What are the odds?Tuesday, March 25, 2014

I broke one of my own PR rules yesterday. Okay, maybe I just bent it gently, but I definitely crossed a line I had, personally, drawn in the press release sand a few years back. I used a Las Vegas reference in my headline when I wrote that Wilk aimed to "cash in" on some of the progress we've been making at the last two races. I didn't want to do it, but I did it anyway. It's possible I felt, subconsciously, that my efforts to treat the Vegas race as "just another stop on the tour" for the last few years gave me the freedom to drop a quick "Vegas bomb" into the headline. Plus, after 18-some years of doing this, at some point you feel like you're running out of all new words to use. There are only so many in the English language, I guess.

Anyway, this blog installment will likely be brief, and that's something that's totally uncommon around here. I just felt the compulsion to get something written, but nothing has really happened since we completed Gainesville, and I don't leave for Vegas until Thursday. So, we'll just ramble a bit in a look back at Vegas races in the past, while we look forward to this weekend.

Things to look forward to…

It's supposed to be dry with highs in the upper 70s or low 80s all weekend. And, since it's in a desert and not in a place where weird storms pop up out of nowhere, Vegas is one of those places where you can almost believe the forecast. If it's going to rain in Vegas, the weather people can generally spot it coming from a long way away, and even then it often dries up and doesn't rain.

My actor friend Buck Hujabre is planning on being there Friday, and the latest I heard the plan was for his wife Mary and their two boys, Gibson and Hudson, to be there as well. I'm enormously looking forward to seeing all of them, and I can't wait to see how big the boys have gotten. I'm assuming Buck and Mary are still the same height, but I guess you never know.

After many years of staying down on the south end of The Strip, this season we've "moved north" to a different hotel only about 10 minutes from the track. Mandalay Bay was an outstandingly nice place, and our partnership with them was very generous and a real honor to be a part of, but I will admit that the drive from down by the Las Vegas airport up to the track each day could get pretty tiresome, especially if there were traffic backups. Generally, it's the drive back to the hotel at the end of each day that seemed worse. When you pull out of the track, you can see The Stratosphere and downtown Vegas clearly in the distance, but it's a mirage in terms of how close you actually are. It could sometimes take as long as an hour just to get to the giant Stratosphere, and then it could often be another 45 minutes just to get to the hotel from there.

Plus, those giant casino/resorts on The Strip aren't quite like regular hotels. You have to park in a giant garage and then hike through the entire gigantic casino just to get to the huge banks of elevators that take you up to your sprawling floor. You can have a lot of fun and eat some amazing food while staying in a luxurious room, but I'm fine with being at The Cannery this year, right up by the track. Plus, way back in the prehistoric CSK days we stayed there for preseason testing one year and in five minutes, on two slot machines that sat right next to each other, I won enough money to buy Barbara the nice big diamond I couldn't afford when we got married. So there's that…

We really are making progress with the LRS Ford, and it's really just a matter of time before Wilk starts rattling off round wins in succession. This weekend? Why not? We'll just play the cards we're dealt, ante up, go all in, rake in the chips, and win the jackpot. The odds are in our favor, and we aim to cash in. There, I've done it. That's enough "Vegas bombs" to last another couple of years. Hey, there's a knock on my door and I think it's the Cliche' Police…

Travis Wirth and I have a plan to put together some fun videos during warm-ups this weekend. If we succeed, you can count on them being uploaded to our TimWilkerson.com website. Stand by for that.

We don't have hospitality this weekend, so technically I actually don't even have to go to this race, but all of the things listed above are included in the reasons why I am indeed going and I'm really looking forward to it. I feel the need to hold a new Wally up high, so maybe we can make that happen, too.

With no hospitality, that means there will also be no hospitality area in our pit, so I'm going to have to spend a lot more time up in the Media Center doing my PR work. It's just too crowded up in the transporter lounge, and frankly my quick wit and hilarious jokes are a distraction to the crew chief. Or maybe it's the other way around. Seriously, though, three people are about 1.5 people too many up in the lounge, so I'll carve out a spot in the Media Center.

Things to fondly look back upon…

In 2004, Phil Burkart was driving the CSK blue car, and he ran the table (Vegas bomb!). He beat Wilk in round one, then went on to beat Gary Scelzi, John Force, and in the final round he beat Whit Bazemore to get the Wally. Boy did we have a fun dinner at the Monte Carlo that night. I recall a fairly decent (classic) prank being hatched that night, and it included dinner leftovers being secretly stashed in the travel bag of one crew member who was flying out that night on a "red eye" flight. Boys will be boys…

Do you remember when the song "Ladies and Gentlemen" by the band Saliva was the theme music for the nitro classes? One year, during preseason testing in Vegas, the band came out to the track and did a couple of music videos for that song, and one of those videos was shot in our CSK pit area. That was pretty cool. It was also wild to see those guys just milling around looking bored as each shot was set up, and then as soon as the music started they went into totally over-the-top "rock star mode" as they played along to the song.

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Looking forward to seeing these two Wilk fans this weekend, along with Mary and Hudson
The regular "free air shows" we get almost every time we race there are usually awesome. If you've ever been to the Vegas race, you know what I mean. Fighter jets with afterburners cranking, big tanker planes, and big bombers as well.

Having our friend Gerald Meux and his then girlfriend Kari (they're married now) not only come out and spend the Vegas weekends with us, but also pamper us ridiculously with incredible food all weekend. Gerald is a certified "rising star" at Hormel, though, and because of his enormous dedication and smarts he keeps getting promoted. His latest upward move was from Vegas to Southern California right at the beginning of this year, but the timing was off to see him in Pomona, and now Kari has joined him there so they can't come to Vegas. Here's hoping we see those two crazy cats this fall, at the final race of the year. Great people!

Any of a long list of Fan Fest gatherings, whether they were on Fremont Street or down at the New York - New York casino. The Vegas fans are simply amazing, and those Fan Fest deals are all the evidence you need to confirm that. We'd show up 30 minutes before the start each year, and every time I'd wonder if the same huge crowd was going to show up or not. Every time, they did. They'd be lined up waiting for us.

Unfortunately, Wilk doesn't get into town in time to do the Fan Fest this year. Maybe next time…

So that's about it. I'm heading down on Thursday, doing my now common connection in Salt Lake City. On the way back next Monday, though, I'm taking advantage of a new nonstop Delta flight from LAX to GEG here in Spokane. I'll make the quick flight from LAS to LAX, and then fly straight on up here without ever having to see Concourses B, C, or D in Salt Lake. We'll see how this works…

Wish us luck (sort of a Vegas bomb, but also usable in other contexts) and root for us, Wilk fans. Let's parlay this race into a big jackpot. (Ouch, that was awful).

Wilber, out!