OK, I think that I have given a new meaning to "time flies when you are having fun!" I mean it seems like just yesterday that this Harlow Sammons race team had just left for Pomona and Phoenix and tomorrow I head to zMax Dragway in Concord for the Four-Wide Nationals. I can't believe that we have already completed four races this year.
To say that our new team has had an exciting year so far is an understatement. With all new equipment, a new engine program, a new racecar and basically a new crew working together, we have had quite the learning curve to overcome in a very short period of time and I couldn't be prouder of all that we have accomplished so far this season.
Chris has been doing a great job in adapting to his new Chevrolet Camaro, Big Al and Scott are working non-stop in the engine shop to keep our Mike Edwards power plants running strong, JM our IT guy is always busy solving some kind of technical problem for me and Lester, Chris, Al, Steve and I are doing our best to keep this Harlow Sammons Camaro running as fast as we can. We were so excited when we qualified on the pole in Phoenix – it was the first pole for this young team and well deserved.
Again, in Vegas, we tied Jeg for the pole but ended up No. 2 based on speed. However, the weekend was still a huge success as Chris did an awesome job driving to his first semi final finish of the year – losing a double red light to eventual race winner – Erica Enders. All-in-all I think we had a pretty good outing and now we are looking forward to getting to Charlotte where Chris gets to race in his first "four-wide".
Charlotte is always one of my favorite tracks for more than one reason. ZMax Dragway is a first class facility with a great fan base situated in a beautiful part of the country. Of course I am a little partial because Melissa, Joey and Lena May live close by and Toni and I get to stay and visit with them while we are in town. Toni and I always try to add an extra day or so to our stay so that we can catch up with everyone but more importantly we love spending time with little Lena!
Recently, Melissa and Lena came home for a short visit and it was so much fun to have all three grandkids together. They are all growing so fast and we just love every minute that we can enjoy with them. Ryan is now 5, Maia is 3 and Lena is already 14 months old! Speaking of time flying!
Other than traveling, racing and working around the shop things have been pretty quite around the Yates family. We have been trying to catch up on all of the birthdays in the family on our weekends off, celebrating Cynthy, Alli and Jon's and looking forward to Joey, Jamie and Toni's Dad's birthday in the upcoming weeks. I think I could definitely use a couple of extra weekends in the year to enjoy more family get-togethers! Just saying!
Tomorrow we leave for Charlotte and I can't wait. The "four-wide" is always an exciting race for everyone – especially the drivers. Because of the unusual format it is fast paced and keeps even the most experienced driver on his toes but it always proves to be a favorite race among the many fans in attendance. This Harlow Sammons team is looking forward to their first "four-wide" and maybe making it to their first final round appearance! Now that's what I am talking about! Thanks so much for checking in and if you are at Zmax this weekend please stop by the McGaha pits and say hi!
Happy January everyone! With the temperatures hovering around the 0-degree mark for the past couple of weeks around here, I can honestly say that I can't wait to get this 2014 Mello Yello Pro Stock season underway in beautiful sunny California! I am really hoping that this cold weather doesn't try to follow me out there. There have been a lot of things happening around the Yates house this month so I thought I better take some time and catch everyone up on the latest.
If you have been reading my blogs you know that I am no longer working for Allen Johnson and his team this season. It was a huge disappointment for me at the time but I am one of those people who truly believe in the old saying that "for every door that closes, another one opens." Well, when the door closed on the opportunities at the Johnson team it reopened into an awesome opportunity with the Harlow Sammons Racing Team and the wonderful McGaha family and I couldn't be any more excited than I am right now!
During the off season, the McGaha family (Chris, Holly, Lester, and Valois) have been extremely busy -- to say the least! Right after Pomona, they had the opportunity to purchase Mike Edward's entire operation including the racecar, truck, trailer, engines, clutches, transmissions and everything else that Mike used to race with over the past several years. It has been a huge undertaking for them and they have been working non-stop since December trying to combine Mike's operation with their current racing operation in Odessa, Texas.
I spoke to the McGaha family a few weeks ago and couldn't help but share in the excitement of their new acquisition. I flew to Odessa, met with everyone and started working that same day. Chris and Lester have put together a really great team and everyone is so excited about the opportunities that they we have this season. But first let me tell you a little something about this awesome family and the group of people that they have working with them.
Chris is an integral part of his racing team and is involved in every aspect of its operation. He has been driving the Harlow Sammons Dodge for the past couple of years and I can't tell you how excited he is to get behind the wheel of his new Chevy Camaro. His wife Holly and his parents, Lester and Valois have always been an active part of his racing team -- once again I have found myself a position with another racing family. Because of my own family being so involved in our racing operation for so many years, it feels just like home.
