Change is good. Consistency is goodFriday, January 31, 2014

Today's headline sounds self-contradictory, but it's really not. Change is good, in a lot of ways, because if we don't change and adapt we get left behind. Consistency is also good, especially when it comes to a sports team, like say, oh I don't know… Maybe like a FUNNY CAR team? Yeah, that's the ticket.

So as we prepare for next week's Winternationals out in Pomona, we are pleased to present the combination of both change and consistency. First, the changes.

Beginning in just a few days we will make the transition from off-season to in-season. That changes everything.

Additionally, after many years of plodding along with a website that was outdated and outmoded, we launched our newly renovated, rebuilt, and re-engineered TimWilkerson.com yesterday. It's official, and as changes go it was a great one.

It was a long and interesting road to go from "what we have will work okay" to "let's make this something we can all be very proud of and the fans will love" and I've been watching, listening, learning, and providing my own input from Day One. The history of it, in simplified form, went something like this:

At the end of the 2011 season, we had that unique situation where the Phoenix race was run in October (talk about change!) and at that race we ran a cool special edition body promoting the Big Website Makeover program instituted by Levi, Ray & Shoup and their LRS Web Solutions division. It was a neat body, we got a lot of people involved in the process, and in the end a deserving charity got a total facelift on their website. At that point, some mental wheels began spinning.

Last year, at Route 66 Raceway for the Joliet race, we ran another special-edition body, promoting both LRS Web Solutions and the fine folks at DNN, a great Web software firm. The DNN staff work closely with LRS Web Solutions to build the best and most robust foundations for websites, kind of providing a hot-rod engine for the car, if you will. At that point, the mental wheels were spinning pretty fast. Like hot-rod fast...

Not long after that, LRS let us know that they felt like they'd found a really solid candidate for the next big makeover they were going to do, and that candidate was Team Wilkerson Racing. Woo Hoo!

The first step, as you might recall, was having four designers create a total new "look and feel" for our site, kind of like a "Project Runway" version of website design work. Then, you voted. The votes came in fast, and in huge quantities, and the winner, in a landslide, was the design we called "Flames Up". So, at that point we had a vision and a design. All that needed to be done was a a complete rebuild not a lot unlike the total gutting of a house so that it can be reconstructed from the ground floor up to the roof. We knew we'd love the finished project and we'd be proud of it.

I've spent the last few months working with Jamie Baird, who was the Senior Project Manager on this effort at LRS Web Solutions, as well as with Andy Krug, a fine fellow who has been my day-to-day contact and provider of invaluable assistance with our site since the day I joined the team. Our conference calls and "webinar" meetings were really a treat to be a part of, and it only took the first phone call for me to realize that these guys and their colleagues are absolute pros. They're also extraordinarily talented.

Over the last few weeks, we had the site up and running on a hidden URL, so that only we could see it, and that allowed us to test drive it enough to work out the bugs. In website design, there are always bugs. We added here, cut some stuff there, and polished it up until it was ready to meet the world.

To do that, we actually launched the site and had it "go live" earlier this week, but one thing I learned is that when you flip the switch and put it out there, it takes two or three days for the site to actually propagate and get introduced to internet servers all around the world. Had we announced that it was up and running on Tuesday, a lot of people would've gone to see it only to still be staring at the old site. So, we waited a few days and then put out the press release and social media alerts on Thursday. The verdict? Everyone loved it as much as we'd hoped they would.

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It's "live" and it's so well done. Thank you LRS Web Solutions!
Change was good. We needed it. And I (literally) cannot say enough about the team at LRS and LRS Web Solutions. Amazing people.

Consistency is good too. And the biggest change we have at Team Wilk, in terms of the 2014 Mello Yello season compared to last year, is that we have some consistency. I love how those two terms come together as opposites, but still in symphony with each other. Having the same guys on the crew, who now all have a full year under their belts working as a unit and as a team, is the biggest change we have going, and it's a great change to be consistent. I smile when I write this stuff, because it really amuses me that consistency is our biggest change. That's cool.

