Hard to believe that there's still snow in California in late July, but I've got the photos to prove it. Here is Mt. Pinatubo, Vesuvius, Whitney, Everest, K2, R2D2, R2B2, or Lassen or Shasta. I think it's in the Himalaya's, the Alps, the Rockies, the Bullwinkles, the Andies, the Griffith's, or the Cascades. I slept in the day we studied mountains in school, but I still get an 'A' for clever!
In order to qualify for my first Pulitzer, I’m going to get creative with this blog and cover the race first, then everything else that took place from Seattle to Sonoma. That really isn’t much of a revelation in literature though, is it? Well, you’re just going to have to settle for a bit of anachronism (dig that word) in lieu of talent on this one.
No. 3 for No. 1: No, I’m not talking about being in line for the urinal in the men’s room, I’m alluding to my third No. 1 qualifying position, which is very cool. I’ve had one with Todd Okuhara and Phil Shuler, one with Johnny West and John Collins, and now one with Rahn Tobler and “JC.” Two other times I have tied for low E.T., but finished second due to speed.
Our Friday night run really was a monster, setting both ends of the Infineon track record (4.063 at 311.56 mph), and I think no one else came within three miles per hour or four-hundredths of us the entire weekend. At the time we ran, there still were 10 good cars yet to make their passes, and I thought we’d probably stay in the top three or four, but I was sure somebody (probably Hagan, Force, or Hight) would eclipse our run. Densham destroyed the body on his car in the lights in the pair right after us, so I was already back in the pits, out of the firesuit, and packing chutes when they resumed running. I really try not to get emotionally involved in qualifying positions, but as each pair came up and failed to overtake us, I found myself wanting a rabbit’s foot, four-leaf clover, or midget wrestler (aren’t those all supposed to be good luck?). I had to settle for rubbing Vaseline on the rear -- don’t let your mind go there! -- TIRES of all my diecast “voodoo” cars for the other drivers. Yes, you know I’m kidding. I used Jergens Lotion instead. Anyway, we survived the onslaught and held on to No. 1. Ironically, we really weren’t one of the faster cars in the heat, so often being low E.T. at races where there is a night qualifying session isn’t nearly the advantage that you might think ... if Sunday is warm.
Sunday first round we were up against Jeff Diehl, who I think is doing an incredible job this year. Did you know that he built and maintains his own car? And, I think it’s safe to say that he is the tallest Funny Car driver in the last 25 years. We dropped a cylinder against Jeff, causing the car to pull hard to the left (If one cylinder stops making power, that exhaust pipe also fails to create lateral thrust and downforce, and it can really make the run a handful sometimes), which was of particular concern to me, because someone put a wall up over there! I avoided the concrete and we got the win light, which gave us another date with Robert Hight ... without lane choice. In fact, he had set what would be low E.T. of all of race day in the first round. So, a little Strivectin on the slicks of my Auto Club diecast (to prevent wrinkles, of course), and voila! ... they go up in smoke against us. That gives us a matchup with Bob Tasca in the semis without -- you guessed it -- lane choice. Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but Tasca had just run low E.T. of the second round (and the second best E.T .of all Sunday). No problema. I put a little Preparation H all over the hood of my diecast Motorcraft car (to shrink and shorten the front end, of course), and we took the win by .0004, which I calculate to be about 2.96 inches! That gives us our teammate Capps in the final, and I’m not even going to waste any time telling you who had lane choice. So, out comes the NAPA diecast car ... hey, where the hell is my NAPA Charger? Seems one of their guys must have hidden it from me to prevent any tomfoolery (who came up with that word?), and we just didn’t have enough for them in the final. I congratulate that team for their first win of the season, and we were able to move up to third place in the points with our great effort.
Lightning McQueen scooter: $32. Helmet, elbow and knee pads: $19. Watching your son take a self-assessment of his testosterone level: Priceless!
Now, shall we go back in time just a bit and catch you up on the preceding events? Yes, we shall. We packed up in Seattle and got out of there Monday afternoon and, with nearly 800 miles to cover and having to be in Sonoma Wednesday, there wasn’t any time to dilly-dally (there’s another really odd phrase!).
Once we arrived in Sonoma we had to park overnight in the staging area. No, not the staging lanes; this is just a big dirt parking lot where finding level space for the motorhome is nearly as impossible as trying to keep it clean, but we managed OK.
