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And off to BIG D we go…Tuesday, September 16, 2014

I live such a different life when I’m on the road versus when I’m at home. Out there on the tour it’s early mornings and late nights and short amounts of time to sleep, so when I’m home I’m usually all about recharging the batteries and getting some rest while I also do all the “office work” that needs to happen. Except here I am this week, for the second day in a row watching the sun come up behind me in my office, cranking stuff out before it’s time to leave for Dallas on Thursday. Mix in a session in the hot tub each night around 10:30 or 11:00, and it’s easy to sleep deeply until the alarm goes off again.

This time, after a long Monday of writing it’ll be an even longer Tuesday of doing just the same, so I figured I need to prioritize and get this blog done first before I dive into bigger projects. I didn’t get one written last week, mostly because there was a lot of other writing to do before the Charlotte race, and then there was the Charlotte race, and there wasn’t the Charlotte race and that had to be written about, so this one (with as little real content as it has) moves up to the top of the Tuesday “To Do” list.

One of the big writing projects I’ve been tackling is a new “Bob On Baseball” blog, but I’m still only about halfway through it. I’ll keep you posted as to when it’s done and online, but I’ll tip you off about the subject matter. One day, a week or so ago, I was thinking back about a certain ballpark I once played in (in Eugene, Oregon) and the fact that it was the only ballpark I played in as a professional and also was in (in uniform) with one of my dad’s teams when he was a Triple-A manager for the Rangers. The Eugene Emeralds had been in the Pacific Coast League when I was in high school, so I went there a few times with Dad’s Spokane Indians club, and by the time I was playing minor league ball in the Class-A Northwest League, the Ems were in the that league, so I got to go back again. I even pitched a couple of scoreless innings there one night (further proof that there’s just no explaining things sometimes). And then I learned that the Emerald’s old ballpark (one of my favorites) is now gone, according to longtime blog reader and friend Tom Miller, aka Tom From West Linn (as in West Linn, Ore., not too far from Eugene). It hit me that I better start writing down my memories of these classic old ballparks before they’re all gone… And with four of them within a few miles of Bristol Dragway, and others located in Kentucky, West Virginia, Florida, Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia, many of you might have been to one or two. Anyway, I’ll get that done hopefully today, and it should be up soon.

But back to this blog… With us not having any LRS hospitality in Charlotte, it was not on my travel list so I gathered my notepads, laptop, and other tools of the trade and got ready to do the PR remote-control from Minnesota. I’d also seen the various weather forecasts and knew that the guys (and the fans) would probably have their hands full in terms of getting the race in. Little did I know…

Despite the fact Charlotte is the first playoff race of the season, I wasn’t all that nervous going into Friday and that kind of surprised me in a way. I think it’s because we got into the postseason in the 10th and final spot, so there was really nowhere to go but up. I mean, we were already in the lowest possible points position we could possibly end up in, after having gotten into the Countdown on the final day at Indy, so what was there to worry about? Tim and I had talked a couple of times about it during the week, and he agreed with me that we might as well just go out there swinging, because there was nothing to lose.

The problem about going out there swinging during qualifying was that the conditions were a little brutal and it was hard to go fast. It was the “hot and muggy” version of Charlotte we all know, and since a hot track slows the cars down and muggy air slows the cars down (it’s hard to burn water) qualifying was a far different animal than the beast we had known in Indy. Whereas 13 Funny Cars had qualified in Indy with runs in the 4.0s or better (one of them was a 3.99) in Charlotte only Alexis DeJoria ran in the 4.0s (with a 4.09) and the bump spot ended up being a pedestrian 5.16. Tim even decided to skip the final qualifying spot because he didn’t think we could do any better and all it would accomplish was the expenditure of money and parts.

All along, the forecast had been correct with a lot of late-day showers and overnight rains, and a front was actually predicted to go through on Saturday night, creating totally different conditions for race day. For the first time in the history of modern meteorology, the experts got that one right. Sunday was totally different and the cars could be set free to fly once again.

