Greetings everyone! At my last blog we were just beginning my favorite three races of the year – the Western Swing, and I am happy to report that, now that it is over, a great time was had by all of us. The final in Denver was a remake of last year’s final pairing AJ against our fellow Mopar driver V. Gaines. It was a great race, and we were so happy when AJ’s win light came on for the 5th time in 7 years. Winning a race is awesome, but winning your sponsor’s race is even better.
After Denver, it was back home for a few days to tie up some loose ends with my warehouse project and then it was back to beautiful Sonoma for the second race of the Swing. We started our weekend on Thursday night with a fantastic team dinner at Scoma’s Restaurant on Fisherman’s Wharf. I don’t think you can get any better seafood in San Francisco than Scoma’s, and it was so much fun to just sit and relax with AJ, Pam, and our entire team.
We had another great outing in Sonoma, but when AJ lost in the semi’s to teammate Jeg Coughlin, our hopes of sweeping the swing would have to wait until next year. However, AJ had another great idea – he told Alan Reinhart that this year we were going to have a “Hemi sweep” instead of just one car sweeping. Well, when our two teammates paired up in the final – Vincent getting the win – we were just one race away from AJ’s prediction. Who knows what could happen in Seattle.
Well, after the Sonoma race, Toni and I took a much needed break and drove up the coast from California to Oregon. Though the weather wasn’t exactly beach weather, we still had a great time. We started Monday morning, cut over to the coast at Dillon Beach and headed north. Our travels took us through Bodega Bay, lunch in Jenner, the amazing Redwood National Park and eventually we stopped at one of our favorite towns – Fort Bragg. It was a fun and relaxing day. Toni and I always seem to gravitate towards water, and we love finding the local marinas, walking the docks and watching the fishing boats travel in and out of the Pacific coast inlets. Of course, fresh caught salmon wasn’t too bad either!
Tuesday’s travels took us further up the coast where the 1 meets the 101 in Leggett, had lunch at the Benbow Inn, where we have great memories of staying there with the kids, and eventually we ended up in Crescent City for night two. We drove around the town, walked along the water and enjoyed the view of the Battery Point Lighthouse from our balcony. I don’t think I will ever tire of seeing this beautiful coastline.
We awoke on Wednesday to a pretty dense marine layer (Toni called it a cold drizzling rain) that we hoped would soon burn off, however I think that would mean that the sun would have to shine eventually in order for that to happen. We continued up the coast into Oregon enjoying the sights in Coos Bay and the awesome sand dunes in Siltcoos Beach. Well, they were more awesome as I was sliding down them than they were when we were trying to slide up them! But Toni insisted that she had to get to the top to get that perfect picture. I mean couldn’t one of the other 400 pictures be that perfect picture? Just saying!
At this point in our trip I had to grudgingly admit to Toni that my “marine layer” had actually become a steady light rain and it looked like there was no sunshine in the forecast so we had to decided our next plan of action… continue up the coast and cut over to the 5 in Washington or cut over earlier. We decided to give the weather another hour or so and finally ended up in the fishing port of Newport. We walked the docks, watched people buying fresh caught fish right off of the fishing boats and even enjoyed the sea lions lounging on their platforms.
We thought about staying in Newport for the night, but with the weather getting worse and the fog getting denser, it was almost impossible to even see anything so we threw in the towel and headed east to Salem. Of course, 15 miles inland the rain stopped, the sun broke through the clouds, and the temperatures rose into the 60s at least! LOL
We decided that we had made a good decision. Our trip had been amazing so far, and we had to be at the track in Seattle by noon on Thursday, so a stop in Salem meant only a few-hour drive to the track the next morning.
The weather was nice, sunny and warm when we got to the track, but Friday ended up with more cool temps and drizzle. I was beginning to see a pattern forming here. Not to worry, we had a great day of qualifying on Saturday and another awesome day of racing on Sunday. Once again, the final ended up with our two teammates Jeg and Vincent matched up for a second week in a row. As you know, Vincent scored his first back to back wins and we congratulate him and Jeg for a great showing for Mopar.
