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Posted by: Jack Beckman, Valvoline MaxLife Dodge

Sorry if the title caught you off guard, or if it offended anyone. Come to think of it, if you read this blog, I’m guessing that you’re not easily offended. Anyway, the title was a construction reference, of course. And, man, has my life been all about construction lately. However, in an effort to have fair and balanced reporting, let’s catch up on “all things Jack” that don’t involve a hammer or saw:

We tested for several days in West Palm Beach, Fla. We made some pretty stout early shutoff runs, but we also faced some frustrations during our 15 passes. That, in and of itself, (who the heck made that figure of speech up?) isn’t unusual for testing. After all, we decided to go with a different style “cannon” (not as in, “something loud that shoots out projectiles”, but rather, “a hydraulic clutch controller that allows the throw-out bearing to move during the run”), and we were trying a few different style clutch disks and levers.

That being said, we still felt like we had some unresolved issues in the fuel system. That, plus the fact that the last day was a complete rainout (we had intended to do at least 3 runs that day) sort of forced our hand. We now will make a stop in Las Vegas this Monday (as in, “3 days before Pomona…THAT Monday”) and make several short runs to take advantage of our changes. Though I’ve got plenty of stuff to keep me busy all the way up until the Winternationals kick off, I’m certainly cool with dialing-in our Valvoline/MTS (more on that later) Charger.

The issue is (believe it or not)…time.

Sunday I was airborne at 6am to make my way to Nashville doing an appearance for Valvoline that went until 11 p.m. Then, early Monday morning I headed straight to Vegas for our aforementioned test. I landed at 10 a.m., and we’d like to warm the car by 9 (If you’re also having a hard time with the math on that one, join the club). We’ll do the best we can, and hopefully the track will let us stay a bit later to get all the runs in. Monday night I will fly back home.

All my movie star friends. I’m the good looking one in the middle. No, not the one wearing the blouse with all the buttons…look slightly left!

Speaking of flying, I’ve done LOTS of that lately. Yep, two days after flying back from Florida testing I was back on a plane, heading to…wait for it…Nashville (of course). That visit was to film a segment on PowerBlock TV, hosted by Courtney Hansen. She’s definitely a gearhead, was very cool to spend time with, and apparently ain’t all that bad looking (so I’ve been told). We also had our Schumacher Electric/ Battery Extender-bodied racecar in studio, and the show will air in March.

From Tennessee, I flew home for four days, and then back on the road for four more (that’s a lot of “4’s” in one sentence). Yep, I went from Ontario to Denver to Detroit…and stayed. Motor City was my goal, and my destination was the Chrysler Headquarters. Mopar hosted several of their champions, including Alan Johnson and me. Joining us were Jonathan Start and DJ Kennington, both nice dudes and championship drivers.

The tour of Mopar’s building was spectacular. At 5.3 million square feet (I didn’t measure to verify, but it was big), I’m told it’s second to only the Pentagon in office building size. Jenna told me that wasn’t important. Anyway, I wish I had three days and the necessary clearances (as in “security”, not like in an engine) to see more of what they do. Checking out the 2015 Challenger, the clay modeling rooms, and the SRT design works (none of which I’m allowed to mention, by the way, so keep your lips sealed!) was quite a treat.

From Detroit, I hit Chicago for a layover, then arrived in snowy Salt Lake City (that’s in Utah, for ye who are geographically challenged). I was there to give a speech in support of my work with Amgen. Their “Chemotherapy: Myths or Facts” campaign was fantastic to be involved with, and I was honored they wanted to have me speak to so many of their employees. I just wish I had brought a warmer jacket.

Every good construction project starts with a pool table, a floor jack, 4 furniture dolly’s, and some muscle from your mother-in-law!
This is BEFORE. A beautiful area with a vaulted ceiling, but a pain in the neck to get up on a ladder to clean the windows. My solution: simply add another floor and the windows are within easy reach!
I believe I am caulking (which is NEVER a joking matter!) and Blake is making sure that Jason doesn’t make a run for it and dive off of our new elevated platform.
 I can’t recall if this is before or after I cut through the alarm cable while lowering the A/C vent.
Once Ed and I attached Dixie cups to the ends of the wire, it was much easier to hear each other!
If you really want to itch, this pink stuff will do the trick! Perhaps the most interesting part of this project was an epiphany I had while at Home Depot: Jack, Ed, and eight 25-foot rolls of R-30 insulation will fit INSIDE a PT Cruiser (though you do have to slam the side door and the rear hatch!
Chris and Todd after hanging all the sound board and drywall. Two things to notice: That patch behind Chris was preexisting and covered with trim (and appears to have been installed by a blind seven year old). Also, tattoos seem to be “in” for drywallers. Technically, Todd is considered a “rough carpenter”, no jokes…please!

After my speech, I took part in an NHRA teleconference (while idling the rental car in the airport parking lot), then checked out the Vegas airport on layover while on my way back home.

