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Posted by: Jack Beckman, Valvoline MaxLife Dodge

The Sonoma race marked the Beckman family’s return to the wonderful world of RV’ing, yet this trip provided little in the way of excitement (which is EXACTLY what I prefer). Sure, we did have an extended fuel stop down the road from the racetrack in Vallejo, but we eventually straightened that out. Initially both of my credit cards appeared to have been “cancelled”, but upon calling their customer service, it appears that they simply don’t trust any transaction in Vallejo…so I’m guessing one could consider that a “high crime area”. I just made sure to keep one hand on my wallet while filling the RV with $400 worth of premium diesel (there’s an oxymoron if you know anything about refining crude oil into fuel). Hey, now that I think about it, I WAS robbed in Vallejo!

In between phone calls to India to reinstate my credit, my buddy Dave Rieff phoned. He really cheered me up, as his day was going SO MUCH WORSE than mine! Basically he called to let me know that he was stuck in an airport in Omaha, wasn’t going to make it to San Francisco on time, and was electing me as his official replacement for the evening. Dave was scheduled to emcee (there’s an odd word) the 7th annual Eric Medlen Nitro Night, a fantastic fundraiser for some wonderful charities. I’ve attended every one of them (with Rodger and Karen Comstock), paid attention to former emcee Bob Frey’s every word (and style!), and knew Eric well enough to feel comfortable stepping in. “Stepping in”…that could mean a couple of things!

Y'know, some things just GO together…like a nice red wine with a golden Wally!
Here, Autumn Hight takes a “selfie” of her and Jason, while Layla looks on
Like flypaper for kids, one could derive hours of fun watching this! I’m trying to devise a way to do this backstage at pre-race ceremonies to trap all the other Funny Car drivers!
First look at our new mini-Charger that we’ll debut in Brainerd. Please don’t let any of the Force people see this (lots of secret technology!).span>

I think the night went well, we heard some touching Eric stories from his mother Mimi and some of his other friends, and we raised some hefty funds to help others. The big ticket item again was a custom engraved wine bottle donated by Jim and Angela of Doc’s Trophy Shoppe in Napa (the town, not the auto parts store). I say “again” because last year Jim offered to make me a bottle for myself, but we instead agreed that having one to auction would be much more worthwhile. It was! I believe the two bottles have raised more than $6000! Jim and Angela blew me away when they ALSO presented me with a bottle engraved for our championship. Very cool stuff, and they do phenomenal work if you want to look them up. Very unique and cool gift idea…and the wine inside is a bonus!

Qualifying No. 2 for the second race in a row was cool…doing it with our fourth 3-second timeslip was fantastic. Losing to Courtney in the second round on a holeshot stunk. That’s twice in the past few races that I have had the faster timeslip, but not the win light.

Sunday after the finals I helped scoop ice cream for the Eric Medlen Ice Cream Social, which has become another popular yearly event to honor our late friend. My right forearm was pretty sore the next day (And, yes, it WAS from scooping ice cream!), but it was all worth it. While all the fans were enjoying the ice cream, the track was opened up for those interested in strolling onto the tarmac that just produced 300 mph nitro finals. It’s pretty cool to watch the surprise on fans’ faces when they step right out of their shoes due to the traction compound being so sticky. Robert and Adria Hight’s daughter, Autumn, took Jason out there, and Layla wasn’t far behind. They had a blast losing their shoes time after time (the things kids find interesting!).

We got back home Monday evening, dumped and unloaded the RV, did laundry, and packed my suitcase (okay, Jenna and Cindy did everything except the dumping part, but I should get extra credit for hazardous “duty”…pardon the pun). The next day I was on a plane to Seattle, as Wednesday I took part in the NHRA Media Day. Not only that, but I made about 20 passes in the Frank Hawley Drag Racing School two-seat dragster. Last year we did a similar program, and the track really felt it was an excellent way to reach the media and many local politicians. I’d say we definitely got their attention.

