18th … but not for long!Thursday, February 19, 2015
Posted by: Jack Beckman, Infinite Hero Dodge
Layla thinks I’m “#1”, Jason is giving me the thumbs-up, and I’ve got trash cans and plywood shielding the draining oil from the Norco winds…that’s a good day!
Friday night of the Winters I was part of the panel emceed by my good friend Bob Frey, who came to town to host the Dale Armstrong memorial. Dixon, TJ, JR, and Erica also were panelists. The NHRA Museum does this every Friday of the national events. If you haven’t attended, you need to!
Here’s the tribute to one of the best men to be involved in our sport, the great Dale Armstrong. It was awesome to see how many people showed up for Dale’s “celebration of life.”
At the end of this rainbow is the garage that COST me a pot of gold!

Yes, after a “less than illustrious” Winternationals debut for our new 2015 Dodge Charger, our Infinite Hero team didn’t take a moment to feel sorry for ourselves, blame the weather, or look for excuses. We got right to work, booked a test session two days later in Phoenix, and got motivated to fix whatever ailed us, so we can get to winning. Yeah…18th place sucks!

You know what else sucks? Well, apparently my discretion about vehicle maintenance. Without getting into ALL the boring details, I do all the service work on my RV myself. Yep, that includes two huge oil filters, 36 quarts of 15W40, and every other assorted filter (there are LOTS of them). That is, all but one. See, this one fuel filter (there are two for engine fuel, plus one for the generator and one for the water heater system) has been nothing but a pain in the rear. When I had originally ordered all the replacement filters online for last years’ service, the unit they sent me would not work, so I reinstalled the original. I’ve since had it off three additional times to try and get a suitable replacement, but never had any luck. Each time I reinstalled it, I would re-prime the fuel system (you DO NOT want to run out of fuel in a diesel…nightmares will ensue…be warned!). I’d never had a problem…until 10am this morning.

You see, last night the appropriate filter arrived in the mail, and, against all good judgment, I just HAD to install the new unit before our trip to Phoenix. My logic was infallible; I’d performed this procedure three times in the past, plus two more with the other filter, and NEVER had an issue. Maybe that’s because it wasn’t on the day of departure. So, after I lubed the O-rings, I attempted to install the new unit. After several failed attempts, including removing the O-ring and making sure the threads were all clean, I finally had to reuse the old O-ring, which had enough “crush” in it to ensure being able to start the threads. I should have known!

At this point I also noticed that one of the “check valve” mounting legs (they’re very, very thin metal) was cracked, which may have happened when I screwed the unit on without the O-ring, or maybe God was just mad at me today? I did what I thought was the prudent thing, and decided to ignore it, got everything buttoned up, primed, and fired the RV. About the time I got done patting my back, giving myself high-fives, and taking selfies with the old filter, the rig shut off. I knew this wasn’t good! Yep, vapor-lock in a diesel is nearly a death sentence.

Let me just give a synopsis of the next three hours, which including bringing neighbor Matt, who is a great diesel mechanic over, jury-rigging the check valve three different ways, and running the batteries down trying to crank it over and purge the air out of the system, I decided to take my “hail-Mary” shot: go back to the old filter and O-rings, spin counter-clockwise four times whilst chanting a Hindu poem, and putting my shoes on the wrong feet. That did the trick! (I’m pretty sure the poem and shoe thing didn’t have much to do with it, though). And, there is a custom-made sheet metal shim to hold the check valve in the correct location…fingers crossed!

Yeah, I have ZERO clue what’s up, other than perhaps the filter just wasn’t seating well enough to allow it to fully prime and bleed the air out, but it made for a very frustrating waste of three hours (not to mention the 30 bucks for the filter!).

Anyway, I didn’t want to procrastinate again on the blog, and I so appreciate you guys sticking with me, so I figured I’d let you immerse yourselves in my misery and feel a bit better about your day!

I mentioned we tested in Phoenix. We made four runs, the first three of which I lifted at half-track. There really was no reason to leg the car out to 1000’, as our problems in Pomona were right after the launch. It appears that whatever Jimmy, John, Chris, Chris, Ryan, Alex, Joe, Sam, Matt and Nathan did worked…and I don’t think it was a Hindu chant!

