Hello again. Happy New Year! It’s 2014 and that means the 2014 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series is right around the corner. We’ll be at Pomona for the season-opening Circle K Winternationals in just four weeks. In fact, our teams will leave for testing in South Florida this Sunday on Jan. 12. Yep, preseason testing is here and I can’t wait to sniff some nitro for the first time this year.
I hope you all had a great, fun and safe holiday season and that Santa treated you well. I spent my holiday break from school with mom and Don in Stuart, Fla. and had enjoyed the time away from school with family and friends. It’s back to reality this week as school began on Jan. 6, so I’m back to being a student, while toiling in some DSR business.
I spent much of the holiday season working with Don and Terry Chandler – Johnny Gray’s sister – finalizing the details with our charity partner for Tommy Johnson’s team and we’re very excited to announce the details very soon. We got approval on all the art elements yesterday, so it will be a busy month at the shop to have everything looking pretty for the Winternationals. I wish I could tell you more because it’s very exciting!
We will have two painted bodies from SD Enterprises, two trailers wrapped by TKO Graphix, a firesuit from Impact, TJ’s helmet painted by Indocil Art, crew shirts from Advertising Edge, and team apparel from Oakley all ready for Pomona 1. Whew! I’m worn out just thinking about all the work.
Speaking of the Winternationals, we’d like to welcome the new title rights sponsor – Circle K – to the sport. It’s always exciting to see a new company get involved in our sport and who hasn’t stopped in a Circle K store when filling up with gas. A full tank of gas and a Mello Yello or Dasani water to fuel your trip to the NHRA races. That’s a winning plan!
It’s been an interesting week at DSR. Much of Indiana and the Midwest got hammered with snow on Sunday. I’m sure glad I was in Florida when I saw the text message photos from my friends at DSR. Mother Nature dumped buckets of snow on poor Indy. They got more than 13” of snow in some areas and then the dreaded Polar Vortex dropped temperatures into the Arctic-like negatives with wind chills of -40 on Monday. Who could have imaged -40 in Indy and that it would have been warmer in Alaska. The shop was closed the first two days of this week before reopening yesterday. I’m told the roads are still very sketchy and a typical 15 minute commute could take up to 45 minutes. I’m just glad everyone in the NHRA community stayed warm and safe. Thankfully warmer temps and some rain this weekend should help melt much of the snow.
The guys at the shop are buzzing like busy bees in the spring time. The fab shop is getting two Charger Funny Car bodies ready for Matt Hagan and TJ’s teams. The machine shop is on the go cranking out connecting rods and fly wheels and all sorts of parts we make in-house at DSR. TKO Graphix is wrapping trailers. Our vinyl department is decaling race cars and tow vehicles and golf carts and trailers. In fact, Matt Hagan’s 2014 Mopar paint scheme will arrive at the shop this afternoon just in time to get decaled for photos at testing.
The trucks will roll south this Sunday for Palm Beach International Raceway to test from Tuesday through Saturday. Friday and Saturday (Jan. 17-18) are open to the public as part of the PRO Winter Warm-up, so we hope to see many of you NHRA fans in South Florida this weekend. Come get your dose of nitro to hold you over for a few months before our March return to the Sunshine State for the Gatornationals.
That’s it for now. Stay warm and safe and may your favorite NFL team win this weekend. I’m certainly not going to play favorites. Well, maybe I’ll pull for the Colts since they’re our local Indy team. We’ll see if “Luck” is on their side again this weekend.
Hello again NHRA fans. I’m a lucky girl to be writing this blog from south Florida. As I look at the weather across the country, we’re one of the few spots to not be in a deep winter freeze. It’s been quite chilly at the shop in Indy and they got about five inches of snow last Friday. We’ll be heading to Chicago and Indy next week for our Schumacher Electric and DSR Christmas parties on Dec. 18, so I’ll get my dose of winter chill. It will give me an excuse to break out a scarf and heavy jacket. Haha
It’s a busy week for me. I’m spreading my time between school, studying and testing in south Florida. It’s finals week at Lynn University and then we have a three-week break for the holidays. I’m splitting my time studying at home and at the race track while three of our teams test in preparation for the 2014 NHRA Mello Yello season.
