Hey, Hey! What a great start to my season… so it’s been a few weeks since the Phoenix race, and I thought I would give everyone an inside look to how my weekend went. On the outside it looked like everything went as planned. However, it wasn’t that simple. First off, now that we have added Jimbo to the mix and had a few weeks working with him we feel like he is even more of an asset then we originally thought. Now as many of you know my main goal for this race was to get that 3-something run! That didn’t happen and it was because of me.
When we went to Phoenix testing we learned a lot about me and the car in one run. I know that sounds crazy, but it’s true. Since I am still learning to drive, there are a lot of things that are coming natural like how the back end of the car washes out and I drive it back into the groove. That is not something Terry has taught me to do. He has limited the amount of things he and others say to me about my driving. When we tested it was a different experience, and while it went well, there are many things that were frustrating about it. I made the last pass of the last day. It looked like everything went as planned, however, I am still getting used to all that goes into getting me ready. I have a routine, and, as of now, if it doesn’t go exactly as planned I get a little flustered. I have a specific way I like to get ready and get in the car. Most people will notice I get in the car a lot earlier than other drivers. I didn’t get to do that in testing. It was rushed more than I would have liked, and it took me a minute to get settled in the car. It was dark enough to need the lights, and while from the back of the car and having header flames to the wing looks cool, it is different for me. I don’t have near the amount of experience with the dark. I knew I had plenty of time to stop, and I don’t know what it was but when I got to the turn off I had a split second where I hesitated. I recomposed myself and stopped the car. It was a good thing to learn, however it spooked me. While most people won’t admit it and believe me I didn’t want to. Everyone asked how testing went, and in my mind I thought it went great, but it kept creeping in that it didn’t go as planned.
It wasn’t until I arrived at Phoenix for the race that I actually admitted to myself that something was wrong. Terry and I talk a lot about how runs go and what I see and feel. He kept telling me he knew something was wrong, but he wasn’t sure what it was. Here I go into full confession… At Pomona at the end of the year my chutes didn’t come out even though I knew I pushed the lever. That is the one thing with these cars … your mind will replay if it went good or bad over and over. It isn’t until 2 or 3 days later that your mind catches up and you realizes everything that happened that weekend (for some new drivers). Over the off-season it didn’t seem to bother me. Then while we were at testing I mentioned my chute concern, and I was told it would be handled and everything would be fine. The team looked into it and made some adjustments. When I made the run I knew I had only gone a little past half-track, but I pushed my chute lever and they didn’t deploy. It took me a second to realize it hadn’t and get the car stopped.
Going into the first qualifying session, it was in the back of my mind, and I kept wondering are they going to come out if I drive it to the finish line. I was a little unsettled with the idea that they were going to come out. I made my pass hit the levers and they didn’t come out the way I thought they would so I jumped on the breaks. When you are not at full speed the chutes don’t hit as hard and I didn’t feel the normal… (Bam). The problem with getting on the brakes is that by pulling too hard it makes that car bounce. I kept telling my mind to let go of the brake, but I couldn’t help myself I wanted to make sure I stopped and made that turn. It bounced and bounced hard! I finally got it stopped, but it didn’t help my mind at all… When we got the car back to the pit and got it apart we saw that it had broken a rod when I stepped off the gas. We changed the motor and were pretty much ready for the second pass, but we hadn’t had time to warm it up. We decided as a group it would be better if we skipped the second session thinking for sure my 4.03 wouldn’t be in the top 12. I was right but it was Richie’s 4.01 that stayed in. I was a little frustrated because I knew it would have gone better I just wasn’t sure how much better.
On to Saturday, we checked the chute lever probably 10 times just to ease my mind. My 4.03 from the first session was only at around 250 mph. The first pass of Saturday I ran 4.02 at 260. It wasn’t until after that pass that I was comfortable with everything and was getting back into my normal routine. We realized that I wasn’t driving it to the finish line either. In my mind I think we should have had our 3-something pass but silly driver wasn’t driving it to the finish. Grrrrr. On the last pass we ran the same heads and thought they were ok. However, it started eating an exhaust valve and slowed the car. When I say slowed it down, it ran 4.01 career best at 295, which was so close to my 3.9_ ,but because it was eating that valve it didn’t … Dang it! I was on the bump… #16 ready to face Tony in Round 1. At the beginning of the weekend I told Tony I didn’t want to face him. However, it’s been kind of nice always having the same person. I knew he was going to go in first and is always ready. He has had thousands of runs and is a champion. I know the chances of me beating him are slim to none. I also knew if he smoke the tires there was a chance I could win… however, his car ran so well in qualifying I didn’t think it would smoke this time. I was right again…LOL. He made a great run and we ran well also.