Travis Wirth posted some shots on his Facebook page the other day, as the guys wrapped up their preseason work and loaded the car into the transporter. Talk about change. For months they've been working in the shop in Springfield, with the race car and transporter jammed into the work space. Now, the big rig is outside and the car is ready to run and strapped down in the trailer. We're ready to go.

I'm flying down to Ontario on Wednesday. We'll finish our set-up on Thursday. On Friday, two qualifying sessions will kick off the year and I can guarantee you that by Friday night it will seem like the season is at full speed and the off-season will be ancient history.

As Geddy Lee sings, in the epic song "Tom Sawyer": Changes aren't permanent. But change is.

It's all good. See you in Pomona!

Wilber, out!


Countdown to PomonaThursday, January 23, 2014

It's almost in sight. It's just around the corner, or just over that next hill, depending on how you view the calendar. Pro qualifying for the Winternationals will begin in exactly 15 days (length of time not a guarantee and subject to time at which each individual visitor reads this blog installment. Reader assumes all risk).

I'm 100 percent ready to get to Pomona and kick off the season, for lots of good reasons. Not the least reason is the ability to breathe actual air. Here in Spokane, we're stuck in what seems to be an endless weather "inversion" which means the clouds don't go away, they just sort of rise into overcast or lower into fog. All of this dense wet air is trapped here, and with each passing day it gets a little dirtier, a little more full of particulates, and a little more difficult to breathe. Right now, if I go outside for even a few minutes, I come back in sounding like a 75-year old with a four-pack per day habit. It's like going to the beach and trying to breathe the sand. Southern California is great, but even the locals will admit it has its own clean-air challenges, so when I say I can't wait to get to SoCal so I can breathe some clean air, you know how tough it is around here…

With all that in mind, and with my desire to hurry up and get to Pomona at a near fever pitch, it's time to not just count the days until the first race of the year, but also to look back at Winternationals past.  And, of course, we'll do that in a rambling style…

There's a photo gallery at the bottom of this blog installment, but sadly it has only one really old pic in it, and that one dates from 1997. The reason for that is this: I actually shot film in 1997, so I still have the print of the old "Throwback Thursday" style photo I included. After that, we shot digital but the first old digital camera actually stored the photos on a disc. I still have stacks of old discs from those days, but I no longer even have a disc reader. Sad but true…

My next two digital cameras used little memory cards. I no longer have any way of looking at stuff on those old memory cards either, short of going up to Walgreens and I have to draw the line somewhere.

Finally, throughout the years with my current Nikon SLR digital camera, my iPhoto library should hold all the photos I've taken, but when of my prior laptops blew up and threw the rods out, I lost a bunch of stuff. So, my iPhoto library only dates back to Norwalk in 2009.  In summary, that's what I've got to work with.

I consider the 1997 Winternationals to be the first season-opener in my own personal "Modern Era".  It was not my first Winternationals, however.

In 1992 I was flown out to Pomona by the NHRA Media Dept., to interview for a manager's position. Denny Darnell, a fine man all around who did many great things for NHRA, was the head of the department then and he had me come to the race to do some press writing and see how it all was done. This was back before the current tower was built behind the starting line, so we worked in that old historic stucco building that was on the right side of the track.

I enjoyed it, and I did what I thought was an okay job, but in the end Denny went with someone else. I regret this not one bit, although it was disappointing at the time. I still had so much to learn, and if I hadn't then instead accepted the job to be the assistant to the guy in New Jersey who represented Chuck Etchells and Mike Dunn, the dominoes wouldn't have fallen in the order they did and I would not be here today. I might instead be living under a bridge as a professional troll.

So, '92 was my first and '93 was my second, but then I went back into soccer for a few years until I returned in '96, working for Whit Bazemore. 1997 is when I joined Del Worsham, and it's been a nonstop straight-line express train ever since then, so I consider that the start of the "real me" in terms of my so-called career.

2009 was my first season with Tim, so that would be "Modern Era - Phase 2". 