We had Fast Jack in round one, and in so many ways that was just as it should be. We’d been tussling with him and his outstanding team for most of the summer, trying to secure the final playoff spot. We’d faced off head-to-head a few times along the way, and after Indy it just seemed inevitable that we’d face off again. You know those guys wanted to deliver the blow that would keep us from earning any playoff points and, frankly, I figured we’d have our hands more than full. But Wilk delivered the knock-out punch instead, and I about leaped off my office chair while watching ESPN3, seeing the LRS car scream down the track to a huge 4.06 at 311 mph. We’d qualified with a 4.16, so that was a big step up at the right time.

And then things went into a holding pattern and it rained and eventually the race was called. So now we get to go to Dallas for a good old-fashioned doubleheader. A twin-bill! Two races in one. Should be fun, and I know it’s going to be thrilling. It wasn’t until yesterday that we finally got official word as to the format, and it’s the one I was hoping to hear because it’s one we’re familiar with thanks to the Traxxas Shootout. While the Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle classes will have to start their Charlotte eliminations during Q2 on Friday, we’ll overlap our Q3 and Q4 qualifying sessions with the rescheduled Charlotte second round and semi’s, and then the two teams who make it to the final will just make a third pass late on Saturday afternoon.

If anyone can double-up and win both the Charlotte trophy and the Dallas one, they will have won seven rounds of racing in just two days. When’s the last time that happened? I have no idea. Maybe never?

We have a big group of LRS guests coming on Saturday, and now they’ve got quite a bit more drama to watch than just the last two qualifying sessions on what will surely be a warm September day down at the Texas Motorplex.

And speaking of the Motorplex, one of the first things I thought about after hearing of the reschedule was the fact my longtime friend and former colleague, Gabrielle Stevenson, is the general manager there, and if anyone can handle this late change in plans and even maximize it for the loyal Texas fans, Gabrielle is that person. She’s as good as they get, and I’m looking forward to a fantastic and hectic weekend in Ennis.

I would normally not have any photos to share, from Charlotte, because I wasn’t there, but blog reader Andy Hauser was there and he snapped off a number of great shots, so I get to share those. Former “Fan of the Month” Jim Butler was also there, and he was able to get me a shot of B2’s birthday cake, delivered by B2’s mom at the track. Hence, we have a few good photos to share.


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Wilk signs a dirty old clutch floater... The first of the shots from Andy Hauser
 
So now we look forward to Dallas…

Crickets. There will be crickets. Many crickets. Crickets galore.

Racing. There will be racing. Eliminations and qualifying all lumped together to make a perfect casserole of racing fun. Seriously, it’s going to be epic, and if you’re anywhere near Dallas and hadn’t thought about attending, I suggest you get online right now to buy tickets.

Heat. There will be Texas heat. Forecasts vary (duh) but the consensus is highs of 87 to 90 each day.

Other odds and ends… As fate would have it, Barbara is off on a business trip this morning and she’s headed where? Dallas! But she gets back Wednesday night and I leave Thursday morning. So close but yet so far.

Once this series of back-to-back races is over, it will be time to pack up the car, load up the boyz, and head back to Spokane for the winter. I always look forward to the drive, and frankly I’m looking forward to getting back out there to our wonderful home in Liberty Lake. We love Woodbury, but it’s a bit hard to feel “at home” here when all of our stuff is out there. It’s good to get back to the fun little house on the golf course and be able to look around and see the right photos on the walls and the right furniture in the rooms.

St. Louis is next, after Dallas, and that’s going to be a big weekend. My niece Kim is my only relative who still lives in my old hometown, so she and I are planning to meet up at Farotto’s on Thursday night for an epic pizza and toasted ravioli marathon. Then, on Friday night I’m actually going to duck out of the track early to head over to my high school for a big reunion. Big as in 40 years! Wow… It will be great to see a lot of those guys again and it will be fun to poke around the hallowed halls of St. Louis U. High.

So that’s about it for now. Time to tackle other projects and keep my typing fingers going. I think this keyboard might just burst into flames if I keep up this pace.