Thursday I was a guest at Carl and Jillian’s annual car show/ race promo event. Those two always put on a great program, and I did a Q & A program with some very knowledgeable fans.

Seattle was a rainout for the Pro cars on Friday, meaning only two qualifying shots to get in. Watching our teammate Ron Capps fail to make the field in the NAPA (the auto parts store, not the town) car was a huge shock. We only made it down the track on one of the two runs, but we certainly made the best of it, nailing our first pole of the year. Let’s not make any crude jokes about “sitting on the pole”… I’m going to go with, “qualified number one” to describe the outcome!

And that’s the last good news. We again missed the tune-up first round and were sent home early by Johnny Gray and company. It seems that some of the early season bugs that had plagued us have come back the past three races, but we have a plan:

Right after the race, crewmember Dan Murphy flew straight back to Indy while the rest of the guys loaded up the rig for the road. Dan will be leaving the team to work full time in the chassis and fab shop in Brownsburg, and he was making sure that our new car was ready to assemble as soon as the trucks rolled back into the shop. Yes, we will have a new crewmember (Chris…though this really could get confusing with two “Chrisses” now!) AND a brand new car when we roll into Brainerd. I think this is exactly what we need to get back into the hunt for the championship (and get our first win of the year).

After returning from Seattle, I didn’t have anything to do for a week! It was such an odd feeling to have so many consecutive days at home…something that hadn’t happened since early May! Fortunately, Jenna made sure my list runneth over, and we tackled a couple more projects.

For one, I insisted that we spend some more money on our motorhome. Yes, I was tired of not putting labor and money into our 45-foot “vacuum-cleaner-of-cash”, so it was time to remove the dinette booth and take the two halves to be reupholstered. The bottoms of the seats are brown leather, but the top is apparently made from a combination of baby seal hide, bald eagle feathers, white rhinoceros horn, and mermaid tears. Okay, it’s some “Ralph Lauren” limited edition fabric, but good luck finding that!

Once I loaded them into the back of the trusty Nissan to drop off, I decide that I’d much rather spend the next 45 minutes purchasing and installing a new A/C belt on the truck before leaving…but it was cool inside and 92 outside!

When given my options for recovering the seats, I felt like offering the Nissan as partial trade. The fake leather option was expensive, and the real leather choice would involve me leaving my left arm. Now the problem is finding a material that matches the couch. Or, we could just put a clear slip cover over the booth and line it with $5 bills…that would be cheaper!

Speaking of money, it’s time to paint the outside of Beckman Manor. Actually, it was time when we moved in; we just had other priorities to keep us busy. We still have some of the championship bonus money, and this is something that should make a huge and dramatic (aren’t those words really synonymous the way I used them, which would make my grammar redundant?) difference in the look of our humble abode.

Somewhere after sample 17 I started to tune out. THEN, we started lightening (as in tint, not weight) and darkening some of these to make it even more confusing. Thank goodness Jenna didn’t decide to blend a couple of these together!
Obviously this was another “dress yourself” day for Jason, as he chose his basketball uniform to help dig (OK…he didn’t help much!). If you look closely you can see the overloaded recycle bins, the chain still attached between the palm and the truck, and the careful measures taken to prevent any further damage to the pickup.
Former Mayor (now councilmember) Kevin Bash and former councilmember (Now Mayor) Kathy Azevedo with current key holder…me! I tried it in every Challenger on the Browning Dodge lot, but I couldn’t seem to wedge the plaque into the ignition slot.
There’s only five (if you don’t count Buckwheat the horse or anyone in the background) folks cuter than me in this photo. They didn’t let me keep the cowboy hat, but the saddle sores were complementary!
With her fishing cap/cowboy hat shim, mermaid shirt and pink fluffy skirt, Layla certainly took her first horseback experience seriously. She was VERY upset when it was time to get down. Yes, a nag on the saddle. Oops… I mean a saddle on the nag!
Designed for little kids, this car was harder to get into than my Charger! Layla really liked getting whipped around the corners, and Jason was in hot pursuit.