As a team we could not have been any happier with our swing. Not only did we fulfill AJ’s prediction of a “Hemi swing,” but all three wins came with Roy Johnson powerplants under the hood. For this accomplishment, Roy, AJ and the engine guys were presented with the coveted “broom” signifying the accomplishment of Johnson and Johnson engines sweeping the swing. We were all so proud of Roy, Dean, Crow, Matt and the rest of the guys back home in the engine shop. It is hard enough to keep enough engines for one team but to maintain competitive engines for three teams is amazing. Way to go guys!
Well, after such an exciting week it was time to return home. We were sad to leave this beautiful coast but glad to get back to our east coast, where I will admit it was nice to sleep in my own bed and play with my two grandkids. In between my next couple of races we are planning on making a trip to Charlotte to catch up with baby Lena and celebrate Melissa’s birthday with her. Though her birthday was actually August 5, we will plan a day in the future to spend some time with her, Joey and Lena and have an official family birthday party. I can’t wait.
I am looking forward to Brainerd next week. With only two races left before the Countdown begins, we have some catching up to do if we want to take over that No. 1 spot. Thanks so much for checking in and have a great weekend!
Hi there everyone! I know it has been way too long since I posted a blog. In fact, I don’t think that I have ever gone this long between posts. I know that there are no excuses for my lack of obligation to you, my fans but I will let you know what has been consuming my time for the past three months.
Racing, my first passion, has been running wide open and I am so excited with how this year has been progressing. With a three-car team, a rigorous testing schedule and unrelenting race schedule we have been crazy busy. Just as we finish one race and get back home or to the shop it is time to leave again for the next race. I can’t believe that I am sitting here in the lounge at Bandimere Speedway awaiting our first pass that will officially start the 2013 Western Swing! Oh, did I mention that this is one of my favorite times of the year?
Toni, our kids and I have so many great Western Swing memories and they all started here. What a great facility the Bandimere family has created and this year they are celebrating 55 years of racing – I mean, how cool is that? Of course I have only been coming here for 23 of those years but I have loved every trip that we have made. Having Mopar sponsor this race is just like icing on the cake.
Speaking of Mopar, last week we participated in the Mopar Block Party, which is held every year in beautiful downtown Golden. It is almost like a street carnival complete with racecars, show cars, street vendors, games, food, drinks, music, and of course all of the Mopar drivers on hand to sign autographs and mingle with the thousands of fans that attend. It was amazing to see how many people were in attendance. Many thanks to Mopar for hosting such an awesome event!
Usually Toni and I stay out for the entire Western Swing but this year we have to fly home after this race to oversee one of our three tenants moving into our warehouse. We will then fly back to Sonoma and hopefully be able to enjoy a few days of vacation time before heading to Seattle.
Did you get that we finally have one of three tenants moving into our warehouse, which has stood vacant for almost four years? Thus, another reason that I have been so busy when I have not been racing. We have been moving offices, dumping scrap and trash, demolishing walls and finally giving our warehouse a complete state of the art renovation. It has been extremely time-consuming dealing with contractors, architects, electricians, plumbers, and inspectors but I am really excited with what we have finally accomplished.
This first stage of occupancy will be accommodating the State of Virginia in 1/3 of our building, in a month or so we will have a Doggie Day Care moving in 1/3 of the building and the final portion of the building will be a Church. I don’t think I could have asked for any better tenants. Of course it is a good thing that I don’t have a race car any more because my race shop looks like a huge storage unit right now. That will be a good project for over the winter I think!
I did get to spend last weekend home with the family celebrating my 60th birthday (which was actually July 9 but we were in Denver testing that day). Toni arranged a small party which included a surprise visit from Melissa and baby Lena (poor Joey had to work) so I got to spend my special day celebrating with all my kids, grandkids and Toni’s dad. Jon and Jamie cooked on the grill while Alli, Cynthy and Melissa helped Toni with all of the other things. My job was to sit, relax and play with Ryan, Maia and Lena. I loved every minute of it!
So these are the highlights of the last couple of months around the Yates household. The grandkids are growing up so fast, (Ryan is 4 ½, Maia is 2 ½ and little Lena is over 5 months!) the kids are all working hard, Toni is dealing with a broken arm that happened when we were loading a steel dumpster with scrap metal – don’t even ask – this is Toni we are talking about, and I am looking forward to a great Western Swing!
It is almost time to get things rolling around here so I am going to close this blog and get it sent into cyberspace. Thanks to all of you for your patience over the last few months. I will try to make it up to you with extra blogs the rest of the year. Have a great weekend everyone and thanks for checking back with me!
