That wasn't so bad…Wednesday, July 17, 2013
Posted by: Michael Ray, Star Racing Buell

Hello again all you awesome people that take time out of your lives to read what's going on in my world. Well let's take a few minutes and get everyone up to speed on what's been happening in my world since it's been too long since I updated this. We have run what I refer to as our Countdown to The Championship scrimmage seeing as how we ran on quarter of our season over the past six weeks.

Before we left for the E-Town through Norwalk run I kept telling myself to look at this a test of how you can drive riding 4 races in a row like this. Because last year I really struggled in the Countdown trying to make up so much ground that I actually hurt myself racing that way. So when I came out of those four races with two wins and two number one qualifiers I was very pleased at how I handled the scrimmage; mostly I was impressed at how well our entire team did. There was quite a few times where I just had to sit down, put my headset on, and turn on my iPod because we had to thrash and I didn't want to get in their way. I remember after second round in E-Town I blew up and asked Alan Reinhart to please give me an interview over the track PA, he looked at me crazy so I told him that we blew up and that I needed to tell the guys back at the trailer to get another engine ready. I remember getting back to the trailer and these guys were ready like fuel car team, I mean gloves on, spare engine ready to go in, and tools in their hands. George told me to just kick back and watch this Army of men get after it and boy did they! We are told that we get a 75-minute turnaround between rounds… This year we have been averaging 55 minutes and that doesn't include coming back from the top end, scales, fuel, the team competing any maintenance, and back up there to go again. Now coming from being a crew person, THAT IS TOUGH!!!! Just like I told you before, I have the best team in the world; these guys changed motors and had me back up there ready in forty-five minutes! I couldn't believe how well these guys just flowed around each other and that motorcycle. There are rounds throughout a year that if you are fortunate enough to win a championship you look back and say well that round was huge or is this wouldn't have happened we would've lost, so let me go ahead and say that the semi-finals in E-Town was my round win that may be the determining round that we needed… Although E-Town was great it was really an eye-opener that I needed to stay focused and keep practicing what GB has taught me so that we could keep the momentum rolling.  Fortunately Epping was right around the corner and I could really prepare myself to come off such a high of an event win to reality of it's time to race for three weeks straight.

Back at home I really didn't have much time to hang out and get too much exciting done. I think I was only home 7 days so I took some time to get as much R&R in before we peeled out again so I took my father’s RV down and camped by the Guadalupe River which is a really beautiful river that flows through our town and it worked out perfect for him because he was moving and needed it out of his new hangar. That's right a hangar, my parents are out of control and loving life right now so much that they sold their home to purchase a small hangar for them to keep their planes and other toys in there. A few months ago my father started flying again and has really fallen back in love with it; him and his partner have two really nice planes, a Beechcraft Bonanza and 182. I have been up a few times with them but I am not a big fan of small planes so you won't hear any stories about me going flying with him anytime soon. The hangar itself is really nice with two separate and I must say really nice apartments built in it with plenty of room for all my parents toys. Now my father can keep his bus at his own place rather than keeping it in a warehouse down the road from his house. That's how I got to snag it for a few days and trust me I needed the peace and quiet of that RV before the road trip I was about to embark on.

When we got up to Epping for that race I was kind of nervous about going down the track for the first time Friday evening because NOBODY in our class had ever been there so none of knew what to expect as far as how the shutdown was, track surface, or anything for that matter. We usually all communicate very well about things like that because we are a really close knit family that looks out for each other’s safety, now we might not speak after first round on Sunday until the race is over but we all still look out for one another. I did take a few minutes to drive down the track and the shutdown on a scooter to check it out and after my tour I came to find out this place was NICE. After both passes on Friday down both lanes I felt really comfortable battling in either lane if I had to on Sunday. If we have lane choice GB will always come ask me what lane I like because he knows that if a driver is truly comfortable behind the controls that they can focus more on making a perfect pass and that's what we really work on. That race turned out really well for the entire NHRA family. The stands were packed all weekend and the fans up there are like no other. I had more people come up and say how thankful they were that NHRA came back up there and how excited they were to see the bikes there. I know our team loved it; we got our first number one qualifier that weekend and ran HUGE speed at over 197mph.

