Features

Posted by: Jack Beckman, Valvoline MaxLife Dodge
When Layla found out Matt and Dave were filming, she cancelled all her plans in order to steal my limelight. This is the first time I’ve seen the pool table in about a year, and I just remembered where I put the lights that need to be mounted on the back wall!
Tell me this doesn’t look like a MAN’s yard!! Plus, we found another use for the forklift, and that always makes me smile. Two hours from the time they showed up, all this was done…amazing!
While William sweats to support nearly the entire weight of the drywall, you can see I am barely straining. Sure, he has muscular calves, but I was pacing myself, taking frequent breaks, and complaining about how heavy the drill was!
The gap in the ceiling drywall is where I will install a beam/trolley in case I want to do any engine pulling. I’ve got most of the rear wall insulated and ready for sheetrock, and you can see I won’t have any shortage of electrical outlets…no extension cord needed!
 
While William calculates and cuts drywall, I’m screwing around…again. See how I have a nice Werner attic ladder, my cool Little Giant work ladder, and yet I am standing on two cheap milk crates…go figure!
While I kept her dad busy with heavy projects in the garage, Kristen handled the more “delicate” issues in the house! And Layla prefers her animal cookies straight from the cup!
This may be Jason’s favorite thing to do at the Discovery Science Center. He sure does make a cute outline! I’d have to say my favorite spot there is the Taco Bell located in the back corner!
Honest, officer, I was just cleaning the exhaust system to get my truck ready for the local car show! This photo is the answer to the question; “What kind of idiot would attempt to cut off their exhaust while sitting in the road?” And…we have a winner!
Big Ben Wilkinson. If you like surf, or if you have a curiosity for what it’s like to paddle into a five-story tall monster wave, just Google this cat. He’s craaazy!

Yes, I am clever with my titles. And yes, I crack myself up often…even if no one else appreciates the humor. Lately my life has oscillated between swinging my 19 ounce Estwing framing hammer, and slamming my right foot to put the hammer to 10,000 horsepower…and I love them both.

Pomona was a bit of a struggle for our new team, but I am very encouraged by the way Sterling, Chris, Ryan, Marla, Bill, Chase, and Nate performed. Our mechanics, though new together, really did their thing and were flawless on their opening competitive outing. Rob and Terry are in the process of collecting and analyzing data to try and get a quick handle on our Valvoline Dodge.

I suppose you may be wondering why a DSR team car could possibly be short of data to make quality runs. Well, not only does each driver have their own idiosyncrasies, but each car behaves slightly different, wanting subtly different input than our team cars. Also, last year at Indy we made a move in the tune-up department, basically rendering all data collected before September of 2013 irrelevant. Combine that with the fact that the weather conditions at the Winternationals weren’t like any we had in those last seven races of 2013, and you can see why Rob and Terry had their work cut out for them. My hope is that the next 2-3 races yield enough quality runs for us that the guys will have plenty of useable data to fall back on throughout the year.

When I referenced that we struggled in Pomona, we didn’t even qualify until the fourth and last session, and that is more stress than any driver, crewchief, or mechanic wants. We were on a nice pass in the second session (Q2) when a broken antenna connection caused our emergency shutoff device to activate, deploying the chutes and shutting the car off. That may actually have been a blessing in disguise, as my teammate Ron Capps disintegrated his NAPA Charger at the top end, scattering pieces all over the track. I avoided the biggest chunks of Mopar (or so I thought) by pulling over next to the wall, but the entire rear section of his Dodge came bouncing right in front of me, slamming into the front of the Valvoline MaxLife car, knocking some large holes through the body and even caving in the fuel tank. Our guys changed bodies (I changed undies), fixed and inspected the chassis, and we came back strong on Saturday with a 4.04 that not only got us in, but moved us right into the top half of the field.

First round we were up against new teammate Tommy Johnson, Jr., driving the Make A Wish car for Terry Chandler (Johnny Gray’s sister). We laid down a nice lap, but our car wore much more clutch than it should have, which slowed us quite a bit in the middle of the run. Still, we’re all feeling positive, optimistic, and ready to start winning.

