My crew chief Richard Hartman couldn’t have picked a better line from a song to sing, when he started singing “You gotta have faith a faith a faith” from the song Faith by George Michaels, as we sat in the staging lanes during the pre-race ceremony in Sonoma. Interestingly enough, the walkie talkie provides an echo similar to singing in the shower, and he didn’t sound half bad!
It is no secret that my team has been struggling with performance lately, and it is starting to beat up on me pretty bad. Most people assume that I became a drag racer because I liked to drive fast. That may have played a part in my initial interest in the sport, but it is the love of competition, mixed with my desire to over deliver, that inspired me to pursue this profession. I have worked my butt off and am proud to say that I am one of 14 people in the United State that race a Top Fuel dragster full time on the NHRA circuit. I have figured out how to be competitive and successful with my marketing partners, which is why I have faith that I will figure out how to be competitive and successful on the track.
People are quick to give advice on what changes I should make to become more competitive. I listen to most suggestions, but the reality is that I am running this operation on a lot less money than probably any other full time Top Fuel team out there and most suggestions that I get require more money. I wish I had the funds to pay Richard Hartman the salary that FULL TIME crew chiefs make. He would be able to spend every day with the car (at and away from the track), which would make it a lot easier for him to tune. Instead Richard owns and operates his machine shop full time and his part time job is tuning my car! This is the case for most of my crew members too. Another obstacle we face is not having the luxury to retire our parts just because we think they have too many runs on them. I have to run our parts until they have no life left in them. In some cases I will then replace them with brand new parts, and other times I will buy some of the bigger teams used parts. These are just a few examples of how I have learned to work with in the means that I have.
Fortunately for me the financial obstacles do not prevent me from delivering to my marketing partners. I was overwhelmed upon returning from the Western Swing to see the commercial we filmed for Elkhart General Hospital was running on the local stations. Here is a link if you feel like watching: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uhS6dAk9t64&feature=plcp! I also get to see my friends who just happen to be amaliestore.com customers at OK Tire and Bait tomorrow when we display the car for their customer appreciation day. Then this weekend, the team will have and extra hand when Ben, our UNOH intern joins us again. It’s always cool to catch up with him and see what he is learning in school. Last time we talked he had just learned how to tint windows.
So yes despite the frustrating performance the car has been having, there are other areas of this operation that have been quite successful. With a little faith and a lot of hard work, this team will be able to figure out how to run more competitive. I am hoping it happens sooner rather than later.
I know as fans you only see what happens on the track, which lately hasn’t been good. I just hope you haven’t given up on me yet, because I am not giving up anytime soon. Follow me in between blogs by “liking” my Facebook page or @terrymcmillen on Twitter.
Given the mild winter we experienced at the shop in Elkhart, Ind., I should have known the summer months would be anything but mild. It has been hot here in the Midwest, with a couple crazy thunderstorms, and quite honestly I enjoyed our mild winter more than this weather. Last year I would have welcomed the uncharacteristically hot temperatures, as it seemed our car performed much better in the heat, which allowed us to be more competitive with the bigger teams. This year is a whole new ballgame, and I am over the heat!
The folks at Summit Motorsports Park in Norwalk, Ohio know how to put on a good show for the fans. Despite the 150-degree track temperatures, fans filled the stands Friday and Saturday. If you were there, you are well aware that there was not one drop of rain that hit the track over the weekend. Oddly enough there was a black rain cloud that hovered over the Amalie Oil Pit Friday, which eventually created a thunderstorm that down poured on our team Saturday afternoon, when we failed to qualify for the race.
We have been improving with every race, and though we are in the 12th position in points, the top ten has always been within reach. When you don’t qualify for a race it puts you that much further behind the number 10 and 11 spots, and the chance of getting into the top ten this year seems to be slipping away. I am not giving up faith yet, because I know anything can happen and we have five races left to make a move, but a setback is a setback and that is exactly what happened when we didn’t qualify this weekend.
My guys work extremely hard, and I know that we will get things turned around for Denver. I’m blessed to have a team in which every guy has a positive outlook on our future, and I know they won’t let the storm we encountered keep their spirits down for long.