We ran 4.09, 4.12, 4.12, and a 900’ shutoff 4.05 to close the day. The first three runs were between a 3.98 and 4.05, and the last one was a 4.03, so I believe we have every reason to be optimistic going into race #2. And, if things aren’t going well, I’ll just tell the guys to put the old fuel filter back on…works every time! Or, I can make a custom shim with some tinsnips and old roof flashing material!

I mentioned that I do all the work that I can on the RV, as well as around the house. Frugal would be a euphemistic way of referring to my “cheapness”, and I’m comfortable with that. I just can’t see spending money when I don’t need to, especially now that I’m married!

In fact, with me doing the labor and NAPA helping out with most of the filters this year (they don’t carry the cursed “Raycor S 3230P”), I probably saved myself around $200. Just when I was thinking I’d put aside nearly enough to purchase a new surf wetsuit (every other year, I take advantage of the Body Glove 30% off sale…like free money!), Jenna calls and has the RV carpets and tile cleaned. Yep, there’s $125 out of my sea outfit!

So, I get real creative to secure the rest of my necessary funds: It was going to cost $400 to have the diamond patterns cut in the new concrete driveway, or I could rent a big saw for about $125 and do it myself. Option three, the least expensive, was to plunk down $75 for a trolley to mount my skilsaw on, and have a go. I went with option four, which consisted of $5 worth of closet door rollers, some scrap ½” angle, and some more fun on my welder creating my own trolley. Throw in $30 for the concrete blade (I did purchase the best version…I’m not cheap on EVERYTHING!)

Here’s some father-son bonding with my 77-year old pops. There’s nothing clean about concrete dust, but our low-dollar system worked just fine!

My first cut was very difficult, as the concrete dust instantly obscured my chalk line. I resumed work on it when Super Comp racer Glenn Kern (the MacGyver of the sportsman racers) was over before the Winters. He grabbed my leaf blower and blew away the dust, making it much easier. I resumed my cutting the day after Pomona, and this time my dad did the honors (he had to work off his room and board before heading back to Texas). We got better than halfway through, and part three consisted of buddy Jim Campbell on the blower. Yes, it doesn’t pay to know me when there’s a project that needs to be completed, but “I got by with a little help from my friends!”

So; it appears the RV is running, I’ve washed and waxed it (that was real fun, but look at all the money I’m saving!), the PT is reasonably clean and ready to tow behind (I even tried waxing the PT, but after about 10 minutes I realized it was bit like spraying air freshener on a dog poop-it probably does something, but it certainly isn’t worth the effort!), and I splurged and bought a winter AND spring wetsuit! Yes, please don’t tell Jenna, or she’ll think it’s open season on the American Express again, but I really enjoyed getting wet the last few times, and the old suit was due to be retired.

Okay, I’m getting the sign that it’s time to roll for Phoenix.

Stay tuned, keep your chalk lines straight and your fuel system primed, and 36 quarts equal 9 gallons!

I can’t wait!Wednesday, February 04, 2015
Posted by: Jack Beckman, Infinite Hero Dodge

Being a resident of Southern California, I’ve always looked forward to the Winternationals. As a kid, I can remember waking up Sunday morning at 5am, folding and bagging newspapers on the front porch with my brother Ted, loading them into the back of our ’69 Blazer, and sitting on the tailgate while our dad drove up and down each street of our four paper routes until the last one was delivered. Then it was on to IHOP for some “Pigs in the Blanket,” and hit the 210 Freeway for the 50 mile drive to Pomona. Great memories… and something that I always looked forward to.

The new coin looks great, but what it represents is help and hope for so many who deserve our support. I sure hope all of you will be onboard with this program and make a difference for our troops and their families.
What a fun time with Dave and his great production crew! I didn’t realize that my big head blocked out most of his last name…oops!
In my right hand is a defective thermistor. In my left hand there sits $30 and six hours of hard labor. Surrounding me is a black hole that sucks money and life-force out of whoever is listed on the title!
With the Riley Girls and the Racing Boys at the charity bowling event. I’m not saying Eddie Krawiec’s facial hair grows fast, but I swear he was clean-shaven when he started game 1!
Jason’s played enough video games that, he assured me, if the gentleman in the right seat would’ve yielded the cockpit, he was at least 35% sure he could get us off the ground in one piece.
There it is in all its glory. Yep, 4 years of headache, permits, agony, surveys, stress, new deeds, and cash, but it’s finally finished, and now I can…
…put my old race car inside and watch it collect dust!