It didn’t rev up like we expected so it starts the wheels in motion, everyone wants to know why. It has taken us a few weeks, but we finally know. The cylinder heads we put on for first round were much lower compression than what we ran in Q3 and Q4, so now I am waiting for Vegas to get here so I can get that 3… I know it’s coming.
Many people were shocked that we only made one run with Terry’s car. We had a plan, and for once we stuck with it. The plan was only to make one run and if it was in it was in. We talked about it, and I feel bad that we didn’t make another pass with his car, but the end goal was to get my car qualified. One of our really high goals for the year is to earn that Road to the Future Award. I know it’s really far out of reach. The classes are very competitive and the other two rookies thus far have performed better than I have. However, we are not looking at it that we can win on performance. I am not there yet. I am not ready to go 3.7_, and we know it. We are going to go at our own pace and hopefully make progress with every outing. I am looking at it that I do actually have a future here. Terry has been doing this a long time, and we aren’t going anywhere. We know that we will be here and continue to get better as we do. So our end of the year goal is to get that award and earn it, but I know the people who have stepped into full-time rides and high-quality cars have a better shot then me. At the end of the day we are just so excited to be able to come out here and compete with the heroes.
Since we have been home, we have been building Terry’s other car. We have been fortunate enough that my family helps to make our program better. We are getting a new and lighter body for this car in hopes to make it faster. We have been very discouraged with the car’s performance and need to make a change. Now the car is gun blued and going together. The body is at Baumgartner race cars in Hallsville, MO, and we should have it within the week so that we can get it painted. We will be testing it at Vegas.
Speaking of Vegas, I am so excited! I have never been able to compete there, but it is where I made my first lap in our Top Fuel car. It is such a wonderful place and I can’t wait. We have been working to make things better on my car as well. After Phoenix, Terry and I were sitting and watching the show and talked about everything going on. ESPN does this great spot where they show you what it looks like as you’re going down the track, usually it’s in a Funny Car. When we were discussing how I was feeling about it all I told him when I drive this is what it looks like. I feel like my depth perception is off. When I see the cones for the 1,000 I lift. Unfortunately, that is what has kept us from going faster. Terry said it shouldn’t look like that. He remembers when he was driving the dragster, and he said he could see so clear in it. Immediately he realized something was wrong. We went back to when I drove our other car, and I never had a problem seeing. The next day we got to the shop. I got all suited up and belted in and there is was… the problem that’s affecting me seeing. My HANS device rolls back when he belts me in and touches the roll cage. Crazy I know but the vibrations in the car is what is making it harder for me to see as clear as I did before. That problem has since been corrected and every day we are making things better for Vegas! I feel like a little kid whose birthday party is in a few days and I just can’t wait to see how it goes!
Oh now onto birthdays! So my son Braiden and I are both April babies, and we are getting ready for his party. We are exactly a week apart, which explains why he is so much like me. We are having it a couple weekends early for a few reasons. One my birthday is on the 1st (I know), so the weekend before his birthday is Easter, and he will be with his dad. Then his birthday is on the 8th, so his weekend is the weekend of Vegas and we all know where we will be then. The weekend after that he will be with his dad and I am sure do his party then, so the only time we have to do it is next weekend. He is very excited. We are having a Lego party! It’s going to be awesome! I can’t believe he is going to be 6. It feels like yesterday he was learning how to hold cars, walk, and talk. He is such an incredible little man. T-ball has officially started and we are getting ready for tournament #1.
Kailen has also started machine pitch baseball. I think it may take him a little more time to get the hang of it. He didn’t get to do T-ball so it’s a little different. I think he will do great when he gets the confidence to trust what he is told. Terry leaves Sunday to go and see him, and I am sure they will be at the batting cages practicing. Terry is so great with him. Baseball is Terry’s favorite sport. He is learning more about football now that he lives in TX, but baseball will always be his favorite.
Well I hope everyone has a great week and we will see you all soon!