The Wednesday before Pomona Frank Hawley and I were at the track bright and early for a live shot on KTLA 5, a local news station. Gayle Anderson not only is a heck of a reporter, but she’s also apparently a G-Force addict (and if she wasn’t, she is now!). I took Gayle on an eight-second, 152-mph blast in the Hawley School two-seat dragster, and she loved it so much we did an encore for the next hour’s news coverage. Frank and I also took many media folks and celebs in an effort to spread the word about how awesome our sport is. The timing couldn’t be better, as the school will be coming back to the west coast starting in April! I’ll touch on that more later.

Thursday before Pomona ESPN showed up at our house. No, they weren’t doing an episode of “Cribs”, or even “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” (I’m zero-for-two on that one), but rather filming a couple segments to use later in the year. First, we set up in the house and shot a piece about the big turnover with my team, working with the new crew, and my feelings about our chances for success. Second, we spent a good deal of time with me showing Matt and Dave all my pretty tools, my awesome tool belt, and my wicked cordless “stuff”. We talked about all the projects around Beckman Manor, what I had got accomplished in the off season, and I even cut some wood and drove some nails for the camera. I just hope they didn’t get me on film when I cut the cheese and bit my nails!

When I say “ESPN”, Dave Dobson is the segment producer, and Matt Ilas is the cameraman. Truthfully, these two are so important to the show and wear so many hats throughout the year. I’m also grateful to call both of them friends, and we really had a great time hanging out, bouncing ideas off each other, and trying to come up with the best product for you guys.

Speaking of the garage…it’s really taking shape! The roof is completely done, and all but the final color coat for the stucco is on. I had nothing to do with either of them (unless you count writing the check). When I got the first quote for having the roof done, I decided that, for $2250 (the difference between the cost of materials and the quote), I’d quickly learn how to roof. I got a complete supply list, spent some time on the internet researching, and prepared myself for 2 weeks of hard labor. Then Jim Costanza saved me. Jim, who with partner Andy Montgomery runs Twin Palms RV Storage (and sponsors the car), suggested I have Mike Tocco do the job. If that name sounds familiar to any of you longtime fans, Mike co-owned the War Horse FC back in the day (he also co-owns the new nostalgia version with Roger Garten). In fact, the two of them raced a fuel altered together in the 60’s! Anyway, Mike lives in Henderson, NV, but comes out every weekend to work on the racecar. With the quote he gave me, I’d have been a fool (no comments, please) to attempt it on my own. His guys unloaded all the materials, papered the roof, installed the battens, and stacked all the tiles in two hours. The next day, it took them 3 more hours and they were GONE…and DONE! Wow, was that impressive. I think I could have got about ¼ of the tar paper up in the time they completed the entire job. Plus, I didn’t have to transport over three tons of tiles up a ladder. Best of all, avoiding falls from high places always makes me feel like I got my money’s worth!

As far as the stucco goes, I knew from the outset that I wasn’t going to attempt to tackle that. I love taking on challenges, but I also wanted my walls straight and crack-free. Jerry (my bud that’s guided me through basically this whole project) found us a good stuccoer (is that a word?). Hmmm…people who apply paint are called painters, people who install lath are called lathers (though I always chuckle at that), but who came up with “fletcher”, or “ferrier” for job titles? I’ll just stick with… “driver”.

I guess I got on a bit of a tangent…again! I was talking about cool stuff around the Pomona event. Friday night was another special moment for me, as the NHRA Museum asked me to emcee (that’s when you speak at a function, so we’ll just say my job was, “talker”) their bi-annual Night of Champions. I had often been one of the racers on the panel, but had never hosted. It was quite enjoyable, and I got some nice feedback from many of those in attendance. The panel consisted of Tommy Ivo, Jeg Coughlin, Erica Enders, and Matt Hagan. I liked it so much that maybe I’ll do it again!

With plenty of off time between Pomona and Phoenix, it was time to get cracking on the garage again. Poor Jerry hurt himself and is lying low until he’s back to 100%, and I felt a bit overwhelmed flying solo with all the stuff left to do. Then I found help.

