First things first: It was great (GREAT!) to be back at the race track, working alongside my true extended family in the NHRA world. I was tempted to wear a sticker on my shirt that said "Hello, my name is BOB" but I forgot to stop at an office supply place to get one. Oh well, I made up for it by circulating around our pit area and introducing myself to our guys.
Here, in short order, are some of the highlights from this past weekend in Joliet. We didn't have any tornadoes but we did lose a session, Saturday night was the greatest night of "mine shaft" drag racing in recent history, the whole day on Saturday was spectacular for our team because we had Dick Levi, Shannon Heisler, and a bevy of LRS guests with us and everyone had a great time, on Friday we debuted our LRS Web Solutions / DNN body to widespread acclaim and a tsunami of on-line voting for our new website design, we finally beat Courtney Force for the first time after beginning the Wilk / C. Force match-up with an 0-5 record, and then we lost in the second round when we smoked the tires, despite the fact Bob Tasca lost traction too. And we ate extremely well. When Susan and Jon Cagle come to the race from Springfield, we eat well. And we eat a LOT!
So that's about it. See ya later!
Oh, wait... I guess I should add a little color to the commentary in a rambling sort of way, eh? I used the "eh" there in honor of Canada Day, eh, which was Monday, eh.
I was a little out of practice on the whole traveling thing, but everything went smoothly. Barb had to spend the first part of the week out in Spokane and she returned to Minnesota on Friday, just after I had left on Thursday. When I parked at MSP, on our preferred 5th floor on the "Blue" side of the parking structure, I saw her car parked in the first spot next to the door that takes you to the elevators. What a rock star! That's the sort of life we lead, being impressed with each other's parking spots when we come and go at the airport in opposite directions.
I'll probably never change my routines in terms of how early I go to the airport, because as soon as you do that and you cut it a little close, that's sure to be the day when everything is haywire and the lines are out the door, but... I left the house at 10:00 for my 12:00 noon flight to ORD, and was parked (near my rock star wife's car) by 10:30. In the door, into the elevator, press the "T" button for "tram" level, get off the elevator and get on the tram, get off the tram, walk to the Sky Priority lane in the underground ticketing area (which is really only used by people who park at the airport), check my bag in two minutes, head upstairs into the main terminal, hop in the Sky Priority lane for security, get passed through via the TSA Pre-Check (greatest thing ever), walk through the x-ray machine with my shoes on and my computer still in my backpack, grab my stuff as it flies through the x-ray machine on the little conveyor belt, and walk to the Sky Club. It was, at that point, all of 10:40... Wow...
I didn't quite make it down to Joliet in time to go to the track, arriving at the hotel around 5:30ish after battling the Chicago traffic, and by then I had gotten a phone call to put a proposal together for a potential associate sponsor, so my dinner plans were altered (sorry Brent!) and it was straight to my room to get to work. I was hungry, though, so I asked the girl at the desk about local pizza places and I'm sure any of you who live in Chicago will know about Lou Malnati's. I'm, unfortunately, a guy who was raised on St. Louis style thin-crust pizza, and never have liked Chicago Deep Dish (how can two cities just 250 miles apart produce pizzas that are 180-degrees different?) but I saw on their menu that they did offer a thin-crust version. It seemed a bit like going to Ruth's Chris and ordering a hamburger, but I ordered a medium thin-crust with all my favorite toppings and it was great!
Funny side story: The girl at the hotel desk gave me the menu, but before she did she scratched out the phone number on the back and wrote a slightly different one on the front. Turns out, Lou Malnati's included a slight typo in the phone number for the new Joliet restaurant. Oops. A typo in my blog is one thing (and they're quite common) but messing up one digit on a telephone number is basically a calamity. The desk clerk said "They only missed by one number, but if you call the one on the back the lady who answers the phone is going to scream at you..." I didn't want that.
Friday started with me putting all the contingency decals on the new LRS Web Solutions / DotNetNuke body, and shortly thereafter the sizable group of LRS and DNN folks arrived. They rented a suite on Friday and used the race as a chance to have a joint strategy meeting and seminar, which by all accounts went just swimmingly. I gave Alan Reinhart a brief "cheat sheet" which outlined what the special body was all about and how fans could vote (got the same thing to Dave Rieff as well, and simply by typing those two names it reminds me of just what professional people I get to work with) so that all went great. A fun day was had by all.
Saturday was spectacular for us, with a pit full of LRS guests, including Dick, Shannon, and a bunch of other great LRS folks. We had a good old time in the pit, giving stuff away, telling jokes, and just having fun. Even getting the stretch limo onto the property and near the pit entrance, with the help of the great staff at Route 66, went without a hitch.
Okay, about that Saturday night session. Well, conditions were great for the first Saturday run, around 5:30ish, and they only got better as late afternoon turned to dusk and then to night. When we went up there for the final run, the Top Fuel guys were all smashing their career bests, so it was obviously good. You know what happened in Funny Car, and it was pretty epic to watch.
