Hey, the first one hundred (thousand) readers who correctly determine where I will be this Wednesday night can qualify for a special discount ... to a hockey game! All you have to do to be eligible (reading comprehension could prove quite helpful about now) is follow some basic directions. Hope to see you there...and no fighting!
Stay tuned...keep your Zamboni in good running order, and checking isn't as efficient as charging...on your credit card!
Ontario Reign vs. San Francisco Bulls
Wednesday, Nov. 6, at 7:00 p.m.
Citizens Business Bank Arena 4000 Ontario Center Parkway • Ontario, CA 91764
Save up to $9 per ticket! Click here and enter promo code SPEED!
About the only highlight of a disappointing weekend in Reading was getting to spend some time with Bob Frey. He only came out for a few hours on one day, but he made a point to stop in the trailer and say hi. Charlie Neilson of NHRA was once a crewmember for Kenny Bernstein, and the two handsome guys in the crew shirts belong to our team!
Before you jump to conclusions and think that my title was an expression of disappointment at the way our title defense season has progressed so far…it’s not. Sure, I’d love to be leading the points, have several race wins, and feel confident that our Valvoline/MTS team had locked up another championship, but things don’t always go the way you want.
Heck, we haven’t had a bad season at all. We still have two more shots at the “Wally”, we banked the Traxxas Shootout, and we’ve been to three finals and again are solidly in the top five with a shot at the points title. I’m very confident in Todd, Terry, Mark, Jim, Kyle, Chris, Chris (the keyboard isn’t stuck…we have two), Brian and AJ, and we should be proud no matter how we finish. That being said, a couple of wins sure will make everyone smile!
My title was alluding to coaching Little League. Yeah, the winter-ball program at Norco, consisting of 6-8 year olds, has been medically proven to cause ulcers, early aging, and nervous twitching. While on the road nearly non-stop for the NHRA four-in-a-row schedule, I felt bad that I couldn’t help out with Jason’s team and watch my little guy do his thing. After being home for two weeks, which equals four practices and two games, I’m kinda thinking I was lucky to be absent! Strapping into the car to face John Force in a final round is a walk in the park compared to trying to keep 10 youngsters focused on the same thing for more than 30 seconds. I just may be a better driver after all these “tests” bestowed upon me by the aptly named, “Pirates” of Norco. I know I have more gray hair!
We’ve been plugging away at the home projects, whether I’m here or not. Jenna had the front planters redone in solid gold while I was racing (She tells me those are real plants, but I saw the bill…they must be precious metal!), and we just reseeding and aerated the lawns. I also got to replace a ground fault receptacle and outside light timer in my spare time, and yet the list hasn’t seemed to have shrunk one bit!
I think I’ve got the guy to help finish the back wall, and we may try to tackle that between Vegas and Pomona (I don’t mean geographically…I mean chronologically). Soon I will need to put together a lumber list and began stockpiling for the backyard garage, and I’m sure Jenna not letting me off of diaper duty just because I’m holding a hammer!
I did get to hit the surf with Rich about a week ago; I just wish I could have done it two or three more times. Don’t tell Jenna, but I’m thinking of sneaking out there after we return from Vegas.
Speaking of Vegas, we’re leaving in 6 ½ minutes. Okay, we PLANNED on leaving by 4 pm (I am writing this Wednesday afternoon), but Beckman’s don’t do much on time (no jokes about my lights, please!). It’s been so hectic trying to get everything done around here, and the kids are always the priority. This morning we took Jason and Layla to a local farm as part of Jason’s first grade field trip, and those are the moments that you don’t want to regret missing. Besides, who could ever replace the smell of cow dung, the bite of horse flies, and the shoe-covering dust that this trip yielded?
If any of you are going to Vegas, Ron Capps and I will be at the premiere of Snake & Mongoose Saturday night at the Orleans. I’ve already seen it, but you know I can’t resist a free movie ticket, and Jenna gets to come with me this time. Cindy will be riding out in the RV with us, so she volunteered to babysit. My dad and Teri are driving out from Texas, so I’ll see if they want to tag along as well.
