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!
Greetings everyone! I made a Yates family decision to go ahead and write a blog instead of waiting for Jim to get home and write one. It could be a while. LOL I guess I should have done that a week or so ago – right? Unfortunately, since arriving home from Seattle Jim has only been in town about 14 days and with lots of racing and testing in the schedule it doesn't look like he is going to get home any time soon.
We had an awesome weekend in Brainerd where we had a runner-up finish to Erica, the team then tested in Martin, Mich., in preparation for Indy and of course most of you can imagine what a trying several days it was for everyone this past weekend in Indy. Can you say rain, rain go away? Though NHRA did everything they could do to complete the event, Mother Nature had some very different ideas and ultimately the Indy race was reschedule for this upcoming weekend.
As soon as NHRA called the race, AJ, Jim, Mark and the team decided to pack up and head to Charlotte to do some more testing. They left Indy on Monday afternoon, drove to Charlotte and have been testing at zMax Raceway all week. When they finish up their test session today they will drive back to Indy to get things ready for the Saturday, Sunday rescheduled race. This is one week that I am glad that I came home. Of course Jim loves testing in Charlotte because he gets to stay and visit with Melissa and Joey while he is in town – now I'm jealous!
Speaking of Melissa and Joey, they have some very exciting news to share with everyone – they will be welcoming "Baby Girl Civali" into the world at the end of January next year! Yeah!!! How awesome is that? We are all so very excited for them and we can not wait for the big day to arrive. I will be sure to keep everyone posted as the big day gets closer!
Though Jim has been traveling a lot we have been able to fit in some quality time with Ryan and Maia. Sleepovers, cookouts, and a weekly babysitting day keep us very busy with two very active grandkids and we love every minute. We are definitely blessed to have them living close by so that we can see them every week. It will be a little different when Baby Civali arrives as they live about 6 hours away; however, I am really close to three airports and have lots of frequent flier miles. I am definitely up for the challenge of being a very busy Granma!
The Charlotte national event is only a week away and this year Jamie, Cynthy and the kids are going to make the trip. We will all stay with Melissa and Joey and everyone will get to come to the track on Saturday to cheer on AJ and the Mopar Team in the first race of the Countdown. Ryan remembers his trip to Reading last year and is very excited to be going back to the race track where Poppop and Daddy raced. (Aren't kids great?!) This will be Maia's first NHRA event and I have no doubt that she will love every minute of it. I mean how can you not love NHRA drag racing – right?
This time of the season is probably the most demanding and most exciting and I hope that everyone will keep track of our progress along the way. Jim and the team will be testing quite a bit in between NHRA events so I may be filling in for him with the blog again in the future. Hopefully next week I will have some great pictures of an Indy win to share with you. Be sure to follow us this weekend – the weather is looking like it will be sunny and cooler so with two qualifying sessions left there should be some shuffling in the qualifying order! Oh boy! Have a great weekend everyone!