Fun with headlines! So are we reading about the city of Reading, or is the city of Reading all about reading? Both are true, I'm sure.
I'm writing this on Monday, but I think both Phil and Candida were in Reading so there's a decent chance this won't get posted until Tuesday. And I will gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today. Thank you, Wimpy. Or maybe it won't get posted 'Til Tuesday. Thank you, Aimee Mann. But hush hush, keep it down now, voices carry. Did all of that make no sense to you? If so, you must not have been a Popeye fan or a fan of a particular '80s new-wave band.
I'm pretty sure I wrote and posted the previous blog before I received my "Get Out Of Reading Free" card, although I did pass GO but I did not collect $200. Bam, there you have it. I just went from Popeye to 'Til Tuesday to Monopoly, all in the space of just a few sentences and I never used the obvious "Take A Ride On The Reading" reference from the famous board game. I win.
Anyway, it was getting to be midweek and the weather forecasts were all pretty bad, to the point where I'm not sure I'd ever seen so many different forecasts on different websites that all universally looked horrible. There's usually one outlier we spot, and that allows us to perform the mental gymnastics of feeling optimistic. Or, as we all say, "I looked around until I found a forecast I liked, and I'm sticking with that one." There wasn't one of those for Reading, and Hurricane Joaquin was thrown into the mix as well, although fortunately that turned right and went out to sea.
So, I was talking with Tim on Tuesday (I think, it's been a whirlwind lately) and we were talking about hotel rooms and flights and a terrible forecast, and he offered me the chance to skip all of that and do the PR from home. We had a short guest list in hospitality on Saturday, and if the weather was going to be brutal the list would likely even shrink from there, so we both decided it would be the best option and would save us both some money. My multi-city ticket from Spokane to Minneapolis to Detroit to Harrisburg was really expensive, but Delta let me change it and I got about 80 percent of it back in the form of a voucher, and that's with still keeping the MSP roundtrip active. Sweet!
So I flew back here to Minnesota and took care of some business here that was already on my schedule, then I just followed along on the interwebs as Friday was washed out and Saturday struggled to happen at all. My Facebook and Twitter feeds were packed with posts from other racers and my PR colleagues vividly describing how miserable the weather was, so in the interest of not making everyone mad at me I refused to post anything about the 60-degree days and the beautiful blue sky here. Meanwhile, I'm not hiding the fact that I was extraordinarily pleased to not have to make the trip.
Another reason for keeping the Spokane - MSP part of the trip is that Barbara arrived here last night and tomorrow morning we are heading up to the North Shore of Lake Superior, to spend a few wonderful days with our dear friends Mary Beth and Joe, who own a condo up there. As you may recall, we've been up there with them once before, almost two years ago, but that was in the middle of winter. It was a bit nippy, as you might imagine, so it's going to be great to do the same things, see the same sights, and have all the same fun but during a time of year when it should be the upper 50s during the day and just right for campfires at night. Can't wait!
As for the actual Reading race, the most common adjective I kept seeing (and using) was the word "crazy" and for good reason. We only got one qualifying session in, as I'm sure you know, and in that session the Funny Car class went 1-for-16, with only Robert Hight going fully end-to-end under power. What's crazier still is that Tim ran 7.71 and that landed him fourth on the ladder. Hight, though, didn't just limp it down there with a match-race tune-up. He ran 3.922 to be the low qualifier. Talk about "all or nothing"…
Sunday was finally, mercifully, a dry day and eliminations got off just about right on time, although it was still chilly and the track was "challenging" and "tricky" to say the least. From what I heard, the groove was simply very narrow but if you could keep the car in the groove you could put some good times up. Like Jack Beckman did, with another new national record, and like Tim did when he posted a 3.985 to take out Tony Pedregon in round one. From 7.717 to 3.985 in the course of two laps. What's that word again? Crazy!
Then we saw all sorts of upsets, including the fact all three JFR cars went out in the first round and John Bojec beat Matt Hagan to become our second-round opponent. Again, the track was still tricky and the tuning window between shaking the tires and smoking the tires was razor thin. We got it right in round one, but shook in round two and Wilk had to pedal the car. He got it to hook up again, but it dropped a cylinder on the right side and that moved the car in that direction. He was working hard at doing all he could to pull it back but once it got even a part of the right side drive tire out of that narrow groove, it was on a mission to just keep going that way, no matter what he did.
Had it been a qualifying run, he would've lifted. It wasn't, and he was determined to get it to the other end to win the round, but it finally got on the centerline and took out the last two timing blocks. Game over.
Bojec got the win, but it cost him. Right at the finish line his motor let go and he had quite a fire going for a while, so after looking it over they decided they didn't have the parts or the wallet to continue and they were a no-show in the semifinals. We simply had an owner/tuner/driver who was beside himself that such a thing had happened. We did, however, move back into the eighth place in the standings.