Aside from coaching ball, the other grueling things in my life lately consist of: washing the RV (it seems to get bigger every time); going to Chuck E. Cheese for a kid’s birthday party (that may even top baseball on my “don’t ever volunteer for” list!; and my new diet. Yep, Jenna thinks I may have a Gluten intolerance (I know I have a Chuck E. Cheese intolerance!), so she’s eliminated that from my diet. Unless you count me stopping at Panda express on the way home from surfing, which didn’t sit well with the Queen…oops!
On one hand, I’d have to say that I probably feel better. Having that “brain fog” so often is something I assumed got worse after my chemo and I probably was just stuck with it, but it certainly could have a lot to do with what I eat. On the other hand, Gluten is just so damn good! I’m not sure I can live without bread and all those other delicious things that seem to be bad for me. If I seem cranky and irritable at the races, blame it on the diet. However, if I seem sharper and more focused, then my wife is a genius!
Perhaps the coolest thing I’ve done lately is head up with Brent Cannon to Bakersfield Friday for the California Hot Rod Reunion. Plenty of legends of the sport were there, and Frank Hawley even showed up. He and Brent and I hung out for more than an hour in the stands watching the fuelers run and enjoying a great day. Normally we would have gone Saturday, but that four-letter-word prevented it: “b -a- l- l”.
We took the kids to see the Titanic museum in Buena Park. It’s only been there a few months (the display, not Buena Park), and was definitely worth it. You can actually touch a part of the hull, which is really surreal. To think that ship sunk over 100 years ago, and sat undiscovered for three quarters of a century is mindboggling. The fact that these artifacts were retrieved from nearly two and a half miles down in the Atlantic just adds to the mystique. There are several museums around the world with recovered pieces, but the collection in Orange County would justify a trip there. I’m not sure who’s idea it was to bring a ceramic toilet back up from the depths, but it’s in a case for all to see (I was going to say, “for all to enjoy”, but that could be taken wrong!
If there are any typos in this blog…sorry! I am out of time, and we’re hitting the road for what I hope is a fantastic weekend.
Stay tuned, man the poop deck, sell the farm, ADD and baseball are a bad mix, and so are “Jack and Chuck E. Cheese”!
Oswald (Lee Harvey, not Mark) allegedly shot Kennedy from the right window, second from the top. I couldn’t even shoot a picture in focus from here!
Here my dad poses on the grassy knoll. I’m not sure where he was on November 22, 1963, but he looks a bit suspicious to me!
I think it’s right that this hotel was bought, preserved, and turned into a shrine and museum for a great man. You can barely make out the Cadillac in the background, which is parked just in front of the infamous balcony and room.
These two cars (not sure if they’re the originals or facsimiles) were actually parked in those spots when that fateful event took place. Maybe someone can explain to me why the rooms starting in “3” are on the second floor, and the ones starting with “2” are on the first floor? I’m confused.
Ready…go! Okay, I’ve got 52 minutes to create, write, proofread this blog, then caption the photos and send everything over to NHRA.
You’ll have to excuse any poor writing, grammatical errors, and non-sequiturs (pretty much like you’ve done in every past blog…thank you very much!)
The reason for the rush is that I pretty much now live at Ontario Airport, and I fly out this afternoon for St. Louis. I was at the airport yesterday, the day before that, two days before that, and three days before that. I think you get the picture…I fly a lot!
Once I return from St. Louis (why did they choose that particular way of representing a Saint, whilst San Diego went with the Spanish version? And, if you’ve seen the movie Anchorman, you’re probably chuckling over the mention of “San Diego”) –wow, was that a long parenthetical phrase- I will only be home for one day, head out to Florida for an appearance, and fly from there into Reading for the Maple Grove race. From there I’ll fly back to Dallas for yet another appearance, and then home for a week before we load the RV and head to Vegas. Man, has this year been hectic!