I have to take a second to say congrats to John Hall and his family for their win up there that weekend. John and his family are really great people and I say thanks again for letting me crash at your house for a few days and I know neither of us can't wait to go back up there and race again. After that race we all stayed on the road since we had to be in Chicago just a few days later. So like i mentioned earlier we all went up to John and Ivette Hall's house for a few days then started easing west. Thankfully The Smith's let me use their car for a few days and wheel around the northeast and visit some friends and play some golf, thanks Matt and Angie… When we rolled in to Chicago we were still geared up and ready to pick up where left off and boy did we. We really didn't qualify that well but boy did we race well. I really had a good handle on the tree that day and the rest of the team was really doing an awesome job keeping the bike consistent, so it made my job really easy. Monday was a pretty standard Monday for back to back events like we have been doing, we were up at seven o'clock so that we could get back to the track and the guys could tear apart engines, ship parts, back to the shop, and rebuild engines so that they would be ready for Norwalk. Plus since it was only like a five-hour drive over there from Chicago so we really had no rush. GB had the flu all weekend so we took him around on Monday to get some meds then it was off to the laundromat so we could really be ready for Norwalk, dirty stinky clothes don't really go over to well in our camp so we took Wally out for a nice evening in Joliet.

Since we had a few days between Joliet and Norwalk most of the teams take advantage of the time off and stay at the Kalahari resort and waterpark in Sandusky Ohio which is only about 15 minutes front the track in Norwalk. It is really nice and really works well for a bunch of people that live on the road and in hotels because it has plenty to do inside there with great food and good places to hang out. Plus with it being Fourth of July weekend everyone brings their families to come spend time and most of us have been on the road for three weeks so we need a dose of home. I on the other hand got out and played golf for three days. There are quite a few really nice golf courses around there and since I just happened to live by a nice watermark and had my clubs I traded swimming trunks for golf shoes and Andrew one of team members went to play golf until it was time to go back to work. Norwalk was another great weekend for our team with Scotty getting back into rhythm and making it back to the finals again. I know it meant a lot for him after a tough few weeks on and off the track. I was really proud of our team for doing such a great job getting my bike back on top and getting Scotty rolling again.  

We are off to Denver this weekend so we can get the west coast swing started and I promise that I will not leave you guys out of the loop anymore. There has just been a lot going on back home for me in my personal like that has really been keeping me from having time to sit down and write this blog. That's why I am sitting in the front seat of Hal's truck writing this on our way to Denver

Ready to get back at itTuesday, May 28, 2013
Posted by: Michael Ray, Star Racing Buell

Hello again everyone! I know it’s like a broken record, I always start off with “I’m sorry for taking so long to update this…” I honestly have sat down a hundred times over the past few weeks to write to you guys and let you know what’s going on but I have had a few personal things going on in my life where my brain wouldn’t let me type anything. But things are a little better for me, so I feel it’s time to sit down and say hi. We are leaving for E-town Thursday, and I don’t think I’ve ever been more mentally ready to get back on the bike after the past two races and how well our entire team is running. It’s one thing to have one bike running well and going down the track, but George and the entire crew have been doing an awesome job making both bikes look and run amazing.

This was my first year to race in the Four-Wide Nationals, and let me tell you, was that different. The racing was the same but the staging procedure was quite different. Scotty said something that made a lot of sense; the people that naturally are smooth and calm with their staging procedures will be fine and the people that aren’t will be really messed up. I felt that after watching everyone look silly that he was true in his statement. After Scotty went on to his first final and my bike really making a huge turn in the right direction couldn’t be upset with a first round loss. Another really great thing from that race was having Aaron Sharp and some of his great people from Flex Tank and Vac. Trucks hanging out with us. These guys have been such great supporters of me and my race team over the past year that it was great to have them back at the track. After a tough first round loss for me it was on to Houston where I ran really well at last year and REALLY looked forward to getting back there and repeating history, not to mention run well to earn some valuable Mello Yellow points. When the dust settled we ran AWESOME and went to my first semi of the year as well as the first round I have won since I won the race in Dallas last year. I also got to race my favorite drivers in the PSB pits, Andrew Hines on his factory V-Rod. As most of you remember from last year, Andrew and I had a good rivalry going on the track going back and forth but with him coming out on top a few more times than me, but that’s ok he is multi-time champion with a huge collection of Wallys and I’m just starting my collection. Also with us being a Harley dealer it always makes it that much better when we beat them because all the Harley guys always come over and say congrats and wish me luck the rest of the day. Plus we all know the history between Star Racing and Vance & Hines so I know Johnny Myers was looking down with his smile when that win light came on.