As I sit in the airport heading home from a great weekend with our kids I decided I have waited long enough to write a blog… So the month of January was crazy, and February hasn’t slowed down any. In January, we got news at the last minute that we were going to get to go testing. We had a great time. We were in Phoenix with JFR and a few others and felt like we were making progress with every run. The first two days didn’t go the way we wanted because we didn’t get any runs in, but we sorted out a bunch of problems. We have been using these levers that we couldn’t make work consistently for a year, so we decided to go back to what we knew worked. We also changed how we build our clutch packs, so it took some time getting everyone going. When we finally got to make some runs it was back to the fast car at the 60ft. We have been struggling to make the car 60ft and 330, but then it picks up further out.
One of the many things we did to better our team this off-season was to bring Jim Ermalovich on board. Terry and Jim have worked together on and off over the years, and we feel that his knowledge is a huge asset to our team. It has been a struggle for our team outside the car once Terry is belted in. Jim will be able to see things that I won’t necessarily understand right at the moment. This is a huge confidence booster when you know that there are more knowledgeable people outside the car. We made 5 runs with Terry’s car and were able to make the 60 foot times more consistent. We are not trying to set the world on fire and know that we are not quite ready for that 4.00 pass, but we sure are working hard to move forward.
We also made 1 pass with my car, and while we wanted to make more to make sure that I was ready for my first race of the season, there wasn’t enough time. As most people know my first race is this coming week in Phoenix. We are so excited for it. It has been a long off-season, and we are ready to get back out there and show you what we can do. I have never raced here, so this track will be a first for me. Many people don’t know how nerve wracking that can be. I mean Denver I have a history there and was familiar with how things would work, same as Dallas and Houston because that’s where I earned my license. In testing I was unaware that there was more track, and if I didn’t get it stopped I could have continued to a road course that is attached to it. We are going to go down to the top end on Thursday, which we have done with all of the other tracks I have been at, just to make sure I know what things look like and where we are. It’s nice to know all of the options when you’re going 300 miles per hour.
We have many goals this year with both cars. My first goal of course is to get that 3.-something pass and be 300+ mphs. I think it’s important because I feel like I need that to add to my confidence. The pass I made in testing was going really well. However, it was dark, and I was a little unsure of things, so I shut it off at 650 feet and it coasted to 4.14. I can only believe that we are on the right track and I am going to get that first goal at Phoenix. I also have other goals for this season. I would like to win at least 3 rounds. I know some of you are thinking “3 rounds no problem,” however, for the smaller teams it is much harder to make that happen.
Many people have asked me and Terry what we think about the new oildown rule. I am for the NHRA deciding to do something even though it might end up hurting the car counts later in the year. I, for one, am very worried about it. Being a new driver, there are many things that go through your mind, and while the veterans can slow it down much more and know when something is wrong, I won’t necessarily have that same instinct. We all have radios, and while that is helpful, there are a few things it doesn’t help with. One is when you are past half-track and it puts a cylinder out sometimes it’s hard to see from the starting line; not only that by the time they push the button, yell on the radio, and I react to it the run will be over. The other thing that is concerning is I have not felt what it feels like to lose an engine. At Pomona in the fall on the last pass the panels came off my car, and I didn’t know that’s what it was until I got out of the car at the top end. I am really hoping not to feel it any time soon, but you never know when you are putting nitro in the tank. I don’t know how much my team or some of the other small teams will be able to endure. I keep thinking that if you get 10 oildowns it will have cost you $91,000… That is almost one hundred thousand dollars! Think about that number for a minute. It is more than what Terry ran the Funny Car on all year last year… that puts it into perspective! I do believe that NHRA made a good decision to have a penalization, but I am concerned for my team and others because we can’t afford to have it happen to us. We will be out of business. Now I can say that our team in the last two years has made such an effort to not be that team, but it does take us more time to do the turn around to ensure that all of our extras are done. That, of course, creates another problem, with the live television and shorter turnarounds. I guess we will just have to take it as it comes and figure it out.