That being said, I may be more excited about the 2015 edition (the 55th annual) of the Winters than any before. After a disappointing 2014, I’m even more motivated to end my winless streak, and I think everything is in place to do that.

Our Florida test session was, err…”tricky.” We tried several combinations with varying degrees of success and eventually went back to the clutch combo that we ran in Pomona last year. All of the Funny Cars really struggled to consistently get down the track, so I’m more than happy with our last two passes, a 4.03 and 4.00, both over 321 mph. You never know how testing will carry over to actual racing conditions, but I have every reason to feel very optimistic.

The best part of testing was when Don (Schumacher) showed up Friday afternoon. After his radiation treatment, he got on a plane and headed over to spend time with all of his teams. I was very pleasantly surprised, and I really hope things go well enough that maybe he can come see us at the first two races. That being said, his long-term health is really the important thing.

With Infinite Hero on board all season, raising money to help our wounded veterans is priority one for me. Last year I carried the military-style “challenge coins” with me every run starting at Houston, and we far exceeded my most optimistic predictions. You, the NHRA fans, bought roughly 700 coins and helped raise more than $70,000, just in that ONE aspect of fundraising!

For 2015, we have a new style coin and will continue the program. Every time I go down the track I will have 10 coins with me, meaning each run has the potential of raising $1,000 to benefit our heroes. Not only will you guys be able to do this in person at each event, but it can also be done online (Infinitehero.org) if that’s more convenient.

I taped an episode of the Dave Despain show today up in Rancho Cucamonga (funny sounding, but nice town). It’s great to see drag racing getting so much mainstream coverage, and I had a great time. The entire half hour show is just Dave and me, and he’s doing it with several other NHRA stars.

Because I was so remiss in staying up with my blog, I promised on my last entry that I would try to catch you guys up on some of my activities…so here goes:

Perhaps my most enjoyable speaking engagement so far came during the Finals last year when I was chosen to emcee an event for the NHRA Motorsports Museum, specifically the opening of an awesome new display there. As well as hosting the event, I got to direct questions to an all-star panel that included Dave McClelland (one of the voices of NHRA’s past, an incredible emcee, and just a bitchin’ all-around dude), Tommy Ivo, Tom McEwen, Ed McCulloch, Shirley Muldowney, and Don Garlits. Seriously, they let ME emcee! I was so honored, humbled, and tickled to be in the same room with all those folks, plus many other legends like Art Chrisman, Craig Breedlove, Jerry Ruth, and many others.

I continue to work on the RV…like it or not (I choose, “not”). The convection/ microwave went out, and it’s not an inexpensive unit. I knew how to fix it, but my fix involved 3 gallons of gasoline, a lit match, and a long walk home. Jenna took the high road, went on the internet, and suggested that perhaps the thermistor (basically an over-temp circuit breaker) had given up the ghost. The bad news is that, by the time I figured out how to dismount the unit from under the counter, disassemble it, locate, test, order and replace the part (she was right), then reassemble and reinstall it, it took a long time. The good news is that I didn’t have to waste 3 gallons of gas!

We got the bodywork done in the off-season from our blowout coming home from Sonoma. It turned out fine, except they forgot to replace the mud flap that now lies somewhere up on I-5. Had Dave at the RV place not provided me with the materials to make a new unit, I was really tempted to dig out my gas jug and lighter. The good news is that the new unit looks just peachy, the bad news is that by the time I made a template of the unit on the other side, jig-sawed out the rough part, ground it down to size, smoothed all the edges, then mounted it, I was 4 hours older and no wiser.

I flew out to Indy during our downtime to participate in the DSR Riley Children’s hospital bowling fundraiser, which packed the local alley with supporters. We also poured a new seat insert while I was there, and I got to attend our yearly Christmas party.

Jason and I flew out to Denver to see our first ever professional football game. My pal, former Top Fuel racer Ray Stutz moved out there to get his body tattooed blue and orange and stalk the team…he’s THAT hardcore! It was a fun adventure, but cold. Jason and I were surprised on both ends of the journey by the Southwest pilots. Seems my good buddy, Captain Jeff Kilponen (a 737 jockey), had found out my flight plans, got ahold of his cohorts, and arranged some neat stuff for my little man. We got to get some photos in the cockpit on the outbound leg, and Jason got some cool Southwest apparel on the return portion.