We’ve started off well in the Countdown, making it to the semis in both Charlotte and Dallas, but that’s not going to be enough if we want to defend our title. Barring the ET record being reset (which it most likely will); I think it will take 15 round wins for our team to finish on top. That means we’ve got four more races to capture 11 win lights…a tough deal in any class.
Getting beat by Hagan in Charlotte was double frustrating, as we watched him widen his already “too-large” lead over us. At least we were able to return the favor in Dallas and close back up somewhat. Whenever two Countdown cars face each other, it isn’t just for the 20 points that a round win yields. It’s really a 40 point swing, and we really need to win a bunch of those matchups to get back into the lead.
I wish I could go on about all the things happening around the home front, but I haven’t been here enough to comment on that. Once I got back from Dallas, there was time to mow the lawn, work out, play a bit with Jason and Layla, and head back to the airport.
After returning from Memphis, I got to play with the kids, take Jason to and from school, and work out. Jenna keeps making me a work list, and I keep hiding it and saying I can’t find it! I also was able to repaint all of our expensive landscape LED lights that we paid so much for, only to watch them fade, rust, and corrode. Let’s hope that Rustoleum and elbow grease prevail in the next couple years!
I’m sure that I’ve done plenty more, my mind just can’t recall much right now.
Having some time to kill (man, I just realized that’s a poor metaphor for this story…sorry) before catching my flight in Dallas, my dad and I headed over to Dealey Plaza, where JFK was assassinated on 11/22/63…nearly 50 years ago! I had never been there and, though the museum was closed when we arrived, it still was very intriguing to be standing where history happened. I will try to go back on my Dallas appearance and spend a little more time looking around.
In what I think is a very strange coincidental activity, just days later I found myself (I didn’t lose myself and then get found, it’s just an expression!) driving towards my Memphis hotel prior to the appearance I had to make, and a thought hit me (not literally, it’s just an expression!). I pulled over, got on the internet, and got the map coordinates for where MLK was gunned down in 1968.
After our signing appearance, several of us went to a local barbeque place. My pal Chip Foose drew this in about 5 minutes for the waiter. I’m not sure if they billed us for the napkin, but this dude sure is talented.
It turned out that I was only a few miles from the Lorraine Hotel, and so I pointed the rental car that way. In another strange coincidence, (okay, maybe I’m stretching this a bit, but allow me some artistic liberties, please); this place also was closed…for remodeling. It’s hard to describe what a strange feeling -even more than standing in Dallas by the schoolbook depository- I had staring up at room 306 from only about 40 feet away, wondering how things may have been different had the bullet missed Dr. King.
Okay, enough of the heavy stuff for now, and I doubt that these two visits are going to have me looking for other famous assassination locations to go scout (Ford Theatre, anyone?).
Time to fly…literally!
Stay tuned, St. Louis has nothing to do with a whale’s body parts (see the movie), MLK was the man, and I want a Wally…very much!
This is the original house color, and a rare glimpse of the upper accent color that never was to be. I bet the neighbors had a pool going on how many different colors our house would have on it.
Purely by coincidence, as I write this it happens to be 12 years to the day that the terrorists struck in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania. My heart goes out to all those who still deal with the loss from that day.
My travel agent/paint and decorating specialist/wife just reminded me that I am “wheels up” at 6:35 a.m. tomorrow, so I better be productive today. Charlotte not only is the first race of the Countdown, but also the first of four in a row. That means my face is going to be scarce around the Beckman Ranch for the next month, and I’ve still got plenty on my “to-do” list (I tried starting a “won’t do that” list, but Jenna put an end to that when she showed me her “no more cooking” clause in our contract).
We’ve got a pretty good amount of things accomplished around here, not the least of which is that the house exterior painting is done. I am overjoyed more than you could possibly imagine. After purchasing a couple dozen (!) samples, liberally applying them to various areas around the house, spending numerous hours debating, deliberating, arguing, apologizing, and practicing ambivalence (it wasn’t too hard at that point), we picked our colors, signed the contract, and sat back to enjoy. That enjoyment lasted about two days, until Jenna nearly suffered a nervous breakdown (yes, I am exaggerating…slightly) because the house, accent, and trim colors really didn’t blend as well as expected. So much for all of our research and comparisons!
