Features

Catching upSaturday, November 10, 2012
Posted by: Brady Kalivoda, Warrior Racing

I feel rather silly in hindsight. Near the beginning of the 2012 season, I totally agreed to do a blog for NHRA.com on a once-every-fortnight basis. I didn’t even know what that meant at the time, I was just like “Heck yeah!” when offered the opportunity. It was recently pointed out to me by my 5-year-old step-daughter-in-law-twice-removed that a “fortnight” is a period of 14 days. Meaning, I was supposed to be writing blogs every two weeks. EVERY TWO WEEKS!!

Upon finding this out, my first thought was … Why did the editorial staff at NHRA use such fancy language with me? Fortnight? Really? Why not just say “every two weeks?” They clearly misoverestimated my grammatical comprehensive abilities. My second thought … How in the heck does my 5-year-old know what “fortnight” means? Turns out she learned it in preschool.

So I have some catching up to do and I apologize for that.

It seems the only driver who has gone longer without updating their blog is Antron Brown. He kinda has a good excuse, though. He has stayed pretty busy winning a half-dozen races and competing for his first NHRA Full Throttle Top Fuel championship this year. Don’t get me wrong … Between undertaking a major remodel on our home in Seattle, tending to things at our business, and trying to find funding for the Warrior Racing Top Fuel dragster, I’ve been plenty busy, too. It’s just not nearly as sexy of topics to blog about versus hoisting Wallys and all that. But while Antron is currently excused, as he is in Pomona this weekend at the Auto Club NHRA Finals battling it out with his DSR teammates Tony Schumacher and Spencer Massey for that title, I’ll get to catching up a little in the blogosphere world.

As for the whole “fortnight” thing, I’m hard pressed to even remember what happened two weeks ago, let alone blog about it. My 5-year-old said that is exactly the reason that NHRA wants us to blog every two weeks, so there is always something to talk about; therefore, plenty of fresh content for our readers and fans. She makes a good point. Moving forward, I don’t know if I can handle the pressure of such deadlines, so I asked her to find out if she can get extra credit in preschool for writing my blog for me. So while I wait for her to get back to me on that, I’ll do my best to give you the cliff notes versions of some of the happenings of the last several fortnights.

The Warrior Racing shop in Tipp City, OH
Shanon doing work

The last race for our Warrior Racing Team this season was the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals in Indy. We didn’t have the sort of showing we were hoping for, but John Stewart, Bob Peck and the team were able to finally identify some things that have been haunting us all year. Racing a Top Fuel dragster isn’t easy, and additional challenges are presented when you don’t have the funding that some of the larger teams have. We run a limited schedule, which means that it takes much longer to accumulate the same number of runs in which to gather data and learn what a full-time team with corporate resources might learn in only a couple of weekends of testing. Not an excuse, just our reality. And to Mike and Chris Dakin’s credit, the decision was made to take the rest of the season off (the original tentative plan was to hit a handful of the remaining races after Indy), regroup and get ready for next season.

So while I’ve been busy trying to find that all-important funding, Bob and the guys have been keeping busy at the Warrior Racing shop in Tipp City, OH. The boys were able to get a quick nitro fix last month by taking the race car and transporter out of the shop and down the street to the center of the cruise-in at the Tipp City Mum Festival and cackle it. (The Mum Festival has been going on in town for over 50 years. It’s a pretty big deal, complete with a pageant, parade, motorcycle run and car show). Bob, Shanon, Chris and the guys fired up the hot rod and made several people smile (and several others spill their drinks and food) by whacking the throttle a few times in downtown Tipp. Job well done.

I mentioned our home remodel …. Well, it’s finally all done and the family and I are moved in, thank goodness! It turned out great, but it was an ordeal, to say the least. As is usually the case with such projects, it took two months (that’s like four fortnights) longer than the three and a half months (seven fortnights) it was originally supposed to take. I hired a friend to do most of the work and as detail oriented as I am, I think I wore on his nerves a bit along the way. I fear I may have lost him as a friend in the process cuz I noticed I’m down one Twitter follower since he finished the house.

