Hello again everyone. We just finished the Mopar Mile-High Nationals at Bandimere Speedway, one of our favorite tracks on tour. And while the 2014 Mile-Highs weren’t a banner event for Team DSR, it was still a very fun weekend in Colorado to begin the Western Swing.
Things began early Thursday morning for Matt Hagan and the Mopar Funny Car team. Real early. Crew guys typically don’t love 5:30 a.m. wake-up calls, but our Wake Up Denver event at Red Rocks was not only unique, but fun.
The brainchild of Ted Yerzyk in the DSR front office, we took Matt’s Hemi 50th Anniversary Dodge Charger R/T flopper to the famed Red Rocks Amphitheatre to start the car for morning TV. We had two Denver TV stations on-site and KUSA did live shots all morning which culminated with Don starting the Mopar FC around 8:30 a.m. It was so cool to see Don again sitting in a nitro Funny Car. It’s been a number of years since he started a nitro car, he thinks maybe Whit Bazemore’s car in the 2000s.
After the morning shows, we did a photo shoot with Matt, the team and our Mopar friends at Red Rocks Park. What an amazing back drop for a Funny Car photo shoot.
It also was neat to see the new 707-horsepower Dodge Challenger Hellcat. We had Matt’s Mopar Funny Car and the Hellcat nose-to-nose. The bright red Challenger is beautiful and would make a fun weekend cruiser.
The day progressed with Matt, Jack Beckman and Spencer Massey attending the pre-event press conference at Morton’s in downtown Denver. A day earlier, Jack did a media tour in Colorado Springs to promote the Mile-Highs. With Jack being ex-Air Force, he’s the perfect driver to represent the NHRA in Colorado Springs.
And finally, our Thursday concluded with the annual Mopar Block Party in downtown Golden, Colo. Our good friend Willie B from KBPI radio in Denver was the host and we had MOPAR President Pietro Gorlier at the Block Party.
The Mopar Block Party is the best in-market sponsor activation on the NHRA tour. It’s a fun event with a live band, classic Mopar cars, current rides like Vipers and Dodge Challenger Hellcats, and thousands of fans. It’s amazing to see tons of people flock to Golden for this event.
At DSR, we’re very proud to represent Dodge and Mopar. It was great to see Mopar extend the title-rights sponsorship of the Mile-High Nationals and we’ve got some exciting things in store with MOPAR for 2015, so keep your eyes open for some announcements.
On Saturday morning, Willie B did a live remote trackside in our Army hospitality tent and we got to host Mopar legend Tom Hoover. Tom is considered the father of the Hemi, so to have him at the Mile-Highs as we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Hemi was really neat.
If it wasn’t for the Hemi engine, nitro racing wouldn’t be what it is today.
Late Saturday morning before qualifying we hosted the NHRA community for an education event on the Infinite Hero Foundation. We had Oakley CEO Colin Baden and IHF director Laurie Baker on hand to educate the NHRA community on what Infinite Hero does. We also hosted veterans Gary Linfoot, who demonstrated the Exoskeleton that allows him to walk, and Neil Duncan, a double-amputee who has climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. It was very emotional to hear the stories Gary and Neil. Thank you Oakley for funding the Infinite Hero Foundation and thank you NHRA community for support a very amazing cause. To learn more, please visit www.whatisahero.com.
Most of you know that Jack Beckman is signing and selling IHF challenge coins. You can purchase a challenge coin that has taken a ride in Jack’s Funny Car for $100 with all proceeds going to IHF. Jack takes 10 coins on each pass down the track.Now, we’re going to help fans who can’t make it to the track purchase a coin.
Jack will now sign and number (1/5, 2/5… 5/5) five coins from each of the remaining 2014 NHRA races and we will put them on the DSR eBay store. The ‘Buy It Now’ price will be $120 and that includes your signed challenge coin and Oakley Infinite Hero Foundation t-shirt. All proceeds will go directly to the Infinite Hero Foundation.
We hope to have the coins from Denver on the eBay store later this week. Stay tuned for a quick press release and follow both the DSR and my Twitter accounts for details.
We head to Sonoma on Thursday and hope for a rebound weekend. Racing on the mountain is tough and it’s really tough when it’s 90 degrees out. We’re excited for another strong Team DSR performance at Sonoma where Ron Capps and the NAPA Auto Parts team won last July.
Thanks for reading and we’ll check in again next week before Seattle.
Hello again everyone. It’s been a busy few weeks, so I’m excited to be back on the blog. We’re taking a few days away from it all before the Western Swing and I’m blogging from northern Wisconsin. Since we missed an update after Joliet, let’s get to work.
We just completed our annual visit to Norwalk, Ohio, one of our favorite tracks on the NHRA circuit and for so many reasons. There’s not a better place to celebrate the Fourth of July weekend than at Norwalk. The Baders are very patriotic and put on a fireworks show like no other. Running nitro cars under the lights and then to see Bob Motz’s jet truck, followed by the spectacular fireworks show is unparalleled. It’s a must see for every NHRA fan. If you visit one new race track in 2015, go to Norwalk.