When Jenna informed me of her dislike for our sizeable investment (did I mention that we spent an extra $800 upgrading to the highest quality paint…and now we weren’t using most of it?), I was in Indy. I briefly considered staying permanently, but I do love and cherish my family… and my half-painted house. I told her just to have the painters stop, and we’d figure it out when I got home. Apparently the cellular connection wasn’t real clear, as she must have heard me say, “Just go ahead and sit down with your mother, choose some different colors, and we’ll be fine.” I lost the debate, we’re out two grand for the additional paint and man-hours, and the house looks great. I guess I still haven’t learned to pick my battles more carefully…
Actually, she did wait until I got back, the colors she picked were fine with me, and I think the improvement is immense. I still wish I had the two grand back, though!
See, I do have an excuse for not seeing our win light. All I could see was dashboard…and fire…and my life flashing before my eyes!
Bruce Tatman is one talented dude! He has drawn some amazing stuff for DSR that gets auctioned during our open house festivities. I think we’ll be auctioning Charger pieces next year!
Speaking of money, Indy was pretty good to the Valvoline/MTS Wounded Warrior team! We got our first “win” of the year (though not an NHRA national event, our Traxxas Shootout win was plenty sweet…and dramatic!)
After barely qualifying to be in the Shootout (since there weren’t seven different winners by the time the Shootout took place, they seeded the car with the most points of the “non-winners” into the field…and that was us). We were to have had three qualifying runs for the US Nats prior to the first round of the Shootout (one was rained out, so we only had two), and we still weren’t in the show when we pulled up to face Capps in round one of the S.O. (the first two rounds also counted as the last two rounds of qualifying). Todd and Terry stepped on it, and it not only got us the round win, but also solidly into the top half of the Indy show! Next round we had to get past the obvious fan (and Traxxas Company) favorite, Courtney Force. Once we did that, old Cruzer was waiting for us in the final, after winning both of his heats on holeshots. Gulp! Our Dodge Charger was flying in the final and I got my right hand on the parachute lever and was just preparing to lift and look for my win light when all hell broke loose. We broke a connecting rod, blew the top off of the motor, and scattered Valvoline and Dodge all over the track in perhaps the most spectacular finish to a specialty race. The trophy is amazing, weighing 42 pounds (that’s what they tell me, it felt more like 142 to me!), the crew was elated to get some bonus money, but it probably cost us money winning that one hundred grand. Still…it’s hard to beat that accomplishment. Oddly, the trophy probably weighs more than any of the remains of the body.
As proud as I was of the guys on Sunday, what we did Monday was even more impressive in my eyes. Jim, Kyle, Chris, Mark, AJ, Mudd, and Chris (under the guidance of Todd and Terry) stripped the car down, examined everything on the chassis, installed a new engine, replaced the burned up hoses, cables, wiring, and controls, and we came out first round and ran the quickest ET of the day! Our near-perfect weekend unfortunately came to an end after smoking the tires against Robert Hight in the final, but we all know that this team is capable of some magic during the remaining part of the season. I’m going to remember Indy 2013 for quite some time, and it’s not all because of what we did on the track…
Everyone on our crew treated Jacob well, including cylinder head guru Kyle Weekley. Keeping in mind that Jacob can’t see (and ain’t exactly slender), talking him into the Funny Car while the body was on it was interesting. I think this picture made it all worthwhile, Kyle!
Those of you who watched the ESPN coverage (all 11 hours worth!) saw my buddy Jacob was once again with us. He is such an inspiration, so positive and witty that you forget he’s blind…and he’s only nine years old (I’ve been telling everyone he’s 10, because apparently Jacob has taken to rounding his age up lately). Having him with us all day Sunday and part of Monday was so special, and I know if you saw his interviews you’re chuckling in agreement right now.
Having my dad there in the winner’s circle also made it a wonderful victory. I’m so glad he’s been able to come to many of my races and get to hold several trophies at the end of the day. I know he’s proud, and it’s nice spending time with him.