Three of our teams left the bitter cold of Indy for the warm, 80-degree sun of Florida on Sunday. Most of the crew guys enjoy being at home with their families during the off season, but I don’t think too many of them were upset about spending a few December days in Florida. Tommy Johnson or TJ, who you can now follow on Twitter @TommyJohnson_Jr, is again getting acclimated with a Funny Car. It’s been a few years since TJ has been behind the wheel of a flopper full-time. Maybe back to the 2007 NHRA season. TJ is a great driver, one of 14 to have won NHRA races in both Top Fuel and Funny Car, and he’ll do a great job for DSR. Both the U.S. Army and Matco Tools Top Fuel teams are also testing. We’re sans the Sarge, so Antron is hot-lapping both the Army and Matco rails. AB made nine laps on Tuesday and you couldn’t wipe the grin off his face, which isn’t out of the ordinary for Antron. I’m guessing he does another eight or nine passes today. To see some videos of the test session check out my Instagram page, @MeganFessSchu.
We’re going to do something fun with AB next week on social media, so check out the ShoeRacing Facebook and Twitter pages for details. We’re going to do our first #DSRVineChat with a driver. If you don’t know what Vine is, it’s an app that does seven-second repeating videos. We’ll post the answers on our DSR Twitter account @shoeracing. Fans will submit questions and AB will answer them in seven seconds. We’re really excited and it should be a lot of fun. I’m not so sure we can do this with Jack. LOL Fast Jack answering in seven seconds, now that’s a challenge.
While TJ and AB are running the wheels off their race cars, Ron Capps is a bit more relaxed this week. Cappsy is on his annual Cruisin’ with Capps fan cruise. Last Thursday, Tony represented DSR and the NHRA in Las Vegas at Sports Business Journal’s ’13 Motorsports Marketing Forum and did a great job. Tony was the only driver on the panel and did his terrific job as an ambassador for NHRA. Spencer also is on a cruise with his girlfriend, Karen, in the Caribbean. It’s good to see some of the drivers getting some R&R after the long 10-month NHRA season.
Last week was a busy one at DSR. And while our drivers and cars looked pretty for 2014 photo shoots, I jetted West for a few days of fun in California with friends before finals week. I joined my friends Alex Baca-Medina, Courtney Force, and our friend Lauren in So Cal. We spent a day at Disneyland in Anaheim and it was so pretty to see the park’s seasonal décor for Christmas. We also went to a Christmas tree lighting in Newport Beach, it was a fun few days of mindlessness before the craziness of finals week at school.
Last week was busy at DSR, but fun busy. We did 2014 photo shoots with Ron, Antron, Spencer, Matt and Jack. Our front office had been hustling since before the end of the 2013 NHRA season getting everything ready for our Dec. 3-6 photo shoots at the shop. We needed the drivers, of course, 2014 painted race cars and firesuits. We shot Ron and the NAPA Auto Parts car on Tuesday. Late that night our friend and stud photographer Mark Rebilas or @rebilasphoto on Twitter shot Antron and the Matco dragster. AB was a good sport and stayed at the shop until after 11 p.m. We shot Spencer and the Battery Extender car on Wednesday morning before Matt got to town. We then did Matt and the Rocky Boots Dodge, which is one of the best looking Funny Cars I’ve ever seen. The fans are going to love the look of the Rocky car. Then it was Jack and the Valvoline MaxLife and SynPower Funny Cars on Thurday and Friday.