My favorite element of Norwalk is the pound of ice cream for $1. Like Eric Medlen said, ice cream always makes everything better. You can’t not be happy when eating ice cream. You really can’t not be happy when eating a whole pound of ice cream for just $1. It’s awesome and the line to get your ice cream at Norwalk is long. Really long. Like waiting in line for a ride at Cedar Point long, but it’s so worth it.
Norwalk was another pretty solid race for the DSR teams. All seven cars qualified in the top half of the field for the first time this season. Jack and the Valvoline team got back into the top 10 with a strong semifinal finish. Ron Capps and the beautiful NAPA Auto Parts Intrepid Fallen Heroes Dodge Charger R/T nearly won a fourth straight Funny Car race for DSR. And, Antron and the Matco Tools team won their nitro-best fifth race of 2014. What a year the Matco team is having with five wins in six final rounds this year.
It’s been a phenomenal few weeks for the Matco team. They won at Joliet for the second time in three years, and a day later on June 30, we were thrilled to announce a multi-year extension with Matco Tools through the 2017 NHRA season. That’s awesome news for DSR and the sport of NHRA Mello Yello drag racing. Go Matco!
AB and Matt kept busy in between the two races. Matt flew home from Joliet on Sunday night and flew out again to Detroit on Monday afternoon. I don’t even know if he had time to do laundry. Matt did media in Detroit and Toledo before Norwalk. He visited the Rocky Boots corporate office on Wednesday and had his annual visit to Fin, Feather & Fur on Wednesday evening.
Antron flew to Cleveland on Tuesday after one night at home near Indy. AB did a media tour in Cleveland to preview the Norwalk race and then had his yearly stop at Master Pizza in Middleburg Heights, Ohio. AB’s crew chief Brian owns Master Pizza. Not only does Brian tune race cars really well, he always makes a pretty good pizza pie. It’s even AB approved and he knows pizza being from New Jersey. On Thursday, AB stopped by Matco’s corporate office in Stow, Ohio to spend some time with the employees.
It must have helped with some good karma because AB sent the Wally trophy from Norwalk home to Stow on Sunday with Matco’s president Tim Gilmore. It’s been a pretty perfect two weeks for the Matco team. We’ll see if they can keep rolling along on the Western Swing.
Joliet 2014 was Groundhog Day for the DSR teams, and a good groundhog day. Tony and Matt doubled-up at Route 66 Raceway in 2013 and we were fortunate enough to do it again on June 29 in Joliet. This time with AB and Matt. Matt knocked off TJ in an all-DSR FC final round. It was so good to see Matt, Dickie and the Mopar/Rocky team back in the winner’s circle. They’re really coming around at the right time and I think they’ll be a play in the ’14 championship race. AB edged Brittany Force in a repeat of the Phoenix final from this February. That Castrol Edge dragster is running really well and Britt will get her first win real soon. It was great to be able to celebrate with my friends in the winner’s circle at our home track.
The teams got back to the shop today and are working away to gear up for the grueling Western Swing. The fab shop is busy doing front halves on both the Army and Battery Extender dragsters. The vinyl guys are occupied with getting three wraps done this week for Jack, Matt and Ron’s cars. Matt will sport the awesome Hemi 50th Anniversary paint scheme at Denver. We debuted it at Gainesville with the photo shoot with the elephant on Thursday before the Gatornationals. Jack will bring back out the Infinite Hero Foundation body for the first time since Englishtown before debuting the Valvoline SynPower colors at Sonoma.
Before we know it, it will be July 15 and our team’s will be heading West on I-70 towards Denver and Bandimere Speedway.
Enjoy the rare off weekend this summer and we’ll pick up again after the Mile-High Nationals.
Thanks for reading!
Hello again everyone. I’m writing this NHRA.com blog entry as Don and I head north on I-65 heading back to Chicago from Indy. We spent the afternoon at Riley Hospital for Children,where we had a wonderful announcement this afternoon.
We joined Terry Chandler, TJ, folks from Riley Hospital for Children, and our DSR staff to announce the #RileyDreamRacer program for the U.S. Nationals over Labor Day weekend at Lucas Oil Raceway. Tommy Johnson Jr. will pilot the Riley Red Wagon Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car at Indy this year and we couldn’t be more excited.
Riley Hospital is Indiana’s only comprehensive hospital dedicated exclusively to the care of children and has provided care and support to children and families since 1924. For more info on Riley, visit www.rileykids.org.
DSR will host our ninth annual Open House to benefit Riley Hospital this Aug. 29, the Friday of the U.S. Nationals. To date, we have raised more than $240,000 through the amazing and generous support of the NHRA community. We’re thrilled to top the $250k this year. If you’re coming to the 60th annual U.S. Nationals this year, please visit our shop during the Open House.
It’s been a busy few days following our exciting weekend at Epping. Tuesday morning I flew from Chicago to Southern California to attend Courtney Force’s surprise birthday party. Courtney and I are very good friends even though our families are rivals on the race track. I spent the day with my good friend Alex Medina before we heading to Newport Beach to join Graham Rahal and Court’s family for the big surprise party. We had a blast and I’m so excited I got to attend.