Jason and I didn’t want to be in the RV while Jenna did her ritualistic dance with the vacuum, so we unpacked his scooter and safety equipment and found some nice downhill pavement to build up speed. He’d go ‘til it looked like he might munch, and then I’d “rescue” him, take the scooter up the hill, and let him do it over and over. I’m sure these next years are going to be a blur, and I never want to have any regrets about missing anything in his childhood. Besides, it’s good exercise!
Wednesday we got parked, and Brent and Staci Cannon met up with us. Staci was going to help out at the Mail from Home booth in our hospitality (she has done so at several races, and will again in Indy, Vegas, and Pomona), so they headed up a day early so we could hang out.
Brent, Staci and us getting ready for our Jeep adventure. Being an experienced outdoorsman, I was fully prepared for this journey. I skipped shaving for several days to retain my body warmth if we got stranded in the cold, and I was comfortable with the idea of eating somebody if our vehicle were to crash into a mountainside and maroon us.
Jenna had loaded up on the Auto Club Trip Guides before we left, and she perused through them and found some cool things for us to do. The first was a trip to Santa Rosa, where there’s a place called Safari West. Very cool deal: It’s an animal preserve where you can rent a cabin, enjoy a barbeque, take a walking tour, and go on guided Jeep tours. I think I shot about 20 photos of this one giraffe, trying to get the perfect picture with his tongue out. They tell me these fellows have roughly one inch of tongue for every foot of height (not Hight). At 17 feet, you can do the math, but I just couldn’t stop staring ... it was odd! We saw rhinos (the animals with the horns on their noses, not the All Terrain Vehicle), impalas (the African antelopes, not the Chevrolets), lots of birds (the feathery kind, not the '60s rock band), and a wildebeest that didn’t look very old. He must have been ... gnu. Get it?...”gnu”...that’s the SAME THING as a wildebeest! I’m killin’ myself here; damn funny stuff!
We also did some wine tasting (when I was younger that used to be called “getting drunk,” but “wine tasting” definitely sounds more sophisticated and grown up). We also did some wine purchasing (I’m inclined to believe that these wineries have cleverly devised this whole “tasting” thing to get into my wallet. Come to think of it, that’s just how the whole “getting drunk” thing usually turned out when I was younger: Spent all my money and nothing to show for it but a hangover), which of course led to more “wine tasting” back in the RV. I prefer to think of it as “replenishing my antioxidants.”
Thursday evening I again was honored to be able to attend the Eric Medlen dinner, where I caught up with some of his family and friends from nearby Oakdale. I played in the charity poker tournament (ANY time I play poker, it’s charity for somebody, trust me!) before the festivities began. Bob Frey again did his amazing job of emcee-ing (that’s a REALLY strange word, but I let “barbeque” (or is it “bar-b-que”?) go earlier, so I’ll move on. Bob is incredible at whatever he does at every function he attends, and I think the world of him as a person and a professional. I also kicked his ass in the poker game! Anyway, Eric left us way too soon, but his name is certainly living on in a most positive way with all of the fundraising Speedway Children’s Charities has done in his honor.
What a brilliant disguise this would be for a car thief. I agreed to participate in a random AAA training session to help their new hirees open car doors. No, that is NOT my PT Cruiser and, no, I did NOT lock the keys in the car! We were thinking about calling Robert Hight to see if he knew how to use a slim jim, but this guy was much closer.
Saturday Jenna and I (Cindy flew up for this race, and she watched Jason to give Jenna a break) were guests at the annual Fram dinner, along with all my teammates and Don Schumacher. Our sponsors treat us like gold, and we have fantastic personal relationships with so many of them that it makes our jobs such a joy.
And Sunday; well, unless you cheated and skipped the first few paragraphs, you would have read how nice our Sunday was. Right up until about 993 feet into the final round, which is about where I was when Mr. Capps’ win light came on.
Still, a No. 1 spot (I hate to hear it referred to as, “sitting on the pole.” I don’t know about you, but there isn’t enough wine in the world to get me to sit ... oh, never mind!), a runner-up, some quality time with my son, dinner for a fallen icon, a giraffe that makes Gene Simmons envious, and oh ... that wine tasting!
Sonoma 2010: it was hard to complain.