On to Pomona… we only ran the Funny Car because it was the smartest decision financially. After testing we really thought we had all the stupid things that could have happened to us done. Unfortunately, that was not the case. The first run Friday it smoked the tires at the hit, so for Q2 we were kind of blind but just wanted it to go down the track. It did… 4.28. However, we weren’t in the top 12. For Q3 we were trying to run a .19 or .20 and knew it was on its way. Once again we were plagued with a malfunction. When Terry did the burnout, he felt the clutch pedal come back and knew something was wrong and said it was going to smoke the tires right away, and sure enough it did just that. When we got to the top end he got off the track, he told us that it blew the clutch line off, and just as he was saying it there was fluid under the car… thank goodness he was off the track. When we got the car back to the pits, we found a broken fitting, which let all the clutch fluid out and is why it smoked the tires. That, of course, was not the worst of our bad luck for the weekend, seeing that the last session rained out. We knew it was going to go down there and run well, but we didn’t even get a chance. The only thing that makes you feel better is when you look at the fact the Beckman didn’t get in either. They have a ton of money, and even money doesn’t ensure that you will qualify. We were disappointed that we didn’t qualify when we would have had we made the top 12 Friday. Oh well on to the next one…
Since the race was over we have been on the gas. I think we have been home a total of 15 hours or so. Terry and I flew home and then we had to go to Indy to pick up our new body. We made the trip and made it home in time to sleep and get up and go to the airport. This was our weekend to have both boys together since they both had half days on Friday and no school on Monday. We had a great time together just as we always do. We did some indoor go-karting, played some football, went swimming at the hotel, went bowling, and played video games. Lastly this morning before we went to the airport we went indoor skydiving! It was so great… the kids’ faces were so funny! I haven’t laughed that hard in a long time. Even when they tried to keep their legs straight it didn’t work. I have the best videos and photos from it, and it was a first for all of us together. They already want to go back and learn more tricks, but I think it will be a little while. I truly enjoy our time together. It never feels like enough. Now, back home for a few days, and then I will leave for Phoenix. Terry isn’t even coming home; he is flying straight there tomorrow to make sure that we don’t fall behind. We want to have the best first race of the year for me. We will be announcing our schedule for me this week, and I am so glad I can finally talk about it. I know some people have been wondering. I can’t wait to represent Top Fuel and be out there more often with my fellow drivers and all of our fans! Have a great week and come see us!
Good Afternoon to all of our readers, I am so excited to say it has not been 6 months since I have written. Well the last month has been very busy. Braiden started Kindergarten, and McKailen is now in 3rd grade… I feel like the time is going by faster and faster. People always tell you that once you have kids the time will fly by, but you never really think it’s going to be that way. The boys are both enjoying their new teachers and adventures. McKailen has finally started a team sport. We have been hoping for this for a few years, and we are proud to say he is a Blackhawk and loving playing soccer. Braiden is going a thousand miles a minute and is into everything he can be.
Let’s jump into the racing information…. At the track in Rogersville, Mo., we ran both cars and had a great time. The fans and staff there are always so friendly, and we love going there. We were really hoping the Scott Palmer was going to come out since it’s close to his home and he happened to be home that weekend, but he assured me he is not a good spectator. I don’t blame him one bit. The Funny Car made 2 good runs there, and I made 1. Since it’s an 1/8th-mile track we both shut off early. We had a few hiccups while we were there. We hadn’t serviced our blowers, so the cars weren’t making as much power as usual and started scuffing. We haven’t had a scuff problem in a long while, so we were a little stumped to why it was happening. We tried new oil and weren’t sure if that was part of our problem… I don’t believe it was. We packed up and pulled out Saturday night after we were done and then headed home. It was a long drive Sunday, but we got it all done. We parked our truck at the Texas Motorplex knowing that we were going to be there for the race the next week.
We were literally home 10 hours, and then I put Terry on a plane to go see McKailen to make sure that we got our time in with him. They had a great time! They are finally getting into a routine for when Terry is there. Kailen called me every hour… it was awesome! He has never wanted to talk to me so much! Terry kept telling me that we (Kailen and I) don’t need him… I think he was a little jealous. After their time together, Terry flew all night Wednesday night and arrived at DFW at 5 a.m. Thursday morning… That makes for a long day.
We thought this was finally going to be our year to qualify at home. On Friday, we ran 4.24, which we were happy with. We thought for sure on Saturday we would be able to go a little faster and would get in the show. However, we weren’t prepared enough to make that happen. The first run it ripped the tires off just like everyone else did. Then on the second run it pushed a head gasket. The head gasket was our fault, but it really stinks that we didn’t make the show. The top 12 rule bit us for that race. Many people have opinions about that rule and sometimes it’s helpful and sometimes it’s not. In this case it wasn’t. However, in Seattle it was helpful that we made the top 12 because then we were able to focus on my car and get it qualified Saturday. Sunday we got my car ready for testing. While we only made two laps they were very productive. We put a new fuel system on my car, and we wanted to make sure it was where it was supposed to be. Terry was very happy with the fuel curve after the first run. I too was happy as my reaction time went from .150 to .110. As a new driver I have been told not to worry about my reaction times, so it is not something we focus on. However, now that the car is faster I don’t want to be the weak link. The second run it smoked the tires right at the hit. This is something I don’t have any experience with, so while you might think it’s a bad thing it’s not. Terry showed me on the computer that I got off it quick, and it was good for my first time. The even better part of that run was that my reaction time was .082! Woohoo!!! Better and better! I was very happy with that.
