Posted by: Jim Yates
AJ's car on display
With Dale from Mopar

The Western Swing has officially begun. What better way to start my favorite part of the racing season than with the Mopar Block Party in downtown Golden, Colo. All I can say is WOW - these Mopar guys sure do know how to throw an awesome party! I hate to admit it, but this is not only the first time that I have been to the Block Party but also the first time that I have even been to downtown Golden. Over the past several years I think that all I have seen of this area has been the hotel and the racetrack. Obviously I need to get out more!

The town of Golden is just beautiful and what a perfect venue for Mopar to host its annual party. There was music, nostalgia cars, an autograph session with all of the Mopar drivers, food, drinks, and numerous vendors. AJ’s Dodge Avenger was on display right on Main Street along with the racecars of Jeg Coughlin and Matt Hagan. Mopar went all out to make sure that the fans had an awesome time and I don’t think that anyone went home disappointed. All I can is I can’t wait until next year.

With the festivities behind us it is now time to start focusing on winning the Mopar Mile High Nationals. We have actually been working on that part for the past couple of weeks. After the race in Norwalk we loaded up and headed here to Bandimere to spend three days testing our Dodge Avenger. Roy and the guys in the engine shop have been working non-stop on some new engine combinations and Mark and I had a long list of things that we have been waiting to try as well.

Testing went great, we got a lot accomplished and ran some pretty fast ET’s but of course we all know that testing is one thing and racing is another so we are really looking forward to finally pulling our Dodge into the staging beams this afternoon. The weather is warm but dry and it should be a great weekend.

In between Norwalk and our Denver test session I did get to spend a nice weekend at home. Though I had a lot of things to get caught up on in the shop we still had a chance to have a belated family get-together for my birthday. It was great! Melissa and Joey came home for the weekend, Jamie, Cynthy and the kids were there as were Jon, Alli and Toni’s Dad – Don. Toni made a great dinner; everyone just chilled and enjoyed each other’s company. After dinner it was time for Melissa’s homemade cupcakes and then lots of awesome presents. The biggest surprise came from Toni – a brand new Trex bike. Hmmmmmm I think that maybe she is really trying to tell me something! LOL

The kids then gave me a lot of biking accessories so now, according to them, I have no excuse not to exercise every day. I think that there might have been a conspiracy going on with this one! Ok, I will admit that the bike is pretty awesome and now with a cool mount for my iPhone and a bike computer to track my mileage I did enjoy my first ride with Toni. We only went about 8 miles one day after work but it sure was a lot more fun riding my new bike that fits me perfectly than it was riding one of the kid’s old bikes. I did promise Toni that we will try to go for a ride every day after work – and then I left for the swing. I hate it when that happens!

Well, the hours are slowly ticking away and it is just about time to get with Mark and Roy so we can figure out the right combinations for this afternoon’s run. The weather is hotter than when we tested but Mark has a pretty good book on this track and AJ and this team has had lots of success here over the years. I’m just ready to get down to racing.

As I said before, this is my favorite time of the season and Bandimere Speedway is one of my favorite tracks on the circuit. It is an awesome facility run by an amazing family and I always look forward to coming back here every year. This year, however, I would like nothing better than to watch AJ share a Wally with all of our friends at Mopar in the winner’s circle at the Mopar Mile High Nationals. Let the “Swing” begin!!!