See you back here after Big D. Let’s go win seven rounds in two days!!!

Wilber, out!

IndyThursday, September 04, 2014

Whew. What a month we just spent in Indy. Wait. What? We were only there for five days? Impossible! Everything about Indy is so big, so grand, so high-powered and tense, it's unlike any other drag race in the world. It's just incredible.

I, personally, actually made this year's Indy experience as efficient as it could be, by not flying down until Friday morning and then flying back on Monday night. That's about as good as you can do it if you're still going to be there for all the sessions and eliminations, but I'll probably never do it again. Why? Because the whole Friday deal worked perfectly and everything was on-time. I even had time to go out to hotel first and change into my track clothes, before driving back down to Lucas Oil Raceway for the Friday night session. I guess the pessimistic worry-wart in me figures I dodged the odds with that, and the next time I try it my flight will be cancelled.

I've been writing so much lately my right wrist is actually a little sore. I have a new "Behind The Ropes" column due for National Dragster, on Monday, so I've been writing and editing that the last couple of days. It actually started out as a completely different topic, and I wrote the whole thing on Tuesday. But then I began the editing process and I just didn't like how it read and was formulated, so I basically wadded it up and threw it away. Yesterday I wrote a completely new one, and it's about the epic scale of Indy and what it means. Much better.

I won't even attempt to chronologically replay the U.S. Nationals here, so let's just ramble…

The most important thing comes first. That had to be one of the best attended U.S. Nationals I've ever seen. Crowds ranged from big to gigantic, and Saturday and Sunday were both pretty epic. The threat of bad weather was hanging over us each day, and on Monday it looked so bad I think it kept some people away, but we got every session and every round in and the fans were truly out in force.

Indy is one of those places where memories get a little foggy about "the good old days" and people tend to remember the races from the 70s or 80s as having 100,000 people there. In reality, that never happened. Actually, once they built the new super-sized permanent grandstand on the pro pit side of the venue, capacity had to increase by at least 20 percent, so the place has more seats than it ever did back then and this year we filled that big new seating area. No tarps covering sections, no gaping holes of empty bleachers, just people. Lots and lots of them. And the big grandstand on the other side also held a healthy amount of human beings as well. On top of that, the Top Eliminator Club seats were sold-out. Amazing.

The Traxxas Shootout stuff was fun, although we lost a tough one to some guy named Force in round one on Sunday. At the press conference, in the Top Eliminator tent, each driver was interviewed by Alan Reinhart and Ron Capps talked about how "It's not about the money, it's about the honor and accomplishment of winning such a tough race against seven other drivers who are among the best in the world." Wilk got interviewed next and his first line was "First off, I just want to disagree with everything Ron Capps just said. To me, it's absolutely about the money." That got big laughs, from the fans and other racers.

This year's trophy for the eight Traxxas drivers was actually a Traxxas truck on a beautiful pedestal, and on the base of Tim's trophy it said "Winner. Fan Vote". I had to take a photo of that, because I'm still stunned by the outpouring of support we got in that Facebook vote. Wilk's Warriors are the best. Period.

I've said before that one of the things I love the most about Indy is the fact our legends walk among us there. Turn a corner, and there's Don "The Snake" Prudhomme and Tom "The Mongoose" McEwen. Turn another corner and bump into Big Daddy Don Garlits, or Shirly Muldowney. For a baseball guy like me, that's like going to the All-Star game and seeing Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and and Mickey Mantle stroll by. We lose more legends every year, but we're still very lucky to have so many NHRA legends and pioneers still with us.

Indy is a marathon for sure, but not just because there's an added fifth qualifying session, or because the Traxxas Shootout makes it two races in one, or because it stretches into Monday. It's all of those things, but I think it's just the pressure and the very long days that take it out of us so much. Four days, a couple of which stretch into the 12-13 hour range, and a lot of tension. By Monday night, you're truly drained, but it's a good version of being tired.

Blogger's Note: I'm sitting here in Woodbury typing this, and a Bald Eagle just flew by the window. That never fails to get my attention.

