Not sure what it is, but there’s something incredibly endearing about these dudes!
Stop me if you’ve heard this before: It’s nearly 10 p.m. Monday night, I have a 6 a.m. flight tomorrow, and someone is once again behind on their blog! Welcome to my life and, though it may sound hectic, I wouldn’t change a thing. I’ll have a one-day turnaround in Charlotte (doing an appearance for Valvoline), be back home for a day, and then jump on another plane for Houston to get back into my new hotrod.
If you’re following racing, you know so much has changed for me lately, that trying to keep track would require a scorecard (is that expression even relevant today, what with PDAs, smart-phones, and the Internet?). Getting a round-win in Charlotte was probably the most relief I’ve felt all year, for good reason.
zMAX marked the start of Todd Smith’s tenure as my crew chief, the debut of a brand-new chassis, and being surrounded by seven crewmembers whom I hadn’t worked with in the past (assistant crew chief Terry Snyder and I worked together for a couple of years). I want to express an enormous amount of gratitude to everyone on my former crew: Rahn, John, Mark, Chris, Adrian, Bill, Dustin, Tyler and Joe spent what should have been their days off getting my new car up to specs. Also, Terry, Mark, Matt, Jim, James, Kyle, Chris, and Dan (formerly the NAPA crew, now the Valvoline boys) not only had to get a car ready, help swap all trailer contents, but they had to do this while integrating Todd Smith in as the new Valvoline crew chief. These gentleman (as well as the guys in the chassis shop) went way above the call of duty to ensure Capps and I would have competitive rides for the 4-Wide.
The staff in Julian treated me like family, and I even got to do some announcing with “Moe-D”. And you were thinking I was standing next to the winner and runner-up in the “Jack Beckman look-alike contest”!
Speaking of 4-Wide, how’d you like to have that as your first race with all new faces and parts? That’s what both the NAPA and Valvoline teams were faced with, and I think both of us acquitted ourselves well. Capps nearly pulled off a win in the final, and we qualified near the top and left with a round-win and third place in the points. It’s hard NOT to be excited going into Houston this weekend!
Due to being in a car I had never run (heck, I never even sat in it until the Sunday of Vegas!), I flew into Concord a day early to spend time in the cockpit and eliminate any surprises for our first run Friday. After a few hours at the track on Thursday, I found myself with the rest of night to kill. It was either head to the movies (I do that a lot while on the road), find the Asian massage parlor (probably not going to fly with Jenna), or take a trip 90 minutes north to Julian, N.C., and the local 1/8-mile track for some Pro Mod and bracket action. My buddy Mike Gross (whom I met several years ago when he worked at Hendricks’ NASCAR team) came up with the suggestion, so away we went (after a Jack-In-The-Box drive thru stop). With as hectic as things have been involving all the changes, I think getting back to some grass-roots competition was just what the doctor ordered (and there were no rubber gloves involved). It was just so totally bitchin’ to walk the pits, chat with the management and announcer, hang out with the fans, B.S. with the racers, and enjoy from the stands.
Ray and Kitty are on the far right (of the photo...not sure about their politics), and at first I was pissed at Brian, thinking he spent all his souvenir money on ANOTHER John Force shirt...until I realized it was one of mine. Porsha and friend Mike complete this work of art.
After making 19 or 20 straight runs down the track, smoking the tires on our first run Friday was a bit of a letdown, but it was certainly tempered by the knowledge that so much had changed. The boys got it together Friday afternoon and, even after smoking the tires on both Saturday runs, I felt very optimistic going into eliminations Sunday. First round, we beat everybody in our matchup. Usually, beating three other Funny Cars on Sunday means that you’re going into the final. Not so when racing four-wide, and our day ended in tire smoke in the next stanza.
Wanting to get a better handle on the clutch disks that will now be part of the Valvoline car’s inventory, we elected to make a couple of test runs on Monday. Rahn was very confident after our second pass, so we packed it in and headed home. Houston can’t get here quick enough for me!
