Today's headline refers to the uncharacteristic ending to our weekend in Seattle, when Wilk fouled at the tree in the semifinals. He took it hard, and not because he was feeling sorry for himself but because he felt so bad for his crew, for his fans, for LRS, and for all of us and all of you. He wasn't trying "extra hard" to cut a great light, he never does that. He's a very standard and predictable "leaver" at the line, pretty much always in the .080 to .100 range, and he relies on that consistency and a good tune-up to win rounds. I have never seen him try to do anything different at the line.
But, if you've ever driven a car down a drag strip you know what it's like to watch that tree and react to it. Heck, all I've ever done is race courtesy cars back in the CSK days, when we'd gather about 50 employees and team members and all have a big old hoedown racing each other. Even in that situation, your neck tenses up and you can tell you're gripping the wheel with white knuckles. Every now and then, your foot just thinks it's time to go.
And, of course, the law of the jungle states that if you do red-light, your opponent will surely smoke the tires just to make it all feel a little worse. Nobody felt worse than Tim, but it was time for us to turn the tables on him and give him the kind of support he always provides. Once it happened, it was ancient history. It's over. We move on. We've got a great race car, a great crew, and a great driver (the crew chief and team owner aren't bad either). It's ancient history.
As a guy who has spent his entire life in sports, I know the scenario all too well when you make a mistake that costs your team a game. It's far too easy to heap that all on your shoulders, but when I'd see any other teammate fall victim to that the first thing I'd say was "You know, we wouldn't have been in a position to win that game without you, and we wouldn't have won a lot of other games without you. We're a team. We do this together. It's not on you, it's on all of us." The same applies now.
If you were following along you know it was a funky weekend in Seattle (Auburn, Washington to be precise). Friday featured a 30 percent chance of rain and so, of course, the whole day was washed out. By my recollection, that puts us somewhere around eight rounds of racing that have been cancelled this year, and I might be forgetting a couple. What it has also done is create these one-day qualifying efforts, and frankly we've done pretty well at all of those. This time, we did "okay" on our first Saturday run but with 19 cars there we did leave ourselves a little vulnerable in the final session. We were 14th by the time we ran in what was either Q2 or Q4, depending on who you asked, but by then we actually were locked in the field because of Ron Capps' impossible, improbable, unlikely DNQ. This sure is a humbling sport, isn't it? The only good thing about Ron's DNQ was the fact we all got to enjoy his work in the ESPN booth with Dave and Mike. Capps is a GREAT commentator, with a fantastically smooth presence in the booth.
Anyway, on that last run we made a fine lap and moved up to the seventh spot. It was all good. We took out Jeff Arend and then Robert Hight, and by the time we did that I was really having serious thoughts about us winning the race. If we could just get by Bob Tasca... It's ancient history. Tim preaches about putting things like that behind us, and that's the absolute best way to do it.
My teammate and buddy Travis Wirth (aka "Hollywood" and the brunt of a couple of Ron Capps jokes during the telecast) acted as my eyes during the race, taking phone pics and shooting them off to me. At one point he made a comment along the lines of "Hey, this PR stuff is easy." Of course it is, but we're not supposed to tell people! We have to keep up the illusion that this stuff is REALLY hard.
On the way up to Seattle, from Sonoma, the guys stopped and did a display at Rottler Manufacturing, a great company that makes CNC engine building machinery. Tim wasn't with them (he was driving up the coast staring at Redwoods and Oregon beaches) but the guys sent me some great shots of the display, and I'm proud of how great they looked and how professional they were. What I didn't notice until today, though, was something that cracked me up in one of the photos. All of the employees came out to take a group shot with the car, and someone had obviously forgotten a water bottle on the asphalt, in the foreground. In the shot, it looks like the whole group is honoring the majesty of the magic water bottle, in reverent silence. All hail the water bottle!
We have this weekend off, of course, but then the following week is going to be pretty fun. The guys will be coming up early, arriving in the Twin Cities on Tuesday night. Neighbor Dave and I are trying to convince them to get here, in Woodbury, at a reasonable enough time to have a cookout over at his house. That will be kind of dependent upon what time they get out of Springfield... Here's hoping!
Then, on Wednesday we have to have the transporter and the race car at the first of our two appearances by 10:00 a.m. The first one is at the Circle K Exxon in Shoreview, on the north side of the Twin Cities (I-694 at Lexington, for those of you keeping score at home) and then when that's over it's time to load up and head to the Circle K Exxon out in Elk River, which is just outside the loop on the northwest side of town. That one goes from 3:00 to 5:00. Then, the guys will head on up Brainerd way. Yah? Oh yah! ("Fargo" references).
Tim's going to do a "media tour" on Thursday, in support of the Circle K deal. Josh Hachat, the newest member of the NHRA Media Relations Department, will take him over to Duluth to do some TV and newspaper interviews, so that should be good. Duluth! Right on the shores of the big lake they call Gitche Gumee. (Gordon Lightfoot reference).
So... Lots going on right now in the racing world, not the least of which is this incredibly tight dash to the finish line to make the Countdown. And we swore, after last year, that we'd eliminate the drama this time. Promises promises...
Here on the home front, I'm still enjoying being based out of Woodbury for the summer. The weather's been great and the boyz love the screened porch. It's hard to get them to come inside! It's flown by, though, and I'm already making reservations for the long ride back out to Washington, right after Indy. Hard to believe, and it's probably a good thing Buster and Boofus don't know about it.
The boys doing their display at Rottler. They clean up well.
Barbara has been traveling a ton, and is back in Spokane for the second straight week, but she's been getting back here on the weekends. Next week, she's hopscotching all over the country from coast to coast, but she hopes to get back here in time to drive up to Brainerd on Saturday. That would be great!
I've booked all of my travel for the rest of the year now, and at the last minute I did decide to go ahead and skip Charlotte. I was going to go to all of the races from Brainerd to the end of the season, but we'll be back in Liberty Lake after Indy and the cheapest ticket I could find was ridiculously expensive with A route of travel as complicated as a corn maze. (Midwestern rural Halloween reference). So, I'll skip that one but then get right back at it for Dallas, St. Louis, Reading, Las Vegas, and Pomona.
You might recall that I was all set to go to Barcelona last winter, with Barb, but my neck problems popped up and I couldn't go. I'd already bought a very expensive ticket for that vacation, but since it was a medical issue Delta allowed me to keep the whole thing as a credit, with no fees attached. With that much "e credit" in my account, I was able to book all of those last five races on Delta for nothing, and I still had $72 left! Woo Hoo. I even booked a few of the longer trips in First Class, so I have a front cabin seat guaranteed and I don't have to sweat out the upgrade. Livin' large and totally in charge, baby.
Let's see.... What else?
Well, Rush played in Kansas City the other night, and that marked the end of the incredibly successful "Clockwork Angels" tour. Sad face... At this point, they're going to all take a collective break for a bit and then maybe they'll think about touring again in 2015, when it will be their 40th anniversary. Any fan, though, does have to wonder just how long they'll keep doing this as they all turn 60! This tour was probably their finest ever, and it's amazing that they're playing better than they ever have, so here's hoping the boys keep cranking out the new stuff and thrilling their generations of fans. Living in the limelight, the universal dream...
I guess that will do it for today. I'm officially out of material! Have a great week, everyone. And a great weekend. And then let's all have a GREAT race in Brainerd!!! Yah? Oh yah, you betcha!