Greetings everyone! Today is Friday and I have finally cleared off the top of my desk enough to find my keyboard and fire up my computer. What a crazy few weeks it has been. With four back-to-back races and test sessions scheduled in between, we have been one very busy race team. Of course it has been an exciting few weeks. If you are following the countdown you know that the J&J cars are looking pretty strong right now. With Jeg currently in first place and A.J. in fourth place – just a few rounds out - we are really exciting about the next two races. Yikes! Can you believe that there are only two races left? I mean, where has the year gone?
Right now racing and winning a championship is obviously the main focus of this team but in the little bit of time that I have spent at home I have gotten to wrap up some loose ends in my tenant renovations at the warehouse, enjoy some time with my grandkids and sadly we said goodbye to our boat, the Finishline.
For those of you that have been following my blogs over the past years, you have been able to share in the fun times that we have had as a family aboard our Sea Ray. We purchased her in 2004, boated to Cape Coral, Florida and for several years kept the Finishline docked at Cape Harbor Marina. We had so much fun boating around Florida, taking spring break trips with the kids to Key West, visiting Miami Beach, and Ft. Lauderdale and enjoying our favorite place Hawks Cay in Duck Key.
A few years ago Toni and I made the decision to bring the Finishline back home. I was still racing, Ryan was a baby and we figured that we would have more time to use it if we had it docked behind our house. So we took Toni’s dad, Don and headed north from Florida to Virginia through the Intercoastal Waterway. What a awesome trip that was! I don’t think that I have ever had so much fun boating as I did bringing the boat home. It took us about 5 days (I swear that I took my time!) and it was a trip I will never forget.
Once home, we docked her behind our house and waited for the right weekend to do a trip to the Chesapeake Bay or Virginia Beach or beyond. Well, it seemed as if life just got busier, my free time was spent with Ryan and Maia and the Finishline just sat behind the house waiting to be used. We did take trips to National Harbor for the weekend, but didn’t really do much “boating” so we decided to put her on the market and see if there was any interest. It was too nice of a boat to have just sitting in the water behind our house – she needed to be used.
Well, my good friend Carlton who owns Prince William Marina called me a short time ago and informed me that there was a person very interested in seeing the Finishline. They came to Virginia for a quick visit, toured the boat, took it for a ride and that was all that was all that they needed. They made us an offer and within a couple of weeks the sale was final. The Finishline will now make her new home back in Florida where she will have lots of room to boat the beautiful Gulf of Mexico and warm Atlantic waters with a family that is just as excited to own her as we were.
We have always been a family that enjoyed boating and someday I would like to get another boat, just not right now. I think our next purchase will be a smaller more “river friendly” vessel that we can easily use with our kids and grandkids. I mean someone has to be responsible for teaching them how to water ski, knee board, go tubing, and maybe do a little fishing. They also have to learn to navigate the water, read a chart system, plot a course to a waypoint, and understand latitude and longitude.
I guess, though, the most important things that I would like to share with them is the appreciation of quality family time, the fun and adventure of boating to new places and most importantly experiencing some of the most beautiful sunsets and sunrises that God has ever created. The Finishline may have a new home now but she has, over the years, blessed this family with some of our most treasured memories.
I am looking forward to a few days home before we head to Vegas. We are still deciding whether or not our teams are going to test next week but if we don’t I may take a couple of days to visit Melissa, Joey and little Lena in NC. I did get to stay with them while we were racing in Charlotte but it is hard to have a lot of time to visit when we are on a very hectic race schedule. Of course I tried to get in as much Pop Pop time as I could get even on a limited schedule! LOL
Well, time to close this blog and get back to work. Hope everyone has a great Columbus Day weekend. I’ll touch base again soon. Thanks for checking in!
Being involved in NHRA Mello Yello Racing has always been my passion – according to Toni too much so at times. (Wonder what that was suppose to mean?) Whether I am driving the racecar, driving the rig, working on the car or just analyzing computer graphs I can completely lose myself in every aspect of racing. This has got to be the reason that I have subsequently lost all track of time!