One thing many people don’t see is that with all the time we spend going to Seattle it leaves less time to be prepared. We wouldn’t trade our time with that little guy for the world, but it does show you the cars need more attention. After we came home we made sure that we set aside time every week to work on the cars. We want to go to Vegas and Pomona and do well. We would really like to qualify and run well. However, we have decided that if we can make the car run consistent teens, and we don’t get in we will still be happy. We have serviced the motors, the heads and the blowers. Now with a few weeks left, we will double check all the little things that keep us from being successful. We know we can do this. For Vegas we only ran the Funny Car, but we then tested with the dragster on Monday. We were happy the Funny Car qualified, but we weren’t as happy with its performance. It went 4.29, but it just wasn’t where we wanted it to be. We lost first round to Hagan and that’s ok, but he was so great because he made sure to mention that it was Kailen’s birthday. Back to the dragster… Again we needed to get it closer to going fast. When we put my car together in Vegas we found another problem with one of the lines that helps with the clutch, so we only got to make one run. It shook so hard I had an instant headache. I had never had it shake, and I was glad it was during testing because I was pretty much useless after it happened. When you watch the numbers these cars are putting up its amazing.
Pomona was rather interesting. Since we ran both cars we were trying to make a plan that made the most sense to us. We decided we would run both cars the first run and then the Funny Car would sit out until Saturday. The first run with the Funny Car it smoke the tires almost immediately. We have been working on making our blowers better and sure enough it was so much better that it revved to 8,500 rpm, which is above our target number by a lot. When it revs higher, it needs less weight on the clutch, so we had too much primary because of the change in the rpm. First run with my car, it was going great and then it just stopped, and I wasn’t sure what happened. I got out on the top end and sure enough the blower belt broke. So we turned it around and got it ready for Q2. The bad part for smaller teams is when it gets so cold at the final race we don’t make enough power so the car shook. It was ok I didn’t expect to be in the top 12. Onto Saturday…our amazing sponsor brought out more than 100 people to experience the race. We really wanted to do well. The first run I was so disappointed. When I was staging the car and stepped off the clutch the car broke a brake line, and it rolled right through the beams. I knew that was our best chance of getting in since the sun was still out. I was glad however that it happened at the starting line instead of the finish line. It could have been really bad. SO we move onto the Funny Car. It, unfortunately, didn’t have the best of luck either when we warmed the car up everything was fine and we always rerun the valves to double check. Well unfortunately two of the spark plug wires got crossed up, and as soon as they tried starting it Terry knew something was wrong and he pulled the plug.
Onto Q4… I watched as it was going to be the quickest field in history and knew it was going to be hard to get in. Also because it had been cold we don’t have the experience to be fast enough yet. So the car launched hard and then shook. I thought about it and decided to pedal it… boy she was moving… then all the sudden the top panel right in front moved, and I didn’t know what happened. So I lifted. I didn’t qualify and that was ok, but when I got out of the car I realized that two of the body panels had blown off. These cars arch so hard that when I pedaled it we believe it got just enough air under it pull those panels off. I haven’t had a motor break, so I wasn’t sure what I was feeling; I just knew something wasn’t right. When they dropped me off and I headed over to the Funny Car, I knew I was in trouble. I am not supposed to pedal it, but he wasn’t mad at me at all. When I told him I thought about it and decided to do it, he just said well you have to learn sometime. So we went up for the last run with the Funny Car, and it was just so cold… it shook and he lifted. No sense in tearing it up and not make the show. When we got back I was able to spend some time with the kids our sponsor had brought around, and I put them all in my car. That is the best part about being a driver. We looked at the computer, and my car was really moving after I pedaled it. I was also No. 1 to the 60-foot clock with .824… I decided I was the winner for the 60 foot race, and I was happy with that.