Perhaps my biggest highlights from the race were all about people. My dad and Teri made the drive out from Arlington, and my Air Force bud Bruce, along with his wife Steph, were able to attend. Also, my new friends, Jay and Diane Kolb, drove out from Bowling Green to see what all the fuss was about.
Layla splashes, then tries to swallow the water. I think she learned her pool etiquette from my Golden Retriever, Peaches!
Also, Saturday morning I attending the BRAKES fundraiser breakfast (Don Schumacher was gracious enough to allow it to be held in DSR hospitality), along with many of the Pro drivers.
However, I’m going to say that Brian Chalmers (and his amazing wife, Porsha...who seems to have been named after a German sports car) made my weekend extra special. Brian has been talked about in several past blogs, and he is my buddy, even though he’s never said a damn word to me. Brian has Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS), yet he and Porsha live more than most healthy people have ever dreamed of. During testing on Monday I introduced them to Ray and Kitty Cordeiro, great friends of mine from Santa Barbara, whom I’d raced with in the Sportsman ranks for years. It just reminded me how unbelievably lucky a guy I am; to be blessed with incredibly good looks, fantastic modesty, and some of the best friends on earth!
Once back home, I got right back into the dad, husband, and son-in-law mode. We’re still finishing up Cindy’s new condo, so I’m doing the cupboard slides and shelving now. A huge up-side to this move is that we now have access to a nice swimming pool for the kids. Layla got to take her first swim ever, and Jason got reacquainted with holding his breath.
Sully is quicker on the dozer than I am in the funny car. He wanted me to give it a try, but I know how long it would take to put that wall back up after I hit it! I was watering the dozer, trying to make it grow into a full-sized grader.
“Barely” Bonds is perfecting his hitting technique, and I do love practicing with him at home!
I suppose we can talk about coordinating belts at our next practice.
We took the kids to the Discovery Science Center to see their new bubble show. I’d be lying if I told you I was excited to go see someone blowing bubbles onstage, but this show was totally enjoyable. You’d be surprised at how cool some of the stuff this cat did actually was, plus Jason just loves the “Dinosaur Hunt” section of the Center. Layla really seemed to enjoy crapping her pants in the rocket propulsion area... which created a totally different kind of thrust (and byproducts of spent energy).
Lest you think that my wall project was done... think again. I had been waiting to backfill the retaining wall until the city of Norco issued my permit to build a garage on the upper level of the backyard, as I didn’t want to waste an extra day with the tractor in the yard. Randy Sullivan - whose company logo appears on my car, as well as Jim Dunn’s- did the honors with several tons of dirt. After a couple months to allow settling, we should be able to install topsoil, sprinklers, and groundcover behind the wall. Next I’ll install the masonry caps (no relation to Ron Capps) and lighting.
Randy also did the initial grading of the yard for the garage. As expected, we hit solid granite in a few areas, so it’s time to bring in the 2,000 pound jackhammer attachment and shake all the neighbors’ houses! I’m starting to get excited about “beginning” this build (even though I started the permit process nearly a year ago). I don’t know much about construction, but I have lots of smart friends like “Sully” (who knows his dirt) and neighbor Curtis (who drew up the plans and guarantees me that even the Big Bad Wolf won’t be able to blow this place down). I don’t really have a timeline for completing this structure, but it should make for some great blog fodder in the upcoming months.
Jason had his second T-Ball game, and we took team pictures immediately after. With seven games remaining, plus an equal number of practices, I’d like to think our team can get to the point that running to first base doesn’t require GPS and coaching instructions, and perhaps the kids will discover that it doesn’t take six children falling on the ball to field a slow grounder. Still, it’s hard not to enjoy watching the Athletics do their thing!
Stay tuned, keep a level blade and a straight grade, open your eyes under water, and get to first base!