Chillin before the Gainesville final
Racing, birthday celebrations, racing, Easter, racing, warehouse construction project and racing! As my good friend Fred Simmonds always said … just give me the bullets! LOL. Well, it has been quite a busy month and though I have been running around like crazy I am having a great time.
In looking at my bullet list I can honestly say that racing is going quite well so far this season. I am not going to elaborate – I'll let AJ tell you all about that in his blog, but I will say that I am so proud to be a part of this Mopar team. The Gainesville final between AJ and Jeg was awesome and what more can I say about Vegas other than WOW! Winning the K&N Shootout and doubling up with a final round win – I don't think it can get any better than that. What a weekend and what an awesome job done by AJ, Roy, and the entire J & J Mopar team!
Since I have been traveling so much lately, family birthday celebrations have to be grouped together and enjoyed as time permits. We have had fun celebrating birthdays for Cynthy, Alli, Joey and the biggest was Jon's 30th! I can't believe that my youngest son is 30 years old! Where has the time gone?
Even though the weather was chilly, Toni planned a "beach party" themed celebration for Jon and Joey that included lots of fun things such as leis, tiki lights and tropical beverages with umbrellas in them. Now who doesn't like a beverage with an umbrella? It was a great time and all the kids were home to celebrate. Melissa, Joey and baby Lena came home for the weekend, Jamie, Cynthy and the kids were there as were Jon, Alli, Toni's dad and Evelyn.
Toni planned an indoor "picnic" and it was so nice to sit and enjoy all of my kids and grandkids. Ryan and Maia got to meet their new cousin Lena and it was just a really fun time.
The next day was Easter and we once again had everyone together. My brothers Jason and Jeff joined us and the only one missing was my brother John who was on a cruise with his family. They are just as busy as I am and I haven't really seen them much since Christmas so it was so nice to have some time to catch up with them and their families. Of course Toni had planned an Easter egg hunt for the kids; there was lots of great food and most importantly some awesome family time. Toni had no sooner gotten the house cleaned up when it was time to head to Vegas. Whew and I wonder why I'm tired!
We arrived home from Vegas late Monday night and the next morning I hit the ground running. My warehouse project is steadily moving forward. With three tenants in place, and the demolition completed we are awaiting the final bids in order to choose the best construction company to complete the job. Bids, permits, site plans, build-outs, Special Use Permits, Occupancy Permits, plumbing, electrical and environmental – all issues to be dealt with. Though it is a little overwhelming, I am having a great time watching my warehouse being transformed into a state-of-the-art building that hopefully will finally be 100 percent occupied. With great people assisting in this project it is awesome to come home from a race and see the progress that has been made. Of course right now, the only progress that can be seen is the demolition – everything else is paperwork and bids' moving forward and that is a good thing! Hopefully, by the time I leave for Charlotte next week, the contractor will be chosen, the permits should be approved and the construction should be started.
I am so excited to go to Charlotte next week for the Dollar General 4-Wide Nationals. Not only do we get to race at one of the premier facilities on the circuit but I get to stay at Melissa and Joey's house and visit with little Lena! Melissa says that "my room" is all ready for our visit and though we are racing most of the time, it is so much fun to come home to their home at the end of the day. I guess I have been pretty spoiled having Ryan and Maia living so close and being able to see them so much. Being a "long distance Poppop" is a little more difficult but I'm trying my best!
The 4-Wide Nationals are always a little challenging for most of the teams because the driver is a little out of his normal routine of staging and driving. Of course, that is what makes it fun for everyone and we are really looking forward to getting back to Concord and hopefully getting all three of our cars into the final four! That would be awesome…well at least for our team it would be! The beauty of this race is that it is the only race on the circuit that our entire three car team can be in the final round! Hey, I bet AJ, Jeg and Vincent would all agree…just saying! LOL A team can only hope for the best at any given race.
I will close this blog and get back to work. I have a warehouse full of people all working away and I will get back to looking at my graphs and reviewing my notes from the last race. I love to sit down, when I have time to think, and analyze each and every run that we made over the weekend. Mark and I are so busy during race day that sometimes we barely get a chance to analyze any data so it is nice to have time to do that even if it is after the fact.
