A great Western SwingFriday, August 10, 2012
Posted by: Jim Yates

The Western Swing is officially behind us, and the Countdown to the Championship is looming on the horizon. To say the least, things around Johnson & Johnson Racing have been non-stop since I arrived in Denver. It started with the Mopar Block Party and it ended…well I can’t say that it has ended – but I mean that in a great kind of way!

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Me and Mark
For those of you that have been following us over the last three races you already know that we had an awesome Western Swing coming within two rounds of "sweeping the swing." Mark and I have been trying to improve the consistency and performance of this Mopar Dodge Avenger each and every run, Roy and the engine shop have been giving us some amazing horsepower, and AJ has been nothing short of a driving machine. Put it all together and we netted back-to-back wins and a semifinal finish. I sure can’t complain about that!

This year, Toni and I had decided to stay on the road for the Swing and what better place to enjoy the road than driving/riding with Jason in the rig? Hey, I kind of miss driving the rig sometimes. Jason drives the rig by himself all year, and I was looking forward to helping him out with the driving duties and giving him a much-deserved break. Besides, if we got to Sonoma a little early we were planning on taking in a little sightseeing if we had the time.

After the Denver race we crated up engines, loaded up the final things in the rig, and headed west. We stopped the first evening in Wendover, UT, where we had to take the time to arrange for permits and "pilot cars" to escort us through the state of CA. Don’t even ask me to explain that whole story, but I will give you the short version of it… any rig with a trailer longer than 53’ had to have a special permit and a "Pilot Escort" through the state of CA.

The next morning Jason had the permit in hand, and I had made arrangements with Marlo from "That Girl Pilot Car Service" (very catchy name for those that remember that series on TV), she met us at the CA border, we pulled off on the side of the road to exchange paperwork and away we went. A tank of fuel, a truck wash, and 200 miles later, Marlo followed us into the Sonoma raceway. I just love it when a plan comes together.

Because we arrived at the track on Tuesday afternoon Toni, Jason, and I did get a chance to visit San Francisco and wander around Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39. It was fun, but the next day it was back to the track to get everything ready for the race.

On Thursday, Toni and I, along with Roy and Revonda attended the Grumpy Jenkins Wine Train Tour, and we had a blast! There were 14 of us in attendance, and Bob Frey was there to document everyone’s stories and memories of the Grump. We were treated to a wonderful 4 course lunch and enjoyed the sights of the beautiful Napa Valley. What a great tribute to our dear friend "Grumpy."

After enjoying our win at Sonoma, it was time for Jason, Toni, and me to load up again and head to Seattle. Once again we had to arrange for our Pilot Car to escort us to the Oregon state line, and from there it was a very scenic but uneventful trip to Seattle. Toni took so many pictures throughout the trip that it would probably take me 10 blogs to show them all to you, so I picked out some of my favorites to share. We are so lucky to live in such a beautiful country.

Seattle proved to be another great race. The weather, though a little warm, was beautiful, and the stands were packed. Our team worked so hard all weekend, AJ did another fantastic job driving his Dodge Avenger, but unfortunately we came up just a couple of rounds short of our goal losing to the eventual race winner Erica Enders. I have to say congratulations to Erica and her entire team for a great job all weekend!

I could probably go on and on sharing stories of the Swing with you, but I don’t think that you would really want to read all about that, so I will close this blog and try to do a little better job in the future with my blogging. I am looking forward to a weekend home, where I am planning on having a sleepover with Ryan and Maia on Saturday night and maybe even find the time to throw some burgers on the grill. It will be a nice treat to spend a day at home relaxing with the family especially my grandkids. Have a great weekend everyone!