After the party I took a red eye flight to Indy where I landed around 10:30 this morning. Leah Vaughn from our front office picked me up and we made a quick pit stop at the DSR shop before we headed downtown for the Riley announcement. Needless to say, I’m ready for my own bed tonight.
Don and I were supposed to fly home, but our flight from Indy to Chicago O’Hare got cancelled, so we’re driving back to the Windy City in one of the shop trucks. The Midwest has had some crazy weather over the past few days. There were tornadoes not far from the shop yesterday just a few towns south of Brownsburg. Our thoughts and prayers to those affected in the Plainfield twister on Tuesday. Mother Nature can truly be very frightening at times.
OK, let’s go back to last weekend at Epping. Antron Brown and the Matco Tools TF team earned their second pole of the season. That was our third No. 1 qualifier of 2014 for DSR. Coke and Mello Yello now give the No. 1 qualifying teams these cool green No. 1 qualifier hats, so thanks for Coke for recognizing the accomplishment being the car that paces the field at each of the 24 NHRA Mello Yello Series races.
It was a terrific race day for DSR. Epping was race 11 on the season and we finally scored our first double-up for 2014 and our first since Brainerd last August. When Ron Capps knocked off Alexis DeJoria in the Funny Car final and Tony edged Doug Kalitta in the final round, it was DSR nitro double-up No. 39 for our organization and wins No. 228 for DSR. It was very cool because Ron broke a 17-race winless drought and The Sarge is now just one win away from 75.
It certainly would be fitting if Tony won his 75th career Top Fuel race at our home track at Route 66 Raceway near Chicago this weekend. They Army team won the Joliet race last year and we’ll see if they can make history this Sunday afternoon.
I’m going to get back to keeping Don company on our three-hour drove home. I hope you all have a great weekend and I’ll check in again next week before Norwalk. Hopefully, with some more exciting news and winning stories. Oh, and make sure you all check out the cool patriotic paint scheme on Ron’s NAPA Auto Parts car this weekend at Joliet.
Have a great week.
Hello again. I apologize in the delay for the post-Bristol NHRA.com blog. Bristol was the first of four consecutive races that bring us to Epping, N.H. this weekend and then conclude at with races at Joliet, Ill., the home race for the Schumacher’s, and Norwalk, Ohio. It’s the first of two four-race swings on the 2014 NHRA Mello Yello Series schedule.
Bristol was a remarkable race for us. We didn’t double-up at Bristol Dragway at the U.S. Army and NAPA teams did two years ago, but we did win our first Funny Car race of the season. It was our first Funny Car win since Matt Hagan and the Mopar team won the Auto Club Finals last November at Pomona. It’s important to win races for our sponsors, for our teams, for our shop employees, for our fans, but last Sunday’s win was not only an important relief, but it was exuberant for all seven of our teams.
The Make-A-Wish program has been so satisfying to be involved in. It’s not about winning races. To be able to put smiles on the faces of the children and families each weekend is extremely rewarding. The team has had a few bumps in the road over the past month, but they’ve shown the signs of excelling. We know TJ can drive and John Collins and crew can put a solid tune-up on the car and they proved that last weekend at Bristol.
The made six runs at Bristol Dragway – Q2 was rained out and there was as mechanical error on Q4 – and all six were quickest of each session. The Q1 lap was tied to the thousandth of-a-second. It was a remarkable performance. TJ drove great. His reaction times were outstanding, and to see that win light come on in the right lane on Sunday after really did bring a tear to our eyes.
It was so great to see that team win and put the Make-A-Wish car in the winner’s circle. Also, it was TJ’s first win since Englishtown 2007, more than seven years. It also was John Collins’ (JC) first win as a crew chief. John has had some great mentors, including Rahn Tobler, and he’s been crew chief ready for some time and is capitalizing on the opportunity.
The TJ and JC tie-in is storybook. They’re both from Ottumwa, Iowa. TJ went to school with John’s wife, Kelly. John volunteer to work on TJ’s race cars when they were family-run may years ago. So, to see them win as teammates is so very cool. Congrats again Make-A-Wish team!
On Sunday morning, a good friend of our team, Nolan Lopez, and his family visited Bristol from their home in North Carolina. Nolan is a big Matt Hagan supporter. The Mopar/Rocky team refers to him as their good luck charm. He was at the track for most of their wins last year.
Nolan’s dad serves in the U.S. military. He served in the Army and now is a member of the Joint Commands. He travels a lot serving our nation. He brought me a wonderful gift; a framed American flag that recently flew over Afghanistan.
DSR has a long relationship with the U.S. Army and our Army Strong soldiers. Last weekend we celebrated the Army’s 239th birthday. I feel very honored they chose to give me the flag and I will make sure it is displayed at my condo for friends and family to see. Thank you Lopez family!
Before I head off to Epping for our race at New England Dragway, I want to share a funny photo of my dog, Teddy. Teddy might be part fish. He loves to swim. Anytime he goes out back at my parent’s Chicago home, he goes directly to the lake and swims. The other dogs avoid the water, but not Teddy. Here’s a photo of a wet, swimming Teddy.
Thanks for reading and we’ll check in again next week after Epping.