A wonderful Western SwingFriday, August 09, 2013
Posted by: Jim Yates

Greetings everyone! At my last blog we were just beginning my favorite three races of the year – the Western Swing, and I am happy to report that, now that it is over, a great time was had by all of us. The final in Denver was a remake of last year’s final pairing AJ against our fellow Mopar driver V. Gaines. It was a great race, and we were so happy when AJ’s win light came on for the 5th time in 7 years. Winning a race is awesome, but winning your sponsor’s race is even better.

After Denver, it was back home for a few days to tie up some loose ends with my warehouse project and then it was back to beautiful Sonoma for the second race of the Swing. We started our weekend on Thursday night with a fantastic team dinner at Scoma’s Restaurant on Fisherman’s Wharf. I don’t think you can get any better seafood in San Francisco than Scoma’s, and it was so much fun to just sit and relax with AJ, Pam, and our entire team.

We had another great outing in Sonoma, but when AJ lost in the semi’s to teammate Jeg Coughlin, our hopes of sweeping the swing would have to wait until next year. However, AJ had another great idea – he told Alan Reinhart that this year we were going to have a “Hemi sweep” instead of just one car sweeping. Well, when our two teammates paired up in the final – Vincent getting the win – we were just one race away from AJ’s prediction. Who knows what could happen in Seattle.

Well, after the Sonoma race, Toni and I took a much needed break and drove up the coast from California to Oregon. Though the weather wasn’t exactly beach weather, we still had a great time. We started Monday morning, cut over to the coast at Dillon Beach and headed north. Our travels took us through Bodega Bay, lunch in Jenner, the amazing Redwood National Park and eventually we stopped at one of our favorite towns – Fort Bragg. It was a fun and relaxing day. Toni and I always seem to gravitate towards water, and we love finding the local marinas, walking the docks and watching the fishing boats travel in and out of the Pacific coast inlets. Of course, fresh caught salmon wasn’t too bad either!

Tuesday’s travels took us further up the coast where the 1 meets the 101 in Leggett, had lunch at the Benbow Inn, where we have great memories of staying there with the kids, and eventually we ended up in Crescent City for night two. We drove around the town, walked along the water and enjoyed the view of the Battery Point Lighthouse from our balcony. I don’t think I will ever tire of seeing this beautiful coastline.

We awoke on Wednesday to a pretty dense marine layer (Toni called it a cold drizzling rain) that we hoped would soon burn off, however I think that would mean that the sun would have to shine eventually in order for that to happen. We continued up the coast into Oregon enjoying the sights in Coos Bay and the awesome sand dunes in Siltcoos Beach. Well, they were more awesome as I was sliding down them than they were when we were trying to slide up them! But Toni insisted that she had to get to the top to get that perfect picture. I mean couldn’t one of the other 400 pictures be that perfect picture? Just saying!

At this point in our trip I had to grudgingly admit to Toni that my “marine layer” had actually become a steady light rain and it looked like there was no sunshine in the forecast so we had to decided our next plan of action… continue up the coast and cut over to the 5 in Washington or cut over earlier. We decided to give the weather another hour or so and finally ended up in the fishing port of Newport. We walked the docks, watched people buying fresh caught fish right off of the fishing boats and even enjoyed the sea lions lounging on their platforms.

We thought about staying in Newport for the night, but with the weather getting worse and the fog getting denser, it was almost impossible to even see anything so we threw in the towel and headed east to Salem. Of course, 15 miles inland the rain stopped, the sun broke through the clouds, and the temperatures rose into the 60s at least! LOL

We decided that we had made a good decision. Our trip had been amazing so far, and we had to be at the track in Seattle by noon on Thursday, so a stop in Salem meant only a few-hour drive to the track the next morning.

The weather was nice, sunny and warm when we got to the track, but Friday ended up with more cool temps and drizzle. I was beginning to see a pattern forming here. Not to worry, we had a great day of qualifying on Saturday and another awesome day of racing on Sunday. Once again, the final ended up with our two teammates Jeg and Vincent matched up for a second week in a row. As you know, Vincent scored his first back to back wins and we congratulate him and Jeg for a great showing for Mopar.

As a team we could not have been any happier with our swing. Not only did we fulfill AJ’s prediction of a “Hemi swing,” but all three wins came with Roy Johnson powerplants under the hood. For this accomplishment, Roy, AJ and the engine guys were presented with the coveted “broom” signifying the accomplishment of Johnson and Johnson engines sweeping the swing. We were all so proud of Roy, Dean, Crow, Matt and the rest of the guys back home in the engine shop. It is hard enough to keep enough engines for one team but to maintain competitive engines for three teams is amazing. Way to go guys!

Well, after such an exciting week it was time to return home. We were sad to leave this beautiful coast but glad to get back to our east coast, where I will admit it was nice to sleep in my own bed and play with my two grandkids. In between my next couple of races we are planning on making a trip to Charlotte to catch up with baby Lena and celebrate Melissa’s birthday with her. Though her birthday was actually August 5, we will plan a day in the future to spend some time with her, Joey and Lena and have an official family birthday party. I can’t wait.

I am looking forward to Brainerd next week. With only two races left before the Countdown begins, we have some catching up to do if we want to take over that No. 1 spot. Thanks so much for checking in and have a great weekend!