Our friends the Zahorsky’s, who run the RFC Kid’s program at the races, are staying at our house between races. Otherwise, they’d either need to circle back to Oklahoma, or stay in a hotel for a week and a half. Jason loves Kristen, their 13 year old, and Stacy and William are about the easiest houseguests you could ever have. Last time they stayed William helped me with RV stuff, mowing the lawn, and various small projects. This time, I really got my money’s worth from him! William’s background is in construction, so he’s no dummy when it comes to projects like this. The “dummy” part comes in with him volunteering to help me! We got so much done in the past 8 days that it’s really shortened the time needed to be totally done with the new garage. He and I completely drywalled the entire garage (try doing ceiling sheetrock by yourself!!!). We insulated all the exterior walls, nearly got the attic completely insulated, and knocked out a boatload of things that just eat up time. It’s really coming down the final stretch, and with two weeks off between Phoenix and Gainesville I’m hoping to be close to done by the time I return from Florida. Then I will have the world’s most expensive storage unit!

Last time the Zahorsky’s stayed here (after the Finals), we made lots of sightseeing and fun trips with them. This time, I confined William’s activities to my backyard. However, the gals took the kids to the Discovery Science Center for a nice reprieve from the sound of hammering, sawing, and cursing.

William and I, in all candor, have made several exciting trips…all to Home Depot. During one of these, after loading the little Nissan with hundreds of pounds of wood, drywall, insulation, and various screws, fasteners, and tools, my little red pony didn’t want to make it home. Seems that rattle I’ve been hearing lately (right before I turn the radio up) is probably the aftermarket catalytic converter coming apart. Not just that, but I think it’s plugged itself up. How do I know, you ask? Well, when the throttle is floored, I’m pretty sure 4 mph is not what the automaker had envisioned…and it made for a really long trip home. You’d have thought I’d get it fixed right away, but William and I had stuff to do. So, when it came time for the next trip, I hammered briskly on the exhaust to try and dislodge anything…and it worked…for about quarter-mile. Yep, well before arriving at our destination, we found ourselves on the side of the road. However, this time I had a secret weapon. We had packed my cordless jigsaw, complete with metal cutting blade. It worked great, easily cutting through half of the exhaust pipe before snapping said blade into two. The police woman who had pulled over was really quite amused with us grownups looking like we were stealing some poor guys expensive catalytic converter, but I explained to her that I was simply trying to boost the performance of my mini-pickup. After all was said and done, we were up and running again. I’m stunned how a 2 inch long, .062 wide cut could make such a dramatic difference in the truck. Yes, soon William and I were speeding (figuratively, not literally) along, windows down, wind in our hair, with a truck that really wasn’t much louder than before my minor “surgery”. Heck, I think I just bought several more weeks before I REALLY need to address the problem!

Earlier I mentioned that the Frank Hawley School will be returning to Southern California, and that’s very exciting. It’s been nearly six years since we stopped running the school at Pomona, and now the school will operate on a rotating basis in Fontana, which is reopening. In fact, last Saturday I went to the Auto Club Dragway media event/open house. That’s VERY exciting news for everyone in the area, as we have not had a quarter-mile facility for regular competition since they shut down over noise abatement issues nearly two years ago. Southern California has lost so many dragstrips over the past 50 years, and we can ill afford to not have a quarter-mile venue for all the hardcore, bracket, and street legal racers that need a safe, sanctioned facility.

By the time you read this, we should be on the way to Phoenix in the RV. Or, perhaps I’ll be cruising solo in the PT down I-10. That all depends on how things go for the first part of the day. Jenna had to take Layla to the docs today, as our little girl just wasn’t feeling well. Turns out she had an ear infection and strep butt. No, that’s not a typo. No, I’ve never heard of it before, either. And no, I’m not going to use my sophomoric humor right now. Anyway, I hope everyone is healthy so we can go as a family. We only get to do that six times a year, and I’d hate to lose one opportunity.

Frank and I will do more 2-seater ride-alongs in the dragster during the “new” Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park media event, and hopefully hook several more influential folks on our pastime. I just have to remember: quarter- mile for the dragster, 1000 feet for the Funny Car, and I’ll be just fine!

Stay tuned, reroof, scratch-brown-color (that’s stucco talk), drywall is heavy, and cordless tools rule!


 

 
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