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!
Being involved in NHRA Mello Yello Racing has always been my passion – according to Toni too much so at times. (Wonder what that was suppose to mean?) Whether I am driving the racecar, driving the rig, working on the car or just analyzing computer graphs I can completely lose myself in every aspect of racing. This has got to be the reason that I have subsequently lost all track of time!
No seriously, you think I am kidding? It seems like we just got back from the Western Swing, already raced Brainerd and here we are sitting in St. Louis getting ready to test for two days before heading to Indy. I can’t believe that it is Indy already and we are getting ready to start another exciting Countdown. Where has this year gone?
Like I said, I am here in St. Louis and we plan on putting as many laps as we can on Allen and Jeg’s Mopar Avengers over the next two days. It will definitely be a challenge with the heat index reaching 100 degrees but the things we learn here should equate nicely to the conditions that will be in Indy. Along with breaking in tires and clutch parts we are also planning to try some new chassis and engine combinations that we have come up with. It is nice to be able to test at a track that we will be racing at during the Countdown as well.
Enjoying time on our boat
Though it seems as if all I do is race and work I really did get to enjoy a few days at home and enjoying our boat. On the spur of a moment we decided to take the boat to National Harbor for a few days. Jamie, Cynthy and the kids joined us for, as Ryan called it, a “sleepover on Pop Pop’s boat”. Grandmom wanted to know why it was never “her boat”! LOL
Anyway, everyone met on the boat; we went to dinner and then sat on the bow and enjoyed one of the most beautiful sunsets I have seen in quite a while. It was so relaxing and the kids were thrilled when their night ended with a beautiful fireworks display. I mean boating and a fireworks display…it doesn’t get much better than that.
The following day we had to take the boat back home so it was anchors away and off we went. The weather was awesome and the river calm and smooth. We took some extra time to explore some of DC by water before finally heading home later in the afternoon. We haven’t gotten to use the boat much this year so it was a nice trip and I was glad that we finally got to take Ryan and Maia for a ride on “Pop pop’s boat”!
The world is certainly a lot simpler through the eyes of a child isn’t it? I had worked around the house all day Sunday and finally walked out on the deck to water our flowers - one more thing to mark off of my list before I left for St. Louis. Ryan and Maia followed me outside and we sat down for a moment to drink our water and watch the boats going up and down the Occoquan River. As we sat there talking about boats, channels, water, tides and even fish with a 4 ¾ year old (that’s important when you are nearing 5 years old!) and a 2 ½ year old I realized that I haven’t felt that relaxed in a long time. Who would have thought that sitting on the deck with the sun slowly setting, a nice cool breeze blowing and sharing views of life through the eyes of a child could be so completely relaxing? The only thing that would have made it any better would have been having Lena May sitting on my lap too. At that moment I decided that life didn’t get much better than that.
Of course my “moment” was short lived. Little ones calmly explain the way of life to you and then it is on to the next big adventure around the house. You know like chasing butterflies, spraying the hose or emptying the small pool with a plastic cup – these things are really important you know! But it was awesome while it lasted.
I have been writing in between runs and things are starting to get a little hectic so I will close this blog and get back to work. As a team we are really excited about going to Indy – though the points in Pro Stock are pretty much set we are extremely optimistic about entering the Countdown with three of the top four cars in contention for the Championship. I know things will get a little crazy as they always do this time of year – that’s what makes this sport so much fun - but whenever Toni tells me I need to chill out I now have a new “go-to place” that will always brings a smile to my face. For those of you that can relate to my little story I hope you are smiling too!