For most of all those years, with Del and with Tim, John Fink was my teammate, colleague, and friend. In many ways my best friend. Finkster is a unique character, and something about our personalities matched-up so well we never, absolutely never, got tired of each other. 2011 was the last year John was at the Winternationals with me, because at the end of that season he decided that a million years was enough and he officially retired to spend more time with his wonderful wife Tammy. I do miss John at the races, but I don't blame him at all for slowing down and living a well-deserved life of retired leisure, although he really only knows how to stay busy so it's not like he's on the recliner with his feet up.

2011 was the year of the infamous sleet storm. In my library from that race, in many of the photos it looks like the shots could've been taken in Minneapolis. Everyone is wearing the heaviest jacket they brought, stocking caps, and gloves.

Pomona is unique. Because it's the first race of the year, and even though a lot of teams see each other at testing sessions before they get to Pomona, it's really Opening Day for all of us. We all spend a large amount of time shaking hands, sharing hugs, and saying "Happy New Year" to each other.  With it being in early February, we're probably the only group of people in the country who are walking around then still saying "Happy New Year".

Looking at the pics, I found one from 2012 of Travis Wirth (with Nick Casertano). Travis is world-famous now, after his fantastic close-up during the ESPN "live" portion of the Houston race in 2013, but he was at his rookie race in 2012. Oh so long ago... He looks like a baby. Time flies...

A year later we took a photo of "veteran" Travis with his brother Ryan, who had joined us. Ryan was the new baby, along with Dave Shaff, Nitro Nick Shaff's brother.

In 2011, Brandon Burgess joined us but Brandon Lavely still did the clutch then, so ever since Pomona that year, he's been known as B2, despite the fact he's now the only Brandon on the team.

In 2009, we had Brandon Lavely, Dave Jacobsen, Jon Gimmy, Finkster, and Nitro Nick on the team. They were, collectively, all just slightly "vertically challenged" and if a pick-up game of basketball were to ever break out (fortunately one never did) we would've had to flee.

In 2011, we had Cole Nance and Chase Steele on the squad, and both of those guys are as tall as I am. We should've been out looking for pick-up games. We had some bulk that year.

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1997. Some kid named Worsham. A million years ago.
Chase Steele's middle name is Remington. His mom was a big Pierce Brosnan "Remington Steele" fan. You can't make that up. We all took to calling Chase "Rem Dog" or "Remmy".

Dave Jacobsen is known around these parts as Neighbor Dave, of course. But to his friends back in Minnesota, and to most of his extended family, he's known as Jake. Okay, Alexa and Justin just call him Dad.

Pomona is also where we get to see a lot of "blast from the past" old friends, who find their way to Auto Club Raceway to check in, say hello, and renew acquaintances.  It was great to see Cristen Powell a couple of years ago. Cristen has long been one of my best and favorite friends from the NHRA world, and I keep up with her mountain biking and other fun activities on Facebook. She's a crack-up (and she'll understand that pun, considering some of the wipe-outs she's had on the bicycle).

The Winter Olympics are about to happen, and four years ago (in 2010) they were also about to take place. Since hockey is a Winter Olympic sport, and since NHL players can represent their countries in the games, the NHL takes a hiatus so that the selected players can go. That was going on back in 2010, and back then my buddy Jeff Finger was playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Jeff wasn't in the Olympics, so he was just taking a break during the games and much to my surprise he showed up in Pomona. He's officially retired now, so maybe he and Finkster ought to get together!

Over the years, I've stayed at a motel in San Dimas (a Best Western, possibly), at a Days Inn just off the 10 Freeway near Ontario Airport, at a motel right off the Vineyard exit (by the Denny's and across Vineyard from the In-N-Out everyone knows about there… Is it a Quality Inn? I don't' remember), at the Sheraton right at the Fairplex, at a Residence Inn near the airport, and at the Holiday Inn near ONT. And when I first started as the assistant to the guy in New Jersey, we stayed at the Red Lion on Vineyard, where the post-season banquet used to be.