This is how I watched the race. Both warm and dry.
So now we finally have a week off after three straight races to start the Countdown. I'll plan to use some of this time to get to work on my new blog site, so that I can have that up and running before the season is over. You'll hear about it here, first.
I'm not going to do anything more than ponder the book I'll write until after the end of the season. I've got plenty to do to wrap all this up, and frankly want to take at least part of December to just decompress, refresh my brain, and hopefully take my wife on a nice vacation. Then, once the calendar flips over to 2016 my full-time job is going to be writing. I will officially be self-employed as an Author/Writer/Blogger and I'll be diligent about it.
I've been working out of a home office for 20 years, so I've been trained to do my work that way for most of that time. It's the only way I really know how to "go to work" anymore, so I'll be right at home (that pun wasn't intended, but it made me laugh). The advice I've been gleaning from most other authors is simply to "write it all, write every day, write more than you need, and only write when you're fully focused on it." Most others also say it's hard to write anything valuable for more than three or four hours a day, unless your name is Stephen King.
It's going to be a grand adventure, and I hope a lot of you will come along for the ride. Until then, let's finish 2015 strong and see if we can't win one more race before this trip is done. I'm all for that!
Short one today, but with the North Shore trip happening in the morning I wanted to get this done and fired off. Tomorrow, it's a not-too-lengthy drive up I-35 to Duluth (or "Da-Loot" if you're from there) and then a quick trip around the north side of Lake Superior to Larsmont Cottages where we'll meet up with Mary Beth and Joe. Check the place out, it's really cool:
See you in a few days. Then, let's get ready for Dallas.
I sat here at my desk at our Liberty Lake home trying to come up with the perfect headline for today's blog, and I kept drawing a blank. I think it's because there were actually so many options, and there will be (I think) a lot of important content in this installment, so my brain was trying to somehow tie all that together into something witty, pertinent, and all-encompassing. And then I looked at the "dock" along the lower edge of my MacBook Pro screen, where all the little icons for various apps are situated, and I saw the number 29 staring at me from the icon that represents my iCal calendar. It's September 29th. Holy guacamole, it's almost October. That settled it.
I have no idea how it got to be almost October so fast, but my calendar doesn't lie. If it did, I'd hire a new calendar, so I'm thinking it's legit. And we have only four races left to go. If I was texting all of you instead of typing on a computer, I'd just insert the letters SMH, which of course stand for Shaking My Head. LOL. ICYMI. IMHO. FYI. OYCSN. (That last one stands for "Okay You Can Stop Now")
First of all, let's take a quick look back at St. Louis…
Once again, the records fell and the general consensus was "How long can we keep doing this?" with regards to all the record-setting performances. My answer to that question would be "I have no Earthly idea" and that's because I could never have imagined anything like this. Topeka, way back then on Memorial Day, seemed to knock over a very large bucket of performance and it's been spreading across the ground ever since.
We are, at the root of it, slaves to the conditions. It just seems like we've had good to great conditions at a lot of races, and St. Louis was the prime example of that. Heading into the race, all of the forecasts called for very comfortable temperatures, which are always a treat at a race that used to be known for being a blast furnace when it was run in the summer, but sunny skies. Instead, it was slightly cooler than anticipated and we had a lot of cloud cover. If you don't like seeing cars running very fast, cloud cover means "run for cover" because the record book was shredded and left in tatters once again.
Yes, Del Worsham won his second straight playoff race (congrats, buddy) and he beat us in a tight race in round two, but he also reset the national record along the way to give himself a strong grip on the points lead. On the other end of the performance festival, Wilk went 3.99 on Friday and at the time that made him the first Funny Car driver to ever run in the threes at Gateway Motorsports Park. About 20 minutes later we were qualified 10th, and Wilk became the footnote to the story, in which he achieved the ignominious feat of being the first driver in the threes to qualify 10th. Crazy.
On Sunday, with another great St. Louis crowd filling the grandstands and lining the fences, we ran our two best laps of the weekend, with a 3.98 to beat Courtney and a 3.97 against Del, where the only problem for us was his 3.95. Did I mention it was crazy? It was.
So we're ninth in the points now and the mission becomes "Play loose, go fast, and have fun" I think. In team sports, you never know if the teams that suddenly find themselves realistically out of the running for the crown will play worse because of that, or play better. A loose team often plays more up to its potential than a team that's tense or tight, so we'll see. If we take over from Del and win the next two, it's a whole different "ballgame" so to speak, but all we can do is our best and I know we'll do that. All we can do is go as fast as we can as quickly as possible. Remember, drag racing is more like golf or bowling than football or baseball. You can't play defense. All you can do is put your best score on the board and see how that stacks up. And hope you don't run Del in round two. That helps, as well.
