Wow! What a weekend we just had in Sonoma. After struggling last year, and then crashing my bike on the first pass of 2012, then fighting electrical gremlins in Houston and Chicago, I finally feel like we are on the right track. This past weekend in Sonoma, we not only qualified with a 6.99, but in the first round I made the best run of my career, 6.94. It's now three days later, and I still have not stopped smiling.
One of the biggest things I have learned racing Pro Stock Motorcycle, is how much it really takes to go fast. This weekend, it took a lot of amazing people putting forth their best effort to help me get down the race track. Jimmy Underdahl was my crew chief in Sonoma. It was really great having the opportunity to work with him. Jimmy is not only a talented tuner, but also a talented rider. So not only did he help give me a fast motorcycle, he is also great about teaching me to be a better rider. Ben Kriegsfeld also worked alongside Jimmy and he is another smart guy. Ben and Jimmy work very well together and that made my job a lot easier. It's so much easier to ride when the people around you are so calm and patient.
As good as it was, I won't say that our weekend went completely flawless though. In my first two qualifying passes, I was faced with some internal gremlins that I didn't even realize I was doing it until the guys saw it on the computer. Once I got the bike into high gear I was starting to roll off the throttle. After qualifying on Friday, Greg Underdahl came into the motorhome and asked me why I was doing it. I had to think about it for a while, but deep down I knew the answer. In my head I was concerned about getting the bike shut down. A lot of people don't realize it, but the shutdown is one of the hardest parts of riding fast bikes. When I crashed earlier this season, I was in the shutdown area when things went horribly wrong. Without even realizing it, I was rolling my hand out of the throttle and starting to shut down before I got to the finish line.
While I was struggling, Greg and Jimmy could not have been more supportive. When I explained why I thought I was doing it, all they told me is to ride in a manner that makes me comfortable. They both said that they’ve never been sliding down the track on their backside doing 170-mph, so they couldn’t blame me for what I was doing. However, all of us knew, unless I got this problem figured out within myself, we wouldn't run quick enough to qualify.
On Saturday morning, I was determined to fix the problem. Everybody was working so hard to give me a fast bike, and I wanted to be out there for driver intros on Sunday more than anything in the world. After my first run, you can imagine the smile on my face when I got to the top end of the track. I just knew that I had conquered the problem. When they handed me the time slip, and it read 6.99, you would have thought I just won a world championship. It was an amazing feeling. I could tell everybody on our team and everyone helping us felt great about it too. There were smiles all around.
I had the time of my life in Sonoma, especially when I think about getting to work alongside so many amazing people. It feels so good to know that they believe in me. I also have so much confidence in them helping me. I just really couldn't ask for a better situation in Sonoma. It looks like Indy will be my next stop this season, and after Sonoma, a month feels like an eternity. Thanks again to Doug Johnson for the opportunity to ride his bike. Also a huge thank you to my friends and family that came to Sonoma to support my dad and I. And, of course, thanks to Gary and Karen Stoffer, Greg and Tina Underdahl, Jimmy and Kelly Underdahl, and Ben Kriegsfeld. You are all so amazing!
A ton has happened since I last blogged. When I last wrote we had just tested in Brainerd. We scrapped together the money and made the long trip to Chicago for the Route 66 race and I was so excited heading back to the place where I got my first round win. In Brainerd we had really made progress, and I was feeling comfortable and confident on my new bike. I was also extremely excited to get the opportunity to work with Jimmy and Greg Underdahl again.
The night before our first qualifying pass, I couldn't sleep. All I could do was lay in bed and think about how I couldn't wait to get out on the track. Unfortunately, luck has not been on our side this season. After all the hard work that went into my bike before Chicago, we couldn't get it to run right and I had to abort all four qualifying runs.
Everybody worked so hard trying to get me down the race track. Jimmy, Greg, and Gary Stoffer all put in so much time and hard work trying to figure out the problem. Unfortunately it was just one of those little glitches that we couldn't find in the four qualifying sessions. I was really bummed, and I could tell everyone else was too. However, I just can't thank Jimmy, Greg, and Gary enough for how hard they worked.
Usually our team races in Denver and Sonoma, the two Pro Stock Motorcycle races in the western swing, because they are the closest races to us. I was a little bummed out because we really didn't have time to get my bike ironed out between Chicago and Denver. So you can imagine my excitement when I got a call from Greg asking if I wanted to ride the Jimmy’s Suzuki at those two events. I was all smiles after that because it was a really great opportunity for me.
Even though we didn't qualify in Denver, I really feel like we are moving in the right direction. Greg always tells me that it takes every piece of the puzzle to make one of these bikes go fast. I now really understand what he means by that. It's not easy. It takes everything to come together: the bike, the crew, the rider. In the couple days we were in Denver I learned so much. The Underdahl’s and the Stoffer’s all really helped me with pointers on my riding. Plus I am learning a ton from them about tuning these bikes and making them go straight.