Speaking of Ontario Airport, when I first started flying to Pomona it was still the old ONT. Open-air gates and baggage claim, you walked through a chain-link fence to go out to your plane and up the steps to get on it. Many of those old buildings are still there, and if your plane taxis just the right way you can see them, down on the far western end of the property. Like seemingly everything back then, the old ONT was right off Vineyard.

The new ONT is far under-utilized, so for travelers that makes it a sweet airport to fly in and out of. There are two big terminals and a lot of unused gates, so just about any time you see an airport in a TV commercial, it's ONT.  All the production companies are out in L.A. and there's tons of empty space for them to take over without inconveniencing anyone, so it gets used a lot. Next time you see a commercial shot in an airport, look to see if the background is overwhelmingly white. That's ONT.

Pomona. Just around the corner. Just over the hill. Just down the road. That's the way the cookie crumbles. Don't run with scissors. Don't go in the water for 30 minutes after you eat. You can breathe the beach. Our backs are up against the wall.  There's no tomorrow. We've got to give it 110 percent. I've officially lost my mind…

Until next time,

Wilber, out!


Evens and startsTuesday, January 14, 2014

Today's headline is in reference to the term "odds and ends" but since I'm a contrary sort, I turned it around. That's just how I roll… It is also a reference to today's theme, of which there is none. I wanted to get something written today, but there's just not enough big news to make a fully themed blog, so we'll just jump right into the rambling stuff…

All of what follows is being written strictly in a stream of consciousness, and the author makes no guarantees about cohesiveness, continuity, or veracity.

Our Levi, Ray & Shoup Shelby Mustang will look, in 2014, just like it did in 2013. Some of the smaller decals may get moved around, and we're always willing to add new logos if anyone wants to join this organization and be our next new partner, but from a conceptual standpoint the car is going to look the same.

Hence, our uniforms will look the same.

I, however, will look approximately one year older.

What's truly best is that our crew is going to look the same, in terms of personnel, and after the initiation we went through last year with "the new guys" that's a very good thing. Ask me what our biggest change and improvement is, over 2013, and I'll tell you it's the fact we don't have to bring so many new guys up to speed. Continuity is good.

I just saw a press release which announced that the DSR car driven by Tommy Johnson Jr. and sponsored by Terry Chandler (Johnny Gray's sister, who is a gem by the way) will be adorned with artwork in support of the Make-A-Wish Foundation. I have one word in response to this: BRAVO!

Pomona, in case you have forgotten, will now be a standard-format event in terms of qualifying. So, two runs on Friday and two on Saturday. I have one word in response to this: YAY!

If you ever wanted to see our Team Wilkerson shop, you could. It would entail being in Springfield, Ill. and it would help if you got off I-55 at Stevenson Drive. From there, you're on your own but I bet you could find it within a minute. Many people do.

My mentor and friend, Phil Burgess, suffered an ankle injury right before Christmas, playing hockey. It apparently hurt a lot at the time but like any good hockey player he tried to gut it out in the hope it was just a sprain or a bruise. Turned out it was broken, and when we were talking on the phone the other day I could tell he's still dealing with it. He has to keep it elevated, so a couple of loyal and kind National Dragster staffers rigged up a small table for him, next to his desk. Here's hoping you continue to make a solid recovery, PB. Hang in there. When it comes to bum ankles, I can certainly empathize.

Speaking of that, many thanks to all of you who have consistently reached out to inquire as to my various maladies, in terms of my knees and ankles as well that pesky pinched nerve and compressed disc in my neck. The very good news is this: After many years (and I mean MANY years) of shuttling from doctor to doctor regarding my knees and ankles, and having various procedures and examinations done only to then receive the widest possible range of diagnoses and treatment plans, all of which worked about as well as leeches or blood letting, the fantastic specialists here in Spokane have finally found success. I am (knock on wood) pain free and inflammation free and have been since before Thanksgiving, when I received a steroid injection in my right ankle. As steroid injections go, it was a bit of a painful one, as you might imagine if you envision a hypodermic needle being stuck into the outside part of your ankle just below the bone. One word: Ouch. Next word: Success! It worked.

