Ho…ho…ho...! Tis the season – right? The season for love, cheer and goodwill towards our fellow men. It is the time for family, for sharing, for enjoying the excitement and for all of us big kids to watch the joys of Christmas dance in the eyes of a small child or grandchild. I love the Christmas season; it has always been my most favorite time of the year. But I have to admit that as I sit here at my quiet desk writing my thoughts to you I don’t seem to have my usual cup of holiday cheer with me. My thoughts keep going to those 27-plus families in Newtown, Conn., whose lives will never be the same.
One indescribable, horrific act of violence has forever changed the lives of so many people and my heart breaks for all of them. I hope as everyone celebrates this wonderful season with their family and friends that we don’t forget to keep those families in our prayers.
Well, the Christmas season is definitely upon us and families everywhere are getting ready for their individual celebrations. Our family is no different. We are so excited that all of our kids will be home for Christmas this year and I can’t wait for the festivities to begin. We will be hosting the annual Yates Family Christmas Eve and there will be lots of Yates family in attendance. Our family Christmas celebrations have, however, changed over the years. My nieces and nephews now have families of their own and are spending Christmas elsewhere, my kids have extended families and share the holidays with them, and others move too far away. Wow, Christmas sure seemed simpler way back when!
I have to admit that Christmas sort of snuck up on me this year. Toni had the house decorated early and we put our tree up in between trips to AJ’s race shop and testing but I kept thinking that I had plenty of time to get ready. Ummmm – is five more shopping days still plenty of time? Of course it is! No worries – right?
Speaking of putting up the tree…this year I almost messed up. I went to see my friend Carey at Nalls Nursery and he had the perfect tree picked out for me. We chatted and he loaded the tree in my van. Unfortunately, the doors of the van wouldn’t close – that should have been my first clue...the tree was a little long; no worries, we just tied the doors with twine and off I went to the house. When I arrived home I told Toni to come help me drag the tree into the house. She took one look at the size of the trunk of this tree and asked me if I was serious.
“It will be easy”, I said, “you haul around transmissions – this tree can’t be that much heavier and besides you are really strong.” She looked at me like I had two heads. I told her to just take hold of one side of the tree and I would take the other and just yank…it would slide out of the van. Well that should have been the second clue. This tree barely budged. So, on the count of three we heaved and hoed this multi pound tree out of the van, across the yard and finally into the house where we both almost collapsed with exhaustion. Toni finally looked at me and said, “how in the world did you ever get this thing into the van?!” (or it went something like that!) “Ummmm four great big burley guys kind if wrestled in there,” I said. She just rolled her eyes, shook her head and mumbled something about “here’s your sign”. Now, I don’t know what she is talking about!
Anyway, I had to wait until Jamie and Ryan came over to get the thing up-righted. Ok, well maybe I could have gone a little smaller but I just love having a big Christmas tree! Anyway, after it is all decorated no one ever remembers all the hard work that went into putting it up right? Besides, I didn’t want to disappoint Ryan and Maia – I did it all for them you know!
Every year we always seem to think that we won’t get everything done and somehow it all comes together just in time. I can’t wait to share Christmas with Ryan and Maia…they are growing up so fast and are so excited about everything! Their eyes just sparkle when they show me where “Sprinkles”, their “elf on the shelf” has relocated overnight. I mean how fun is that?
Melissa and Joey will be making one last road trip before the baby is due and I am so glad that they get to come home for Christmas, even if it is only for a few days. Next Christmas there will be three grandbabies and am definitely up to the task of adding another grandbaby to my list of those to spoil! Of course Jon and Alli, Jamie and Cynthy and Toni’s Dad will be here, too. Fun times!!!
In closing I want to wish everyone a very happy holiday season. During this blessed season please don’t forget to love a little longer, share a little more, help someone in need and give your children and grandchildren just a little tighter hug. Celebrate the true meaning of the season and please remember to keep those in need in your daily prayers. May the spirit of Christmas bless you and your family. From our home to yours – Happy Holidays to all of you!
Ok, where do I begin? To recap the past month I could start with testing in Vegas, Ryan's fourth birthday, winning the Big O Tires Nationals in Las Vegas, Melissa and Joey's baby shower, winning Pomona and, oh yeah, winning the 2012 Pro Stock championship. As you can see, Toni and I have been running through these past few weeks with hardly a minute to spare – but that isn't a bad thing.
Since Allen has been doing such a great job of keeping everyone caught up on our exciting year of Pro Stock racing, I won't take the time to recap those races for you but will add a little of my insight later on in this blog.
Though we had been extremely busy with the final weeks of our Countdown, Toni and I did manage to have some great times with our family. In between my Vegas test session and leaving for the Vegas race, we got to have a small get together for Ryan's fourth birthday. Fourth Birthday…can you believe it? I would ask myself where has the time gone, but I probably couldn't remember! Anyway, we celebrated his big day just a little early with pizza, sundaes, and, of course, lots of cool presents.