Okay, back to Indy. We ran well, pretty much all through qualifying. We really only made one bad run, and we gave Force everything he could handle in the Traxxas opening round. Our 4.02 was stout enough to put us in the top half of one of the toughest fields ever. Matt Hagan made the first three-second Funny Car run in the history of Indy, and 12 other drivers ran in the 4.0s.

Of course, what everyone was focused on the most in round one was our ongoing battle with Fast Jack for the 10th spot in the Countdown. Jack earned some bonus points, and he out-qualified us, so by the time the first round happened he'd shaved the deficit to 10 points. We faced Tommy Johnson and he faced Blake Alexander. It wasn't difficult to envision that going the wrong way for us.

We were the sixth pair, and Jack was part of the second, so we had the opportunity to watch Jack and Blake run before we did. While I actually was pretty confident that Paul Smith, and his sons John and Mike, would tune Blake's car well enough to make Jack earn it, I really don't think anyone expected Jack's car to lose traction almost at the hit. Blake made a great run, and we were in the playoffs.

I watched that from right behind the line, so I headed back to our car further back in the lanes, and it was neat to get so many winks and nods from guys on other teams. Our guys were pretty pumped up, and at that point I was thinking "Okay, pressure's off. Let's just go have some fun now." And then we smoked the tires. That was not in the script.

Tim and Jack met up a little later, and both were so gracious, just like you'd expect. I figure there had to be dozens of individual moments throughout the season where both of us would like to go back and get a do-over, and neither team ever really took charge and put some distance on the other. We're fortunate to be in the playoffs, and now it's time to get hot and reward all of our fans who so loyally stand behind us. If you're in it, you can win it.


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People. Lots and lots of people. What a GREAT Indy it was.
 
We began the very sweaty job of tearing things down on Monday afternoon, and after I finished my PR work I took a look at Delta's website and saw there were a couple of earlier flights, before my scheduled 7:30 departure. I got on the phone and landed a standby seat on the 6:00 flight, and headed for the airport as the semifinals were happening.

Once inside the concourse, I headed to the Sky Club and was finishing up some other work when I heard a familiar Aussie-accented voice say "Is this the media room?" It was great to see David Grubnic again. He'd been helping out the Rapisarda team all weekend, and I'd go so far as to say his tuning input was immediately effective. Dom Lagana was driving the car, and Aussie Dave was able to help get him all the way up into the No. 8 spot, running a stout 3.78 in the process. After that run, word shot back through the staging lanes like a wild fire, as teams relayed along the info that Lagana had run so quick and that Grubby was helping with the tune-up.

We chatted for a while and he asked me what flight I was on. I told him I had been on the last flight out but was standby on the earlier one, and he went to the desk and did the same thing. We both got on, both were in the front cabin, and we were joined there by Les Williams, from Greg Anderson and Jason Line's team. You know Les, he's the guy with the cowboy hat who always clears the smoke from Jason and Greg's cars after the burnout. Great guy, really friendly, and he lives in Duluth. When Grubby and I got to the gate, Les walked up and said "So this must be the losers' standby flight, huh." Yep. I never wanted to be on that flight, but it was good to get home about 90 minutes earlier. Sure hope to see Grubby some more. Any team would be wise to bring him in as a tuner, I'll say that.

Now, we have a week off before beginning the playoffs in Charlotte. We don't have hospitality there, so I'l be doing the PR work remote-control, but after that I'll be going to all the other races, even though we don't have hospitality in Vegas or Pomona. I just want to be at both of those races, so I'll foot the bill to be there. Hard to believe we're wrapping up another year. Man oh man, did that ever go by in a flash. Next stop for me will be Dallas.

And tonight, just to reinforce the whole "How did it get to be September already?" theme, the NFL season starts. Geez… In a blink it will be Super Bowl Sunday. Well, a blink and quite a few trips to scrape snow off our Spokane driveway…

Take care everyone. And once again, THANK YOU for all the support and all the Traxxas votes. Wilk's Warriors are the best!