Last week I also got another steroid injection into my C7-T1 disc for the pinched nerve, and it hit the spot. With all these steroids, I plan on hitting 72 home runs this year.

Back to the knees and ankles… We've finally hit on some meds that I'll probably be taking for the rest of my life, to help avoid inflammation issues, but since they don't have any discernible side-effects, I'm okay with that. I'm sure this third arm I'm growing is just a coincidence.

But seriously, the combination of the meds and healthier eating is what will keep me off the Disabled List. There are certain foods and drinks that are notorious for causing inflammation in those of us who are susceptible to that sort of painful thing, and avoiding them is paramount. Basically, it's just being healthier, so the routines I've adopted would probably be good for anyone.

First, avoid processed food. If you're going to have a ham sandwich, have a real ham sandwich as opposed to one made out of processed stuff that kinda sorta looks like ham. Also have it on whole grain wheat bread. Same goes for other processed meats and foods.

Eat lean beef when beef is on the menu, and organic grass-fed beef is the best. Stay away from meat, pork, or poultry that is likely to contain hormones or other chemicals. Filet mignon? Not bad. Double Quarter-Pounder? Very bad.

Our turkey this past Thanksgiving was cage-free, organic, and locally raised by a Spokane-area farmer.

Chicken is good, if you stay away from the hormones (of which big chicken producers are notorious) so read the label. Obviously, veggies are good. Most dairy is okay. Beer is bad. Very bad. It's a good thing I've really stopped being much of a beer drinker, but now I'm officially a non-beer drinker, totally. It's the grains and hops in the beer, apparently, that are very much inflammatory, and all of these new microbrews and boutique beers, which are so tasty and popular, are full of that stuff.

White bread? Bad. Multi-grain wheat bread? Good.

Salmon? Very good. Atlantic cod from a fast food joint (breaded, of course)? Bad.

Shellfish? All bad! This only hits me hard in two respects. I love shrimp cocktail and I love crab cakes. See ya later to both. I was never much of a crab legs or lobster guy, so I'm not going to miss that. Remember, don't be shellfish or you'll get a haddock.

Fruit? Generally very good, but again stay away from too much sugar and avoid any canned fruits as if they were poison.

If you could strictly adhere to all of this, you'd be much healthier. I wrote "you" because I'm not going to necessarily avoid all the bad things every hour of every day. You still have to have some joy in life. One of my specialists and I discussed this, and she agreed that a total lifestyle change would be best, but just following these guidelines and generally living healthier is still good. If you do that, and maximize your fresh vegetables (yes, only fresh veggies, not canned peas or Green Giant green beans) and other healthy ingredients, it's not going to kill you (or blow up your knee) to have a pizza one night this week. Exercise earns you a few of those gluttony credits, as well.

I feel great, and the walks around Liberty Lake (as well as the repeated trips to the fitness center at Itron, where Barbara works) have been fun and rewarding. Think there's a chance for a 57-year old submarine relief pitcher to make a comeback?

Joe Castello's fine online radio show, WFO Radio, recently won a fan vote on Competition Plus as the best internet radio show in drag racing. That's an accurate assessment. Joe is great, and so is his show. And that means, by association, that Alan Reinhart is great since he's always on it. But Alan already knew that…

The National Dragster won for best printed publication, in the same fan vote. Again, that's absolutely correct.

Courtney Force won for having the best Twitter feed. True that, but let's not discount Ron Capps in that regard. Ron is prodigious in his tweeting and he's also generally laugh-out-loud funny. They're both great. Maybe it should've been a tie.

There was no category for Best Blogger. Maybe next year… If that happens, I'll prepare my speech to congratulate Fast Jack Beckman for winning.

