Posted by: Jack Beckman, Infinite Hero Dodge

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This is the original house color, and a rare glimpse of the upper accent color that never was to be. I bet the neighbors had a pool going on how many different colors our house would have on it.
Purely by coincidence, as I write this it happens to be 12 years to the day that the terrorists struck in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania. My heart goes out to all those who still deal with the loss from that day.

My travel agent/paint and decorating specialist/wife just reminded me that I am “wheels up” at 6:35 a.m. tomorrow, so I better be productive today. Charlotte not only is the first race of the Countdown, but also the first of four in a row. That means my face is going to be scarce around the Beckman Ranch for the next month, and I’ve still got plenty on my “to-do” list (I tried starting a “won’t do that” list, but Jenna put an end to that when she showed me her “no more cooking” clause in our contract).

We’ve got a pretty good amount of things accomplished around here, not the least of which is that the house exterior painting is done. I am overjoyed more than you could possibly imagine. After purchasing a couple dozen (!) samples, liberally applying them to various areas around the house, spending numerous hours debating, deliberating, arguing, apologizing, and practicing ambivalence (it wasn’t too hard at that point), we picked our colors, signed the contract, and sat back to enjoy. That enjoyment lasted about two days, until Jenna nearly suffered a nervous breakdown (yes, I am exaggerating…slightly) because the house, accent, and trim colors really didn’t blend as well as expected. So much for all of our research and comparisons!

When Jenna informed me of her dislike for our sizeable investment (did I mention that we spent an extra $800 upgrading to the highest quality paint…and now we weren’t using most of it?), I was in Indy. I briefly considered staying permanently, but I do love and cherish my family… and my half-painted house. I told her just to have the painters stop, and we’d figure it out when I got home. Apparently the cellular connection wasn’t real clear, as she must have heard me say, “Just go ahead and sit down with your mother, choose some different colors, and we’ll be fine.” I lost the debate, we’re out two grand for the additional paint and man-hours, and the house looks great. I guess I still haven’t learned to pick my battles more carefully…

Actually, she did wait until I got back, the colors she picked were fine with me, and I think the improvement is immense. I still wish I had the two grand back, though!

See, I do have an excuse for not seeing our win light. All I could see was dashboard…and fire…and my life flashing before my eyes!
Bruce Tatman is one talented dude! He has drawn some amazing stuff for DSR that gets auctioned during our open house festivities. I think we’ll be auctioning Charger pieces next year!

Speaking of money, Indy was pretty good to the Valvoline/MTS Wounded Warrior team! We got our first “win” of the year (though not an NHRA national event, our Traxxas Shootout win was plenty sweet…and dramatic!)

After barely qualifying to be in the Shootout (since there weren’t seven different winners by the time the Shootout took place, they seeded the car with the most points of the “non-winners” into the field…and that was us). We were to have had three qualifying runs for the US Nats prior to the first round of the Shootout (one was rained out, so we only had two), and we still weren’t in the show when we pulled up to face Capps in round one of the S.O. (the first two rounds also counted as the last two rounds of qualifying). Todd and Terry stepped on it, and it not only got us the round win, but also solidly into the top half of the Indy show! Next round we had to get past the obvious fan (and Traxxas Company) favorite, Courtney Force. Once we did that, old Cruzer was waiting for us in the final, after winning both of his heats on holeshots. Gulp! Our Dodge Charger was flying in the final and I got my right hand on the parachute lever and was just preparing to lift and look for my win light when all hell broke loose. We broke a connecting rod, blew the top off of the motor, and scattered Valvoline and Dodge all over the track in perhaps the most spectacular finish to a specialty race. The trophy is amazing, weighing 42 pounds (that’s what they tell me, it felt more like 142 to me!), the crew was elated to get some bonus money, but it probably cost us money winning that one hundred grand. Still…it’s hard to beat that accomplishment. Oddly, the trophy probably weighs more than any of the remains of the body.

As proud as I was of the guys on Sunday, what we did Monday was even more impressive in my eyes. Jim, Kyle, Chris, Mark, AJ, Mudd, and Chris (under the guidance of Todd and Terry) stripped the car down, examined everything on the chassis, installed a new engine, replaced the burned up hoses, cables, wiring, and controls, and we came out first round and ran the quickest ET of the day! Our near-perfect weekend unfortunately came to an end after smoking the tires against Robert Hight in the final, but we all know that this team is capable of some magic during the remaining part of the season. I’m going to remember Indy 2013 for quite some time, and it’s not all because of what we did on the track…

Everyone on our crew treated Jacob well, including cylinder head guru Kyle Weekley. Keeping in mind that Jacob can’t see (and ain’t exactly slender), talking him into the Funny Car while the body was on it was interesting. I think this picture made it all worthwhile, Kyle!