The day after Ryan's party we left for Vegas and enjoyed another great weekend. Well, it was great until Toni and I tried to get home in the middle of Hurricane Sandy. We were lucky that were able to change our flight to connect through Atlanta where we picked up a rental car and prepared to drive the 10 hours home. By the time we started driving north, the storm was making landfall so we stopped at Melissa and Joey's house in Charlotte and stayed the night. We left the next morning and headed home.
We were very fortunate that our area was spared the worse wrath of Sandy. Other than a three-day power outage, some rising tides that didn't reach our house, branches and debris, we came through unscathed. Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with our many friends and others in the northern areas that are still reeling from the effects of such a terrible storm.
During our weekend home Toni had planned a baby shower for Melissa and Joey. I was a little concerned that we wouldn't have power restored and would have to entertain by candlelight and gas grills but fortunately it was back on just in time for Toni to finish her decorating and cooking. We had lots of family and friends join us for the celebration, the Mommy and Daddy to-be received a wonderful assortment of much-needed gifts and everyone had a great time. Of course whenever we get together we typically end up making some lasting memories. LOL
Our precious "off weekends" seem to fly by rather quickly and this one was no exception. By the following Tuesday I was back on a plane headed to Pomona for our final race of the year. I think that I had the same problem that Allen described in his blog. I don't think that I slept the entire week leading up to Pomona. I know that I went through every "what if scenario" that my mind could come up with. The stats indicated that all we had to do was qualify to clinch the Championship but all of a sudden I couldn't breathe when I thought about that. Oh boy, what a long few days! LOL I was even more excited that Jamie was at Pomona and he is great at trying to help keep me calm…if that is possible! He was helping Roger Brogdon for the weekend and it was awesome to have him at the track. I will say that I know that Mark and I were both really glad to finally get to the race and make that much anticipated run down the racetrack. Luckily everything went well for this Mopar Team and, on Saturday afternoon, we all watched, with tears in our eyes as Allen stood triumphant on the podium and accepted his first Pro Stock championship trophy. It was way cool!
After clinching his first Pro Stock title, Allen was not ready to let his season end and we were with him on that. He was determined to try to collect his seventh Wally of the season and when our win light came on in the final round at the Auto Club NHRA Finals, he had successfully put that exclamation point at the end of an already amazing season.
The NHRA awards ceremony held in downtown Hollywood, was fantastic. If you didn't catch Allen's acceptance speech you need to be sure and watch it – oh, by the way, make sure that you have a box of tissues with you when you start watching – I guarantee that you will need it!
After all of the excitement of the last few weeks Toni and I decided to take two days, after the banquet, and spend at our favorite place in Venice Beach. It is a little hard for me to unwind after being on such an emotional roller coaster for the past several weeks so Toni had the perfect plan - walking about 10 miles and biking another 25 miles. What better way to relieve stress and unwind. So as you can see, all-in-all it was a nice relaxing couple of days! Thank goodness it was only for a couple of days!
Before I wrap this up, I want to say that I have been very blessed to have been a part of Allen's championship year. I know, first hand, how hard it is to win a Pro Stock championship - not many have succeeded in successfully climbing that mountain. I know how much hard work, sacrifice and dedication is required from – not just the driver – but the entire team to reach that goal and this year we have had an amazing team.
Allen was my hero this year. He brought his "A-game" week after week and drove better than I ever remember myself driving. His focus and determination was motivation for the rest of us and we could not have asked anything more from him. Roy, Dean, Matt and the rest of the guys at the engine shop were unbelievable. They worked as many hours and as many days a week as it took to get the job done. Even on those rare occasions when there were parts failures we never had an engine let us down when we needed it. Mark, Mike, Jason and I formed a stronger team as the year progressed and I think it definitely showed in how well our Dodge Avenger responded run after run. I can honestly say that I can't wait until next season.
Of course Revonda, Pam and Toni had all of our backs every single week. Whether it was helping us guys do a 19 minute engine swap, bandaging a wound, (you know us guys, we are all Momma's boys at heart!), giving us last-minute haircuts, cleaning transmission parts, keeping us upbeat when we made a bad run or just saying an extra three or four prayers before Allen dropped the clutch – they completed our team.
In closing I want to say, that this has been an amazing year, one that I will never forget. It hasn't been without its challenges, accomplishments, disappointments, or excitements; along with a lot of nerves, tempers and tears thrown in for good measure. This is what makes us all a little stronger week after week. I think that one of my favorite quotes will sum it up quite nicely: "I firmly believe that any man's finest hour, the greatest fulfillment of all that he holds dear, is the moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle – victorious". V. Lombardi. For this team, for this driver, in this Pro Stock season, in this year…I could not agree more!!
As the late, great Vince Lombardi once said, "There is only one way to succeed in anything, and that is to give it everything." As the final two races of the Countdown approach this J&J Mopar racing team is trying to do just that. With an 82-point lead over Jason Line and 8 rounds of eliminations left we are striving to be the very best that we can be.