The past few weeks since we haven’t been racing a bunch of us from the shop have been going out to the local track and riding street bikes. There are a quite a few co-workers at the shop that have some pretty quick street Harleys so we load up and go out there on Wednesday nights and race whatever we can. One of the really fun bikes that we take out there is Uncle Hal’s turbo bagger. That bike gets so much attention and with the new turbo that Precision built us once we get that thing going watch out. I mean it already runs 9.0s foot shifting with a street tire and foot shifting; I ordered my new air shifter the other day so I thinking that once I get that on there and get it tuned up I can go 8.50’s. No too shabby for a street motor…

I know that it’s not a real street bike but we built it for land speed racing but with the NHRA schedule so crazy I just take it out and kill all the Busas at the track, then hand them my business card and tell them to call me when they want to go fast. Toot Toot… ;) It’s really fun to watch all my buddies ride their bikes and come back talking about how fast they went or how much fun they are having because that’s what it’s all about, having fun.

Every now and then they tell me to hop on and see how fast I can go so that they can have number to shoot for. I remember that’s how I learned. I had Keith “Sunshine” Dennis ride one of my bikes back in the day to see how fast he could go. Then about 5 months later I would come up to him at the track with a time slip and say hey look at this! He would say ok, now I’ll really ride it so you can know how fast it really is… With all this off time from the races it sure has been a great time getting to play at the local track. Now our schedule is getting fired back up and it’s time to go real fast again.

A few months ago we became Traxxas dealers at the shop and it’s been a HUGE success. The shop sits on about 6 acres with a few acres that aren’t doing anything so we got us a load of dirt and rented a bobcat so we could build us a track. Man was that BAD idea! I now spend more time working on my car than I do driving it because we will get 10 cars out there and go at it. We built a cool little oval with 2 big jumps for everyone to play on. The rules for racing is there are no rules except you have to hit at least one of the big jumps per lap or your disqualified. Well for the past few weeks we have really been having some fun out there until yesterday… We got about 5” of rain in about 3 hours, which is never good for a dirt track. So we will build it back up and change it up for next time. But man have we had fun with all these Traxxas cars I the shop. It’s nothing to see Courtney Force blasting through our showroom being chased by one of their new helicopters. We always have to get the cars out and test-drive them for product knowledge right?

Well that’s it for me today… I got to get back to work and try to sell some motorcycles before I transform back into racer boy. Please go kiss the one you love and hug their neck, over the past few weeks our country has been going through a lot and it really makes you appreciate your life. So please be nice and go love somebody because you never know when our lives can be taken from us.

Well, I'm really glad that's over….Tuesday, March 26, 2013
Posted by: Michael Ray, Star Racing Buell

I sure hope that wherever you are right now that you have had a chance to check out how great of job that Star Racing did a few weeks ago at the Gators. If you haven't please go check out starracing.com and read our post race report. Once you read that, then come back and read this because I'm going to get you up to speed real quick on the real inside skinny….

Not to beat a dead horse but last year when we showed up at the Gator Nationals I had a huge hole in my foot after some pre-season wall riding, brand new leathers, brand new bike, and the same "I'm here to kick everyone's a$$" attitude that I carry with me every weekend. Well this year not much changed; the attitude was the no different, the bike was the same just painted different, and I didn't have a hole in my foot. But the leathers were new and the team was a group that I hadn't raced within two years. So when we got to the track my focus was really on just run well this weekend and we will worry about counting points later. I know that we all want to run fast and win races, but after how the points all start over for the countdown I knew that I needed to focus on driving good every pass so that the team could get valuable data as well making me a better rider and if we were in a position to win a championship then that's great. Those are the the tools that will help us when the countdown starts in September; because as we all know and LE Tonglet showed us a few years ago, just win rounds in the Countdown and you will win the championship.  Back to the race; when we were all wrapped up with qualifying Saturday night I was really excited about how consistent we had run down the track and how good the team was gelling together until I looked at the ladder for Sunday that had Scotty and I going out first round against each other. I can't think of any team that wants to see their drivers competing against each other unless it is the final round because then it's been an awesome day either win light that comes on. So when I went and turned not the red light I knew that instant that it wasn't in the big guys plans for me to win that day and it was my turn to go cheer on Scotty for the rest of the day. Scotty did such an awesome job on Sunday going all the way to the his first semifinal of his career and it was kind of fitting for him after an interesting weekend of qualifying. After we got all loaded up Sunday it was time to say good bye for a few weeks then it was off to the hotel for an early flight home.