As one knows, when deciding to paint, one must choose one’s colors carefully. Acknowledging that women in general see colors in more variety than men, and that Jenna specifically sees “red” when I challenge her on any of her decorating, I have been subjugated into, say…a “lesser” position of decision making when it comes to these things. I think my wife may even be a tetrachromat, but please don’t tell her I called her that!

I had what I felt was a lead pipe-cinch way of choosing the correct color palette: ask the folks down the street (whose house I REALLY like) what color they used, order 25 gallons of that, and apply liberally to the sides of the house.

Jenna wasn’t so easy to convince. Let’s just say that we’ve visited four paint stores for three different brands and seven separate grades of about 20 different colors. I’ve worn out three paintbrushes applying samples to various sides of the house (Jenna and Cindy have also done plenty), and our neighbors must think we’re patterning our house after the Partridge Family bus!

Alas, after delaying the painters twice and stocking up on enough samples to be able to paint every school project that our children ever bring home (as long as they like a grey/brown/beige hue), I think we’ve nailed it! Forget Bison and Alexandria Beige, never mind Tony OR Shenandoah Taupe; don’t even think about Weimaraner, Nordic Gray, Cabot Trail or Stardust…we’re sold on…ah, heck, I can’t even remember WHAT we picked anymore!

I won’t even go into our accent color, the trim color, and how we narrowed it down to four possible shades of white for the fascia !

Aside from paint, the other “hot” house project is redoing the planters. Yes, we’re digging up all of the planters that we planted several years ago and changing things up. To me, it’s a bit like investing your money into something you think will work, watching as it grows, nurturing it along with care…then throwing it all away and starting all over! To Jenna, it represents contentment and purpose. I’ll just keep digging and planting until she tells me I’m done.

Speaking of digging up planters, I got most of the palm tree dug out (In Jenna’s defense, this was a two-trunk palm of which one had died, so we really did need to remove it) and was trying to pull it out of the ground. In my younger days I would have just muscled it out, but older bones have forced me to be more clever. “Force multipliers” can help tremendously. For instance, shovels, pry bars, and wheelbarrows make projects much easier than trying to do everything by hand. So do Nissan pickups…at least mine! Yep, it was just too tempting to not resort to something that I could chain to the palm and let rip. The forklift was tantalizing, but too time consuming to clear out of the garage. Besides, the pickup was just begging to have the clutch overheated! With Jason as my co-pilot we had that thing drug across the driveway in less time than it took to undo the chain. Unfortunately, without the benefit of the forklift I was stuck loading that damn thing into the garbage can the old-fashioned way.

Lest you think that’s all we got done around here, think again! The real fun was on the weekend, where Saturday I was given the “Key to the City” for “Horsetown, USA” (That would be Norco, CA). My friend Diane Kolb, who has been an amazing asset to my continuing search for marketing partners, did all the logistics with the City Council and the Norco Chamber of Commerce to celebrate “Fast Jack” Beckman Day. Browning Dodge was kind enough to host the event, and we had some pretty cool iron show up. In addition to many awesome street rods, Dennis Murphy’s Ground Zero (the first Funny Car I ever drove) was brought out by my other buddy Dennis, as in, “Swearingen”. Sharai Steinbacher of the NHRA Museum brought out her vintage Nova, and the Tocco, Harper and Garten Fuel Altered was present.

If I tried to thank everyone that had anything to do with this event, I’d probably fall woefully short, and I certainly don’t want to hurt any feelings. It was very cool to see so many old friends, fans, and gearheads show up. Getting the key was icing on the cake, though I’ve already tried it on the doors of Bob’s Big Boy, Starbuck’s, and Wells Fargo…all without success!

As part of the ceremony, I of course had to wear a cowboy hat and hop up on a real horse. I even held both kids for a few pics. Layla loved it, Jenna got some photos, and Jason got puffy eyes and nasal congestion. No wonder he’s not an animal lover!