Mark is a clever, creative guy. He’s always thinking outside the box and raising the photography bar. It was snowing Thursday evening in Indy and across much of the country and Mark had the crazy idea to shoot at Funny Car in the snow. Kyle Cunningham from DSR’s front office helped Mark and his lighting expert, Guy, push Jack’s MaxLife car outside in the snow and for a frosty photo shoot. Kyle is another crazy guy – he runs Tough Mudders and marathons – so he decided to put on Jack’s photo shoot firesuit and do snow angels next to the car. Oh those crazy boys. All and all, we got some great art for 2014 and I know the sponsors and fans will be excited to see it.
That’s it for now. I hope you all have a great week and we’ll check in before Christmas. Thanks for reading.
Hello NHRA.com readers.
I spent my first off-weekend of 2014 back at a race track, but not an NHRA race track. I headed south to Homestead, Fla., to go to my first NASCAR race with our social media specialist, Leah Vaughn, and Paul Mecca, who handles new business development for DSR. Paul is well-versed in the NASCAR world, so who better to learn the stock car racing ropes from?
We arrived at the track on Saturday afternoon in time to watch the final Sprint Cup series practice. It was eye-opening to see how different the stock cars are compared to what I’m used to with NHRA nitro racing. After watching practice, we got to walk around the garage and mingle. One of the first drivers we ran into was our NAPA Auto Parts teammate Martin Truex, Jr. It was cool to meet Martin and talk auto racing. He and his NAPA team attended their first NHRA last year at the 2012 Charlotte Four-Wide Nationals.
Later, Paul, who worked for NASCAR before coming to work for DSR in 2001, took Leah and me around and introduced us to some big names in NASCAR including Jack Roush and “the King” Richard Petty. Wow, two racing legends and both raced NHRA many years ago. Meeting Richard Petty is like meeting auto racing royalty. What an honor.
After spending time in the garage socializing, we headed down to pit road for all the Nationwide series pre-race festivities. I had to get used to all this new racing terminology, garage and not pits and pit road and not staging lanes. LOL While on pit road, we got to spend some time with the Wallace brothers, Kenny and Mike. No, we didn’t meet Rusty. Kenny was excited to meet the girls behind the @ShoeRacing Twitter account. He told us he loves following our adventures in NHRA-land and is a ball of personality.
We watched the Nationwide race from pit road. It was exciting to see how the teams operate during a race because it is so different from what we see in an NHRA race. My favorite part was watching the teams go to work when their car came in for a pit stop. It’s a much quicker version of our post-run service in the pits.
It was a different type of race day for us on Sunday. We got to the track in time to watch some of the cars go through tech inspection. Following inspection, we got to spend time with NASCAR marketing team members. They explained all the ins and outs of NASCAR marketing. We discussed that Don’s company, Schumacher Electric, is the official battery charger, jump starter and inverter for NASCAR and how they activate the relationship.
The marketing team brought us to NASCAR’s version of hospitality, which was called “the cabana.” It was made to look as though we were in South Beach Miami and was located in the middle of turn one. It was sponsored by Sherwin-Williams and was very unique with the South Beach art deco colors.
After mingling in the cabana, we went down to pit road and watched NASCAR’s driver introductions and pre-race ceremonies before heading up to the Homestead-Miami suite to watch the race. Pre-race at a NASCAR race is very exciting. It’s like a band walking on stage to begin a concert, but unlike NHRA, the stock car racing fans don’t have access to the drivers and cars as they do in our sport.
Meanwhile, back at the shop things are rolling along early this off season. It looks like a few teams will be testing in South Florida next month. I’m told Tony, Antron and TJ will test on Dec. 10-11. The dragsters want to focus on clutch improvements and TJ just got his seat poured and they want to get acclimated to a new driver.
We’ll be decaling the 2014 NAPA Auto Parts, Valvoline Max Life and Rocky Boots Funny Cars in the next few days, so we will have some cool photos to share with you over the next few weeks.
It’s been quiet with our drivers. TJ has been around the shop with his new team. Antron is racing RC boats in Louisiana and Matt has been sporting his Rocky Boots and doing some hunting near his home in Virginia.
If anything exciting breaks, I’ll be sure to check in (plus you can follow me on Twitter, @MeganFessSchu), but if not, please have a safe, happy and filling Thanksgiving holiday and weekend.