All in all, Denver was a pretty cool experience for me. Karen Stoffer has always been a huge hero since I was a little girl. To get the opportunity to learn from her is pretty awesome. What a great lady! There was also something else that made Denver really special for me. I finally got to compete with my dad at a national event. It was amazing to get to look in the other lane and see the person who has helped me achieve my goals and now watch him achieve his own goals. For my whole racing career my dad put aside his racing to help me. He has spent countless hours in the garage with me, driving to race tracks with me, and crewing for me all to help me go after my dreams. Thanks for everything dad, and I am really proud of you!
Now moving forward from Denver, we are headed to Sonoma. I feel really good about Sonoma. Jimmy is very smart and he is doing a great job as the crew chief for our team. A huge thank you to all of them for everything and also a very big thank you to Doug Johnson for the opportunity to ride his bike. Hope to see everyone in Sonoma!
I spent this past weekend testing in Brainerd, Minn, with Greg and Jimmy Underdahl. On Friday, I was able to make five passes which is the most runs I have made on a bike in a long time in a single day. On the first run, the bike came off the line and immediately started taking me to the left. We started moving the axle, and by the end of the day it was working perfectly and the feeling was absolutely amazing. The bike was leaving the line, and I didn’t have to make any sort of correction. Looking back, I feel like we took a huge step in the right direction.
On the fifth pass we had a line come off of the air shifter, and when that happened, it bent a shift fork in the transmission. We didn’t realize what had happened until the following day so I was only able to make two more runs. A bent shift fork is not a huge deal, and it isn’t too expensive to fix however, Greg said if we kept riding, it could turn into a bigger problem, so we decided we better quit running the bike for the weekend.
All in all it was a pretty amazing time in Brainerd. Greg and Jimmy are pretty great to work with at the track. Not only did they help me get my bike sorted out, but they taught me a ton about riding and being fluid on the bike. They are super patient and made sure they explained what they were doing to the bike and why. That was pretty huge for me, I am on my way home now with my head spinning with new information. I love it!
I also had the opportunity to spend some time with Greg’s wife, Tina, and Jimmy’s wife, Kelly. Tina and Kelly are really great people; they made me feel right at home with them. We only tested on Friday and Saturday, so I spent Sunday at Greg and Tina’s house. I did a little bit of work on my trailer, and then Tina asked me if I wanted to go ride horses with them. That was a lot of fun; I haven’t ridden horses in years.
Now I am headed home, and back to the real world. My Tough Girl Designs graphics business has been really busy, which is amazing. However, it keeps me occupied, and helps me learn more about running a successful business. I am also looking to get back on the track at the upcoming O’Reilly Route 66 Nationals in Joliet. Jimmy Underdaul and I have worked out a deal, that he will help me with my bike if I do go. My dad already told me that he is too busy with work to go racing right now. I feel bad that Jimmy isn’t out racing right now, but I feel fortunate that I have had the opportunity to work with him and his dad. Hopefully this turns into something good because I think we have a lot of potential as teammates.
I also have to give a very special Happy Birthday to one of my best friends in the world, Arielle. It's always a tough part of racing traveling and missing out on special occasions, but I am fortunate to have amazing friends who understand. Arielle is one of those amazing friends, so Happy 21st Birthday Ari!
I was really honored when I was recently asked to share some advice with some Jr. Dragster racers. Honestly it still comes as a bit of a shock when people ask for my advice or my help. I know I have come a long way in my career, but I still feel like I am in a dream. It’s so surreal to me that we are currently competing with the best of the best racers in the country. I really had to take a step back and think about what to tell these young racers. There is so much advice I want to give, it was hard to narrow it down. I think my biggest advice to all racers though, young or old is that nothing is impossible.
Growing up I was really fortunate with the parents and role models I had. There was never a limit put on my imagination or my dreams. I was just taught that if you want something in life, you have to work for it. So often in my career I came across a different attitude. As a young girl on a motorcycle, many people wanted to tell me how impossible my dreams were. I never understood it, and it really frustrated me. At times it honestly got me down and caused me to question myself, still to this day at times I struggle with the negative attitudes toward what we are doing.
I learned through these experiences though, not to dwell on it. In many ways people who were negative towards my racing, really drove me. It drove me to want to show other people they could do it too. One thing I also saw through my career, is those people who had the negative attitudes were not the ones who were doing amazing things. It was the people who saw everything as possible and put no limits on themselves that were doing the amazing things. I decided from an early age that was the kind of person I wanted to be.
Today when young kids tell me their dreams, I never ever say anything to discourage them. I never tell them how hard it is going to be or that it’s not possible. I tell them that with hard work and perseverance, anything is possible. I think often times that is so easily forgotten. I know at times I am guilty of looking at something I see as challenging, and thinking maybe it can’t be done. I can honestly say though through my career when I looked at something challenging and had the attitude that maybe I couldn’t do it, I didn’t do it. One of my favorite sayings is "Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right."
I really got thinking about this with an up and coming challenge I am going to face this weekend. I am going to go testing at Brainerd Int’l Raceway with Greg Underdahl. This is the first time in my career that I am going on a trip to race without taking somebody I am used to racing with. It may not seem like a big deal, but to me it is a step out of my comfort zone. Don’t get me wrong, I am so excited for this opportunity, but I would be lying if I said it wasn’t a little intimidating. Greg and Jimmy Underdaul are very successful in Pro Stock Motorcycle racing. This is a personal challenge for me, and I can’t wait to take it on!