Hi peeps! I hope that everyone has been surviving this crazy winter that we all have been experiencing. I know living in Texas for nearly nine years now I have seen more snow/ice here since we left Pomona than I've seen in years past, the sad thing about us is we rely on a lot of the rain during the winter to live during the summer and we really didn't get much. Hopefully we will get some good rain this spring since we really need to get out of this horrible drought we've been in as well these rivers need water so we can go toobing and playing on the rivers this summer, Lord knows it's going to be hot again.
I guess that all being said about rain and snow I sure got a good dose of it and then some about two weeks ago when I had to make a trip up to Fall River Massachusetts, that's where Vanson Leathers is based out of. They have been making some of the best leather driving suits that we have to wear since I was a little kid and that's all i've ever worn since I started drag racing and had never had the opportunity to check out their facility is so I cashed in some miles and peeled out that way. Little did I know and to the lack of knowledge with meteorologists predicting weather I got snowed in! It just so happened that a good old buddy of mine, Mr. U.S. Nationals winner himself John Hall lives about an hour from Vanson so instead of living in a hotel room for three days snowed in I headed to his house to hang with him and his family.
I've known John and his family since 2003 when we all started out racing 600SS together in AMA/Prostar and started our trek up the drag racing ladder to NHRA. I spent a couple’s night up there with them and actually enjoyed a nice Valentines French Toast breakfast that Ivette (John's wife) made for the family. It was funny the first night I stayed there before the snow really came in, John and I went out for a few cocktails then it was like someone turned on a switch with the snow. I woke up the ned the morning to Ivette laughing at me telling me "no one ever stays here one night Michael Ray". Now for a guy that has never seen snow other than at a ski resort I was BLOWN away! Once the snow really came down and people had to get out, start shoveling, and then get going with their day I completely understood why people hate snow. John and I spent the entire day riding around plowing out his family and friends houses for them since he has a good little plow truck. The really weird thing about the snow thing to me is how the world just STOPS for it. I mean it's just frozen water, we have the technology to send a human being to space, but we can't figure out how to survive this!
So the real fun started when I was supposed to get on a plane Friday to fly home from Providence Road Island but my flights were cancelled. I started getting texts from US. Airways on Thursday telling me to call them and they will get me on another flight, but when I would call I would literally sit on hold for 45-60 minutes at a time. Then the automated person would say "sorry we're experiencing high call volumes, please call later." to my disgust I would wait about two or three hours than call again. Finally I found a flight leaving Philly Saturday morning at 7a.m. instead of the scheduled Sunday flight were going to put me on and I peeled out south. I made it out safe, got my new suit fitted, and saw my good buddy so I guess the trip was a success. Hopefully I will have my new suit for the Gators and I can show them off, they should look pretty dang fancy…
Now that the season is right around the corner it seems that the world of money has just fallen out of the sky. I mean MSR lost their deal with Viper and we out of the blue lose Sovereign with big daddy Jeno. It really sucks that he is gone and we are really stuck in between a rock and award place with finding the funding it takes to run this operation, but we will move on. I honestly have to stop and say thanks to him for his interest in our sport as well as his participation in NHRA.
I remember the first time I met him back in 2011, I had put a three-race deal together with Star to run the first three races so we were all in Valdosta before the season. So we pull up to the track at about 9:30am and for anyone that knows Rugger that is early enough for a morning beer, we get out of the car to see these three european dudes, one of them being Jeno and what does he have? A morning beer! It was like we were all destined to race together and little did we know that just a few years later that we would all team up for what was a dream year for me. That all being said, I have to say thank you Jeno for all you did to help me with last year. But like everything in life, it wasn't forever and we will all move on.
I know that everyone at Star and everyone in my camp are really working hard to come up with some great marketing partners to ensure us racing all year so we will see what happens. I know that we really haven't let all of this crimp our plans on getting to Gainesville and running up front. The guys are heading down to SGMP this week to put some final touches on the bikes before we head back down for the Gators. I unfortunately can't make it down to help but I know that this week’s test session will be great for Chaz because he will get to make quite a few laps before we start the season. We are supposed to test on Monday and Tuesday before the Gators at SGMP so that will actually be the first time I will see the bike before Q1 in Gainesville. So I hope I know which side the clutch and brake are on….
You know as we get ready for the first race of the season getting everything prepared can be as stressful as actually being there trying to qualify. It really seems that getting 6 people to go take a passport photo can be one of the most challenging. Now I know I am a professional procrastinator and I can't really complain, but why would you give me something and tell me that it's not due for 6-8 weeks and expect me to get it to any time before the last second. When I went on the passport photo hunt in January I had honest intentions to have them submitted by February 1, I sent them off last Friday… I wasn't late right? They had to be in Monday and they made it!!!! Thank you very much to Jennifer Gregg-Lowe or as her email says "Jlowe" for always bailing my slack @!! out of trouble. Needless to say we got everything submitted, entered, and ready to go enter our Buell in a few weeks to see how it runs in the pack.
So on a side note, it's so cool to think of the list of drivers in PSB that came from an all-motor class like 600SS where John and I came from. Here is the list I can think of (I’m sorry if I forgot you) maybe "Stat Guy" Lewis Bloom can help but here we go; Ryan Schnitz, Chip Hunter, Chip Ellis, John Hall, Michael Phillips, Eddie Murphy, Eddie Kraweic, Rickey Gadson, Keith Dennis and Marty Ladwig. Marty had a really great career in the import series for cars. That class really has really bred some of the greatest racers/riders to ever come out of drag racing in my personal opinion… We didn't grow up with sliders, nitrous, turbos, or fuel injection. We had to truly make an all motor(pump gas), foot-shift w/ a stock clutch, 54-inch wheelbase street bike GET IT, and you had to leave on people. There wasn't any rev it up and chunk the clutch or let off a button to make these bikes go fast. Now please don't let my words create drama, it's like a dirt track guy telling a road racing guy that that can't drive… I just feel that class or style of racing a no-bar bike has been the breeding ground of Pro Stock Motorcycle riders/drivers since motorcycle classes were brought to drag racing. I know that there are a few of us out there that have joked about grudge racing with no-bar and I really think that NHRA should consider doing a race like that. It would be really entertaining for fans, a lot of us grew up riding no-bar fast bikes and like I said quite a few of us would love to take it old school and get after it. I'm off my kicker now….
I'm going to wrap this up by saying congrats to Alexis for winning her first nitro Funny Car race. I have watched her for quite a while and seen her really put a ton of pressure on herself to win. There were times she struggled on the tree or didn't drive well but she stuck with it and her team stuck with her. There isn't much cooler than seeing a great team win, her team as well as all the Kalitta Racing teams celebrate and I wish them many more. I will see you crazy NHRA fans really soon and I can't wait. You know that if you have a question or just want to say hi please catch me on Twitter at @michaelstingray or on Facebook as well, my name Michael Ray. I love you guys for reading this; it's so cool to hear you all talk about when we see each other at the races. I really can't thank you enough.