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.
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.