Wilber, out!

 

Wilk fans rule!Wednesday, August 27, 2014

This will be a short little blog today. Call it concise. Or efficient. It's simply here to give an enormous shout-out to the best fans in the sport of drag racing.

The back of our 2014 souvenir t-shirt has a tag line at the bottom, and it reads "Wilk's Warriors. We. Are. Everywhere."  It could also read "We. Are. Amazing." and it would be just as accurate. Truly amazing.

In my last blog I mentioned the online fan voting for the eighth spot in the Traxxas Funny Car shootout, and how Wilk was in that vote because we did not win a race this year, or last year. In 2013, we had Robert Hight in the vote with us, but we managed to fend him off and win the fan vote. I don't recall the exact percentage of the vote we earned, but it was somewhere in the 38 percent range, I think. Maybe 40.

My friend Elon Werner, pound for pound as good as any PR person in the biz, even called as soon as the vote ended to congratulate me, Wilk, and the team on what I think everyone considered a fairly amazing upset win. We then took our advantage in terms of ping-pong balls in the hopper to get the wild-card spot in the field.

This year, we were up against another tough group, which included Fast Jack Beckman, Matt Hagan, Del Worsham, Bob Tasca and Tony Pedregon. I took the same campaign approach as I did last year, by focusing on three efficient means of getting the word out, and hopefully getting the vote out. I appealed to Wilk's Warriors directly, via Facebook, Twitter, and this blog. Once again they delivered.

I also reprised my method of getting attention by creating a new series of "Vote For Wilk" campaign posters, and used those on the Facebook and Twitter posts to draw attention.

Now keep this in mind: An online vote like this is about more than just quantity. It's about fervent loyalty, not just the act of following. It's about being Wilk's Warriors.  Matt Hagan has about 24,000 followers on Twitter. Fast Jack has about 13,000.  All absolutely fantastic, terrific, and engaged fans, and there are lots of them. Team Wilk has roughly 4,350 followers on Twitter and another 1,300 or so members in our Facebook Fan Group, although even those numbers are deceptive because most of those individuals follow us both ways. We were clearly outnumbered, by a lot in some cases, but we couldn't be outworked.

From the first moments of the vote, the Warriors sprang into action and grabbed the lead. And we held it nonstop until the voting ended on Tuesday. As Bob Frey loved to say "Tim Wilkerson never trailed in this drag race."  In the end, Wilk earned 38 ping-pong balls with his 38 percent of the vote. Fast Jack was a strong second, with 29 percent, then Del at 13 percent, Matt at 10, and Bob and Tony with five percent each.

The reason? Wilk's Warriors did exactly what they did last year. They bought in, they invested in their hero, and they didn't just vote, they campaigned. All I had to do was mobilize this amazing group, and they did the rest.

Today, at midday in downtown Indianapolis, the drivers gathered to put their color-coded ping-pong balls in the lottery hopper, and just like last year Wilk's vote advantage gave him the edge and we are once again headed to the Traxxas Nitro Shootout.

Here's the NHRA YouTube video of the actual selection:  bit.ly/WilkTNS

Yep, winning three rounds in this deal would mean an awful lot to this team. $100,000 is a lot of money.

I'm all for that, but what I'm already to the finish line about is the effort so many people put into this. Voting on all their devices, spreading the word to family, friends, and coworkers. As far as I know, no dogs or cats voted and nobody found a secret way to vote twice from the same iPad, but it was clear from Day One that Wilk's fan base was engaged and energized. They were all-in. In political terms, the other teams might have had more registered voters in the polls, but we had the better ground game. I am so proud to be associated with these fans.


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Campaign posters, 2014-style...
 
Amazing. Fantastic. Tireless.

But you know what? I kind of expected it. I did have my doubts, and mostly I doubted whether I had the creativity and energy to get the ball rolling and keep the votes coming, but once it started and we grabbed the early lead, I never felt like we were in danger of losing it. There was just too much energy out there.