I guess I took some flack on Facebook for wearing the Bronco colors during the game, but when Ray told me not to bring any heavy clothing, I didn’t know he was going to dress me up to look like I’d robbed every item from their merchandise outlet!

Jenna’s grandpa, Bill, flew out again for Christmas this year. We took him all over, including the Reagan Library, and we again went to watch some of the Rose Parade floats being assembled. Jason and Layla even got to glue on a couple of seeds and flowers, so of course we had to watch the parade to see “their floats.” I’m no dummy though: I DVR’d it so I could condense it into 10 minutes of marching!

Once the concrete was cured in the backyard (I don’t mean it had a disease, I was referring to the drying process), Jenna demanded four-foot diamond pattern relief cuts to match the rest of the driveway. When my new pal, Al…the concrete guy, told me it would run about $400 for the saw and labor to cut the pattern, I explained that I wanted a diamond “shape,” not to purchase a diamond. I decided to buy a roller trolley for my skilsaw, a concrete blade, and some plastic kneepads (which should also come in handy when I’m on my knees praying that the motorhome doesn’t break again) and give it a go with my trusty chalk line and loads of ambition. Then I found out the trolley cost $70…for something that will get used once. Plan B (no, not the one with the gasoline and matches…that’s plan C) involved the purchase of five bucks worth of closet door rollers, welding together some scrap ½” channel, and giving that a shot. With the help of friend and Nor Cal Super Comp racer Glenn Kern, I’ve already cut about 1/4 of the lines, and they don’t look too bad. Glenn had brought his RV overnight after he dumped his trailer in the holding lot at Pomona, and I figured it was a great chance to get a hand on some projects. Clever as Glenn is, he came up with using a leaf blower to keep the concrete dust from obstructing my chalk line…and it worked like a charm!

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Dylan Horridge is a gentleman and let Jason sit in his car right before going up for an elimination round. Great kid(s)!
Never one to pass up an opportunity, having Glenn around seemed the right time to offload all of the excess masonry block from the past 3 ½ years of wall building around Beckman Manor. Never one to wince at loading any amount of tonnage in the old Nissan, I about peed myself once I saw how much my brand new Hemi Ram was squatting with all that weight. Glenn and I cruised at 45 all the way to the block company to offload an enormous eyesore (the blocks, not Glenn). That’s one more thing crossed off the list!

I’ve got to spend plenty of time (for me) surfing, and I even went out one morning with Jeff Diehl (FC racer…the “Surfer”). We’re hoping to hook up again when it’s a little bigger. Jeff goes out on 25 foot waves, Jack’s limit is about 8 ½!

I spent several hours this past weekend at Auto Club Dragway in Fontana, a mere 20 minutes down the road from Pomona. Brent and Staci Cannon run the SCEDA events, and the place was pretty packed. I took Jason so he could have a close up look at the Jr. Dragster, and that may have been a huge mistake on my part…he really seemed to like them!

Del Worsham was there with his daughters, TAFC racer Doug Gordon…ditto, and Robert Hight had Autumn entered in her first eliminations ever. Even John Force showed up, and it was great to be around all the sportsman racers again.

By the time you read this I will have already parked the RV in the pits at Pomona (complete with jug of gas and lighter…just in case!), taken care of the NHRA media day at the track, and gotten in another radio interview. Thursday I’ll pick my dad up at the airport, attend the Dale Armstrong memorial at the track (Bob Frey is coming out to emcee the event for one of my all-time favorite drag racers), and go hang out with a bunch of the legends of Top Gas during our twice-a-year AA/GD spaghetti dinner. That room is packed with hitters, and Brent and Staci have done a phenomenal job of coordinating each of these events.

Friday we’ll officially begin the year, host a press conference to formally announce the Infinite Hero Foundation program, and hopefully start collecting points.

I shall also be writing a daily blog for the Inland Empire newspaper, with four entries, beginning on Friday morning. I’d really love to finish the series with a report from the winner’s circle!