Sunday morning Terry and I got up and ran a half marathon at Disneyland. My mom was originally supposed to do it with me, but she got hurt, so Terry offered to go with me. I am so proud of him. We may not have been fast, but we stayed together and made it through the whole thing. Needless to say it was an early night for us. I believe he was asleep at 630 p.m. Monday we went to the banquet and had a great time as usual. It’s always fun dressing up with the people you spend most of your time with.
The words NEXT YEAR are very important words to all teams. When you look at the super teams and that some of them may be going away it’s unbelievable. We have been having meeting after meeting and are so close on a deal we can taste it! We have never been this close to a real deal. Many people have been asking what the plans are for both cars next year, if I will run for ROTY. What it is looking like… well here are a few scenarios. First, it could stay the same with us running 10-12 races with the Funny Car and none with the dragster. Second, we could be running Terry’s normal and doing just as we did this year and run 3 or 4 events to keep me under the rookie cap. Third, we could be running full seasons with one or both cars. I will tell you that if my car is not completely funded it will not run. Terry has been very strategic with my career and will only let my car run if it’s funded. I know that doesn’t really help you to figure out what our plans are, but I assure you we will have a plan shortly, and as soon as we do I will let all you amazing fans know!
For Thanksgiving, we were able to bring McKailen home with us. We had such a great time, and I am thoroughly enjoying how our relationship is going. He is now 8! I can’t believe it. He is such a great kid! I hope everyone is enjoying their off-season, and I will be letting you know shortly what our final plan is for next year. Have a great week, and I’ll write soon!
This blog is a mixture… I started writing this right after Englishtown. Then the month of July hit, and I never had time to send it in or keep up with it. I am leaving the first part of it, which is through Father’s Day. I will then move on to the most amazing month we have had in a long time. Please enjoy!
We went to E-town, and it is always a great time to get to go to Terry’s hometown. We get to see so many people, and while the list of regular attendees that are people from Terry’s past is getting smaller, it is still so much fun to see everyone. In E-town we did pretty well. We ran 4.24, and while it was not the fastest time because the Funny Cars were laying down killer numbers, we are still very happy with our performance. I thought we had a pretty good chance going into Sunday. We knew Cruz was going to want the backup record number, and we just needed to do our thing. When I saw him go up in smoke for a split second I thought we had him. Unfortunately, we then smoked them… it seems like when our car smokes and Terry has to pedal it, it’s all over because it jacks the front end up and makes it hard to steer. So it was close, but Cruz got us.
After the race we went to NYC and saw the 9/11 Memorial. If you haven’t been able to go I would highly suggest it. Many people forget what is important, and when you go to the memorial there is nothing you can do but remember what happened to our country and our people. You start to remember where you were and what you saw. I was still in high school, and because I grew up next to one of the largest army bases they thought we could potentially be a target and put everyone on lockdown. When you’re in high school you don’t understand everything that is happening, but after being at the memorial I will never forget what happened and everyone that was lost. Terry said that he was working in Jersey and he saw all the cars coming from the city covered in ash and soot… he watched the second plane hit on television. He said it was surreal and can’t believe how long it has been since it happened. After we were done in NYC we went and picked up one of our guys and we all went to the Jersey Shore and had dinner. It was a great time.
We went to Seattle to see McKailen since it was Father’s Day, and we went and saw a Mariner’s game. Then we went to the Shore in Seattle… this was a little chilly, but we all had a great time. We went to the pool in the evening, and it was warm. Kailen made us these great poems and books. He is such an amazing kid. Braiden is with his dad for a couple of weeks and getting to meet his new sister Skylar. He will then be traveling with us in July. All in all, it has been a very great month.