At home, if it hasn’t involved manual labor, it’s been all about computers and alarms. We now are on modem #4, and this may be the one to fix it. Our internet story sounds a bit like the end of “The twelve days of Christmas”, featuring:  “Four new modems, three providers, two computers, and a trouble call from A.T…T” (Thank you). While the gentleman from American Telephone and Telegraph was bypassing all the cool electronics our 2004 home came pre-wired with, I just knew it was worth $130 to “uninstall” the internet from every other room it was prewired into. Later, good friend Brent Cannon took a look at his work, and cleaned up several things. He also noticed that our alarm was incorrectly wired, meaning it would be incredibly simple for someone to tie-up the phone line, break into our home, and not ever worry about the alarm company being notified. Three and a half years…and a bill every month. Talk about a false sense of security (kind of like my Thursday run at the Finals…if you know what I mean)!

Anyway, Jenna phoned the company, who sent out a tech, who verified the hook up was wrong, fixed it, and charged us ZERO for the call. Jenna then followed up with a customer service call, only to be told there really wasn’t a problem, they couldn’t verify if someone had “altered” their original install, and they’d reluctantly give us a $160 credit out of the kindness of their hearts. This is where the you-know-what hit the fan. DO NOT discredit, patronize, or lie to your customers!!!! This company, who shall remain unnamed (ADT), did every possible “dodge” in the customer service handbook before Jenna finally got to speak to a manager. After 3 minutes, we were refunded EVERY PENNY we had spent with them since day one. The manager also commented that this was the easiest decision she had made all day, as we had complained about various issues from virtually the beginning (all related to the install issue), and everyone involved on their end had simply dropped the ball. Lesson learned here: Stay the course and stand your ground when you are justified…it will always be worth it (in this case it was worth $1591).

Speaking of large sums of money, this brings me right back to all the goings-on in the home improvement department, and should explain why Home Depot stock has risen in the past month. Not content to simply “milk” my ongoing backyard project, we decided to pull the trigger on our living roof “loft”. It just made sense: wait until three weeks before the season officially kicks off, right in the middle of travelling all around the globe, just when the temperature reaches the low for the year, and dive right in to a major construction project.

Fortunately, I know people. Todd Henry, who was a student at the Hawley School (he actually traded a bathroom build in our shop for his tuition), was definitely the right guy for this project. Todd is one of those guys who get 11 hours of work done in 8 (kind of the inverse of me). Between Todd, his son Blake, and me; we cut out strips of drywall horizontally around the entire room, mounted full perimeter continuous ledgers, hung the floor joists, and installed the subfloor sheeting in two days! Todd said call him back when I was ready for drywall.

About that time is when I started racking up more frequent flyer miles, and then it was time for electrical work. I know enough about electron flow to get myself into serious trouble…but I got people! This time, Ed Kryzwicki got the call. Stop me if you’ve heard this, but I met Ed while working at the Drag Racing School. Ed races Super Comp, and is one helluva wiring guy. He and I installed 11 lights between the two levels, added outlets, switches, speaker wiring, and cable for TV. Remember, this isn’t new construction, and we tried to minimize making huge holes in the drywall. I got tapped to do the attic crawling, but we finished everything is just over two days.

Next, we needed heat! Though I was able to relocate the downstairs vent lower to clear the soon-to-be-installed crown molding, there was no way I was going to tackle adding two more vents upstairs. That chore, and a cool $500, went to a professional.

Salvaging the existing bannister was very important for this project, and I’m fairly certain that I’m close to expert status on that now. Ed and I ripped it out without damage, Todd did most of the finessing on the reinstall, but I spent plenty of time in between making sure everything was cut correctly, cleaned of all nails and glue, and sanded back smooth. It’s really going to look terrific when we’re all done.

Todd and crew were back today hanging drywall, and tomorrow it should be textured, sanded, and complete.

We basically are paint and carpet away from being done with the addition, and that’s great. What isn’t great is that Jenna wants to repaint all the common areas on both floors, and that may require more time than we have. I hate to farm out work I can do, but we may have…get this: “Painted ourselves into a corner”! Get it? Okay, bad pun. Also, the only thing I know about carpet is that I get yelled at when I get mud on it, and Jenna wants all new carpet…everywhere. I’d love to write an article about how fast one can go through a championship bonus, but it’s a little depressing right now. I need to remember which students of mine do carpet.

While all this was going on, Jerry (and his son Jerry) finished off the form boards for the garage wall, and I’m six vertical rebar away from being done with my wall trench. Though I certainly won’t win any contests for time, I’ve managed to form the trench, lay all the horizontal rebar (basically everything laying around the yard that I don’t want to have to take to the dump), and get half of the verticals in. I should be able to call for an inspection as soon as my schedule allows, and I’d love to pour concrete shortly after the Phoenix national event.

I’ve got my Valvoline diesel oil and all the filters to service the RV; I just am out of time right now. I hope I can squeeze that in between Pomona and Phoenix, but that only gives me a day and a half…we’ll see!

I mentioned earlier about MTS being back as a major player on our car. Currently Valvoline will be the primary for 10 races, five each with the same green scheme from last year and with a similar outline but red. Mail Terminal Services will have a very unique design at seven races, with a tribute to our injured soldiers. Not only will fans be able to write a message to these exceptional service people, but MTS will donate $1 for every postcard signed to the Wounded Warrior Project. I can’t wait to get started. The program will launch in Pomona, and Phoenix will be the debut of the car.

I’m also thrilled to be able to strap into the car with the big “#1” on it in just a few days. I’m sure this season will have emotional extremes, but I am so honored to be able to get back out there and defend our championship.

Stay tuned, pack your bags, get it plumb, level and straight, and watch us in Pomona!

 
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