Of course, having 38 ping-pong balls was great, but we still needed the luck of the lottery to get us in. Krista Wilkerson was there with Tim for the lottery, and she was my eyes, ears, and texting thumbs on-site. She's also convinced she gives off bad luck waves, so she basically stood all the way across Monument Circle from the stage, where she continuously fired off a series of texts that were nothing short of hilarious.

So, in summary…  THANK YOU!  Wilk fans are simply the best.

Now, let's go win the Traxxas Shootout and the U.S. Nationals.  Are ya in?

Wilber, out!

 

And…. VOTE!Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Before I delve deeply into Brainerd musings (and there are a few musings) let's get right to the really important stuff.  Once again, it's time to vote for the eighth Funny Car contestant in the $100,000 Traxxas Funny Car Shootout, which will be held during the U.S. Nationals in Indy.

Once again, we need Wilk's Warriors everywhere to unite, spread the word, share the love, and vote!  We did it last year, lapping the field and earning enough ping-pong balls to get the spot, and we aim to do it again. We're always up against tough competition in this fan vote, and this year is no different, with Fast Jack Beckman, Matt Hagan, Del Worsham, and a bunch of other popular and talented drivers on the ballot.

Here's all I ask, for all of you who are actually on Facebook… We want your vote! If you want to see Wilk in the Traxxas Shootout, go to this Facebook link and vote for Tim.

http://bit.ly/Traxxas14

You can vote once per device, so don't forget to vote on your computer, on your phone, and on your tablet. And share the word with family and friends. Get out the vote!!!

I'm Bob Wilber and I approved this message.

So there you have it. Now let's talk Brainerd…

What a pleasure it is to go to a race and not have to get on an airplane. The scenic drive up to Brainerd is a great way to make the transition from "office work" to "track work" and I'm always excited to get there. This time, my arrival featured a totally unexpected bonus, for which I'm still appreciative, and all I can say is "Thank You!" to the fine folks at Madden's Resort.

I had reserved a standard room at the resort, but when I checked in I discovered that they'd put me in one of their quaint and charming cabins, up on top of a hill overlooking Wilson Bay on Gull Lake. These cabins are really cool, and very nice, so I was shaking my head at my good fortune as I took my bag inside. Then, I saw an envelope on top of the mini-fridge and in it was a card from a Madden's staff member, thanking me for the nice mention in the blog! Never in a million years did I think anyone at Madden's Resort would even know about this blog, much less read it. I was honored and touched by the thought, and I'll now be a loyal Madden's customer for life. Very cool and very much appreciated. And the cabin was great!

The race itself reminded me of "A Tale of Two Cities" in some ways. "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…"  Also, over the course of three days it seemed like we were in two very different seasons of the year. Friday and most of Saturday were simply oppressive, in terms of the heat and the humidity. We did great in Q1, actually tying Courtney Force for low e.t. of the session (although she got the top spot on speed) and that earned us two valuable bonus points. After that, we couldn't hit water if we fell out of a boat. We ended up sliding all the way to the 13th spot and had to race Tommy Johnson in round one on Sunday.

When dawn broke on race day, everything had changed. It rained overnight and it was foggy, misty, and drizzly on Sunday morning. And Sunday afternoon. And Sunday night. It was also downright chilly, and we all scrambled for sweatshirts and jackets as the thermometer struggled to top the 60-degree mark. It was one of those days where it was almost impossible to comprehend the shift in the weather, and the heat and muggy atmosphere from the day before seemed like ancient history. It felt like we'd qualified in the dog days of summer but then rescheduled the race for two months later.

With that shift came a completely different set of conditions, and with the ongoing rain and mist came the need for patience. Time and time again we'd be about to go, and it would sprinkle again. Time and time again the Safety Safari would do their amazing work and put the track back together for us. And again. And again. I think the biggest challenge for them was keeping enough fuel in their trucks, tractors, and jet dryers. Safety Safari = The Best.

And after all of that. After all the waiting, the getting wet, and the standing around wondering if we were ever going to get to race, the super-tight track and the cool conditions overpowered our race car, and we shook hard at the hit. Day over.

