You know that feeling you have when you’re at the top of a roller coaster looking down at the biggest drop of the ride?
We’re at that point of the season, when there’s no turning back and no getting out. It’s time for the Western Swing.
This is about the time when earning points becomes critical. We talk about points all year because every one really is important in the NHRA Full Throttle Series, especially in a category as competitive as Funny Car. You want to qualify and win as much as the next driver and if you’re not having any luck on Sunday, at least not get too far behind. You want to be within striking distance by the time the Countdown to the Championship playoffs come around.
We’re sixth in points right now, up two spots thanks to a semifinal finish in Norwalk. We ran with our “Our Everyday Heroes” JDRF paint scheme there and I think it brought us good luck. Unfortunately we had to race our Shelby teammate in the semis, which we always hate to do. That’s a no-win for us.
An 11-year-old with type 1 diabetes designed our car and wouldn’t you know it, she’s a drag racer! She’s a good one, too. I wouldn’t be surprised to see her in the pros one day. Remember the name – Libby Ledford. It was great to meet Libby, her family and friends. Great people!
Libby even left the track with a Wally. The Motorcraft/Quick Lane team won “Best Appearing Crew” for our uniforms made from Libby’s design.
After the race my family and I went to Cedar Point for an event my best friend Tony Pedregon puts on with his team. Cedar Point is a huge amusement park not far from Norwalk that has a ride called the “Top Thrill Dragster.” I love roller coasters and this is a great one. We signed some autographs and had fun on the rides.
Now it’s time for the Western Swing, which means we’re at the midpoint of our year and nearing the end of the regular season. Five races are left before playoffs begin.
My family and I begin our annual vacation this week. Every year we drive the Western Swing in our motor home. With four boys and three in sports, the schedule during the school year is pretty hectic. It’s important to my wife Terri and me to spend as much time as we can together with the boys and this is a great time to do it. We have a few favorite spots to see along the way but we always see a few new things, too.
The Wood Bros. and Trevor Bayne in Charlotte
It used to be that when people asked us which race was busiest, the answer was easy – Indianapolis.
At Indy, you don’t get five free minutes at the track. There are so many interviews, meet-and-greets and autograph sessions (not to mention the rounds of racing!) that it really is a grind.
Now other races are starting to catch up, like the NHRA 4-Wide Nationals at zMAX Dragway.
I like being busy. Having lots of things to concentrate on actually helps not get too keyed up about racing my Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Mustang Funny Car. The days fly by!
Let me tell you…we were busy in Charlotte. Our new Motorcraft Marketing and Motorsports Manager came to see us and it was his first drag race, so we had a lot to show him. On Sunday, our sponsor teammate Trevor Bayne, Eddie and Len Wood from Wood Brothers Racing and Donnie Wingo, Trevor’s crew chief, came out to cheer for us.
You may have noticed that we in the Ford Funny Car camps are pretty close. We’ve all known each other for many years and respect each other. We call it “One Ford” and for us it really is. We may want to beat each other on the track, but at the end of the day we’re family. We have that same kind of bond with Trevor and Wood Brothers Racing through Motorcraft and Quick Lane Racing.
Trevor drove the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway, then flew with the Woods overnight to see us in Charlotte. It’s always great to get the extra support at the track. Jack Roush, whose team won the Nationwide and Sprint Cup races in Texas, came out to zMAX Dragway too.
Last week the Ford Mustang turned 48. The Mustang is an iconic brand for Ford and a car that is especially important to me! I race one, after all.
My son Austin finally got the junior dragster he’s been asking for. Now both Bobby and Austin have one and they’re painted to look just like my Funny Car. It’s amazing how quick kids grow up. They were supposed to come down to Charlotte to attend Roy Hill’s Drag Racing School but an airplane malfunction canceled their flight. We couldn’t find another one. I assured them they will get another chance. They can’t wait!
We’re headed to NASA’s Johnson Space Center tomorrow with ESPN2before the race in Houston. I look forward to this every year and will have lots to ask about after “The Science of Drag Racing” event the staff at zMAX Dragway invited me to attend to promote their race. Talk about cool – I was able to talk with real physicists and retired astronaut Joan Higginbotham about how racing a Funny Car is like flying in a space shuttle. They really are very similar. My Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Shelby Mustang still accelerates quicker, though.
I really have to hand it to the PR staff at zMAX Dragway. They come up with the most creative ideas to promote drag racing. The whole staff at zMAX does an incredible job. I was happy to be there.
The Providence Capitals, including Austin Tasca, and coaches. Back Row (Left to Right): Mike Moretti, Andy Guiliano and Head Coach Jerry Buckley. The Providence Capitals won the Eastern Hockey Federation championship.