On Sunday we took the kids the Knott’s Berry Farm (an amusement park not far from Disney Land). Actually, I can tell you exactly how far it is from Disney…precisely $30 per adult! Throw in a AAA (that makes four “A’s” in a row!), or in my case a military discount, and the five of us (Cindy went) got in cheaper than one adult and one child would at “Walt’s House of Overpricing”. Heck, a season pass at Knott’s is less than ONE ADULT TICKET at “Dizzy- from the –cost- Land”! I don’t think I’d been to this place for about 40 years (ouch!), but it was very cool, and a good value (as opposed to that other place, the one with the pickpocketing mouse).

Usually I’ll end a blog by telling you that I have to be on a plane early the next morning. However, due to some superior planning on my part (plus the fact that Jenna was watching ‘Dancing with the Stars’ on TV, and I can’t stand it so I ended up on the computer), I actually have an entire day at home tomorrow.

Unless you count those projects Jenna has planned…

Stay tuned, bend your knees when you shovel (and use your Nissan to prevent strains), let your wife choose the color(s), don’t let your wife choose the plants, and I’ll let you know if my wife likes the upholsterer! And remember next Aug.10 to enjoy “Jack Beckman Day!”
 

Posted by: Jack Beckman, Valvoline MaxLife Dodge

Enticing title…now you’ll have to read the whole blog and try to figure out what exactly I’m talking about. Of course, after most folks read my entries, they have NO idea what I’m talking about. Before I get completely off track, let’s dive right in…

At Denver, I caught up with Neil Cannon (brother of my close friend Brent, AND my first sponsor!), and Brad Soares (son of Brent’s former Top Fuel partner and driver, Phil, who passed away recently).

Last blog I didn’t have much time to go into any detail. I did, however, have a nice cold, which I took with me to Denver and enjoyed tremendously. Technically, I took it up to Oakland first, as I flew up there last Wednesday to do media in the San Francisco Bay area to promote the Sonoma race. Wednesday night I flew into Denver, did my usual Denny’s stop (typical,unless I can find a 24-hour IHOP), and got to my hotel around 1am. By then the head was plenty stuffed up, and I stared at the clock (okay, I did watch TV too) until 4am.

Waking up at 7:30 was lots of fun, but I had promised to do a radio show at 8am, and I needed plenty of time to get my voice before it started. The host, Peter Boyles, is quite a motorsports fan. I imagined it would be a typical, topical 8 minute standard deal, but Peter had me on well over 20 minutes to talk about the Bandimere race, nitro cars, and Einstein’s special theory of relativity. I got two out of three correct!

The rest of Denver went okay, except I didn’t have much voice Friday or Saturday, and we didn’t have enough race car on Sunday. My dad came out, and we hung out with the Stutz family (as in Ray, former Top Fuel driver whose hair I cut last year in the winner’s circle) after the race.

 
(Above) This is what I call “maximizing” my time with my babies. Jason liked the speed, and Layla seemed to enjoy herself, though she quickly discovered…
(Below left) Those Costco diapers can hold about 10 times their weight in water. Either that, or our little girl has a serious amount of Pilates in her future (not to be confused with those peg-legged sailors who wear eye patches and fly the Jolly Roger!). (Below right) Once out of her 5 pound diaper, Layla donned her summer dress (a gift from Grandpa and Teri) and took her favorite rat for a stroll.
   

I caught a Sunday night flight back home, landed here just before midnight, and got to sleep in my own bed…alone. (That’s what happens when you have a two year old!). Speaking of Layla, we did have a good time at her birthday party on the 14th. Originally we had no intentions of doing anything (maybe singing “Happy Birthday” to her, but then we remembered that that song is copyrighted, and we didn’t want to get in trouble), but Jenna’s dad Bill REALLY wanted to spend time with his granddaughter. So Jenna thought we’d have that side of the family over, plus Brent and Staci Cannon. Then Jason complained that he wouldn’t have anyone to play with, so we invited the Coombs family, with the triplets. So, this “four person party” morphed into renting an inflatable slide and me floating in the water with germs from multiple children (hence the aforementioned cold). I’m thinking maybe we’ll do “Chucky Cheese” next year!