Those of you who watched the ESPN coverage (all 11 hours worth!) saw my buddy Jacob was once again with us. He is such an inspiration, so positive and witty that you forget he’s blind…and he’s only nine years old (I’ve been telling everyone he’s 10, because apparently Jacob has taken to rounding his age up lately). Having him with us all day Sunday and part of Monday was so special, and I know if you saw his interviews you’re chuckling in agreement right now.

Having my dad there in the winner’s circle also made it a wonderful victory. I’m so glad he’s been able to come to many of my races and get to hold several trophies at the end of the day. I know he’s proud, and it’s nice spending time with him.

Our annual DSR open house was another success, and Don continues to impress me with his large donations to the Riley Children’s hospital in Indy. All of us drivers went over there on the Wednesday before the race to spend some time with the kids. We divided up and headed to different sections of the building, and Antron and I took the pediatric cancer area. It’s near and dear to my heart, and I’m comfortable talking with the patients and their parents. Plus, hanging with Antron is pretty cool, too!

In addition to “paying it forward” with the Riley hospital, we hosted two families through the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS) during qualifying. Jeff Wolf, our PR dude, set the whole thing up and made sure the parents and kids had a memorable day at the races. Jeff was also a star during our Riley visit, acting as a bearded au pair…cool guy.

Being involved with the Chemo: Myths or Facts campaign again this year has been very rewarding, and my other support roles for cancer patients and their families is, though sometimes very tough, nearly always fulfilling.

An interesting additional connection to LLS took place Thursday before the racing action. I did not attend the Hollywood premiere of Snake & Mongoose, the movie, (okay…I wasn’t invited), but I certainly wasn’t going to miss the release at Indy, complete with red carpet. The evening benefitted the LLS, and packed two theatres for the initial showings. I sat between Mark Oswald (1984 FC Champion and current co-crew chief for Antron…there’s yet another connection in this most ingenious blog!) and Alan Reinhart, and I hope no one thinks Alan and I are dating just because we shared popcorn…and the same drink…and held hands…and shared a seat.

For a movie that was shot in 24 days, on a tight budget with limited sets, I was pretty impressed. The old footage was bitchin’, the acting good, and the emotion much more than I ever imagined. Clearly Hollywood took plenty of liberties with characters and timeframes, but that’s to be expected. I really dig Robin Broidy, the producer. She seems very genuine and did a great job with the budget allocated for the film. Definitely worth seeing, even for those not into racing (which probably wouldn’t be anyone reading this blog!).

While at Indy, I stayed at assistant crew chief Terry Snyder’s house. He actually just bought it less than two weeks before the race, and it was a bit of a fixer-upper. I’m totally impressed with his skills with a wood planer, putty knife, and tile saw. I know how many hours he’s in the shop, and I couldn’t believe how much he got done at the house between our test session, the race, and the latest pics I saw from a couple of days ago. He’s half rebuilt his house, and I still have four pallets of masonry block sitting in the back yard…and my garage project is entering its second year! He and I hauled a couple loads from his rental place to the new house (I got to ride his Yamaha R-1…very cool), knocked down some unwanted shelving, and changed out two toilets (And no, I didn’t ruin the old toilets…that’s just a rumor!). Next trip I’ll pack my circular saw, Romex, and pipe wrench.

Today Bose returned the repaired surround sound unit for the RV, so I got that all put back together and reinstalled…and it seems to work! We also have a problem with the home surround sound, and this one may cost us even more. This house was prewired with speakers, plus it had three rooms connected for sound. I added speakers and controls to the loft once it was completed, but none of it works now. Yep, our Costco Panasonic DVD/AM/FM/surround sound (which never had enough power for the factory home speakers) finally kicked the bucket. Truth be told, I think Layla had something to do with it. Our little two-year-old has that “can do” attitude - meaning she thinks she can do anything-, like inserting the 6th DVD into the rack. Problem is…Panasonic designed it to hold five! I completely disassembled the unit, scratched my head, waved a wand and a dead chicken (It was frozen. The chicken, that is…not the wand) over it…all with no luck. We’ll be using a bit of the Traxxas bonus money to purchase a new DVD player, and this time a more powerful amp to power the surround sound system so I can shake the room when drag racing is on TV!

I probably should wrap this up. It’s dinner time, then I have to watch Jenna pack my suitcase for my early morning flight. Then I’ll let her bath and shave me (did that sound funny?), read me a bedtime story and tuck me in. I hope my flannel jammies are comfy!

Stay tuned, America is still the greatest; I dig McEwen, Prudhomme, and Traxxas, and replacing toilets is crappy work!