I sure am glad the season is here and we are back racing again. It was a very different off-season after having my bicep surgery and not being able to test until right before Pomona.
I’m happy to report that my arm is doing great. I am tickled with how well it has healed. There is no swelling or soreness or anything. My doctor wants me to be careful for about a year or so, and not do anything that could re-aggravate it. I feel great shifting and driving while in my Mopar Dodge Avenger. I continue to work out every day, doing a lot of stretching and exercises for range of motion.
Before heading to Pomona to start the season, we made a stop in Las Vegas, so I could do some testing and shake off the rust and get the feel of the car back again. It took a run or two to get the feel of everything back. My shifting points were a little erratic in the first test run, but by the second one, I felt right back at home in the car. I’m very happy that everything healed so well and I am back at full strength.
At Pomona in the season opener we were pretty fast right out of the box in qualifying and showed some consistency. We made some good runs, just not great runs. Right now with how close the competition is in Pro Stock, you need to make great runs every time you hit the track. We reached the quarterfinals, which gave us something to build on to start the year.
Phoenix, we were not happy at all with our performance there. We were not as fast as we wanted to be in qualifying and burned the clutch up on the first run on Sunday. A first-round loss always makes you that much more hungry and motivated next time you get in the car, especially early in the season when you’re looking to build momentum.
I was pretty focused on the racing at Pomona and Phoenix, so I really didn’t do much away from the track. I did have a chance in Phoenix to go to Shula’s Steakhouse. They have some of the best rare prime rib I’ve ever had, so I made sure to make it over there to partake in that.
We are going to test in Bradenton, (Fla.) on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday before the NHRA Gatornationals, try to improve on what we have and go to Gainesville with our guns firing. We have a great team here at J&J Racing. Mark Ingersoll (crew chief) and Jim Yates (Team Engineer) work great together, sharing ideas, and that makes us very strong. We are confident in our decision-making process and the strategy we have used so far this year. Mark and Jim really got to know each other over the off-season and are able to communicate pretty easily. Our goal is to be the fastest car on the property at each race and the whole team is certainly working hard to achieve that goal this year.
Our Mopar Dodge Avenger is pretty close to where we want it to be right now, but we are not in the top two or three yet, and that’s our goal. We’re not satisfied with being fourth, fifth or sixth. We want and expect to be in the top two or three and to be fast every Sunday.
With a couple of weekends off, there is plenty to get done before we head to Florida. The crew will go through the engines and everything on the car, while I’ll have a chance to get my feet on the ground and get caught up on things in the office. I’ll be spending time with my daughters and grandkids and just enjoy a little time away from the track. We are going to go to Florida a few days early for some R&R before we test at Bradenton and then head to Gainesville. I can’t wait to get to Gainesville and climb back in our Mopar Dodge Avenger and go after our first win of the year.