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.
Hello again. I hope you are having a good Wednesday. I’ll start this blog entry by going back one week to the evening of May 28.
We flew into New Jersey and made a quick drive to Monroe Township to meet Terry Chandler, our drivers, crew chiefs, front office employees and the members of the Make-A-Wish Funny Car team. The New Jersey chapter of the Make-A-Wish foundation hosted us for an event at the NJ MAW headquarters (www.nj.wish.org) at the Samuel & Josephine Plumeri Wishing Place or the castle. We were hosted by Tom Weatherall and the staff at the Wishing Place.
It was a fantastic event for DSR to learn more about Make-A-Wish and how the organization works. We got to hear some very touching stories from Wish families and even meet some of the local Wish children. It was an extremely uplifting event.
We also had the opportunity to educate the New Jersey Make-A-Wish group on DSR. TJ and the team took time out of their busy schedules to display the Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car at the castle for the event. This photo at the end of the night was one of the coolest photos I’ve seen, thanks Auto Imagery. What an amazing setting for a beautiful race car.
Thank you to Tom and the staff at the Plumeri Wishing Place for hosting us and we look forward to returning next year before the Englishtown race.
After setup Thursday at the track, the teams were excited to hit the track at Raceway Park with some really good weather conditions on Friday. The long term forecast allowed us to think that we could see some record-setting ETs and speeds and as it has many times, Raceway Park didn’t disappoint. Cruz Pedregon posted the quickest Funny Car lap in history on Friday evening at 3.959-seconds.
Race day at Englishtown didn’t go has planned for team DSR. It was the first time this season that we didn’t have a car in the final round. Momma said they’ll be days like Sunday, June 1. Haha. The teams are back at the shop regrouping from the first three-race swing of 2014 and preparing the first four-race swing of 2014.
We’re still in Funny Car body shuffle mode as TJ’s guys damaged a body during qualifying at Englishtown. It’s been a game of musical FC bodies at DSR the past few weeks. Hopefully, that doesn’t happen again this year. Fingers crossed that’s for sure.
Antron and the Matco Tools TF team will have a brand new chassis ready to go at Bristol following the Atlanta incident and TJ’s Make-A-Wish should have a full inventory of fully branded Make-A-Wish cars by Joliet. We’re certainly keeping our fab shop, Aerodine and our painter Steve at SD Enterprises busy.
The teams will leave for Bristol on June 11 and we’re excited to hit the track under the lights at Bristol Dragway on June 13 at one of the most scenic settings on tour. Bristol Dragway is a fantastic facility and the roar of 10,000 horsepower nitro cars between the mountains is unparalleled on the NHRA circuit. I can’t wait.
Have a great week everyone and we’ll check in again soon.
Hello all. It’s been a busy few weeks for us on the NHRA tour and it’s not slowing down this week, but I wanted to check-in with a brief update. After our extended stay in Atlanta, we flew home to Florida to turn around a few days later and head to Chicago for the summer.
I’m going to spend some time at Schumacher Electric Corp. in Mt. Prospect, Ill. this summer to learn the battery charger business. I feel that I need to become more well-rounded and learn both SEC and DSR. So, I’ll spend time between both for some time. I’m excited to work with Cory and the group at SEC and start my professional career.
Topeka was a much smoother race than Atlanta for Team DSR. Q2 was cancelled due to rain on Friday night, but the rest of the weekend was fairly smooth. After some rain on Saturday morning, we got both qualifying sessions in and had fantastic weather for race day. Most importantly, we left the event intact with no damage. I know our fab shop appreciates that.
We didn’t get to Topeka until Sunday as I celebrated my 23rd birthday last Friday. I want to thank all the fans for the birthday wishes on Twitter and Facebook. NHRA fans truly are very kind and thoughtful. I celebrated the day with dinner at Gibson’s in Chicago with my family and friends.
We got to the track on Sunday morning and during DSR driver intros, Antron joked that diamonds aren’t a girl’s best friend, Wally’s are. LOL That Antron always has funny lines. He could be a stand up comedian.
I guess AB knew something as Spencer and the Battery Extender team won their second straight race. It was win No. 225. I had some of my longtime friends from Chicago with us, so it was great that they could celebrate with us in the winner’s circle at Heartland Park. A Wally truly is the best birthday present.
We didn’t get a win in Funny Car, but I do want to congratulate Courtney Force on her amazing accomplishment on Sunday. She won the 100th race as a female driver in NHRA drag racing. There’s been much talk about who would get the milestone win and it was so cool to see such a good friend earn that special win. Court and I are good friends and when our cars don’t win, I want to see her to well.
We’re gearing up to head east to New Jersey tomorrow. Our drivers, crew chiefs and front office staff are joining a group from Make-A-Wish for a team function tomorrow night and we’re excited to continue to learn about the Make-A-Wish group and introduce them to our sport. It’s a such a great program and we’re hoping the partnership continues for many years.
The weather forecast is calling for unseasonably cool temps this weekend. Low 70s in late May at Raceway Park should be very quick and fast. We saw Ron Capps and the NAPA team run 3.964 two years ago, so we’ll see if anyone can lower that mark? And can a dragster run 3.69? It should be exciting!
Have a great week.