Austin and the championship banner!
Crew chief Dickie Venables has joined the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team and will serve with Chris Cunningham and Marc Denner.
One of my coolest moments I’ve had as a dad was two weeks ago, watching my son Austin play in the Eastern Hockey Federation championship tournament. Remember that movie Miracle, the story about the 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team’s win over Russia? Picture that, and that’s what this tournament was like to watch. Especially the semifinal game against the Minuteman Flames.
Austin, 7, and his team, the Providence Capitals, play some of the best teams in New England. As a dad, I do my best to encourage my sons and give them advice, but before the semis I really didn’t know what to say.
The Capitals’ nine-game winning streak paled in comparison to the Flames.’ They’d won 40 straight games and had a 4-0 record against my son’s team this year.
I try to be optimistic no matter what, but not too many people gave our team a chance. The stats just weren’t in our favor.
Then came our own little miracle.
This was a monumental game. When those kids hit the ice that night they truly believed they could win.
It didn’t matter that they were playing in the Flames’ house. Thanks to great coaching by Jerry Buckley, our own Herb Brooks, Austin and his teammates were ready to play and they showed it. Jerry’s an NHL agent for some of the big names in hockey whose sons play on the team too. We’re happy to have him as a coach, I can tell you that.
The Capitals won 5-4 and Austin pitched in with a few assists. Every kid on the team played tremendously and the parents on both sides went wild – on our side out of pure amazement and happiness for our kids.
They went on to face the Bay State Breakers in the finals and won 8-2 and even though it’s been a few weeks, Austin still sleeps with his championship plaque in his arms. I can’t blame him. I may do that with my next Wally!
Speaking of Wallys, we brought a new crew member on board on the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team - crew chief Dickie Venables!
Not many people know this, but I’ve known Dickie for years. Since 1997, in fact. I met him when he was at John Force Racing and then when he tuned my best friend Tony Pedregon to his championships, as a co-crew chief and then as crew chief.
I’m really excited to have him on board with us. Dickie’s spent quite a bit of time with Chris Cunningham and Marc Denner at the shop in Charlotte, N.C. already and while we won’t make any major changes at the race in Las Vegas this weekend, we are looking forward to trying some new ideas out at testing after the event and after the 4-Wide Nationals at zMAX Dragway.
When you’re in my line of work, you never really know what people will ask you to do…like “play” with the Harlem Globetrotters, for instance.
A few weeks ago, the NHRA Media Relations team asked our PR reps if we would be in town early for the race in Gainesville and, if so, if we were interested in hanging out with the Globetrotters. Of course!
So on Wednesday, I’ll go straight from the airport to the University of Florida to meet the Globetrotters. This will definitely be one of the cooler things we’ve done this year. The next day we’ll go to Tampa/St. Petersburg to do some media. I’ve got to tell you – I’m really impressed with some of the opportunities they’re coming up with for us this year. The NHRA Media Relations team works hard.
I sure hope we have better weather in Gainesville than NASCAR had in Daytona a few weeks ago. The Motorcraft/Quick Lane Racing team was there with Trevor Bayne trying to defend their title and it seemed like they would never get to race. A Ford won with Matt Kenseth. Not our team, but still brought it back to Ford and that’s important for all of us.
After Phoenix, my family and I went to the Grand Canyon. It looked like a shorter drive on the map than it was in reality, but I saw the Grand Canyon as a kid and I wanted my boys to see it too. If you’ve never seen it in person, it’s difficult to really understand how massive the Grand Canyon really is. We did something really cool – we went on a helicopter ride that took us down into the Canyon.
This helicopter ride was just incredible. Even my son Austin was speechless. Out of my four boys, Austin is the one who never stops talking. Halfway through the ride I realized I hadn’t heard a word out of him and I asked him if he was still there over the headsets they gave all of us. He was there, all right. And speechless. I’m not sure he’ll be getting on any more helicopters anytime soon. I told him he should probably stick to racing his junior dragster.
We stayed at a hotel not far from there that had a bowling alley in it. That was my turn to be humble. I think a few of my sons beat me at bowling. My whole family is pretty competitive. Even my parents. We play games on our phones like Words With Friends and no one ever wants to lose. I think if I have to go bowling again I may go practice beforehand!
Back at home, we finished our first full month of sales with the new Truck Center we opened at Tasca Ford in January. We’ve had a busy few years at the dealership – busy in a good way!
It’s almost time to pack for Florida and I have plenty on the “to-do” list before I leave.