Stay tuned, love your motorhome, don’t overload your pickup, and I sure do miss Pigs in the Blanket at IHOP!

Posted by: Jack Beckman, Infinite Hero Dodge
Once the season ended, there were only two places where I was going to cheat on my “no gluten” diet. IHOP, and Bob’s Big Boy. Grandpa Bob and the kids pose next to Cowboy Bob (Norco mandated the cowboy hat before issuing a building permit!) Jason has the pose down pat!

No excuses….I’ve been horrible about getting on the computer, and writing a blog entails sitting in front of the screen for at least two hours, sometimes more. It’s not that I haven’t wanted to update you all on my goings-on, nor have I been avoiding writing because of struggling on the racing front. Nope, it really boils down to just keeping real busy with projects, and doing a great job of procrastinating on staying in touch. I shall endeavor to improve significantly in that regard for this New Year, and I hope all of us enjoy much success and satisfaction.

I actually sat down several days ago to attempt this blog, but my left pinky wouldn’t cooperate. Sure, if you asked my finger, it may say the guilt rests with the right hand, for allowing the grinder to get ahold of the glove, then tear through and remove most of the pad of the finger, prints and all. Anyway, it made it incredibly hard to type (it still is pretty sensitive, even bandaged), but tonight it’s time.

Perhaps one of the motivating factors for me is that I board an airplane tomorrow, first thing, to head out to Florida for testing. If you know me, I’m most prolific on the keyboard the night before heading to a race. I feel terrible for making you guys wait this long, and I didn’t want to stretch it another week.

To attempt to give a synopsis of most of my activities for the past couple of months (with only about an hour before I need to wrap this up) would be futile, so I will try my best to crank out another entry in the near future to highlight some of my off-season undertakings.

I’m very satisfied with the amount of progress around the house in the past two months. We got all the concrete poured, the last wall built, and as soon as I get back from Florida and finish grading the yard, the back is DONE! Well, we still will be doing sprinklers and planting, but, compared to what needed to be done, all the “heavy lifting” is over. I managed to stretch my “garage project” out to four years, but I think it will all be worth it. I’ve recently seen work surfaces and floor areas in the main garage that weren’t visible for years…so I know I’m getting close!

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Robert Scherer does pipeline work, and also crews on Bob Bode’s car and a nostalgia funny car. He made the mistake of offering to help me…so here he displays his tractor skills while I do the hard work….photography! Here we’ve finished digging the footing for the last wall.
Jason and Layla are doing wonderful. He has skipped second, moving into third grade, and is doing very well in school. He’s still taking piano lessons, and soon will start his baseball season. Layla FINALLY relented to our pressure to toilet-train, and is making great strides in directing her “#1” where it needs to go. I’m not even going to talk about the “# 2’s”, but we’re optimistic!

I really want to thank everyone who stuck with me last year throughout the difficult season. Only one of the guys, Chris Spall, is staying on my team for this year. Jimmy (Prock) and John (Medlen) brought most of their guys over to DSR to work on our Infinite Hero Charger for 2015. That’s very standard in our industry, as the crew chief is tasked with hiring all the individuals on the team. Hence, there is great loyalty to (and from) the crew chief. Fortunately, all of my former crew have found jobs, and all but one of them stayed at DSR. It’ll be nice knowing that I will still see most of them at each race, and I hope all are extremely successful this year…they deserve it!

Marla and Sterling moved over to Spencer’s car, Bill and Jeff will be on Matt’s car, Terry is handling many shop projects, and Rich is handling show-car logistics. Chris Cunningham will stay and assist Prock and Medlen in the tuning.

Like entering a new grade and having to learn all your classmates names, it’ll take me a few days into testing before I figure out who is who, but I’m looking forward to getting to know all of the crew and doing everything in our power to have a world-championship year.

On Christmas Day, the kids warmed by the fireplace. When you live in California, sometimes you’ve got to improvise!

To say that I am grateful to Terry Chandler would be a huge understatement. Terry, who completely funds the Make-A-Wish car, really wanted to do more to support the Infinite Hero Foundation for 2015. She and Don Schumacher funded the car for the six races we ran it last year, and Terry stepped way up this year to do some wonderful things to help our injured heroes. We will again be doing the military-style challenge coins every run in 2015, continuing what was an amazingly successful fundraiser last year. We have a new design this year, so keep an eye on us. Remember, every dollar we raise goes directly to the cause….NOT ONE DIME funds the racecar…Terry took care of that!