I currently reside in the great state of Washington, on the far eastern edge right next to the Idaho border. All the way on the other side of the state sits Seattle, where a football team called the Seahawks is based. There's a little bit of buzz regarding that football organization around here, if by "a little bit" you mean complete and utter mania. I'm not necessarily a huge fan of either the Seahawks or the 49ers, but I have a feeling it's going to be a fun game this weekend and I can't help but admit that both Barbara and I are getting a little caught up in the excitement.

I don't really have a deeply held devotion to any NFL team. I follow the Vikings, but it's not like I live or die by what they do. A guy named Bill Bidwill took my old team, the St. Louis Cardinals, and moved them to Phoenix in 1988. They were never exactly world beaters in St. Louis, but they were OUR lovable losers and I did live and die a little with each rare win or frustrating loss. But now they're in Arizona and they're not my team, although I still get nostalgic looking at that wonderful Cardinal logo on their helmets. As a kid, I would sit at the dining room table and draw that Cardinal free hand, for hours, until I got it just right.

The St. Louis Rams? I still think of L.A. whenever I see them, and I have never even stepped foot inside their stadium in the Gateway City.

My buddy Mike Hohler works with the 49ers, as their radio producer, and it's really been cool to follow along via social media when the team plays. Mike does a great job of bringing you along with him on the team plane, at the airports, at the team hotel, and at the stadium, whether it's at home or on the road.

Our new Dyson vacuum cleaner is simply the greatest invention in the history of the world.

I've made a sneaker change, and that's alway big in my life. As you may recall, I've been all over the Reebok Zigs for the last few years, even having a bunch custom made with my name on them. I'm finally off the Zig bandwagon, though, for two reasons. Firstly, the unique "zig" shaped sole leaves obnoxious footprints on the carpet, and that drives me nuts. I really need to wear supportive shoes, even when I'm inside, so that was always a point against the Zigs. Secondly, the folks at Reebok couldn't stop when they had a good thing, and they kept tweaking and updating the style. They lost me…

Now I'm all about Asics. Great shoes, great support, and great style. Plus, they don't leave prints like Buzz Aldrin's moon boots all over the house. All of my Zigs are on their way to Goodwill. Maybe some guy named Wilber or Wilbs will find them and figure it's a complete miracle…

As I write this installment, we are 24 days away from our first qualifying session in 2014. From that point forward, time will go into hyper-drive and we will be back in Pomona ending the season in a blink.

The shoes I used to wear are called Zigs. Here in Spokane, the Gonzaga Bulldogs are called the Zags. No relation.

We are mere days away from the launch of our completely redesigned, rebuilt, and renovated Team Wilk website. I'm thinking another 10 days maybe, or two weeks at the outside. One word to describe how it looks: Fabulous!

I've been working closely with the stupendous people at LRS Web Solutions, and I'm amazed and impressed not only by their technical brilliance, but their vision and artistry as well. They are some REALLY talented people.

And, our new site is not just going to be another pretty face. The features will be fantastic, and in that regard I'm going to focus on multi-media stuff whenever I can. To that end, and to tie-in with the videos we'll have on the site, we have finally joined modern times and launched our official Team Wilkerson YouTube channel. We were the last ones in the world, I think.

You can see our fledgling newborn YouTube channel here.

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In with the Asics. Great shoes!
And if you do visit, the first thing you should do is watch the "Meet Team Wilkerson" video produced by Kari Kieger. One word: Academy Award! Okay that's two words. I should've just said "Oscar".

Buster and Boofus say hello. They're good boyz, although Buster was not amused by a certain book Barbara bought me for Christmas. You'll see that in the gallery.

I'm all registered for my NHRA "hard card" credential, and in the spirit of "Throwback Thursdays" on Facebook, I thought I'd use a photo of me from when I was three years old. That didn't fly. They asked me to add about 54 years to it.

The aforementioned Kari Kieger (cited above as the producer of our first cool video) is the fiancé of Gerald Meux, who works for Hormel and feeds us like royalty whenever he comes to the races. This is what we call a "small world".