Our annual DSR open house was another success, and Don continues to impress me with his large donations to the Riley Children’s hospital in Indy. All of us drivers went over there on the Wednesday before the race to spend some time with the kids. We divided up and headed to different sections of the building, and Antron and I took the pediatric cancer area. It’s near and dear to my heart, and I’m comfortable talking with the patients and their parents. Plus, hanging with Antron is pretty cool, too!
In addition to “paying it forward” with the Riley hospital, we hosted two families through the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS) during qualifying. Jeff Wolf, our PR dude, set the whole thing up and made sure the parents and kids had a memorable day at the races. Jeff was also a star during our Riley visit, acting as a bearded au pair…cool guy.
Being involved with the Chemo: Myths or Facts campaign again this year has been very rewarding, and my other support roles for cancer patients and their families is, though sometimes very tough, nearly always fulfilling.
An interesting additional connection to LLS took place Thursday before the racing action. I did not attend the Hollywood premiere of Snake & Mongoose, the movie, (okay…I wasn’t invited), but I certainly wasn’t going to miss the release at Indy, complete with red carpet. The evening benefitted the LLS, and packed two theatres for the initial showings. I sat between Mark Oswald (1984 FC Champion and current co-crew chief for Antron…there’s yet another connection in this most ingenious blog!) and Alan Reinhart, and I hope no one thinks Alan and I are dating just because we shared popcorn…and the same drink…and held hands…and shared a seat.
For a movie that was shot in 24 days, on a tight budget with limited sets, I was pretty impressed. The old footage was bitchin’, the acting good, and the emotion much more than I ever imagined. Clearly Hollywood took plenty of liberties with characters and timeframes, but that’s to be expected. I really dig Robin Broidy, the producer. She seems very genuine and did a great job with the budget allocated for the film. Definitely worth seeing, even for those not into racing (which probably wouldn’t be anyone reading this blog!).
While at Indy, I stayed at assistant crew chief Terry Snyder’s house. He actually just bought it less than two weeks before the race, and it was a bit of a fixer-upper. I’m totally impressed with his skills with a wood planer, putty knife, and tile saw. I know how many hours he’s in the shop, and I couldn’t believe how much he got done at the house between our test session, the race, and the latest pics I saw from a couple of days ago. He’s half rebuilt his house, and I still have four pallets of masonry block sitting in the back yard…and my garage project is entering its second year! He and I hauled a couple loads from his rental place to the new house (I got to ride his Yamaha R-1…very cool), knocked down some unwanted shelving, and changed out two toilets (And no, I didn’t ruin the old toilets…that’s just a rumor!). Next trip I’ll pack my circular saw, Romex, and pipe wrench.
Today Bose returned the repaired surround sound unit for the RV, so I got that all put back together and reinstalled…and it seems to work! We also have a problem with the home surround sound, and this one may cost us even more. This house was prewired with speakers, plus it had three rooms connected for sound. I added speakers and controls to the loft once it was completed, but none of it works now. Yep, our Costco Panasonic DVD/AM/FM/surround sound (which never had enough power for the factory home speakers) finally kicked the bucket. Truth be told, I think Layla had something to do with it. Our little two-year-old has that “can do” attitude - meaning she thinks she can do anything-, like inserting the 6th DVD into the rack. Problem is…Panasonic designed it to hold five! I completely disassembled the unit, scratched my head, waved a wand and a dead chicken (It was frozen. The chicken, that is…not the wand) over it…all with no luck. We’ll be using a bit of the Traxxas bonus money to purchase a new DVD player, and this time a more powerful amp to power the surround sound system so I can shake the room when drag racing is on TV!
I probably should wrap this up. It’s dinner time, then I have to watch Jenna pack my suitcase for my early morning flight. Then I’ll let her bath and shave me (did that sound funny?), read me a bedtime story and tuck me in. I hope my flannel jammies are comfy!
Stay tuned, America is still the greatest; I dig McEwen, Prudhomme, and Traxxas, and replacing toilets is crappy work!