The one person I will most miss seeing during testing is Don,who will miss at least the first two races this year as he recovers from his cancer. Don had surgery in December and, because the cancer was detected fairly early, will not be facing chemotherapy. He will do six weeks of radiation, which will drastically reduce his ability to travel (he will need to remain near the clinic for his daily treatments). Don is as tough a person as there is, and I’m sure he will come through this just fine, but I don’t envy anyone enduring radiation to their throat. Please keep Don and Sarah in your thoughts while they deal with these difficult times.

I know this is a short entry, and I hope you guys don’t feel cheated, especially after having to wait so long. But, like I said earlier, I really needed to get something written so the police don’t fill out a missing person’s report on me. Next blog I’ll try to fill in some of the details on what’s been occupying my time.

Stay tuned…I will!

The Master of Procrastination returnsWednesday, October 29, 2014
Posted by: Jack Beckman, Infinite Hero Dodge
It takes me about two hours to install an engine, my crew can do it in less than 10 minutes, but these guys on the Ram assembly line took the cake: 48 seconds!
Wow…talk about “firepower”. There were a lot of commendation medals at the Sky Ball event, none more significant than the ones around the necks of the heroes on either side of me. What an absolute honor.

Oops…sorry! Boy, the time can just fly by when racking up frequent flyer miles, watching the two little ones tear the house apart, and tackling the never-ending home improvement list during my “down time”. Speaking of “down” time, there really hasn’t been much good to report on as far as our efforts on the race track, but I shall endeavor to remain optimistic. There are some changes coming down the pike, and I feel like this could be great news for our team.

If you read National Dragster, I recently wrote an On the Run entry detailing a couple of things I’ve done lately. I participated in a tour of the facility that built my Ram truck (adjacent to Detroit, in Warren, Mich.), and it was quite an eye-opener to see how many (1172) trucks can be cranked out in a single day! At a pace of one every 48 seconds, that assembly line is one busy place. This is the same plant that has been building Dodge Trucks since 1938, and the original conveyor is still in use, supplemented by the 1957 addition and some modern upgrades. The entire plant encompasses four and a half million square feet of space…all just to make my little old silver 1500 and put a smile on Jack’s face!

I just returned from Dallas, where I attended the annual Sky Ball, an event sponsored by American Airlines to support our military. I was a guest of Infinite Hero, as we donated $200,000 towards helping soldiers with traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress get the treatment they need. Gary Sinise (Lt. Dan from Forrest Gump) is a huge military supporter, building homes for those who have lost their mobility, and his band played. There were multiple Medal of Honor recipients in attendance, and I got to meet three of them. I spoke with one, Mike Thornton, about a mutual friend of ours. Jon Caviani, a huge race fan, great guy, and MOH recipient passed away in July and will be sorely missed.

Recently I spent two days at Oakley Headquarters at a symposium for the Infinite Hero Foundation. I listened to fascinating presentations from doctors, counselors, workers, and injured soldiers on how we can best help those who gave so much. Laurie Baker, the IH director, does such a phenomenal job networking so many disparate fields and personnel in an effort to maximize the results from the grants awarded to fund rehabilitation…she certainly is the right person for the job.

All of this has reinforced my belief in what we, the NHRA family, can do to help. Our Challenge Coin program has raised more than $50,000 so far to assist the injured, and I intend to continue putting as much effort as possible into raising awareness. For those of you who can’t attend a race, there still are two ways to purchase these coins, all of which have been down the racetrack in my car. First, you can go to shoeracing.com, where I number 5 coins from each race and package them with an Infinite Hero shirt, or you can go directly to infiniterhero.org and click on the link. I’d love to finish off strong this year and really show how loyal drag racers are to our soldiers!