The other St. Louis highlight is an annual one. I ate a lot and I ate what I loved. Farotto's on Thursday night with my niece Kim and her husband Chris (and the leftovers were dinner again when I got back to the hotel on Friday night) and as I do every year I bought Imo's Pizza for the whole team on Friday afternoon. I officially maxed out and hit the red line on St. Louis-style pizza, but I loved every single little thin-crust square of it.
We also had our new one-race sponsor on the car and at the track. Karmak Technologies joined us for the race, and a big group of them came out on Sunday. Trust me, many photos were taken and I'll be sure to put one in the gallery today. Great people who really enjoyed their weekend at the races.
Dick Levi joined an enormous crowd of guests both in our pit and in an auxiliary tent by the track, on Saturday. It's always great to see Dick, and he had a great time, like he always does. He's a great man, and the best sponsor any team could ever hope to have.
As for me, personally, this might be the craziest week in a long time, or possibly ever. I spent both Wednesday night and Sunday night in Woodbury, on either side of the race. Then I flew back out to Spokane on Monday evening, on the night flight that leaves MSP at 7:30 p.m. this time of year, and lands at GEG around 8:30 Pacific Time. I'm home today, and then tomorrow I fly back to MSP to spend Wednesday night in Woodbury again, before I head to Harrisburg (with a connection in Detroit) on Thursday. I don't get to Harrisburg until midnight Thursday night, so I won't even head to Reading until the morning. Then, on Sunday night it's back to the same hotel in Harrisburg so that I can catch a morning flight back to MSP, and I'll spend Monday in Woodbury one more time, a before heading back out here to Liberty Lake on Tuesday, at which point I'll sleep for three days.
And as I typed that a little box opened on my screen to let me know I just got an email from Delta and it's time to check in for my flight tomorrow morning. Wow. I just got here!
What a great weekend in St. Louis!
So, St. Louis is in the rearview and Reading is ahead of us. The forecast is typical for Reading, but we all know not to put too much stock into that when it comes to that part of the country. The fronts swirl around, change directions, and fail to materialize at all just as much as they do what the forecasters say they'll do. We'll see…
I've been really procrastinating about this for a while, but it's time.
People ask me all the time how long I'll keep writing this blog. It's been 10 years, after all, and that's a LOT longer than the one month I was supposed to write it, back in 2005.
The answer is this: I'll write it as long as I feel I can keep it fresh and interesting, and by that I mean I hope to write it for many more years. But… Starting a couple of months from now, it will be in a different place.
It will still be online, and I hope many all of you will keep reading, but it won't be here. After what is really 20 years in this sport, I've decided it's time to make a change and do something different while there's time to do such things. I'm not 100 percent sure what all the "something different" things will be, but I'm committed to writing at least one book, and maybe more. I've been saying that I'm going to do this for a long time, but I never pulled the trigger. Consider the trigger pulled.
So, this will be my last season as Team Manager for Wilk (or any other team) and, therefore, at some point before the end of 2015 my blog will cease to be located here on NHRA.com. I told Tim of my decision in Indy, and I've let my other PR colleagues know about it, but I've actually been a little afraid to put it out here in public. It's a big step, but today is that day. I better hit "SEND" before I change my mind.
I know a lot of you will reach out after you read this, but there's really no need to do that. I know fully well how loyal and wonderful all of you are, and I can't even come up with the words to describe what it all means to me. If you'll stick with me, I'd be thrilled.
As for the book… The first concept is simply the befuddling and amazing story of my life and career. As you all know, it goes a little something like this: Boy is born to two amazing parents. His dad is a former Major League catcher who spends the rest of his life in the game of baseball as a scout, coach, and manager. His mom is a radio personality who becomes one of the first female executives for a Major League team, and then opens her own PR agency. The boy grows up playing ball and meeting all of his dad's friends, going to banquets where the other guests have last names like Musial, Mays, Aaron, Berra, Mantle, and Williams. He gets to spend a summer shagging fly balls at RFK Stadium while the old Washington Senators take batting practice. He is the batboy for the Denver Bears for two years, then a hanger-on for the Spokane Indians for two more. He earns a full athletic scholarship to SIU-Edwardsville and gets his degree in Television-Radio Broadcasting while being a part of two great teams that advanced to the NCAA Div. II College World Series. He signs with the Detroit Tigers and spends two seasons in their organization before signing with Oakland to spend a summer with them. He spends one day in a big league uniform, although not on the roster. He spends four years scouting for the Toronto Blue Jays, discovering Jim Gott in the Mexican Winter League along the way. He heads into the sports marketing world, putting Converse shoes on famous athletes (Magic Johnson qualifies as "famous" right?) and then works for his brother's agency, handling sports sponsorships for IBM, Chrysler, Black & Decker, and M&M Mars, among others. He ends up successfully running two different professional indoor soccer franchises, and then… Nearing the age of 40, he stumbles onto NHRA Drag Racing and he spends the next two decades doing PR in that world, despite the fact he'd never so much as seen a drag race or done any PR prior to that move. It all just happened.