Concord will be a busy race and I hope that lots of you will be able to attend. What a great show for the fans to see. If you are at the track, make sure to stop by and say hey! My next bullet list is already set…qualify, qualify, qualify, race, race, race and WIN! See you all at the track!
Excitement, excitement, and more excitement …that's what life in the Yates family has been filled with for the past month! It all started on February 8th at 10:20 am when little Nicolina May Civali finally blessed us with her presence! Little "Lena" (named after my Mom) was 8 days late and as Melissa put it, entered this world on her terms, taking her sweet time getting here. She weighed in at 8 pounds and 9 ounces, was 21" long and is a beautiful, healthy baby girl. Thankfully, she, Mommy and Daddy are doing great.
As you know, Toni had gone to Melissa's the last week in January as they had anticipated that Lena would arrive at that time. Every day I would call for an update and every day the answer was still the same…Melissa feels great and no other developments. I was beginning to worry that she wouldn't get here before I had to leave for Pomona (I mean, really???) As it was she arrived on the 8th and I flew to Vegas to test on the 10th. I was so excited that I was able to be there for Lena's arrival.
Melissa sends pictures every day and I can't believe how fast she is growing…I can't wait to get back down for another visit. I guess we have really been spoiled having Ryan and Maia living so close. We get to see them all the time and get to be a part of their daily lives so this will be an adjustment for us. Not to worry, I heard Toni talking about our next trip just yesterday so I will wait to get my updated itinerary real soon. You know being a PopPop is a really tough job.
After the excitement of baby Lena it was time to head to Vegas for a quick test session and then to Pomona. I know that the entire Johnson and Johnson organization was ready to get the Mello Yellow racing season underway and the "team" was not disappointed with the results of the first race in Pomona. We struggled the first couple of qualifying runs with AJ's and Jeggie's car but rebounded nicely on Saturday and Sunday.
Unfortunately, having a three car team, only two cars can possibly advance to the final and though we were disappointed that AJ eventually lost, we were very excited that the final in Pomona was once again two Roy Johnson powered Mopars with Vincent collecting his first Wally of the year over Jeg. Needless to say, it was a very busy weekend!
After the race in Pomona, instead of flying back and forth across country, Toni and I decided to stay in Phoenix for a couple of days at one of our favorite Marriott resorts. Though the weather was a little chilly it was still nice to take a couple of days to "chill out" (no pun intended LOL) and regroup before our next race began in beautiful, sunny, warm Chandler, Ariz.
Well, the beautiful and sunny part was there but warm…not so much! The temps stayed in the 50's and 60's and made for some fast ET's and some great racing. Unfortunately, our team didn't fare as well at this race with all three drivers ending their day after 2nd round but all and all we still had a great weekend. Three drivers, three teams and three crews all working together each run is really pretty awesome and I'm loving every minute of it!
Monday morning it was back to the east coast and I hit the ground running. The demolition/reconstruction project at our warehouse was to begin on Tuesday morning and at 6:30 am the first two crews arrived at the property. This week we are working with electrical and plumbing crews to remove all of the unnecessary wires and water lines in order for us to move the project forward. As soon as they complete this phase of the project, we will move forward into tearing down some of the existing interior walls – when that is completed the rebuilding will begin.
Toni and I are really excited to finally have the warehouse rented and even more excited that when this project is finished we will have a beautiful, state of the art, building which will accommodate three separate tenants. It isn't going to be easy, but all of the hard work will be worth it in the end. Our goal is to have everything completed by June and the tenants all moved in before I leave for the western swing. Luckily I have a great general contractor who is handling everything but you know me, I have to be involved if I am not on the road racing!
It won't be long before I am on the road racing again. We will be testing at least two of the cars in Bradenton the week of Gainesville. I think that most of the pro stock cars will be there. It is such a great opportunity to test some final combinations before heading to one of my favorite races, the Gatornationals.
Besides breaking in some tires, Mark and I have a long list of things we would like to test so I can't wait to get some great testing in while enjoying the beautiful springtime weather in sunny, warm Gainesville, Florida. Now, we only have to hope that Mother Nature get's the memo that we are counting on awesome weather and sunny skies to make our Gatornational's complete…well a Wally wouldn't be bad either. Just saying! Have a great week everyone and thanks for checking in!