The home building/remodeling thing must be contagious because our team owner, Mike Dakin and wife Andy are in the process of building a new house now, too. And so are Director of Entertainment, Chris Dakin and his wife Morgan. But while Chris and Morgan’s new home is nearing completion, Mike and Andy’s home has just gotten started. I hope for their sakes, their projects go smoother than ours did. We can’t handle losing any more Twitter followers. On that note, be sure to find Warrior Racing on Facebook and follow us on Twitter (@Warrior_Racing and @BradyKalivoda). Much to the chagrin of the NHRA.com staff, we tend to update things over there a few times every fortnight. And I can assure you that I’ll do a better job keeping up during the off-season.

Plenty goes on behind the scenes during the winter months, even for a part-time team such as ours, so there’ll be lots to talk about. From the never-ending search for marketing partners to the long hours Bob and Stew put in at the shop and behind the computer, to the exploits of our bottom-end specialist Shanon … not a fortnight will go by without something blogworthy happening.

Thank goodness for dollar ice creamTuesday, July 10, 2012
Posted by: Brady Kalivoda, Warrior Racing

Pop quiz:
I just ate a pound of ice cream. And it only cost me a dollar. This means ______________________.
a) I’m full. And I have a big smile on my face.
b) There’s melted ice cream somewhere on/in my laptop computer.
c) We’re at Summit Motorsports Park in Norwalk, OH for the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals.
d) All of the above.

Dollar ice cream!
Our bottom-end specialist Shanon

The correct answer is “d.” And because the heat index is up near 105 degrees, I actually lost three pounds while eating it. Not a bad deal, really.

But seriously, Bill Bader Sr., Jr., and the team here at Summit Motorsports Park sure know how to accommodate spectators and fans. Dollar ice cream is just one example, so if you’ve yet to hit this destination in your racing travels, you gotta change that and get yourselves here. Quick. Before they run out of those darn dollar ice cream cups!

I have to apologize, as it’s been a while since my last post. I came down with writer’s block. Or blogger’s block. Or whatever it’s called these days. Then I sat down to blog last Sunday in Joliet, but alas, I remembered that I don’t like blogging on Sundays while at the races. (See my previous post for a technical explanation as to why). So I put it off.

And then I spent a few days with my team at the Warrior Racing shop in Tipp City, OH prior to this weekend’s race here in Norwalk. Since these two races were back-to-back and so geographically close to the shop, it just made sense that I hung out and got some work done in Ohio rather than hopping a plane home to Seattle for a day and a half and then coming back. And as predicted, it was a fun and productive few days. Team Owner Mike Dakin treated us to a couple of nice dinners and Entertainment Director Chris Dakin and his wife Morgan had us over to their pad for a Fourth of July soiree on Wednesday. (Soiree is a technical term for, like, a gathering of people. I think.) We swam. And it was good. Shanon, our trusty bottom-end specialist, even managed to get stuck in little Marin’s innertube thing. Marin (Chris and Morgan’s cuter-than-cute daughter) is two. Shanon is not. Hence the hang-up.

While Crew Chief Bob Peck and the guys put in the hours at the shop, Chris and I spent time meeting with Mike McDermott, our social media manager dude. Mike runs a company in Tipp City called Bash Foo. I’m not kidding, it’s called Bash Foo. And I don’t know how to put this, but Mike is kind of a big deal. People know him. He has many leather-bound books and his office smells of rich mahogany. His company helps other companies grow – online and otherwise – so time spent gleaning knowledge from Mike is time well spent.

My fan club in full force
In-car shot of our qualifying run

I was pretty stoked to learn that we were going to be staying at The Great Wolf Lodge in nearby Sandusky while here for the race. (If you don’t already know, the “Wolf” is a great family destination, complete with an indoor waterpark that kids just go nuts for.) When I found this out, I quickly jumped online and booked flights for my sweetheart Althea and little princess Monroe (4 ½ yrs. old) to fly out for the weekend.

Logistically it’s pretty difficult for Althea to come to the races, especially with the little ones. But when there’s a place like the Wolf for them to hang out at for much of the day (and stay cool and be wildly entertained) while we work at the track, it really lends itself to being a good race for the family to come to. Our son Brooks (1 ½ yrs. old) stayed at home in Seattle with his grandpa so Althea could focus her attention on Monroe, in both the waterpark and at the track. It was Monroe’s first time at the races and she LOVED it!! She even made a sign to show her support and to cheer the team on.