It's been a wild and amazing ride. But, it's time to be true to myself and just write. I have so much in me to get on the page and in print, and I'm having some conversations with other people in other other sports about doing some writing work for them, in book form, so there's no telling where all of this will go. I'm just along for the ride. Just the way I like it.
My 12 years with Del and my seven years with Tim have been an honor, a privilege, and a lot of very rewarding fun. I wouldn't change anything and I'll miss all of my friends and colleagues (my family!) at the races. I'll probably miss the Nitro fumes, too, but I'll make my way back to selected events in the years to come. I can't possibly stay away completely. I have far too many valued friends at the track.
I have met and gotten to know so many incredible people, thanks to being in this sport and writing this blog. It's been beyond any wild dream I'd ever had. And I never knew I'd do this until I did it. So I think it's time I go do the next thing.
I'm going to be setting up my new personal blog in the coming weeks, and I'll be finishing the season with Tim and the LRS team anyway, so it's business as usual for a while. Once I get the new blog set up, I'll make sure to give you all a link on numerous occasions before I sign off here and put a bow on this gift. It's truly been a gift.
When I took Dick Levi to his limo at the end of the day on Saturday, he shook my hand earnestly and said some incredibly wonderful things to me, and then we shared a "man hug" with one arm and a pat on the back. Then he came back for more and we shared a real hug. It hit me right then that I'm really doing this. It's real.
It's a huge step, but I've approached my whole life and career this way. I'm just following my heart, and I hope all of you will come along for the rest of the ride. It's time to be home more, with my incredible wife and two fuzzy "kids". It's time to write the book. I hope a couple of you will buy it, too. And, since writing can be a full-time deal but it doesn't take up all your time, there's always the chance to do something else part-time along the way. It's just a matter of what.
But in the short term, I'll be right here. Probably through November. But remember the headline? Geez, it's almost October right now, so it's going to be a blur before it all settles down. Will you hang with me? I hope so.
This will technically be a tale of two blog installments meshed into one, as it's actually Tuesday as I'm starting this (and I'm actually in Spokane right now). I'm running out of time during a very busy early part of the week, and tomorrow I'll be in the air for two and a half hours, flying from Spokane to the Twin Cities, so I'm just starting this now. My aim is to then finish it on the plane. That's my plan, anyway. (Disclaimer: All plans subject to change.)
I have an appointment in Minneapolis at 11:00 on Thursday morning and then a 3:00 flight down to STL for the race, and other important (as in critical) things, starting with checking into my hotel in Clayton before heading straight to my favorite pizza restaurant, Farotto's, for dinner with my niece Kim and her husband Chris! Yep, I met up with them at Farotto's last year, but since then they got married on Key West when I was at the Seattle race. I so badly wanted to be there, but I could hardly have been any further away and still be in the continental U.S.
There will be toasted ravioli, of course. That St. Louis invention is never questioned when at any restaurant that serves St. Louis-style pizza. And, personally, I think Farotto's has the best "toasted ravs" as we call them, affectionately.
There is a chance another valued guest will join us for at least part of dinner, but he shall remain nameless in case his world blows up (it does that) and he can't make it. If that ends up being the case, I'll brutalize him here in my next installment. Yeah buddy, that's a threat and a half.
Here's something you probably didn't know… You might've seen that a new young driver in the Nitro Funny Car class made his third career appearance in Charlotte. Shane Westerfield has been a very talented Top Alcohol Funny Car driver for about five years, and he made the move to Nitro last year. To do that, Del and Chuck Worsham got him licensed in the family Funny Car.
This time around, Del and Chuck wanted to use the car to promote a new concept Del's putting together, and people are pretty excited about it. They've put a complete Top Fuel Dragster together, to couple with the Funny Car, and are starting up a unique new deal. It's not a "school" in the same sense some other drag racing operations are run, but it's more of an "experience" instead, while it also offers current drivers a chance to move up to Nitro as part of their career path. On the side of the car Shane is driving now (they'll be racing in St. Louis this weekend, as well) a large decal says "Drive This Car!"