We went into eliminations with a 36-point lead on Fast Jack, and he won in the first round. As it turned out, his teammate Ron Capps beat him on a little baby hole-shot (Alan Reinhart term) in round two, so at least we go into Indy still in the 10th spot. We surely do have some work to do when we get there.  Ron Capps and John Force still have some work to do, as well. The Funny Car final never happened, so they're going to complete the Brainerd race during qualifying in Indy. It was one of those days...

Okay, Brainerd ramblings…

Barbara came up on Saturday morning and spent two days at the track. It was her first appearance of the year, and with her crazy busy schedule it will almost certainly be her last. In addition to her consistently challenging work schedule, she's also going to start teaching at St. Mary's University in Minneapolis this fall, so any travel to the remaining 2014 races is probably not going to happen, but it was fantastic to have her with me in Brainerd. And I think she had some fun. 

As always, there was a ton of help with traffic flow at BIR, and it was never that tough to get in or out, but that traffic assistance didn't extend to parking assistance in the racer's lot. Once you pulled in, it was simply up to each driver to find a spot and try to keep it in order, which is usually never a good thing, and on Friday when I pulled in on the end of a row and parked behind another car, I actually had the thought "No one would be dumb enough to park behind me, right?  It's obvious these rows are going to be two cars each, right?"  Sure enough, I came out to my car on Friday evening after we got done, and someone had actually parked behind me. I had just enough room to get out, but I stared in disbelief that someone would look at the situation and think "This ought to work. I'll just block the aisle and maybe block this other car…"  Really?  It can't be that hard, but apparently it was for one driver. For the record, everyone else seemed to figure out how to make double rows and keep the aisles clear. Sheesh.

On Sunday night, after we wrapped everything up, Barb and I headed over to Grand Casino Mille Lacs, about 40 miles from Brainerd, and that drive only took us about an hour and a half. Ugh. The little road around Mille Lacs can often be congested, and this time the word "congested" could be defined as "walking speed or slower" for about an hour. We finally got there, got checked in, and had a good dinner followed by some good and/or bad luck on the slots before turning in. I had the good side of it, coming out a little ahead by the end of the night, while Barb had the bad part, receiving no love whatsoever from the machines. It was one those deals where she'd burn straight through $100 on a dollar machine and then I'd shift over and play it, and I'd win. As a couple, we went home with a slightly smaller stash of cash than we started with, but at least it wasn't a total shutout.  Hey, they don't build those casinos and hotels because they typically lose money…

I mentioned in the previous blog that our longtime friend Breanna Rachac was going to make her National Event debut in Super Gas, and guess what…  She won two rounds!  Way to go, Breanna. It was fun to watch her race.


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Gary Gerould and I suffer the consequences of a Dave Rieff photobomb.
 
Tom "Shorty" Shannon also competed in Super Gas, and he won in the first round as well. On top of that, he fed us brilliantly for three days. Much appreciated, sir.  And if any of you are ever near Cottage Grove, Minn., make sure to stop in Shorty's American Motorsports Bar & Grill for some Walleye Fingers, or other great grub.

We pitted next to a very familiar transporter and race car, as Brian Stewart made his second appearance in the Funny Car class, and Daniel Wilkerson was there to help out. After all, it was his former car and transporter.  They were unable to qualify, but it was great to see D Wilk again.

With the Media Center being on the far side of the Brainerd track, up at the top of the left-side grandstand, and with the facility itself being one of those sprawling venues where nothing is ever close, transportation to and from the working PR area was at a premium. We all looked out for each other with golf cart or scooter rides, whenever possible, but the sight of Elon Werner borrowing Nicole Erickson's cute girly bicycle and riding it back out to the JFR pits was worth the price of admission. I might be scarred for life.

Well, that's about it I guess. We need to get ready for Indy, qualify well there, and win some rounds. If we do that, good things will happen.

And don't forget to vote for Wilk! Spread the word, spread the votes, and wear your Wilk Warrior colors with pride!

Wilber, out!

 

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