All the best.
Hello again NHRA fans. It was a busy weekend at Pomona for the final race of the 2013 NHRA season that culminated with the annual NHRA award’s ceremony in Century City on Monday evening. We flew home yesterday and it’s back to the grind of school today. So yes, I’m a bit jet-lagged and needing a day or two to catch-up.
It was an interesting weekend at Pomona. There wasn’t a lot of championship drama as the Funny Car (John Force) and Pro Stock Motorcycle (Matt Smith) winners were crowned at Las Vegas two weeks ago and the Top Fuel (Shawn Langdon) and Pro Stock (Jeg Coughlin) points-leaders entering Pomona with almost insurmountable leads. Shawn clinched the TF title after Q4 on Saturday and Jeg after E2 on Sunday. Congrats to all four 2013 NHRA Mello Yello champions.
That left the only drag racing theatre as to who would capture the coveted Wally trophies from the Auto Club Finals. Our dragsters all bowed out early, but we had an exciting and moving – yes, I know, sappy – development in Funny Car with Matt Hagan’s Mopar/Rocky Boots team. Matt’s crew chief, Dickie Venables, was in the hospital after undergoing a medical procedure earlier in the week. That meant assistant crew chief Mike Knudsen, a longtime DSR employee, was calling the shots on the Mopar Dodge at Pomona, with the watchful eyes of Todd Okuhara and Phil Shuler to offer advice.
Mike and the entire Mopar team did such a fantastic job all weekend. The team made eight solid runs between 4.12 and 4.01, including running 4.014 to qualify second and a 4.018-second blast in the final round as Matt scored his category-best fifth win of 2013 to defeat John Force in the final round. It was DSR’s 23rd win of the season besting our 22 from last year. We’re now at 219 wins entering the 2014 NHRA season. Congrats to Matt, Mike and the entire Mopar team on a fantastic weekend at Pomona. We know Dickie is very proud of them and we can’t wait to welcome Dickie back to the shop and to testing in January.
Speaking of pre-season testing; mark it on your January ’14 calendar all you nitro maniacs. Our seven DSR teams, along with many on the NHRA tour, will test Jan. 15-18 at Palm Beach International Raceway. The PRO Winter Warm-up will be Jan. 17-18 and open to the public.
Some of our teams are back at the shop and some will return later tonight to gear up for what most call our off-season or as some in our front office refer to it as our “on season.” There really is no off season for a team as large as DSR. We’ll be back at Pomona in some 80-plus days and our teams have to build new chassis, mount Funny Car bodies, paint and decal dragster and Funny Cars, strip and re-wrap trailers, order new race and hospitality awnings, order new crew shirts and fire suit, hold 2014 photo shoots at our shop in early December, along with freshening up all the race car parts for testing and the ’14 Winternationals. Needless to say, our guys will keep very busy this winter before they head south to Florida on January 12 or 13. That’s less than two months away.
I spoke to our shop manager Joey Martin and he said that our fab shop will do five front halves this off season. That means new pipe on a dragster or FC chassis from the driver compartment forward. They also will continue with R&D projects and mounting Funny Car bodies. The machine shop is cranking away on cylinder heads and connecting rods like Santa’s elves this time of year.
We got our first ‘14 NAPA Auto Parts Funny Car body back from paint recently and it will be assembled and decaled for a Dec. 3 photo shoot at our shop. Here’s a sneak peak at Ron Capps’ 2014 ride. It’s very similar with a few subtle changes.
That’s it from DSR-land for now, but I’m excited to keep you all posted on the on-goings in Brownsburg all winter long. This weekend I’m joining Paul Mecca, who handles new business development for DSR, and Leah Vaughn, our social media specialist, in Homestead, Fla. for the final NASCAR race. It’s my first NASCAR race and I’m eager to take in another form of motor sports and network and mingle.
I’ll check in next week with my NASCAR experience and updates from the shop. Have a great week and weekend.