Many of you already know Al Lindsey (Big Al) as he has worked for Mike for the past several years. Not only did Al work in the engine shop but was also Mike's right hand man at the track, maintaining the engines and assisting Mike in making decisions on the car. But a lot of you may not know that Al was part of my team back in the Splitfire days in the same capacity so when I found out that Al was now working with Chris and the guys I was really excited! Ok I know, I am getting side tracked...LOL.
OK, back to the team...Scott has been running the engine shop at Harlow Sammons for some time and he is really having a lot of fun working on and maintaining these new engines. Needless to say, he and Chris have been just a little busy trying to get everything ready for Phoenix testing and Pomona and I know he can't wait to see how we run in a few days.
We also have a great bunch of guys traveling to the track every weekend. Besides Big Al handling the engines, we have Steve doing the clutch and assisting Chris as he builds the transmissions, Randy drives the rig to all the races and does the rear part of the car and Chris, Lester, Al and I will try to keep this Harlow Sammons Camaro running fast and consistent on every pass down the track. Sounds like a great plan to me!
Over the past few weeks I have spent a lot of my time working with the team getting everything ready for our test session in Phoenix. It has been a blast. Everyone says that they only work half days: 12 hours! This team is so excited to get everything done that no one wants to quit and go home at night - what a great bunch of guys we have and more importantly, we are all having a great time working together.
Our rig will leave on Friday and head to Phoenix where we will be joined with a lot of the other Pro Stock teams for a three-day test session. We plan to start out slow, breaking in tires and clutch discs, letting Chris get used to the feel of his new car, and getting the right tune-up for the engines and the racecar. We are hoping to test at least three days and by that time we should be ready for our first pass in Pomona.
As you can tell, I am so excited about this year I can't wait to get to the track. I took a couple of pictures in the shop yesterday while they were wrapping the racecar - it isn't like Toni's pictures but it will have to do until she gets to the track with her good camera.
I know that there will be lots of reports coming from the Phoenix test session and I will try to make sure that we keep everyone updated even if it is via our Facebook pages. In closing I want to say that when a door shuts it is sometimes difficult to understand why, but when a new door opens into a bright future with a wonderful group of people, it makes me very thankful and proud that I am able to be a part of such a great team. Thanks for checking in!!!
Happy holidays and Happy New Year to everyone from our home to yours! I hope that this finds you and your family winding down from the Christmas holidays and gearing up for a wonderful 2014 year ahead – I know we are!
It has been a wonderful year for our families with lots of highs, and as there always are…a few lows. During 2013 we have welcomed our third grandchild — Nicolina May Civali — established an awesome 3 car Johnson & Johnson Pro Stock team with the addition of Jeg Coughlin, completed a major renovation project on our warehouse which resulted in finally renting the completed space, "swept the swing" with Johnson & Johnson teammates (Allen winning Denver and Vincent winning Sonoma and Seattle), enjoyed quality time with our kids and grandkids, completed the 2013 season with another championship and runner-up finish (great job team!), had a wonderful Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday, and finally, Toni and I just celebrated our 39th wedding anniversary. Whew! I mean, it doesn't get much better than that right?
So with all of these wonderful things happening you wonder what could have possibly been a low point of our year. Well, other than Toni dealing with a broken arm most of the summer, losing our teammate Vincent to another team for next year, and selling our boat "Finishline," I guess my biggest disappointment came from the phone call I received from AJ when I returned home from Pomona letting me know that they did not need my services with the J&J Racing team any longer. To say that I was devastated was an understatement, but I guess all good things must come to an end.
Having the opportunity to win back-to-back championships with a first class team has been awesome and I have loved every minute that I have been involved with everyone from Mopar, Roy and the guys in the engine shop, Jeg, Vincent, Allen, Pam, Revonda and of course all the guys on all three teams. I have been able to establish many new friendships and that is something that is very important to me. Of course we all know that for every door that closes another door opens and once again I am ready to see what lies behind that next door.
So moving into 2014 is a little different for me this year, but I am excited about what my future will bring. In the meantime I am talking to several other Pro Stock teams, catching up on my "projects" around the shop, working with my tenants to keep improvements continuing with my warehouse and of course spending as much time with my grandkids as I can.
Speaking of my grandkids – we have been able to celebrate Ryan's 5th birthday in October, Maia just turned 3 two days ago and little Nicolina will be 1 in February! They grow up so fast and Toni and I enjoy them every minute that we can.
Well, I am hoping that I am not too late getting this blog in… you may be reading this next year but I wanted to make sure that I said thanks to everyone for following along with our blogs this year and helping me, my family, and Team Mopar enjoy a very successful couple of years – without all of the fans in our sport none of us would be where we are today and for that I am so grateful to all of you! So as you get ready to ring in the New Year I hope that 2014 is a year that is: wonderful, life-changing, spectacular, fantastic, thrilling, purposeful, unbelievably happy and most especially – blessed!
From our home to yours – May your Christmas lights always be green, your quarter-mile safe, your ET's fast and your win lights endless! Happy New Year!
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!