No seriously, you think I am kidding? It seems like we just got back from the Western Swing, already raced Brainerd and here we are sitting in St. Louis getting ready to test for two days before heading to Indy. I can’t believe that it is Indy already and we are getting ready to start another exciting Countdown. Where has this year gone?
Like I said, I am here in St. Louis and we plan on putting as many laps as we can on Allen and Jeg’s Mopar Avengers over the next two days. It will definitely be a challenge with the heat index reaching 100 degrees but the things we learn here should equate nicely to the conditions that will be in Indy. Along with breaking in tires and clutch parts we are also planning to try some new chassis and engine combinations that we have come up with. It is nice to be able to test at a track that we will be racing at during the Countdown as well.
Enjoying time on our boat
Though it seems as if all I do is race and work I really did get to enjoy a few days at home and enjoying our boat. On the spur of a moment we decided to take the boat to National Harbor for a few days. Jamie, Cynthy and the kids joined us for, as Ryan called it, a “sleepover on Pop Pop’s boat”. Grandmom wanted to know why it was never “her boat”! LOL
Anyway, everyone met on the boat; we went to dinner and then sat on the bow and enjoyed one of the most beautiful sunsets I have seen in quite a while. It was so relaxing and the kids were thrilled when their night ended with a beautiful fireworks display. I mean boating and a fireworks display…it doesn’t get much better than that.
The following day we had to take the boat back home so it was anchors away and off we went. The weather was awesome and the river calm and smooth. We took some extra time to explore some of DC by water before finally heading home later in the afternoon. We haven’t gotten to use the boat much this year so it was a nice trip and I was glad that we finally got to take Ryan and Maia for a ride on “Pop pop’s boat”!
The world is certainly a lot simpler through the eyes of a child isn’t it? I had worked around the house all day Sunday and finally walked out on the deck to water our flowers - one more thing to mark off of my list before I left for St. Louis. Ryan and Maia followed me outside and we sat down for a moment to drink our water and watch the boats going up and down the Occoquan River. As we sat there talking about boats, channels, water, tides and even fish with a 4 ¾ year old (that’s important when you are nearing 5 years old!) and a 2 ½ year old I realized that I haven’t felt that relaxed in a long time. Who would have thought that sitting on the deck with the sun slowly setting, a nice cool breeze blowing and sharing views of life through the eyes of a child could be so completely relaxing? The only thing that would have made it any better would have been having Lena May sitting on my lap too. At that moment I decided that life didn’t get much better than that.
Of course my “moment” was short lived. Little ones calmly explain the way of life to you and then it is on to the next big adventure around the house. You know like chasing butterflies, spraying the hose or emptying the small pool with a plastic cup – these things are really important you know! But it was awesome while it lasted.
I have been writing in between runs and things are starting to get a little hectic so I will close this blog and get back to work. As a team we are really excited about going to Indy – though the points in Pro Stock are pretty much set we are extremely optimistic about entering the Countdown with three of the top four cars in contention for the Championship. I know things will get a little crazy as they always do this time of year – that’s what makes this sport so much fun - but whenever Toni tells me I need to chill out I now have a new “go-to place” that will always brings a smile to my face. For those of you that can relate to my little story I hope you are smiling too!
Greetings everyone! At my last blog we were just beginning my favorite three races of the year – the Western Swing, and I am happy to report that, now that it is over, a great time was had by all of us. The final in Denver was a remake of last year’s final pairing AJ against our fellow Mopar driver V. Gaines. It was a great race, and we were so happy when AJ’s win light came on for the 5th time in 7 years. Winning a race is awesome, but winning your sponsor’s race is even better.
After Denver, it was back home for a few days to tie up some loose ends with my warehouse project and then it was back to beautiful Sonoma for the second race of the Swing. We started our weekend on Thursday night with a fantastic team dinner at Scoma’s Restaurant on Fisherman’s Wharf. I don’t think you can get any better seafood in San Francisco than Scoma’s, and it was so much fun to just sit and relax with AJ, Pam, and our entire team.