If you're already an NHRA driver and want to upgrade to a Nitro license, they have a package you can buy that will hopefully get that done in all the correct ways and in the minimum amount of runs, but you can also buy additional laps on a run-by-run basis. If you just want to experience what it's like to drive a Top Fueler or a Funny Car, they can make that happen too, but if you're totally inexperienced they'll probably start you out in something slower to get you up to speed. Pretty neat deal, really, and it seems like it's already attracting attention from some people with "bucket list" items, or guys who just want to experience something they've been watching and enjoying forever.
With all that in mind, Del called and asked me if there was any way I could help him out with a press release and a little PR work to get the word out. He wanted to know what I'd charge him for that, and while I was sorely tempted to pull his leg by replying (in a slow Dr. Evil voice) "Ten THOUSAND dollars" I instead told him the truth, which was really the fact that I didn't care what he paid me, or frankly if he paid me at all. I worked for Del and Chuck for 12 years, and although the first season was a bit of a financial struggle with our little baby CSK deal, the last 11 years were wonderful and prosperous. I owe them both a lot, for allowing me to make myself the PR rep that I am today and for trusting me to handle that entire side of the Worsham Racing operation. That means more to me that any compensation for a couple of press releases that have been fun to write anyway. And since I didn't travel to Charlotte and thereby didn't have to waste two entire days just flying diagonally across most of the United States coming and going, I had the time. My Team Wilk work came first, of course, but I altered my typical writing schedule to get that done early so I'd have time to dash off something for Del, Chuck, and Shane. Plus, I got to "meet" Shane on the phone and he's really a great guy. Glad to help in any way I can.
And if you have any sincere interest in learning more to see if this is something you'd want to do, they've set up a special email address to collect the info from people who might have an inclination to do this. It's not Del's actual email, and he's not going to be personally returning any notes from people who just want to say hello, but if this sounds like something you'd really like to look into, you can send your name and contact information here: firstname.lastname@example.org
And here's something else you didn't know and it comes under the heading "It Never Works That Way".
Just a couple of weeks ago, I was contacted by Kristy Page, the Executive Assistant for the President and CEO of a company called Karmak, based in Carlinville, Ill., which is a little north of St. Louis and not far at all from our shop in Springfield. They specialize in business management technologies for the heavy-duty transportation industry. You know, like companies that run fleets of big trucks.
Since Carlinville is close to Springfield, some of the folks at Karmak knew about Tim and our team, and since their theme for this year is "Racing" and they're having their big annual conference in St. Louis, on the Tuesday after Dallas, Kristy called me just to gather info about having Tim possibly come down to the conference for a couple of hours to do a "meet & greet" and sign some autographs, and then she said "And we'd like to know what it would cost to have our logo on your car."
None of them really knew what to expect in that regard, but the first step was to make sure Karmak's business model didn't overlap with Levi, Ray & Shoup's, because that would've been a conflict. Turns out, the CEO knows Dick Levi, so he gave Dick a call and they quickly agreed that there would be no conflict at all, while Dick also recommended that they try to work something out with us.
Within about 48 hours (and this was just about a week ago) we went from that first phone call to figuring out what they could afford, to putting a quick concept together, which was instantly approved. The lynch-pin to that was to show them why giving Karmak a small little decal on the car for the rest of the season, one that only they would probably notice, would not be a very impactful or cost-effective deal. Instead, we pitched that we should simply focus on the St. Louis race, since it's just an hour from their headquarters. That way, we could give them a much better bang for their buck, right in their backyard, and we're even going to host a few of their executives on Sunday.
With only days to go before the event, I fired off an invoice and told Kristy that because this was such a last-minute deal and it was done on a virtual handshake over the phone, I knew not to expect their Accounts Payable department to get that turned around overnight, but they basically did. That right there tells me all I need to know about the people at Karmak, and Kristy has been great to work with. One week from introduction, to concept, to payment in full, and we're thrilled to get to meet them and have them on the LRS Funny Car in St. Louis. Look for their logo on the rear quarter panels, just below Curry's Transportation.
I told Kristy how many pitches and proposals I've been a part of over the last 20 years, and how some of them could drag on for more than a year, as ideas are altered and benefits changed, while the "presentation phase" drags on forever. I'm really not sure I've ever been a part of a deal that came together this fast. Pretty cool package, and Tim will indeed be heading down to St. Louis to sign autographs at their conference.
And now I've got to get back to real work (this blog isn't work, it's fun!). I have some other interesting news coming through the pipeline, but I want to get further along with it before I spill any beans. And why is giving out information called "spilling the beans" anyway? Hmmm
Back at you tomorrow from seat 3-A on Delta 2428, nonstop service from Spokane International Airport to Minneapolis - St. Paul International Airport, but not before we reach 10,000 feet…
Wednesday - 10:30 a.m.