I think last blog I briefly mentioned that I picked up the last load (or so I think) of blocks for the backyard wall project. It seemed so easy, and I know Juan at the block company clearly understood my intentions. I have a small, OLD forklift and a heckuva ramp going up to the backyard, so I did NOT want any overloaded pallets. Juan even confirmed with me on the morning I was leaving to meet my buddy Sully’s flatbead at the brick yard (not to be confused with the Indianapolis 500 racetrack). Yep, 4 pallets, each loaded with 42 bricks, weighing approximately 1250 pounds per pallet. This way I could be pretty confident that not only could my 1962 Clark unload the pallets from the trailer, but I had a better than average chance of making it up the hill.

In the brick yard (maybe I should call it the “block factory” to avoid confusion), I knew I was in trouble when the first pallet showed up…with SIX blocks on it! Long story short, truck driver Dave and I moved a lot of 30 pound blocks, trying to balance out THREE (as in, “NOT FOUR”) pallets. In case I haven’t been clear about this, further reading should clarify why I requested cuatro plataformas for my project.

At the NAPA grand opening I did about a week ago, they did raffle prizes for those in attendance. This gentleman won a coffee maker, three NAPA hats, and a date with me. Lucky guy.
This was taken off the ESPN broadcast. Force approached me in the lanes with the TV cameras following closely, and told me to “ham it up” for the show. I doubt he’ll make that mistake again. I must say, he is a great kisser.

The old Clark performed like a champ getting everything on the ground, and Dave took off back to work. I then got as long a runoff as I could, made it to the top of the ramp (where the concrete ends and the dirt begins), and promptly spun the tires. I’d tackled this hurdle once before, and drug my three former weight room rubber mats (at about 50 pounds each) up the hill to use as traction pads. That, plus another lengthy acceleration distance got the job done, and I lowered pallet number one to the ground right next to my concrete footing. That’s when Newton’s principle came into effect, and the forklift bottomed out on the newly graded yard (notice I didn’t say, “Graded and COMPACTED”!).

After plenty of digging, chaining the forklift to the Nissan, placing boards under the wheels of both to minimize spinning in the dirt, and having to put the Clark in reverse, jump into the Nissan to pull slowly until out of the ruts, and then let the forklift stop by “gently nudging” (okay…”slamming into”) the back of the truck, I was unstuck. Then I tried to pull forward, which led to….oh, just go back to the beginning of this paragraph and repeat. For the next two pallets, I was liberal with plywood to prevent more dents in the truck bumper.

Pallet three (this would be the heaviest of the three and the reason that I had requested four from the beginning) simply would not make it up the hill. I’m considering some kind of nitrous system for the Clark, as this ramp is pretty stout, and the flathead forklift engine clearly isn’t. I tried it twice, but I was clearly at least 10 horsepower shy. My only solution was to unload about 500 pounds of block by hand, back the remaining ones up to get a long runoff, and slam the throttle down. Attempt #3 rewarded me with just enough speed to creep over the crest and up into the yard. I just love when a 2 ½-hour project takes more than half the day!

Anyway, I doubt those blocks will be touched again for a few months, as that and my garage project will just have to wait until I have some time.

Once returning from Denver, and, though still coughing and producing plenty of mucus (like you wanted to know that), the countdown was on. The family is all heading up to Sonoma in the RV, and we had plenty of work to do. Monday I got in an upper-body workout (This one was about an hour using free weights and I did chest and triceps), followed by my leg routine. For that, I use a Craftsman 21-inch lawnmower, set on “3” or “4”, and I do the advanced routine, which means I don’t employ the “self-propelled” feature. This workout takes about 40 minutes. It also makes the lawn pretty.