After a great weekend of racing I was really looking forward to coming back home and playing with Jennifer in our new house. I really didn't have time to get settled in to the new house with us testing before Gainesville and the shop being so busy, so it's still so new to me and so much fun. The other day Jennifer was out doing something so I had the surround sound system turned WIDE OPEN enjoying myself with a big smile on my face. Some of the most fun times are watching our dogs go flying in and out of their doggie door at a hundred miles per hour, they go wide open until about 10 o'clock then they crash out like two little kids. Jennifer and I almost have to make them get up in the morning like little kids to so that we can leave to go to work. With us not having any kids of our own these guys sure do keep us laughing around here whenever we get bored. It's been as hard for the dogs to get adjusted to the new house as Jennifer and I. The youngest puppy we have, Ava has had to kick it old school and go back to her puppy pads for her late night trips, then for me I have had a hard time figuring out what light witch does what, it took me about five minutes the other night to figure out how to turn off the living room light but I'm figuring it out. I still have a couple of outdoor things to do to get setup for some summertime parties and the upcoming football season, but all in all we're are getting settled in. On top of figuring out our new house I got a new Volkswagen Jetta to cruise around in that I am really enjoying. I have needed to get a new reasonable means of transportation but I couldn't bring myself to getting a car that came with a PAYMENT… Well after a lot of hunting, riding the Ruckus against Jennifer's will everywhere, and wearing out all my free rides I had broke down and picked up the Jetta. It's a cool car with a small payment so I'm happy and all my golfing buddies are happy because now I can drive everywhere. You never know it may make an appearance at an NHRA race real soon.

I don't want to kiss anybody’s a$$ or step on anybody’ toes with these statements to follow, but I think that the Gatornationals really lived up to the hype that the fans have always come to expect. Looking at the qualifying sheets that had (check my stats Lewis) by my math four multi-bike teams (10 bikes total) battling for 16 open spots, so we knew that the odds of a muti-bike team showing up for battle on Sunday minus a warrior was a reality that someone was going to deal with. For the first time in as long as I can remember going into Q4 Eddie was on the outside of the top 16 looking to bump himself in. After all the dust settled there were quite a few competitive bikes that didn't make the show. Then first round was full of craziness with some upsets and "what the…." coming from everyone that had their eyes turned on to the track. It was really good to see for the second time on too many races to count a non-Harley final. It was a really big testament to how hard not only NHRA is working to make our class more competitive but to all the teams or not giving up and working hard no matter the odds set in front of them. I believe that this year is going to be the most competitive, exciting, and firework filled season ever for our class. I'm not disrespecting any of the alumni of the class, but there are several good teams with historic rivalries competing for the first Mello Yellow Championship and I'm not letting ANYONE get in my way of getting it. So watch out because it's going to get good. Remember to follow me on Twitter @michaelstingray and come by and see us the track.

New team, new year, new house?Tuesday, February 26, 2013
Posted by: Michael Ray, Star Racing Buell

Well hello, everybody. I hope we all enjoyed playing in the snow. I know when I talked to John Hall after that big snowstorm he told me that he was overwhelmed for the first time ever with snow; I was like “Dang, John Hall being overwhelmed?” It has been a really roller coaster past weeks for Jennifer and I, from her expanding her fight company for 2013, to our new home that we move into this week and going testing for a few days you can swallow up six weeks really quick. So like any elephant you eat, you better do it one bite at a time.