Good morning, and welcome to the B Concourse at Spokane International Airport. All eight gates of it. I'm flying out of B-8 in just a few minutes. Pretty long line at TSA when I got here. I think there were four other people trapped in the endless maze with me. Yes, there are some benefits to flying out of a small airport in a relatively small town, although the drawback with GEG is that it's a long way from everywhere but Seattle.
Anyway, I wasn't going to open the laptop and get back to this until we were in the air, but the first thing I saw on my computer this morning changed that plan. I got up early, opened up my MacBook Pro, and saw an email from sister Mary informing me that Yogi Berra had passed away, at the age of 90.
Like the vast majority of people, you probably remember Yogi as a New York Yankee, and that's appropriate because he spent most of his illustrious career in pinstripes. But to any member of the St. Louis baseball community, he's part of the family. Yogi grew up on The Hill in south St. Louis, and one of his boyhood friends was another future big league catcher, Joe Garagiola. They played organized ball and pick-up games often, usually at Sublette Park, and I played many high school games there myself, 35 or so years later.
And, like many, you might only think Yogi was famous for being a bit of a clown. His "Yogi-isms" are legend, and he really was like that. To be fair, later in life when he realized how many people enjoyed laughing at the way he could garble sentences, he surely played that up a little bit, but, in the beginning, those were straight from Yogi's mouth.
If you thought that was all Yogi was about, though, you were wrong. Yogi was a spectacular ballplayer and if he wasn't the greatest catcher to ever play the game he's on a very short list. He had a lifetime batting average of .285, he hit 358 career home runs, and he was considered an expert handler of pitchers.
Those Yogi-isms, however, will live forever, and many of them are part of our national vernacular. "It was deja vu, all over again" or "It ain't over 'til it's over" or "90% of this game is half mental". On The Hill in St. Louis, when I was a kid, a fine restaurant called Ruggeri's was the place for all the baseball players to gather (Joe Garagiola's brother Mickey was the maitre d) and when asked about the restaurant Yogi once said "Nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded." The list is actually endless.
The Wilber family knew Yogi well, and he and my father were longtime friends. In one of my "Bob On Baseball" blogs I wrote about Yogi once, in my installment about 1981; a year that crammed a lifetime of unbelievable memories into just 12 months. I was describing the night during which the Toronto Blue Jays executives and I had been to Dodger Stadium for a World Series banquet the night before Game 1.
"As we departed the stadium, one member of the Yankees’ staff asked if he could hop in for a ride back to the hotel. He and I sat in the back seat, and I turned to him and said “Yogi, I’m Bob Wilber. I’m sure you know my father Del.” For the next 20 minutes, I had the unbelievable pleasure of listening to Yogi Berra tell hilarious stories about my dad. It doesn’t really get much better than that."
If you want to read the whole long installment, which ranges from Fresno to the Mexican League, with too many other stops or rich stories to tap into here, just follow this link:
Yogi Berra was a funny man. He was a great baseball player and a Yankee legend. But more importantly, he was one of the most genuine and kind men I ever met in the game. Rest in peace, Yogi. You're starting behind the plate tomorrow, with Mick, Joe D. and the Babe playing the outfield. Thurman said he needed a rest anyway, so get your gear on.
Time to board…
Two hours later…
Well, after an eventful departure from GEG we are soaring over the upper tier of the USA at 33,000 feet and I've just finished a fine Caesar Salad with chicken. But, my plan to finish this blog and file it from up here in the air has been foiled by some really sketchy Wi-Fi on this plane. I'm way too afraid that I'd send this thing, or the photos for that matter, and they'd be lost in the interwebs forever, never to land anywhere much less in the In-Box of that famous French editor Monsieur Phillippe Burgesse. So, I'll finish writing here and then I'll duck into the Sky Club at MSP and send it from there, where the signal has more meat on its bones.
We did have a little drama before we got off the ground in Spokane. I had my headphones on, so I wasn't totally dialed in to what was happening, but we pushed off the gate right on time and then for a solid 15 minutes they couldn't unhook the tow bar from the front landing gear. We lurch forward, pushed back, rolled again, and each time you feel the tugging and pushing, but no go.
The young lady holding the sticks to let the captain know when he was clear to leave was looking more and more perplexed as the minutes passed, and I could read her lips when she shouted "What's wrong" to the other crew members trying to free our airplane from the grip of the tug. Finally, I turned my music off just as the captain said we were going back to the gate for a few minutes (hopefully) to get this sorted out. I'm sure STP (Scott The Pilot) can tell me what this all meant, but from the cockpit they said they were having "an airflow problem with our Auxiliary Power Unit…" and after a quick visit from the Maintenance Supervisor he announced they had a plan, and that was to start both engines while we were at the gate, rather than hold one until after the pushback. STP, I'm awaiting your analysis and explanation. Whatever it was, that worked and we were only about 30 minutes late, but we've already made it up in the air.
