailer has a Tuff-Tow device on the front, and backing up is quite a chore), I enlisted the trusty Clark (that’s “forklift” for the uninitiated) to do the job. When it ran out of propane just as the trailer was back in position, I reverted to using the Nissan to push the Clark into its proper parking position (that was easy!).

Next it was time to put the RV onto the street so Sully could unload the big backhoe/hammer combination and get it up in the yard. After a ten minute orientation and proper controls, I spent the next two and a half hours jackhammering and moving dirt…and doing my best not to run into anything or tip the big Deere over. I thought I was doing pretty good in my new position as a heavy equipment operator, until Randy showed back up and did in 25 minutes what took me 150 to accomplish!

I actually didn’t finish up with all the hammering until Wednesday, so the next phase will be bringing in a much smaller tractor to do the grading for concrete.


 1 of 5 
 
Fan Jeff Reader shot these photos from the stands, and I suppose they need no explanation.
 
I got in a decent workout (as in, “lifting weights”) before I did my cardio (as in, “mowing the lawn”), then it was time to take Jason to baseball practice. That was Tuesday! Yes, the life of a Pro drag racer is glamorous indeed.

I had mentioned that I’d let you guys know about the race in Atlanta. The good part was the company that showed up. My dad, our buddy Bo, Diane Kolb and family, and Air Force friend Bruce Stansel all decided to show up for Georgia’s rain. Also, for the first time in 23 years, the Dougherty family, who live close to the track, came out and cheered me on. So did Porsha Chalmers and her fiancée Jim, and fans/friends Pat and Jim Robinson…and it didn’t help!

Nope, I just as soon would have preferred to stay home and sleep in the way our Southern Nationals turned out. Saturday’s first qualifier we popped the windshield out when the safety shutoff device disabled the fuel system after detecting high “pan pressure”, which typically means the car has scuffed a piston, which possibly could result in a big explosion. We sometimes disconnect the pan pressure sensor for eliminations, as it is not mandatory, but we leave it activated for qualifying nearly all the time. The problem happens when the system shuts off the fuel but the throttle is still wide open (the driver can’t possibly react that quickly), causing a lean condition that can “pop” the burst panels. In this case, it split the windshield all the way down, necessitating a mild thrash to install a new unit before the last qualifying run.

Apparently the new windshield was bad luck! It appears as though our car lost a valve liner, causing an intake valve to stick in the guide, blowing the whole deal sky high (if you saw the coverage, you know what I mean).

Sometimes Jason likes to help me workout, and here little Swarzenblueeyes gives his biceps a workout. Next we’ll focus on abdominal exercises!

I stayed and helped the crew until past midnight Saturday, and they were still working when I left. Not only was it a 45 minute trip to the hotel, but they were back at the track at 7am for a LONG Sunday! If you think being a crewmember is the most bitchin job a person could have, you may want to spend one weekend with a fuel team and see how hard these folks have to work. We were in the lanes at 7pm Sunday; eight hours behind schedule due to rain, when NHRA postponed the race after the fifth pair of dragsters ran. Originally they were going to wait 15 minutes for the sun to shift enough so the right lane driver could see the Christmas Tree without staring directly into our Red Dwarf star, but by the time I hopped out of the car and took my helmet off, NHRA had decided to finish the race on Monday.

So, our tired group had spent 13 hours at the track to accomplish little more than warming our car one time. Monday we were back even earlier to try it again. I wish I could say our results were commensurate with our efforts, but it appears we ran right over some oil in the right lane and smoked the tires just after leaving the line. A very frustrating and expensive weekend, not only for us, but for several of the DSR teams. Thankfully Antron and TJ were not injured at all in their “mishaps”, so we’ll lick our wounds and head to Kansas.

Well, now that I’ve got Jason to and from school, got in another workout, and got caught up somewhat on the computer and mailings, it’s time to go add to my frequent flyer miles and hopefully add to the trophy collection.

Stay tuned, keep your pan pressure low and your outlook high, and no more explosions!


 

Next Entries
 
..
TwitterFacebook