As I sit here and watch Terry working on his newest project I am able to reflect on the amazing summer we have had. There are ups and downs, but I wouldn’t trade one second of it with anyone or anything in life. I picked McKailen up for our 6 week summer vacation and the business started. We had a great first week at home, spending some much needed time, just the three of us. Braiden was at his dad’s meeting his new sister, who he loves very much! I think it is a little confusing to him why he wasn’t the center of attention every day, but he is getting used to it and building a bond with her. When we left for Norwalk, we knew that there were going to be some really long days and some great amazing times. Our first stop was Indianapolis to pick up my new canopy dragster from DSR. I can’t believe that we actually made it happen. I can’t thank everyone at DSR and on the Matco team in particular for helping us. I also want to thank Bass and Ashley from Patriot Grading for making this miracle happen. Who would have ever thought that I would have the 5th canopy car… not me! The new car came with its share of problems. When building a car, it would be ideal to take it home and make everything perfect. This, however, wasn’t an option for us. We headed over to Norwalk and had a decent weekend until the end. In Q3 the Funny Car made a good pass (not great but good), and we would have qualified had we not hit the last cones, which DQ’d our run. Then we went up for Q4 and were confident that it would roll right down there and most likely run a little better than the previous run. However, it broke an exhaust, which could have cost us much more than just qualifying, so we were glad it didn’t take out the body. Most of the following week, we stayed in Norwalk and built my car. It was a lot of long hours and days, but we got quite a bit finished on it. On Friday morning we headed over to Canada for the Nitro Nationals. We had a great time, and the car ran pretty good. Let me tell you, I think McKailen could sell ice to an Eskimo… he was selling parts and paper airplanes like crazy! Super proud of him! Terry and I packed up and headed back so that we could be back across the border by morning…. you wouldn’t think it would be that long of a drive, but we had a few stops to make. First we stopped at Dote Racing to work out some deals… then we headed back to Indy because there was an issue with the wingstand that we weren’t sure how to fix. The amazing people in the DSR fabrication shop and more help from the Matco team, and we were all fixed up.
We arrived in Denver Tuesday night, practically Wednesday morning, and that was the start of the most amazing week! We got everything set up and started having all the tech stuff done, which for a new car includes a chassis certification and checking the angles of the wing and the layback on the wing. We also checked all the safety devices to make sure they were working. Thursday morning I went to my first-ever television set. Debbie and Bri Bandimere invited me to be part of the group to raise awareness to fight heart disease in women. We did a segment on channel 9 news on the Colorado and Company show. It was amazing! They made me feel so welcome. I made sure to join the track walk on Saturday morning! The Bandimeres are fantastic people, and I am so lucky that they chose to have me go with them. I will never forget it… Thank you!
Now let’s talk about some racing. We missed the first session because the car wasn’t 100%. We decided together that if it’s not perfect it’s not going. We made sure everything was ready, and for the second session I made my Pro debut (which sounds so funny to me considering I have been a fan since I was a little girl). We made a planned shut-off run to make sure that all of the systems were functional and to make sure that I was ready. The best feeling that evening was sitting in the car watching Courtney get in and realizing I was in great company and because of my husband and my sponsors I was getting ready to do something so many people would love to do! As I rolled down the hill I started going through my steps and just kept saying it’s just another test day… Lo and behold it was not just another day! When the car started everything fell into place. I got the most amazing thumbs up from starter Mark Lyle… it’s funny how different it is when normally it’s Terry in the seat. I stood on the gas and away we went.
Now when I turned the corner, it became apparent to me that I had never been down to the other end before my team and my car. This is where it gets a little blurry. We were in such a hurry to get me out of the car that I forgot to turn off the air system and my hand just hit the fire bottle knob as they tried to pull me out… so the bottom of my suit got soaked. It was funny! I couldn’t stop laughing… as they sat me in the chair and gave me a mic the real job started. Many people say it looks so easy… they are wrong! It is harder to do the interviews than it is to drive the car. I think it was rather funny. Terry tried to hijack my interview but it was a lot of fun. I am still learning what and how to say things. I think I got told several times to bring the mic up and to lift my hat because they couldn’t see my face. It was such a great day. I don’t think I could have asked for anything better unless I could have made two runs.
Saturday was another great day. We made an almost full pull when I lined up with Brittany. I had never run with someone else in the other lane. It created its own set of challenges. Even though I knew the procedure, I was so afraid to hold her up or make a mistake. It was great except for the fact that the radio came flying out of my car… I didn’t know it until we got to the top end. We turned the car around and were ready for the last session when we heard that Rob Passey wasn’t going to make the run. This made it to where we had a choice. The team as a group decided that we would skip the last session. For me it was a little disappointing because the only way to get better is to get more seat time, and I knew I was at a disadvantage to start with, seeing that we don’t have the budget many other teams do. Instead, ESPN decided they wanted me to come down to do another interview. It was so much fun sitting there as I have watched so many before me sit at the top of the staging lanes.