So, we're headed toward St. Louis again. My hometown and one of my favorite cities in the world. It's not perfect, but it's home, and man is there some good food there.
Quick, explain the shape of the Gateway Arch. You have 5 seconds… tick, tock, tick, tock. BUZZZZ.
Too late. It's an inverted catenary curve. A catenary curve is created when you hold a heavy flexible rope or chain and place the two ends as far apart as the depth of the chain. A perfect curve, in other words. If you then invert the curve you have the upright shape of the Gateway Arch, aka "The Gateway To The West". It's exactly as wide at the bottom as it is tall. 630 feet.
And when I was a kid at Mary Queen of Peace grade school, they brought the old Philco black & white TVs into our classrooms so that we could watch the final piece be put in place, at the top. There is no truth to the rumor that East St. Louis, across the river, contemplated building a giant croquet ball.
On the track, it would behoove us to have a really good race at Gateway Motorsports Park. We're now 9th in the points, but the truth about Charlotte is that Fast Jack also lost in the first round, and by doing that he condensed the points more than he spread them out. Had Jack won the race (and nobody would've been surprised by that) he would've put some serious and probably unsurpassable distance between himself and those of us at the bottom of the top 10. Instead, Tommy Johnson and Del Worsham went to the final, and Del won it. Good on him! I was proud of my longtime close friend. And thrilled for him, too.
And what about Tommy Johnson? Has he taken over the role Jack has held since the Swing? He sure looks to have the most dominant car right now, and he's a helluva driver. But that's the beauty of this sport. You are as good and as dominant as not just your last pass, but your next one as well. Things change, and Wilk can be right in the middle of the good stuff with one good day on Sunday.
Our compact little airport. No fuss, no muss.
And on Friday I'll do my annual thing and order Imo's Pizza for the crew. Always fun to head out to the main gate at Gateway and wait in the golf cart for the driver to bring me those hot boxes of thin-crust joy. And then laugh the whole way back to the pit area as everyone I pass yells "We want Imo's!!!"
Tonight, weather permitting, I'll have the unmitigated joy of being able to sit down and turn on my TV to watch the Twins, rather than watch the game streamed live on MLB.com. Everyone talks about platforms and new ways of accessing content and programming, and live-streaming is a constant mention, but MLB.com is roundly considered the absolute gold standard of streaming content and even with that reputation I rarely get through two innings without the screen freezing or going black altogether. If streaming is going to be the future, they still have to work on the amount of data they can squeeze from one end to the other seamlessly. Tonight, an HD flat screen and Fox Sports North. I'll gladly welcome Dick Bremer and Bert Blyleven into the room with me. Win Twins!
That's about enough I guess. Time to close this email, put my laptop away, and get on the ground. I can feel the nose of the plane dipping right now. Tomorrow, down to STL and dinner at Farotto's. Friday, switch the pizza to Imo's (they have stores all over the St. Louis metro and they deliver, while there is only one Farotto's and they don't) and then get after it on the track.
We'll have legions of Wilk's Warriors with us, not to mention many hundred LRS guests and staffers split between our hospitality area and a private tent, but you know what?
We are ALL Wilk's Warriors. Put your shirt on and get behind that Levi, Ray & Shoup car. Let's win some rounds!
So, in just a couple of days qualifying will begin in Charlotte at the NHRA Carolina Nationals. And before you know it, the Countdown playoffs will be half over, thanks to the quirks of scheduling. With Charlotte, St. Louis, and Reading all on consecutive weekends, it won't take long for either the excitement and nervousness to ramp up, for those who do well at those three races, or for the disappointment to creep in for those who get off to a slow start.
As I mentioned in my pre-race feature story, the Countdown is like a whole new season for the 10 drivers and teams who make it, but it's a very short season at only six races. This season, we got off to a really slow start and were outside the top 10 until the middle of May. But, then we won Atlanta and the ball began to roll. After Atlanta, we were never out of the top 10 again, and then just when it was looking a little tenuous, going into Norwalk, the ball started rolling faster and we went to enough semifinals and second rounds to cement our spot.
It's all in my story, in much greater detail, here:
And then I was thinking to myself "Self, you haven't been to Charlotte in a while" and I answered back "That's right. I wonder just how much of a while it's been." So I did the research. My last trip to Charlotte was the spring race in 2013, otherwise known as the 4-Wide Nationals. That's almost three years ago, and that's crazy. "See Self, I told you it had been a while."
That spring 2013 race also coincided with our softball game against the NASCAR boys, so it was kind a fun to go back into my iPhoto gallery from then to look at those pics. That was a very fun night, and I'll share a few in the pictures below.