And the cheering worked well, until about two-point-something-seconds into our third qualifying run when our Warrior Racing dragster dropped a couple of cylinders and pushed the head gaskets out. It got a little warm inside the cockpit, but I’m fine. Not a single singed hair or eyebrow or anything. I’m making light of the situation here, but seriously, all of my Simpson Safety equipment did its job and I’m very thankful for that. When you take a look at a snapshot taken with our in-car camera, you realize it’s a real testament to the rules NHRA has in place regarding the gear that we are required to wear.

But that effectively ended our weekend. We sat out the last qualifying session and ended up missing the field by one spot. What it also did was reinforce the fact that we need to do some testing and get a full handle on our new combination before our next national event. That was the tentative plan all along, but we weren’t able to fit it in before Joliet, so we rolled with it. (“Rolling with it” is another highly technical term that I don’t have enough column inches for right now). (And “column inches” is a news media-specific term for, like, the space the NHRA.com editors give me within which to write my blog). So we’re going to sit out the Western Swing and likely Brainerd, do some testing and then be ready to make some noise at the US Nationals.

So despite my strong aversion to it, here I am blogging on Sunday again. So why the big smile on my face? Cuz it’s all about perspective and you know what? Life is pretty darn good. Besides, as our good friend Eric Medlen would say, it’s impossible to be in a bad mood when you’re eating ice cream.

Thank god for Eric Medlen. And thank goodness for dollar ice cream.
 

Technically speaking …Tuesday, June 05, 2012
Posted by: Brady Kalivoda, Warrior Racing

Okay, so I’ve decided I don’t like blogging on Sundays while at the races. Cuz if I’m blogging on Sunday, it means I’ve got the time. And if I’ve got the time, it means we’re not actually racing. And if we’re not actually racing, it means we didn’t qualify. And if we didn’t qualify, it means most likely things didn’t go well during qualifying for us.

And therein pretty much lays the story for the Warrior Racing team in Englishtown. I mean, that’s the short story, and although it may not have looked like it from the outside, we made huge strides in a new direction that will be sure to pay dividends for us moving forward. We came to the realization that we need to tweak (“tweak” is a technical term for change) a few things on our hot rod (technical term for dragster) that will allow us a bigger tuning window down low (technical term for very early in the run), thereby enabling us to acquire the data (technical term for, well … data) we need in order to further massage (technical term for tweak, which is a technical term for change) our tune-up and get to the finish line under power. They’ve done studies, you know. And 60% of the time, it works every time.

So I’m excited about that.

Our plan is to fit in a test session between now and the upcoming Thunder Valley Nationals in Bristol. We know we’re a lot better team than what we’ve shown thus far and team owner Mike Dakin wisely wants us to be able to project that the next time we hit a national event. But with Bristol less than two weeks away, it’s going to be a challenge, logistically, to get it done. It may mean we have to skip the Bristol race, but I sure hope not. If you haven’t already, you can find our Warrior Racing page on facebook and follow us on Twitter (@BradyKalivoda); I’ll keep everyone posted on how things develop this week.

Speaking of Facebooking and tweeting and all of that, Chris Dakin just came up with a new and even more exciting way to connect with our fans out there and we just rolled it out. He is, after all, our Director of Entertainment, so leave it up to him to develop entertaining ways to interact with you all out there. We’re going to be giving away some swag (technical term for shirts, hats, autographed race car parts, etc.) on a fairly regular basis, along with doing some other cool stuff and all you have to do is text “Warrior” to 33938 for your chance to win. So do it. Do it now!

Thank you.

Bob Peck and the boys (technical term for the Warrior Racing posse of crew guys) are gonna head back to the shop in Tipp City, OH today, while Stewie (technical term for John Stewart) and I head back to the west coast early Monday morning. For me, a 6am departure out of Newark means I’ll be back in Seattle by noon to see my family. I can’t wait to see my sweetheart Althea and the offspring (technical term for 18 month-old Brooks and four and a half year-old Monroe) and see how much they’ve changed since I’ve been gone. Well … Althea doesn’t change much (although I swear she gets prettier each time I leave and come home again), but the kids sure do. Sounds crazy, as it’s only been five days, but at the ages they’re at, they grow soooo fast!