I ended up being number 16 and would face Tony “the Sarge” Schumacher… this has many challenges. First, he is number 1 and for a reason. He is a champion and an amazing driver. Oh and let’s throw in that “winningest driver in Top Fuel history!” This, of course, should make you nervous. I tried to stay calm. I knew I wouldn’t win if he went 3.8s or .9s, but I was there in case something happened. Sure enough that something was the hazing of the tires. Many people have asked and/or stated that I should have seen him out front. However, what you don’t realize is that with the capsule your field of vision is less. I never saw him. I kept thinking he should be there… where is he… where is he….then I went to hit the chutes and saw the win light come on. I must have had the highest pitched scream coming out of my mouth. I couldn’t believe it. When I got out of the car and he shook my hand, I knew it was true, so I hurried back to the starting line as my team took the car back to service it. The problem, however, was earlier in the morning our generator blew up, and we had no air tools power. So thank you to Rob Wendland, Steve Chrisman, and all of his guys for helping our team turn it around with no power. I went down to help make sure that we got Terry’s car running and it went. I didn’t figure we would both win, but had we both won I don’t know what we would do. I say I would want his car to go because he has earned it and made it possible for me to do this, but the competitiveness in me would have wanted to try for both cars.
Next round I had Brittany, and the funniest thing happened. We started going to the lanes, and we were kind of following each other back and forth… I had no idea that I had lane choice! I, of course, picked the same lane because I figured it would bring me luck. I think the second round was hardest on Braiden. I am his mom and he wanted me to win, BUT Brittany is Braiden’s “wife,” and she has to win. For those of you who don’t know, Braiden gave Brittany diamonds last year, and they got married in Vegas… Just ask her she will tell you. She and I were talking about it before second round. She is one of the people who I really enjoy talking with. We rolled up, and the car made a good pass. She beat me and that ended my day. I am beyond blessed to have my team, husband and my sponsors… Let me reiterate how amazing they are! Thank you to Patriot Grading, Dipinto international, Clevite, Dj Safety, All Floors & More, Dunn & Rich Investments, Nitro A GoGo, Gilbert Trucking and One Diamond for everything they have done for us!
Even though our race day was done, our day was just getting started! We had to get everything packed up and get to the airport. We just barely made our flights! Disneyworld, here we come… My parents, the kids, Terry and I had a great week! We had so much fun! We then flew back to Colorado to pick up my car and headed to Washington. As our time was coming to an end as a complete family you could see all of us realize how much we would miss being together. So as our last hurrah we took the kids to Great Wolf Lodge… the waterpark is always so much fun. We then got to the track and business started. I took Kailen over to see his papa because I knew he missed him. We had a great talk, then it was time to start working.
The Seattle race is always a great time because we are used to being there. We spend so much time in Seattle it really is our second home. I made the first pass on Friday and was in the top 12. We knew it wouldn’t stay, but we had already made the decision that Terry should run the second session for two reasons… One I don’t have the experience going into the sun. I tried several times and days to see if I could see and we felt it was better to let him run. Two we didn’t think I would be ready to run fast enough to get in the top 12. So it was Funny Car time! And Boom…. 4.19 career best…We were so excited! We have been waiting for the “teen” number for a long time! We both qualified, which made us so happy and excited. Sunday morning was a whirlwind… I made it to driver intros just in time to down my Mello Yello and walk out, then I raced back to make sure the car was ready. I lost first round … it made me sad my day was over early, but I had such a great month there was no way to have asked for a better July-Aug. Terry also lost first round. So then we just packed up and tried to spend time with Kailen. We knew we were having to return him at the end of the day, and it was so sad. We miss him so much and wish we could see him.
We flew home for a week or so and then we came back and picked up the truck and headed over to Spokane. We had such a great time. The fans were awesome, and they have made so many upgrades since the last time Terry had been there. I ran 4.98 to the quarter-mile, but I was off the gas right at the 1,000-foot marker. I was a little concerned since smaller tracks don’t have the automatic shutoffs, I didn’t want to be late on the chutes. I was told that it was the first 4-second run at that track. The track told us there had been one other run many years ago but that there was something messed up with the clocks. However, if someone ran in the 4s I don’t want to take that away from them… I am just happy I did my job. Terry’s car ran 5.65. He was off way early because the car was drifting, plus he said he couldn’t outrun me and ruin my day.
Now we are home and getting ready for the last few events of the year. We are so excited! Dallas is our next national event. We haven’t been able to qualify the Funny Car at that track, so that is our goal… We want to race on Sunday at our home track. We are also going to stay on Monday so I can get some more laps. We know that Pomona will be very fast, and we need to make me ready for it. Hope everyone had a great holiday weekend, and we will see you soon!