We had another great outing in Sonoma, but when AJ lost in the semi’s to teammate Jeg Coughlin, our hopes of sweeping the swing would have to wait until next year. However, AJ had another great idea – he told Alan Reinhart that this year we were going to have a “Hemi sweep” instead of just one car sweeping. Well, when our two teammates paired up in the final – Vincent getting the win – we were just one race away from AJ’s prediction. Who knows what could happen in Seattle.
Well, after the Sonoma race, Toni and I took a much needed break and drove up the coast from California to Oregon. Though the weather wasn’t exactly beach weather, we still had a great time. We started Monday morning, cut over to the coast at Dillon Beach and headed north. Our travels took us through Bodega Bay, lunch in Jenner, the amazing Redwood National Park and eventually we stopped at one of our favorite towns – Fort Bragg. It was a fun and relaxing day. Toni and I always seem to gravitate towards water, and we love finding the local marinas, walking the docks and watching the fishing boats travel in and out of the Pacific coast inlets. Of course, fresh caught salmon wasn’t too bad either!
Tuesday’s travels took us further up the coast where the 1 meets the 101 in Leggett, had lunch at the Benbow Inn, where we have great memories of staying there with the kids, and eventually we ended up in Crescent City for night two. We drove around the town, walked along the water and enjoyed the view of the Battery Point Lighthouse from our balcony. I don’t think I will ever tire of seeing this beautiful coastline.
We awoke on Wednesday to a pretty dense marine layer (Toni called it a cold drizzling rain) that we hoped would soon burn off, however I think that would mean that the sun would have to shine eventually in order for that to happen. We continued up the coast into Oregon enjoying the sights in Coos Bay and the awesome sand dunes in Siltcoos Beach. Well, they were more awesome as I was sliding down them than they were when we were trying to slide up them! But Toni insisted that she had to get to the top to get that perfect picture. I mean couldn’t one of the other 400 pictures be that perfect picture? Just saying!
At this point in our trip I had to grudgingly admit to Toni that my “marine layer” had actually become a steady light rain and it looked like there was no sunshine in the forecast so we had to decided our next plan of action… continue up the coast and cut over to the 5 in Washington or cut over earlier. We decided to give the weather another hour or so and finally ended up in the fishing port of Newport. We walked the docks, watched people buying fresh caught fish right off of the fishing boats and even enjoyed the sea lions lounging on their platforms.
We thought about staying in Newport for the night, but with the weather getting worse and the fog getting denser, it was almost impossible to even see anything so we threw in the towel and headed east to Salem. Of course, 15 miles inland the rain stopped, the sun broke through the clouds, and the temperatures rose into the 60s at least! LOL
We decided that we had made a good decision. Our trip had been amazing so far, and we had to be at the track in Seattle by noon on Thursday, so a stop in Salem meant only a few-hour drive to the track the next morning.
The weather was nice, sunny and warm when we got to the track, but Friday ended up with more cool temps and drizzle. I was beginning to see a pattern forming here. Not to worry, we had a great day of qualifying on Saturday and another awesome day of racing on Sunday. Once again, the final ended up with our two teammates Jeg and Vincent matched up for a second week in a row. As you know, Vincent scored his first back to back wins and we congratulate him and Jeg for a great showing for Mopar.
As a team we could not have been any happier with our swing. Not only did we fulfill AJ’s prediction of a “Hemi swing,” but all three wins came with Roy Johnson powerplants under the hood. For this accomplishment, Roy, AJ and the engine guys were presented with the coveted “broom” signifying the accomplishment of Johnson and Johnson engines sweeping the swing. We were all so proud of Roy, Dean, Crow, Matt and the rest of the guys back home in the engine shop. It is hard enough to keep enough engines for one team but to maintain competitive engines for three teams is amazing. Way to go guys!