In Seattle, the weather is starting to get nice and the tides are starting to get wacky so we’ll hopefully be able to fit some skimboarding in before hopping back on the plane for testing. We live two blocks from the beach and if you’re not familiar with skimboarding, I’ll have to blog (technical term for what I’m doing right now) about it and get you all up to speed in an upcoming post. In short, it’s like surfing crossed with skateboarding except not really like that, but kinda’ the same thing in a way. Sort of.

But that’s all technical talk. So I’ll save it for now. Thanks for following us on this grand adventure. Until next time …
 

Getting antsyWednesday, May 16, 2012
Posted by: Brady Kalivoda, Warrior Racing

Okay, first thing’s first … If you read my last blog, you know that one our team’s principals, Director of Entertainment Chris Dakin, wasn’t with us in Charlotte because his two-year-old daughter Marin was recovering from a tonsillectomy (which is a pretty serious surgery for a little tiny person like her). Well, I’m happy to report that Marin pulled through like a champ and is back to her awesome little self!

That’s good news for lots of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that Chris shouldn’t be missing any more races from here on out. And quite frankly, he isn’t allowed to miss another race. After all, the simplest explanation for our team’s struggles at the Four-Wide Nationals is that our dragster just wasn’t itself without Chris there. It was the first time we raced without him, and the first time we didn’t qualify. Hey … it makes perfect sense to me.

After skipping the Houston race, as originally planned, we initially intended on racing in Atlanta and Topeka, but decided to take a couple of events off, regroup, and rejoin the tour in Englishtown at the Toyota NHRA Supernationals in a few weeks, where we’ll be much better prepared to throw down with the rest of the Top Fuel field.

That turns out to be seven weeks between events for us; that’s a long time for somebody who eats and sleeps NHRA drag racing! A couple of days ago, I started feeling antsy about not having been at the races in quite a while, so I had a sani-can delivered to our house, just so I could feel like I’m at the track!

Ok, so I’m kidding about the sani-can. I mean, there really is one sitting in the driveway. Look … I took a picture! But the real reason it’s there is because our house in Seattle is a construction zone right now. We are doing a major remodel on it while living in another house we’re renting just down the street till the work is done. It’s kinda neat for me because the house we’re remodeling is the house I grew up in. I haven’t lived there since I graduated high school and it’s been fun for Althea and I to design a living space for us to look forward to raising our kids in. And dogs. And cats. (Of which we have two of each). I had a great childhood and have lots of fond memories of that house, and we hope to make it a home in which our kids can do the same.

It’s been equal parts fun and nerve-wracking, as a lot of remodel/construction projects tend to be. But it has kept me occupied during our aforementioned break in racing action. I’m not really doing any of the work; rather, I just go over every day and run around the house, point at stuff, ask the contractors dumb questions, freak out a little, then go back home and do it again the next day. The house should be move-in ready sometime in early July, and needless to say the whole family (dogs and cats and all) is looking forward to it.

Meanwhile, Bob Peck and the guys at the Warrior Racing shop back in Tipp City, Ohio, have been working hard getting ready for E-town. We have some pretty exciting news on the personnel front, too, as Bob’s gonna have even more brain power to utilize as our team moves forward. John Stewart has joined Warrior Racing to work with Bob in the tuning aspect of our hot rod. Aside from being one of the coolest, laid back dudes out there, “Stewie” (as he’s known in the drag racing world) brings a wealth of knowledge into the fold. He and Bob have worked together on teams in the past so there’s already a familiarity there, which is good when it comes to tuning philosophy.

I know I speak for the whole team when I say we’re excited to have Stewie on board. Personally, I can’t wait for Englishtown. Between now and then, I’ll be keeping close tabs on the happenings in Topeka. In fact, I think I’ll go over to the house this weekend, open up the NHRA Mobile app on my iPhone, and hang out by the sani-can as I follow along. It’ll be just like I’m the staging lanes at Heartland Park!

Until next week …  (Or whenever the NHRA.com staff again threatens to fire me for not keeping up with my blog).
 

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