And speaking of photo galleries, with there having been no race this past weekend, all I have are those flashback Charlotte photos from the last time I was there, and some other miscellaneous stuff from around here. It'll have to do.
Okay, so let's dispense with the stats and get them over with in short order. Now that the points have been reset, we're in eighth place and only 90 points out of first. So there you have it, the only stat that really matters at this point. That's five rounds of racing with six races (24 rounds) left. Might as well go big or go home, right?
It's supposed to be hot and humid down there this weekend, so in that particular case I'm happy to say that it feels like we've turned a corner into fall, here in scenic Liberty Lake. I refuse to switch over from A/C to heat yet, because we're due to be back into the upper 70s later this week, but right now it's actually a little chilly in the house. I'm wearing a sweatshirt. And yes, it's a black LRS Team Wilk sweatshirt. Because I can.
It was a brisk 63 inside the house when we woke up this morning, and it's still not quite at 60 outside yet. It's a gorgeous day, the wildfires are still burning but the change in seasons will help them put them out much more quickly.
And, more good news, on Monday I had a meeting with my local State Farm agent, just to give her all the details from the wreck in Indy, and then yesterday and today I spoke with adjusters from Allstate, who insure the young girl who crashed into me. I gave my statement, which was recorded, and then I was told that it's clear their client was completely at fault I would not be liable for anything. They're even reimbursing me for the taxi rides I had to take and the fact that the wrecked car didn't get registered as "returned" until Monday night, when the people at National's damage lot finally got around to it. So, I was technically renting two cars at the same time for three days, and Allstate is reimbursing me for the second car I rented. The one that didn't get wrecked. Fair enough, and I'm glad we got all this taken care of quickly. I'm sure there's still more paperwork ahead of me, but at least it looks like it's all going to be good in terms of finances and/or claims.
(Five minutes later…)
I had to take a break to answer yet another insurance phone call, and this time it was State Farm wanting an update. I gave them the good news that Allstate said I was in the clear, so they're going to call Allstate and National Car Rental to hopefully close this whole thing up.
On the social media side of my job, it was cool to see @TeamWilkerson tagged in a tweet by @DemandDetroit, who posted a photo of our big rig (with its Western Star tractor) and our team, in front of the shop. Next to the transporter is the car we ran at the Cordova match race, which had Curry's Transportation and Western Star all over it. Twitter is a marvelous thing…
And this morning, we sewed up the details of a new one-race associate sponsor for the St. Louis event. A neat deal with a very interesting company, but more details for that will be in next week's blog, as we approach the St. Louis event.
Just for the record, Boofus and Buster both say hello, but in the interest of fair reporting the "hello" sound they make also sounds an awful lot like the one that means "Give me treats" so it's kind of hard to tell.
Okay, here's something else ultra-cool about Twitter and social media. There's a Twitter account called @BottommCards which is a pun related to baseball cards, since Topps has long been the number one manufacturer of those things. Someone at @BottommCards read my "Bob On Baseball" blog entitled "The Lost Art of Wearing a Uniform" and they mocked-up a baseball card for me. Way cool.
Back when I played, not only were there no cards for guys playing in Class A ball, there weren't many cards for the guys in Double-A or Triple-A either. Now, once you sign a contract and get sent to Rookie Ball, there will probably be a card made with you on it. It was fun to get the tweet from Bottomm Cards, needless to say, because after 36 years since my last professional ballgame, I now finally have a baseball card. Even if it is unofficial, digital, and mocked up. Still cool.
Oh, and if you never read that blog and agree that a lot of today's big-leaguers don't know how to dress on the field, you can read it here:
Flashback to 2013 and the epic blowout by the NHRA team. #Smackdown
If you enjoy it, feel free to "Like" it or leave a comment.
Well. That was short and sweet.
There will be more pertinent stuff to write about over the next three weeks, not to mention the next six races, and the biggest challenge there is going to be having the time to do this. My travel schedule looks insane for St. Louis and Reading.
It's so bad for Reading that I'm even spending Thursday night near the Harrisburg airport, because my day-long flight schedule doesn't get me in there until midnight! I'll be tired, the Pennsylvania deer population will be out in full force, and I'd rather drive over to Maple Grove on Friday morning.
Dallas isn't much better, because it's a long way from here, but at least Las Vegas and Pomona are pretty simple deals from out here in the upper lefthand part of the United States. And yes, even though we don't have hospitality at either of those two, I will be going to Vegas and Pomona.
And I've gotten the alert that my great friend John Fink will be joining us in Vegas. The two of us are absolutely going to see my buddy Buck in "Jersey Boys" on Thursday night, and Tim and Krista are trying to work out their flights so they can go, too.
Au revoir. Auf Wiedersehen. Adios. See ya later!