Jason wanted to look cool for a photo, and how could he not….standing next to my new 6’8” beauty. I’m hoping that sharks are repelled by this version of the Christmas Tree.
While Alan and Sully work away, I did my best to stay out of the dirt…that stuff gets in my shoes!
16 horsepower in under 2 hours? Sign me up! Plus, I love not having to throw a filter away whenever it’s time for service. So: Sounds great…check! Preserves the environment…you bet!
Working on the PT feels a bit like investing in braces for your 97-year old aunt, but sometimes you just have to take one for the team!
I told you they were normal-looking people. Bill and Cathy allowed me to go “outside the box” and try a vocation that would certainly be outside of my comfort zone…that of a minister! Yes, the Faster Pastor may now have the confidence to try culinary experimentation, marriage counseling, cross-dressing and…oh, you get the joke!
They may be able to survive in rugged terrain for weeks, but I’ve gone 333 mph!
 NHRA Museum curator Greg Sharp, Cliff Bedwell, me with my glow-in-the-dark shirt, and Ray Lake, who recreated the famed Cook and Bedwell “blue car”.
While Jason ponders the meaning of life, Layla is exuberant about her sparkling shoes, frilly tutu, and complimentary drool bib!
Finding myself with 2 hours to kill in Detroit, I ventured over to the Henry Ford Museum. I’d like to go back when I have about 5 hours to enjoy it, as it has so many eclectic displays. Of all the awesome vehicles in there, I chose to send in a picture of the Hot Dog Car from Oscar Mayer … where’s my head?

I finally got my new surfboard wet! Greg Larson, a drag fan I met at the races, helped design it and had his buddy at Harbor Isle Surfboards make it. It’s basically a copy of the Valvoline championship board that I broke in half, but Greg did some cool old-school graphics for me.

We will be departing in a few hours in the RV for Vegas, and I hope there are no “motorhome surprises” in store for us this time. Lately, every trip we make is accompanied by a short cleanup around the washer/dryer area, as for some reason water keeps leaking out. The reason this makes no sense to me is that we haven’t used either one for nearly two years! So…I got out the tools, figured out how to split the duo (they are stacked), tested my vertebrae strength in squeezing them out into the hallway space, then went to work diagnosing the issue. I’m not sure that I found anything really obvious, but I will tell you that I employed pry bars, moving blankets, a jigsaw, some ¾” plywood, plenty of silicon, (and of course the drill and plenty of screws), as well as some beefy construction brackets. If all that fails, I’m just buying a big beach towel, laying it in the hallway before each trip, and calling it “done”!

Ironically, shortly after that our home washer malfunctioned, but this time Jenna decided SHE was in charge. If memory serves me, I think she was miffed at me for something (go figure!), so the “communication” wasn’t real clear. Anyway, she got out the manual, saw the fault code was to do with “not draining”, and that’s when I saw her, lying across the top of the machine, head wedged down behind it, muttering something under her breath. Fortunately I was able to ‘talk her down from the ledge’ and take over. As it turns out, and as crazy as this may sound, a token from the Discovery Science Center is EXACTLY the same diameter as the drain tube, and Murphy’s Law ensured that it made it from Jason’s pocket, clear down the drain pipe, and wedged perfectly so as to block all water flow!  So, with surgical precision (and with the help of a “tooth-held” flashlight, a ¼” blade, six-inch screwdriver, and a pair of long-handled, duck-billed pliers) I was able to extract the offending coin and save the day. Let’s just hope I’m “2-for-2” on the washers!

We’ve pretty much got the grading done in the backyard…at least the portion that will be the driveway for the new garage. I still need to rent a mini-excavator and dig the footing for (what I hope will be) the last wall, as well as a perimeter ‘walkway’ that the architect (wife) ordered. Sully and his guys also took out another 3 end dumps (picture a semi-truck with a long trailer that holds dirt) out of the yard. I think that totals around 15; enough dirt to fill in about 5 swimming pools! Damn…I shouldn’t have mentioned “swimming pool” around Jenna!

I got my K&N Air Charger installed on the Ram truck, and it sounds bitchin’. The only problem is, despite the fact that it should boost mileage, it sounds so damn good that it’s hard NOT to roll into the throttle! I also decided to change the plugs on the PT Cruiser, probably out of guilt. I think it’s been 70,000 miles since I last did it, but I remembered that it was no picnic, so I procrastinated. Yeah, you have to pull the intake manifold upper-half off, and that’s a $40 gasket kit! Then, when I got to the last plug, I noticed the spark plug tube (it’s basically a hemi-style plug arrangement, with the access tubes going straight down through the valve cover) was full of oil. So…THAT was another gasket kit, lots of time disassembling, cleaning, and reinstalling. When all was said and done, I managed to change four spark plugs for about $120, and it took me nearly four hours! No wonder they won’t let me work on the funny car.