The next day it was time to wash the motorhome. Last trip I took it to a $55 truck wash. Though they tried, it just didn’t look that good, and had streaks all over. So I went back to the “Jack wash” again, and this time I used the Eagle-One Wax-as-You-Dry spray. That basically means that I washed 1452 square feet (I always start with the roof), followed by hand-wiping 1070 square feet. Throw in setting air pressure in 10 tires, loading supplies, and cleaning a filthy driver’s seat (did I mention the unit sat at a trans shop for six weeks?), and that took up lots of my day.

We realize that our efforts are trivial relative to the grief that the families are suffering, but we (Valvoline approached us with the idea) wanted to do our part to show respect to those affected.
If he wasn’t holding that cane, you’d have no idea how remarkable this young boy truly is. The Al-Anabi group, and Phil Shuler of DSR gave him an unforgettable day, and those folks deserve a huge pat on the back. I just want to hug Jacob!
As we are leaving tomorrow, I really need to get this blog done tonight and cross it off the list. Tomorrow we’ll do the final packing, get one more workout (that would be shoulders and biceps…the lawn is good for another week!), hook up the PT Cruiser, and hit the road.

Before I officially sign off, I want to talk about the first part of my title (you’ll see part two in the photos!). For the Norwalk race we did two really special things. First, we carried a tribute sticker on our car for the 19 Arizona firefighters who had recently lost their lives. More specifically, we dedicated the race to Kevin Woyjeck. Kevin was a 21-year-old from Seal Beach, and he and his father were photographed with our car at the Finals last year. The level of tragedy is just unfathomable, and my heart goes out to the friends and families of those 19 young men.

Something else remarkable happened with our team Sunday at Norwalk. I first want to say that all this was made possible by Phil Shuler (crew chief on Spencer Massey’s car) and many of the folks associated with the Al Anabi Pro Mod group. I was able to spend a good part of the day with 10 year old Jacob Delling. Jacob lost his mother recently and lives with his aunt and uncle. He’s a remarkable boy with a great sense of humor and a fantastic outlook. He also happens to be blind. If you didn’t see the ESPN race day coverage, Jacob lost his vision due to Retinoblastoma when he was only 4. We were so honored that he wanted to ride in our tow vehicle, and we wanted to help him (he’s a total Mopar gearhead) have a memorable time. I lead him throughout our trailers, pits, and crew chief lounge and helped him feel everything (except the crew chiefs!). While suiting up for the first round, Jacob touched every piece of equipment I was about to put on. We had him hold my boots while I slid my feet into them, and let him participate in the only way that would make sense to him. It was just so warming, emotional, and perspective-setting to have him ride with us for three runs. I think he loved getting interviewed by Gary Gerould after we won the first round. Phil is trying to set up a fund so the family can bring Jacob to Indy, and that’s just plain cool.

After the last two paragraphs, I think I’ve said enough.

Stay tuned, keep wood under your forklift, wax on your motorhome, diapers on your babies, and keep those special folks in your heart!

I’m taking the easy way out!Wednesday, July 17, 2013
Posted by: Jack Beckman, Valvoline MaxLife Dodge

Isn’t gonna happen! Nope, no way I could possibly squeeze what I’ve done in the past two weeks into this blog. Sorry, but I’ve got a sore throat (that would be from playing all day in a rental water slide last Sunday with a bunch of kids…and even that would take too long to explain), it’s past midnight, and I’m on a plane Wednesday morning for Oakland.

Perhaps you think I’ve been out in the heat too long, as the Sonoma race isn’t until AFTER the Denver event, which takes place THIS weekend. I’m going to do advance/pre-event media for the Sonoma race, and it’s always better to try and do that at least a week prior. I hope that explanation satisfies…it’s all you’re getting for now. However, if you’d like the hyphenated version of my activities since last blog, I can give you some (photos to follow in my next entry):

I went to Epping, and it was cool.

I went to Norwalk, and it wasn’t unbearably hot. Though we didn’t win, we did some great stuff there (you may have seen the ESPN coverage, and I’m not referring to me trying to kiss John Force in the staging lanes).