I'm heading back to Woodbury for the weekend. Here's hoping these silly temperatures in the 20s and 30s go away and are replaced by more suitable stuff like the -27 icebox they had when Barb was there recently. This is what we call "kidding".

So I guess that's it for this one. Fortunately, the season is almost here and then we'll have far more readily available racing-related content. I'm not sure what kind of content this one featured, but it was a new style of writing and now I'm going to be talking in short clipped sentences for the rest of the day.

See you soon!

Wilber, out!

Twenty fourteen…Tuesday, January 07, 2014

It's 2014, and to me that should be said "twenty fourteen" and not "two thousand and fourteen" but we're all creatures of habit and the "two thousand" thing has really stuck around. It's a hard habit to break!  We can thank the year 2000 for instilling this lengthy wordiness in our vocabularies, because there didn't seem to be any other way to pronounce it, unless you wanted to say "twenty oh oh" and apparently nobody wanted to do that.  Ever since then, the majority of the population has stuck with the "two thousand" vernacular, despite the fact Prince (and the rest of us) never said "tonight we're gonna party like it's one thousand nine hundred and ninety nine". 

I spent my first 44 years on this planet looking forward to 2000, wondering what it was going to be like and assuming it would be very similar to The Jetsons or 2001- A Space Odyssey but it was the mystery of it that was so appealing. 44 years is a long time to wait for something, and now it's 2014. How the heck did that happen?

I guess it was just the relentless march of time.  So now it's 2014 and I believe I've given my intrepid colleagues at NHRA.com enough time off from my nonsense (plus they had the holidays) so it's time to get back to work.

Not much to talk about on the racing front, although there are a few little things going on that demand my attention. Sounds like we're going to get some additional and very valuable help this year from Shelley Williams, who works for LRS and has always come to "the big three" LRS races, in Gainesville, Denver, and St. Louis, to help us out with hospitality. Shelley is going to come to some additional races this year, and it was kind of a collaboration to make that happen. I'm involved by donating as many Delta Sky Miles as we need, so that we can fly her in for free as often as possible. The only trouble with that is the fact Shelley will have to get to St. Louis to catch a Delta flight, but it's really only about a two-hour drive to STL from Springfield, so I hope it's not too big of a hassle for her.  When she has come in to help Annette in the past, it's been a great thing to have her there.

One of my jobs as of late has been a search for some travel bags for the guys, with our TWR logo embroidered on them. Who knew it would be so difficult to find the right size bag, for the right price, and with our logo sewn on. I've scoured all the websites Google pointed me toward, and so far the bags have either been slightly too small, or far too expensive, or the logo would have to be put on by heat transfer (which might last a month or two, the way we treat our luggage).  Tim wanted the guys to have matching stuff, but so far I'm still searching. When the guys who are on the road go off on a long road trip, they practically bring their whole closet with them, so a big soft duffel bag with wheels is what I've been after, and we thought we might have had one but when the sample came the consensus was that it was just a hair too small. The search continues, for the right bag at the right price with the right kind of logo. The search also continues for signs of extraterrestrial intelligence, but that's a whole different issue. Unless, of course, the aliens can provide the right travel bags for me.

Here's something new, that has started to happen as of late. I've done two radio-style interviews recently, for shows that are distributed online via podcasts, and that's been a lot of fun. The first one was with my buddy Joe Castello, on WFO Radio and we did that back on December 17. You know Joe, he's one of our PA announcers on the tour, and that ties in to the fact he has Alan Reinhart on every show they do. Alan is fantastic and the two of them consistently have great conversations about all things NHRA.

On an earlier show, they got to talking about me when baseball came up, and lo and behold (and much to my amusement) Joe started getting emails asking for me to be a guest on the show. We had a lot of fun doing it, although it's LONG interview (hey, we were having too much fun to stop), and if you want to hear it just go here:


Alan is the first guest, and I'm the final guest. My segment starts when there's about 43 minutes left in the show.  It was fun, and many thanks to Joe for having me on!