We are fortunate that the storm in Norwalk didn’t damage any parts and pieces on the car, and once our spirits are healed, which won’t take long, we will forget the storm even existed. I wish the same could be said about my friend and huge supporter of our team, Nitro John (@nitrojohn on twitter), who also was the victim to a major storm last week, only this storm was worse than us not qualifying. A Derecho storm with 90-mph winds ripped through the RV park that he and his wife run in New Jersey leaving everyone in the park without power several people with damage to their RVs. You can see from the photos it was pretty devastating. Fortunately and amazingly no one was hurt, but he is in need of help. If anyone is interested in helping him and the residence out, they could use the following: bottled water, non-perishable food, first aid kits, portable generators, and dog food. Send items to Buene Vista RV Park, C/O John Amorosano, 775 Harding way- Buena, NJ 08310.
Until next time please follow us on Facebook or Twitter! See you later!
I am from a family of eight kids. Between the eight of us having kids and those kids having kids, our family has become quite large. Needless to say keeping anything from my mom is virtually impossible. Somehow by the grace of God, the eight of us (minus my brother Kurt, who was unable to attend), were able to put a birthday party together which took my mom by huge surprise and it was awesome!
Last Sunday we had as many people in the family as possible come to my place to celebrate mom’s birthday. She knew we were having a cookout, but didn’t expect the shop to be decorated with balloons and a “Happy Birthday” sign. It was really cool seeing the look on her face when she entered the shop! Like I said it is hard to put one past mom, which made our surprise quite an accomplishment.
The afternoon was pretty fun. We had the gator golf cart in the shop, which I think nothing about. The kids however, thought it was really cool. They took turns driving it around the yard (with an adult on board). I can honestly say I was more nervous riding passenger on the golf cart with my nephew Niko driving than I am getting into my dragster! We also enjoyed some fishing. The fish were biting like crazy, which makes it much more exciting for the kids.
The day ended when we presented my 76-year-old mother, with the gift she has been wanting for a while. We all pitched in and got her an Ipad. Between her Iphone and now her iPad, she may be more technologically inclined than I am.
In the midst of all the happiness with the birthday party, there has also been a little tragedy. One of my friends, Ryan who drives the Wheelie Wagon Wheel Stander, was injured while testing his car on June 3. He sustained severe neck and spinal injuries. Many people have been praying for his full recovery, and every day we are blessed to hear of steps in the right direction that Ryan is taking. We are planning a fundraising event for Ryan and his family on June 24 at Osceola Dragway in Osceola, Ind., where the accident happened. We would love to see as many people as we can out there. For more information you can visit my Facebook page www.facebook.com/terrymcmillenfans. There will be a silent auction, mini car show, 50/50 drawing, and of course drag racing. It is actually the National Dragster Challenge that day at the track.
Wishing all the dads out there a Happy Father’s Day and will be back blogging soon!
Topeka has proven to be a good track to the Amalie Oil/UNOH team in the past. As a full-time NHRA Top Fuel driver, I got my first round-win in Topeka. You may remember us joking about getting the monkey off our back when I won that round. I also was able to win a round there last year. Some tracks are just better for some teams, and I thought Topeka may be that track for us. I was hoping that after destroying two motors in Atlanta we would have a better outcome in Topeka, unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. We destroyed a motor on Friday, another on Saturday, and a third on Sunday. There is nothing more devastating than coming back to the pit with the rods kicked out of the motor. To add insult to injury, we got penalized for putting oil on the track. I will say, however, that I do see hope in the future of the team. We ran our quickest e.t. on Sunday even with an unhappy motor near the finish line. Unfortunately, our quickest time wasn’t fast enough to beat Bernstein, but I think we are getting closer to having a car that is more competitive and that will go rounds on Sunday.
Between now and Englishtown, I have a lot going on. It is probably a good thing, so that I am not sitting around mourning the loss of 5 motors. I am taking the car to a display at Marv and Tom’s in Elkhart on Wednesday. They are our newest Amalie Oil customer, and they are only 10 minutes away from the shop. Thursday I am speaking at the Elkhart Career Center. I love going there especially since many of the students end up going to UNOH to further their education. Saturday is the big car show at Lane Automotive, which is also home to Motorstate Distributing and All Star Performance, who are our marketing partners. The car show is huge and I encourage anyone in the area to stop by! We will be starting the car as the grand finale to the cacklefest.
Other than that not much more is going on. You can always follow us on Twitter, @terrymcmillen, or on Facebook in between blogs.