We ran next to Bob Tasca, who ran a 3.98 to become the fourth FC to dip into the 3s in the same session. Wilk was aiming for something in that area, but for some reason our car began to spin the tires well down track and we didn't make it. That was frustrating and disappointing, for sure, but most of the frustration came from knowing just how special and rare the conditions were, and then thinking about how long it might be before we see anything like that again. It was that rare out there...
We were the seventh pair on Sunday morning, facing Courtney. The day had started out cool and overcast, but the sun was peeking through by the time Top Fuel kicked things off and I think we were all hoping the track would heat up a little. Instead, we watched as pair after pair made solid runs, and it was obvious there was plenty of track out there. With each passing pair, I will admit my confidence level was sinking a little. If it was that good out there, we knew we'd have our hands full with Courtney and her car. She's good, and it's fast...
I shouldn't have worried. Wilk nailed the tune-up, our 4.09 beat her 4.12, and we all shared some palm-stinging high fives. Good work by the boss, and good work by the boys.
And then we lost in round two when we smoked the tires almost instantly. Ugh. That's a technical term used to describe the sensation felt when tires produce smoke. Ugh.
I got to work on my post-race report, got it written, and then pitched in to begin the process of tearing the circus down. Of course, one of my typical responsibilities at any race other than Englishtown is to make sure Nick Casertano gets to his Sunday night flight on time, so that he can get back home to New Jersey in time to go to work at his full-time gig on Monday. So, Nicky and I figured we should be in my rental car and rolling just when the Funny Car finals were happening, to make sure we beat the traffic. Worked like such a charm we were at O'Hare about three hours before his flight, so he dashed inside to see if he could get on an earlier one. Knowing how bad United Airlines is right now, I'm hoping he got home at all.
My plan was already in place, to return my rental car, get on the Hertz bus, take it to Terminal 2, where I'd go downstairs to the tunnel and walk over to the O'Hare Hilton. Easy as could be, and my room service salad was good. Not worth what it cost (by any stretch) but good. Apparently, the biggest similarity between the O'Hare Hilton and any nice hotel in New York City is the pricing for room service.
In the morning, I was planning on sleeping in but the sun woke me up and by 10:00 I was so bored I figured I'd just head on over to the terminal for my 12:20 flight. Just like at MSP at the start of this adventure, I seemed to do it all at the speed of light. Down the elevators to the lobby, check out, walk down to the tunnel, over to the airport, up to the Delta Sky Priority lane, check my bag in mere seconds, walk over to the security line and spot the TSA Pre-Check (still the greatest thing ever) and get through that all in about 12 minutes. Good thing there's a Sky Club on the concourse, because I still had two hours to kill...
And for the record, the order of natural selection and the way in which the cosmos turn and events take place means that I most certainly will have a travel experience (probably sooner than later) which will provide the counter-balance to how swimmingly the whole Chicago trip took place. It simply must be. Can't wait... On the good side, right now it seems like Delta is the one airline that people aren't continually (and rightfully) complaining about non-stop.
We did have two extra Wilks in the house, as Rachel and Daniel were there. Well, actually we had three extra Wilks, since Dan's bride Brianna came along as well. Great to see all of them, and Rachel and I reprised our pre-lap special handshake (high five, low five, double back slap, jump back) like we'd just done it yesterday.
Jon Gimmy was in the house as well, helping out on the car again like he'd never left. B2 still has some very sore fingers after getting his hand smashed in Epping, so Gimmy jumped right in and helped out on the bottom end. Great to have him back, as well.
Travis and Ryan Wirth, one of our two sets of brothers on the team, had a large "Fan Club" make the trip over from the other side of Illinois, where they're from, and once again the group all came wearing custom-designed t-shirts. Their motto is "Stalkin' The Ropes" and I think that's hilarious. Major props for funny t-shirts, and major props for all of that gang coming over to root for their home-town friends.
Cool design hits the track, to help us pick another cool new design (for our website).
And now I'm back in Woodbury. The end.
Norwalk is coming up in days (I made sure I wrote that preview feature story before even starting this blog) but alas I shan't be there. No hospitality, no Bob. And I was just getting back in the swing of things, too. What a weird summer for me. From June 1 to September 1, my entire travel schedule for races is simply Englishtown, Chicago, Denver, Brainerd, and Indy. That's it... Bizarre. And I'm only going to Brainerd because I can drive there from Woodbury. We're not doing hospitality there, either.
I am going to every race starting with Brainerd, though, so I'll finish the season the way I'm used to. Plus, we have free hotel rooms in Vegas and you can't miss Pomona (you just can't, it's a rule), so even though we don't do hospitality there I'm going no matter what. Count on that...
And count on the fact I'll be back soon. Twins game on Wednesday night, then we have a date to meet the Jacobsen's in their driveway to watch fireworks on the night of the 4th. Some traditions will never be allowed to expire!
Oh, and you can still vote to pick our new website design!!! We're going to end the voting around midday on Friday, but until then you can go the voting page and cast as many votes as you want. Just go to vote.timwilkerson.com