After not having done too many radio interviews in the last few decades, now I'm on a roll and I did another long one today, on a podcast show called "Who Are You - The Life Lessons of Sports"   This one won't be on for a few weeks, so I'll keep you posted. Considering almost all of my life lessons have been related to sports, I had a lot to talk about, that's for sure.  I think we were on the phone for an hour today, because every story seemed to spawn another, and another, and another and because the host, Rob Elwood, is a great interviewer. Plus, I'm long-winded. You find that hard to believe, right?

Here on the home front, my sister Mary sent me a fantastic Christmas present, and it's really a keepsake. She has been the keeper of all of our parents' old memorabilia and artifacts, and within that collection were all of my dad's love letters to my mom, when he was in the service during World War II (based in San Antonio) and she was Miss Air Force at the same base. That's where they met and started dating, and the letters in this collection range from the early days of just getting to know each other right up until 1946, after the war. That was my dad's first spring training with the Cardinals, and it's pretty cool to see his handwritten letters on stationary from the Cardinals' spring headquarters and The Bainbridge hotel in St. Petersburg.

What's also cool is that he didn't just address the envelopes and send them out. He would either adorn them with cartoon artwork himself, or find other soldiers or ballplayers who were great artists and have them do the artwork. There's some incredible stuff in the collection, and Mary painstakingly made copies of all of it for me. I took the copies up the FedEx Office store here and had it all bound and covered. It's a trip back in time, and really cool. Thanks Mares!

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Not just your run-of-the-mill envelope. What a treasure trove of Wilber history...

Barbara and I had a great time back in Woodbury, for New Year's Eve, and it was so wonderful to spend the evening with all of our great friends there. We came back on January 2, but Barb had to fly back there a couple of days ago and she'll be home to Spokane tonight. She sure timed that right, with the weather they've been having. I think it hit -27 one night, and it just today got back into the plus range above zero, so in effect almost her entire trip there has been below zero, and the wind chill numbers have been mind blowing, with it feeling more like 50-below some nights.  Wow.  Here in Spokane, it's our typical 29 to 33 degrees every day. With it all being relative, Barb just called to tell me it was 7-above today, and she barely felt like wearing a coat.

Another cool thing is photo related. I hadn't been on eBay for a long time, but for some reason I thought I'd check it out a few days ago, to see if anything new was listed under the heading of Del Wilber. You have to plow through pages of baseball cards, but then I found an original negative from the 60s, when he was the Twins' top scout and also the manager of their Fall Instructional League team, so he's in his Twins uniform. It's a cool old shot I'd never seen before, and although it's not the exact same Twins jersey I have framed in my office, it's just like it and it kind of makes the one I have here "come to life" in the frame, because now I have photo of Big Del wearing the same thing.  It's been shipped, and once I get it I'm going to have to reach out to my friends Dave Kommel and Richard Shute, at Auto Imagery, because they can still print photos from 4x5 negatives, a process which used to be as common as printing a newspaper, but now there are just a few labs still doing it. Can't wait to get the print!

I guess that's about it. Oh, I did just finish a great book and I can recommend it to all my male readers (it's definitely a "guy book" in every sense).  It's Billy Crystal's new autobiographical book entitled Still Foolin' Em and the title sounds like something I could keep as a motto.  It's a fantastic book, and it's as funny as you'd imagine while also being very reflective and thoughtful. Billy is in his mid-sixties now, and the book clearly was prompted by the fact he's in the last segment of life, and he's so perfectly able to tell stories about his youth, his career, and now his later years. Good stuff, and not only did Barbara give me the book for Christmas, she also got it autographed by Billy himself, when she went to see his show on Broadway on a recent trip to New York. That's just how my incredible wife rolls. Not just a nice book as a great present, but Billy Crystal's autograph too!  Oh yeah.

Okay, that really is it for today. Welcome to twenty fourteen, and let's get ready to go racing. How ready? I've already booked my flights for the first three events, so if money is being spent then it's getting close. Like, pretty much one month from today we'll all be in Pomona. I can almost smell the nitro!

Wilber, out!

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