Well, after such an exciting week it was time to return home. We were sad to leave this beautiful coast but glad to get back to our east coast, where I will admit it was nice to sleep in my own bed and play with my two grandkids. In between my next couple of races we are planning on making a trip to Charlotte to catch up with baby Lena and celebrate Melissa’s birthday with her. Though her birthday was actually August 5, we will plan a day in the future to spend some time with her, Joey and Lena and have an official family birthday party. I can’t wait.
I am looking forward to Brainerd next week. With only two races left before the Countdown begins, we have some catching up to do if we want to take over that No. 1 spot. Thanks so much for checking in and have a great weekend!
Hi there everyone! I know it has been way too long since I posted a blog. In fact, I don’t think that I have ever gone this long between posts. I know that there are no excuses for my lack of obligation to you, my fans but I will let you know what has been consuming my time for the past three months.
Racing, my first passion, has been running wide open and I am so excited with how this year has been progressing. With a three-car team, a rigorous testing schedule and unrelenting race schedule we have been crazy busy. Just as we finish one race and get back home or to the shop it is time to leave again for the next race. I can’t believe that I am sitting here in the lounge at Bandimere Speedway awaiting our first pass that will officially start the 2013 Western Swing! Oh, did I mention that this is one of my favorite times of the year?
Toni, our kids and I have so many great Western Swing memories and they all started here. What a great facility the Bandimere family has created and this year they are celebrating 55 years of racing – I mean, how cool is that? Of course I have only been coming here for 23 of those years but I have loved every trip that we have made. Having Mopar sponsor this race is just like icing on the cake.
Speaking of Mopar, last week we participated in the Mopar Block Party, which is held every year in beautiful downtown Golden. It is almost like a street carnival complete with racecars, show cars, street vendors, games, food, drinks, music, and of course all of the Mopar drivers on hand to sign autographs and mingle with the thousands of fans that attend. It was amazing to see how many people were in attendance. Many thanks to Mopar for hosting such an awesome event!
Usually Toni and I stay out for the entire Western Swing but this year we have to fly home after this race to oversee one of our three tenants moving into our warehouse. We will then fly back to Sonoma and hopefully be able to enjoy a few days of vacation time before heading to Seattle.
Did you get that we finally have one of three tenants moving into our warehouse, which has stood vacant for almost four years? Thus, another reason that I have been so busy when I have not been racing. We have been moving offices, dumping scrap and trash, demolishing walls and finally giving our warehouse a complete state of the art renovation. It has been extremely time-consuming dealing with contractors, architects, electricians, plumbers, and inspectors but I am really excited with what we have finally accomplished.
This first stage of occupancy will be accommodating the State of Virginia in 1/3 of our building, in a month or so we will have a Doggie Day Care moving in 1/3 of the building and the final portion of the building will be a Church. I don’t think I could have asked for any better tenants. Of course it is a good thing that I don’t have a race car any more because my race shop looks like a huge storage unit right now. That will be a good project for over the winter I think!
I did get to spend last weekend home with the family celebrating my 60th birthday (which was actually July 9 but we were in Denver testing that day). Toni arranged a small party which included a surprise visit from Melissa and baby Lena (poor Joey had to work) so I got to spend my special day celebrating with all my kids, grandkids and Toni’s dad. Jon and Jamie cooked on the grill while Alli, Cynthy and Melissa helped Toni with all of the other things. My job was to sit, relax and play with Ryan, Maia and Lena. I loved every minute of it!
So these are the highlights of the last couple of months around the Yates household. The grandkids are growing up so fast, (Ryan is 4 ½, Maia is 2 ½ and little Lena is over 5 months!) the kids are all working hard, Toni is dealing with a broken arm that happened when we were loading a steel dumpster with scrap metal – don’t even ask – this is Toni we are talking about, and I am looking forward to a great Western Swing!
It is almost time to get things rolling around here so I am going to close this blog and get it sent into cyberspace. Thanks to all of you for your patience over the last few months. I will try to make it up to you with extra blogs the rest of the year. Have a great weekend everyone and thanks for checking back with me!