I bought a bunch of masonry blocks (yes…I do intend to finish the backyard wall extravaganza sometime in 2013!), I discovered my forklift still runs…I just wish it was four-wheel drive!

We celebrated our daughter’s 2nd birthday, and my back and shoulders (and butt and neck and arms and…you get the picture) are still sore from all the trips up and down the slide.

Jenna and I ordered a beautiful boy and girl, and look what got shipped to our house today! Obviously this was “pants optional” day at the Beckman’s, but isn’t it cool how kids really don’t care about what came INSIDE the box…they just want to play WITH the box!

I did a NAPA appearance for a grand opening of a huge store/distribution center in Ontario (Ron was on vacation, and it was my turn to take his shift…pardon the pun).

I picked up the RV after it spent 6 weeks (NEVER tell a repair shop you’re not in a hurry!) getting a leak fixed.

Throw in all the regular chores that need to be done, lots of sweat out in the backyard, and several thousand more frequent flyer miles racked up, and that’s been about it for me lately.

I will endeavor to write longer, be more interesting, post more pics, and offer more insight in the next entry, which hopefully will be in the not too distant future. With three races in a row coming up, there should be plenty to report. Obviously Mopar is doing plenty with their drivers for the Denver race, and I again will work with Frank Hawley pre-Seattle for another media day/dragster ride-along program. Throw in the Eric Medlen dinner in Sonoma, and there will be lots to talk about.

Stay tuned, be brief (this is a first for me!), wear clean briefs, and I prefer boxer-briefs (definitely too much information for one blog!).
 

237, 71 and 47Thursday, July 04, 2013
Posted by: Jack Beckman, Valvoline MaxLife Dodge

I’m “penning” this entry on the 3rd and it should be posted on the Fourth., the Fourth being the most important day in American history. In fact, my title is a reminder of several birthdays.

The biggest number belongs to our country, which was just a collection of British citizens occupying 13 separate colonies back when 56 brave men did (and signed) the unthinkable. I can’t imagine what chutzpah it took to risk everything they had -and to commit to an idea that had never been tried- and know that they could be killed for treason.

Courage today seems to be defined as not accepting food stamps (oops, I mean “EBT cards” for the “Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program”). You’ll never convince me that 47.7 million Americans NEED to be on this program, and I think we as a nation owe those 56 men way more than what we’re currently delivering!

Sorry about the soliloquy on the Founding Fathers, and I do believe that we have a responsibility to help our brothers and sisters in times of need, but too many have abused a system that’s encouraged fraud and laziness. Okay, I’m off my soapbox.

The second most important birthday in the nation would obviously be the “71” in my title, and that belongs to Mr. Rodger Comstock, who also was born on the Fourth of July (not to be confused with the Tom Cruise movie). Ironically, “71” is also my Top Fuel permanent number, and I believe it’s pretty close to my IQ as well.

The 47 was what happened to me on June 28th, and I just flat have no idea what happened to the last 21 years! Some great fans at Chicago wished me a great Friday, and I very much appreciate those that sent e-mails, texts, and messages. I’m not sure why none of you realized that I was “registered” at Home Depot, and gift cards are always welcome!

I will be spending my Fourth of July mainly in airports, airplanes, shuttle buses, and a rental car, so I was really looking forward to some relaxation during the three days I was home between the Chicago and Norwalk events. I knew the lawn needed to be mowed, the kids needed to head over to Grandma’s for some pool time, and a few chores were waiting.

I didn’t know the fridge was going to “lock up” (we think a damper just stuck in the wrong position), making the freezer a Super Freezer and the fridge a lukewarm food- spoiler. When we bought this house it was five years old, and already we’ve stuck a computer board, two water reservoirs, a drip tray assembly (that was $400), and disassembled the ‘cold drawer’ damper unit and the ice maker solenoid to repair them. Other than that, everything’s been perfect with our GE Monogram…what a turd!

Normally it wouldn’t be too much of a hardship to empty the entire unit into three coolers, plus take all the freezer food over to Cindy’s house, in order to shut the P.O.S. down long enough to thaw the damper, but doing it with two small kids in the house sucks.