I married Cathy Herdtfelder. Now, before you get offended, think I’m a polygamist, or send Jenna an anonymous warning, let me clarify: I performed a wedding ceremony for Bill and Cathy Herdtfelder! Yep, I am technically (questionably?) an ordained minister. I’m not religious, but when Cathy contacted me with her request, explained the situation, and gave me some background on her and Bill, it really was impossible not to help out. If you’re thinking what I was thinking, anyone wanting to get married at the dragstrip (we did the ceremony in DSR hospitality on the Saturday of Maple Grove), BY A DRIVER, has to be “out there”. I pictured a guy with one tooth and a 400 pound woman with a tramp stamp….but boy was I wrong! These two are wonderful, down-to-earth folks who wanted to do something fun. I was honored they asked me, and I may have found a way to supplement my income in the future!

I'm proud to again be able to announce that I will be a spokesperson for the "Chemo: Myths or Facts" campaign. This cause, including the website (chemomythsorfacts.com), aims to debunk common misconceptions associated with chemotherapy and encourages patients and caregivers to take charge of their cancer journey by speaking openly with their doctors. Not a week goes by without me speaking to someone about their cancer, and I think I’ve become a useful tool to assist folks to help educate and empower themselves.

I often am asked to speak to groups of people, whether it is Boys and Girls Clubs, vocational programs, career day events, or groups of students. Often I do these speeches at the track, but many of them require travelling. Recently I was asked by the Racers Who Care group to talk to our local Boy Scout chapter. If any of you have ever seen me trying to untangle my parachute after a run, it’s very obvious I never got a merit badge in knots, and I’m not referring to the amusement park, the actor who played Barney Fife, or the measurement for speed on water!

Brent Cannon and I slipped up to Bakersfield for the California Hot Rod Reunion, and we again had a great time. If you’ve never been, you certainly need to put it on your list. I highly recommend you attend the honorees induction event on the Friday night. I wish I had gotten a list of the “hitters” in attendance that night, there were so many legends. So big a deal is this (is that correct English?), that Bob Frey came out of retirement to emcee the event. Perhaps the coolest thing for me (I am fortunate to have spent many an event in the presence of quite a few of drag racing’s pioneers, so I may be a bit jaded) was the fact that Cliff Bedwell flew out from New Zealand just to attend. For those who aren’t historians, Cliff was part of the famed ‘Cook and Bedwell’ team that perhaps was the first truly dominant Top Fuel car. Actually, their reign technically predates Top Fuel itself; the category was referred to as “Top Eliminator’, and  ‘AA/FD’ long before the current moniker was attached to the long cars. Anyway, these two literally changed the face of drag racing in early 1957, running (I believe) just under 167 mph and causing such a reaction from concerned track operators that all fuel, except pump gas, was banned from national events for six years! In fact, without that action, and the subsequent thirst for nitro which lead non-NHRA tracks to feature the class (and also creating a sort of cult following), many folks probably wouldn’t have been able to make a living drag racing. NHRA eventually relented, and the rest is history. However, it may be fair to say that Top Gas, twin-engined dragsters, and perhaps Top Fuel wouldn’t have been the same without Cliff Bedwell.

To show that I haven’t forgotten about my two most valuable treasures, we’ve done quite a bit with Jason and Layla. We took them to Knott’s Berry Farm again, went to an animal rescue location with lots of big cats for Layla, and, if that weren’t enough fun for them, we took them to our favorite dentist, Dr. Steve Chapple. Layla handled her first orthodontic checkup with aplomb (which really sounds odd to me!).

I’m sure I’m leaving plenty out, as it’s been six weeks since I last sat down to entertain you all, but the clock’s ticking, the sun’s setting, and Vegas isn’t getting any closer.

I really want to thank all of you who read this, who encourage me through the difficult times, and who remain supportive even though we haven’t done much this season. Things WILL get better, and we’ll do our best to give you something to cheer about…soon!

Stay tuned, keep your washer in running order, don’t play with tigers, and replace your plugs and wires… if it’s time!

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