At the beginning of the year Jennifer and I set out some goals for ourselves this year with one of those goals to purchase our first home. We have been doing the standard operating procedure for newlyweds; we started out in the one bedroom old apartment then moved into a little duplex so now we feel with the all the Lord’s blessings that we are ready to buy. Well with Jennifer's schedule crazier than mine this year we agreed to start now so that we are not rushing through this later in the year or looking at a calendar in late November asking ourselves how are we already through another year. So we buckled down to find the perfect house for us and we did in no time. The house in perfect for us being a three bedroom with a nice office which Jennifer enjoys and most of all a HUGE back yard for our pups to play in so it will be really nice this summer coming home not listening to rowdy duplex neighbors and barbecuing on our patio. Since I’ve been in Gainesville testing for the past few days Jennifer has been at home packing our entire house up getting ready for the big move and we've already spoke with our landlord so we're ready. Jennifer was really funny telling me about packing, she got everything packed except for Mr. Wally; she told me that he was going to ride in the front seat of the car and buckled up for safety because he doesn't go in a box… I already got a awesome spot for him at the new house, it's pretty big mantle because I got plans of adding to my collection this year.

A few weeks ago you may have heard or read a tweet about me teaming up with Sovereign/Star Racing, if you didn't hear about I just told ya. I really had to try and throw a little sarcasm in that if you missed it…. I personally had a lot of emotions running through my head over the past few weeks not because I felt I may be second guessing myself or anything like that but I was going to a completely new environment for me. I mean, yeah we raced three races together in 2011 but it takes real time to create that fffffllllloooooooowwwwwww that these guys already have together. So when Rugger and I got the track the other day I said my plan is to shut my mouth and open my ears, just so I can help when it's needed. Then after about two and a half seconds into the day Ken Johnson had me feeling right at home; for you that may not know Ken he does that by yelling at you and calling you a slacker, after that I fit in like a round peg. I think total for the day Scotty and I made four or five passes all good clean straight runs so that made George, Jeno, and the rest of the team really happy so we called it a day and went to the Ale House for a beverage. Something that really helped me make a great transition over was the fact I brought my bike to Star for me to ride, I mean come on it's brand new and we know it's a winner right? But it's all about being comfortable on the bike and I was immediately. Another awesome experience from the past few days of testing was sitting in George's Pro Stock school that him and Mr. Frank Hawley put on. I didn't actually do any riding with the class, but to be able to sit down and listen to Frank Hawley speak is the best part in my eyes, sorry George… But for real, Frank Hawley's classroom instruction is so instructive and beneficial that I know Scotty and I are looking forward to applying what we re-learned out on the track again. I remember when I went in 2006 I learned how to race; people look at me funny when I say that, but it's the truth. You can be the world’s greatest driver at making the scoreboards show awesome numbers, but I don't care about numbers I want win lights and Frank does an awesome job helping with that.

That being said the next time we will put all of the great things we learned to work again will be in a few weeks. I know that George said after our successful test session this week he just wants to show up all clean and shining for first round of qualifying and see where we stack up against the field. After all the years combined this crew has been racing together we have learned that we don't race dynoes, flow benches, and testing is just that TESTING. It is great to shake the rust off and see how all your hard work come to point, but they don't give out Wally's for the fastest in testing. With our season about to get fired up there should be a lot interesting news and testing numbers flying around and they always make for good stories so I'm looking forward to the next four weeks getting ready for the Gators. It should be really interesting with the new rules and the addition of some new teams will make for an exciting weekend. I know I can't wait to show off my new leathers that Matt and the team at Vanson leathers are working really hard to make me look good and be safe as well as my new paint job on my helmet, I can't wait to see how it turns out.

Well other than a really busy Harley shop that had another record year that's all that I got for crazy fun updates on my world. I know I can't say thank you enough to the entire Sovereign/Star Racing team as well as the Gotssacker family for giving me another opportunity to continue to live my dream. I really feel that this year could be exciting for all of us. Please make sure to keep up with all of us Facebook and Twitter for up to the minute updates from any of us and you better come by and get new hero cards to add to your collection at home, Scotty and I are gonna look pretty fly this year so you’re going to want to have us on your fridge.

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