Tomorrow we leave for Vegas, and we will spend two days testing along with several of our other closest competitors. Mark, Roy, AJ and I have been discussing some new combinations to try on this Dodge Avenger and we can't wait to hit the track and start making some noise. The weather looks like it will be perfect and there isn't a prediction of rain – well at least not yet – so we are excited about that.
As Allen explained in his recent blog, Reading was just a little challenging for all of the Pro Stock teams and we were just thankful to come out of Reading still in the points lead. I do have to congratulate our Mopar teammate V. Gaines and his entire team for a fantastic weekend! While the rest of us were struggling with the racetrack V. was running career best e.t.s and laying the Tree over. Way to go V!!
After racing nonstop for the past two months I almost didn't know what to do with myself when I finally got home. Of course, you know me; I had my long list made up, so I spent much of the week and weekend trying to get some of those things checked off of my list. I have been working very hard on all of our real estate projects and I did get some things accomplished there, and I had maintenance to do on the yard, the house, and the boat. But, there was one really fun thing that I did get to do that wasn't on my list and that was take my two grandkids to the pumpkin patch.
When things seem to be overwhelming, just pack up the grandkids and spend a beautiful fall day enjoying the fresh air and fun things to do at the local pumpkin patch. When Toni first mentioned about going I thought that a nice stroll through a field of pumpkins and maybe a hayride would be a nice way to perhaps relax a bit. Ha! Slides of all sizes and shapes, pirate ships to climb, animals to pet, swings to swing on, hills to hike up, mazes to climb through and rides to ride on and a 1 ½ and 4 year old to lead the way. Get the picture??? LOL
Two hours later, I finally had to tell Ryan that Pop Pop was only going to go up and down the big Pirate slide two more times. Whew, I had to quit! Luckily for me, the pony rides were not available – I don't think I could have fit on those and face painting wasn't open. We did try to take a hayride but the groups of school children pretty much had the hayride full the entire time we were there. So, after a lunch of hot dogs and apple juice, and a search for the perfect little pumpkin we were on our way home. I mean, how much more fun could the day have been? I know one thing, I sure didn't stress over my long list of things to do!
As my list at home gets shorter, my list for the remainder of the year just seems to be getting longer and that is why I am so excited to go testing. We know that our competitors will be doing all that they can to make sure that we don't gain any ground at the last two races. But I also know that this team is working as hard as we can to be the best that we can be and that is all that we can do.
So, on the advice of Coach Lombardi we will go into the final two races, excited and very blessed to be given this amazing opportunity. We will give it our "everything" and hope that it will be enough to achieve our final goal for the year! Thanks for checking in and I will touch base after testing. Have a great week!
Our favorite Mopar fans
Happy birthday Melissa!
Me and Dean
Hey everyone! I’m sitting here in the lounge of the tractor-trailer anxiously awaiting the start of the race here in St. Louis. It is so exciting to be back here again racing – what an awesome facility this is and I have some great memories from my years of racing here at Gateway.
Right now NHRA is trying to dry up some liquid sunshine that fell during the early morning hours and after they get the track nice and dry it looks like we have cool temperatures and plenty of sunshine in store for us this weekend. Just the kind of weather that this Mopar Dodge Avenger loves to play in. LOL
As AJ said in his blog it has been a crazy and amazing few weeks for this Mopar team. With the Indy rain out we are now entering our 5th consecutive weekend of racing (kinda like the Western Swing on steroids) and I can honestly say that this team is having a blast. There is still lots of racing left in this Countdown and you never know what may lie ahead for us so we are all just enjoying every minute of this incredible ride!
Even though we are racing every week, I have had a few days at home to work on my real estate projects and enjoy my grandkids. I really enjoyed having Jamie, Cynthy and the kids at the Charlotte race where we all stayed with Melissa and Joey and had some great fun. We even got to have a small belated birthday party for Melissa after Saturday’s qualifying sessions. Of course Ryan and Maia love anything that includes cake and ice cream!
Being home even a few days a week still affords me the time to see my grandkids. Toni and I get to babysit them every Wednesday so even if I have to go to work I still have a great excuse to stay home and go to work in the afternoon. With the nice weather we spend a lot of time playing baseball, taking walks, working in the yard and playing at the playground. Now doesn’t that sound like a great way to spend a day at home? I know all of you grandparents out there agree with me 100 percent!
I finally hear cars running down the track which means that we are officially underway here in St. Louis. We will have two qualifying runs today and if the weather stays cool and the track stays as good as it usually is here, there should be some pretty fast e.t.s. Make sure that you keep track of us as we go through the weekend!
Well, I better wrap up this blog and get back to work. Mark and I have lots information to sort through before coming up with a combination for this afternoon’s run. We haven’t had weather and track conditions like this since the race in Sonoma so we have a lot of things to change on our Dodge Avenger. I will try to check in again soon and let you know how things are going.
After this race we head to Reading which happens to be another one of my favorite races. Not only is it a fast racetrack but also it is only a couple of hours from home. That makes it even better!
Enjoy your weekend and I will touch base soon!