Oh, did I mention that today the tile cleaners were at the house ALL DAY LONG?! Yep, after stuffing all our edibles into ice boxes (like camping without having to go outside!), it was time to empty three rooms of furniture into other areas of the house. Fun! Then we had to vacate for most of the day whilst the cleaners did their job.

Tonight, after restarting the fridge, it was time to hit the supermarket to restock on the stuff that spoiled, hit the El Pollo Loco drive-thru for dinner, then eat standing up while digging through the coolers for drinks and salad dressing. Ah…the life of a Funny Car champ is pure pleasure!

Barry makes the coolest T-Shirts. Ironically, last year we took a photo for the blog of another shirt, and I was talking on the phone at the time. Either Barry was getting some “pay-back”, or John Force won’t stop calling him, either!

Brian totally surprised me with this bitchin’ trophy he made for us winning the championship. I just love our sport. Not only do the fans get up close, but they get personal! What a cool memento (don’t tell Jenna I’m bringing more stuff home!)
Ross and his father, Eric. Though we smoked the tires on the qualifying run on which they were with us, how could one not learn a lesson on perspective and humility with this young man and his brave father “along for the ride?"
After dinner, it was time to put all the furniture back, get packed for tomorrow’s flight, and then get cracking on the keyboard to get this blog out.

As if it wasn’t expensive enough getting the travertine cleaned, Jenna decided to hire a professional exterminator (for ants, not for me!). Clearly our ideas of “infestation” are significantly different. I’m thinking that as long as the ants can’t carry away my championship trophy, there’s not a problem. Jenna thinks if she sees more than 2 ants within a calendar year inside the house, it’s “game on”. I wasn’t going to win that battle, and now clearly the ants aren’t either.

The race at Chicago was a mixed bag. With only one run on Friday, we looked very stout with a 4.04 off the trailer. Saturday’s first run we smoked the tires, but the conditions Saturday night were simply too good to not be aggressive…and we were. Our 3.993 was the third quickest of four 3-second runs in that single session. It was a great time to be a fan, and to be strapped into the Valvoline Max Life Funny Car. Chicago was the debut of our new red paint scheme, which we will sport for the remainder of the races this year when Valvoline is the primary sponsor

Losing on a holeshot by .007 in the second round really stung. Matt Hagan was quicker than me by .012 in reaction time, and our car outran theirs by .005, which means the math really made me look bad. Though frustrated by that loss, I’m totally encouraged with the way we are running, and I’m just going to have to step it up to get us back in the winner’s circle…soon.

A couple of months ago I received an e-mail from Eric G., telling me about his son, Ross. Ross is 13 and had bone cancer, and a very tough (though not difficult if you consider the alternative) decision had to be made. Basically the doctors removed a section of his leg, above and below the knee. They kept all the nerves and blood vessels connected, reattached his leg, and rotated the bottom portion 180 degrees. Ross now has a very short left leg with a foot that points the wrong way. However, this will enable him to perform much better (versus a straight amputation) once he is fitted with his prosthetic device. The foot still works just fine, will bear weight, and will give him better mobility. It just looks odd.

Anyway, Eric and Ross were planning on making the race if all went well with the surgery (one month before the event!), and they did. Talking to Ross was extra special, and his dad Eric is clearly an amazing father and man. They rode with us in the tow vehicle during a qualifying run, and John Force spent several minutes in the staging lanes giving Ross some great advice on recuperation. John signed the hat off his head and gave it to Ross, and I know that made that young man feel important. I can’t tell you how many times Force does things like that for people in tough times. John never pats his back or talks about it, but he’s such a compassionate guy. I was thinking about asking Ross for the hat, putting it on E-bay, and using the proceeds to pay for our exterminator.

It’s past midnight, I fly out in the am, and I’m out of energy. Until next time…

Stay tuned, be a productive citizen, keep your refrigerator closed, your tile clean, and your bugs outside. 
 

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