Sleeping Is Over RatedWednesday, October 27, 2010

It’s 2:34 a.m. on Wednesday morning, and I can’t sleep. My wife is a high school Spanish teacher and she will be getting up in a few hours, and I am sure I will be asked why I got out of bed in the middle of the night. The answer will be simple: DRAG RACING.

I usually get some of my best thinking done at night while trying to sleep. I wake up thinking and I even have a notepad in my nightstand that I occasionally write down my thoughts on. I have woken up in the middle of the night, had great ideas, gone back to bed just to wake up in the morning trying to remember those great ideas. I would probably be in a different financial predicament if I just wrote the ideas down and I did not forget them. Tonight is different; I jumped out of bed to write this blog. Here are my thoughts as I sit at my laptop in the dark, with a dim quartz light shinning on my desk. Remember, they will be random thoughts… it’s only 2:40 A.M.!

Wow, these are very nice granite counters, when will I ever be able to pay for them? I’m one of those people who were not given a price limit when I purchased this house. My wife and I had great credit and a pulse — what else did you need? Income to match, that would have been nice, but who needed income? I saw my first home appreciate and homes were a solid investment, right? I could sell this house 10 years later and retire… not a chance! I got a loan that was way too big and purchased a house that was a lot of money and now I have no idea how long until my net worth will be positive. On a positive note, I do have a roof over my head and it is near the shop and my wife’s school and the school district is first class for my kids.

I was watching Chasing Classic Cars last night with Wayne Carini. I sat there wondering how he received a reality television show. I have the same passion for cars and I don’t have a show! It dawned on me that he worked hard and made his own luck along the way. Just as fans ask me how did I receive an opportunity to drive a Top Fuel dragster. It is the same exact way. Wayne Carini worked very hard, lost a lot of sleep, met the correct people along the way, had some luck, and presto! There he is in High Definition.

You would think that I was thinking about driving a Top Fuel Monster at 2:00 a.m., or how I could do a better job on the racetrack, but that is rarely what I think about. Sure, I thought about the article I read in National DRAGSTER recently on Shawn Langdon and how I thought he is great at cutting good reaction times and that he is my benchmark, but that is just a fraction of my job. Over the summer, my crew chief Mike Kern set up a practice Tree that is wired to the “loud” pedal in the car. That has helped tremendously. I also have worn out a few throttle cables, too. I have changed my approach on my driving. I don’t care if it is qualifying or eliminations, I am going to try my hardest on cutting a good light and staging the car shallow all the time. I know that sounds trivial, but after driving an Alcohol Dragster for 12 years and a Top Fuel Dragster part time for 7 years, I think I was getting too relaxed in qualifying which made it difficult in eliminations to be consistently good. Every time I stage the car, it is a battle with the Christmas Tree. That was only a quick thought while tossing and turning.

I also thought about where hot rodding began and how I can’t wait to get to Pomona. I have never been to California. I can’t wait to eat at an In-n-Out Burger, see the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum, and stand in the pit area where drag racing legends have stood. It has always been a dream to race there, and now I am losing sleep over it. I am so excited.

At 59, it is great to see my dad energized. I really do believe everyone needs something to live for, and thankfully my dad is fueled with nitro. I told him the other day, thankfully he never gives up. I’m a little, and I mean a little, more rational than he is. I have been to the point of asking myself, why we are taking so many financial risks. He always assures me that this is exactly what he wants to do, so we do it. He is in New Mexico in the middle of his first journey out west with the semi. The only reason he attained his CDL five years ago is he purchased a semi and who else would protect his investment more than himself. The answer is nobody!

Jumping off the Stratosphere, NO WAY! I love charities and donating is cool, but I am deathly afraid of heights. If I am enclosed, that is one thing, but there is no way I will jump off a structurally-sound building. I would pee myself.

Speaking of drag racers, we are CRAZY! We are a special breed; it doesn’t matter at what level or the job that a team member has earned. In our team’s case, we spend 300 hours and $12,255 (can you tell it is year end tax time?) for under four seconds of pleasure. Yes, you heard me right. That is mind blowing! Remember we are a part-time team, too. Speaking of our team, we are the most professional unprofessional team on the planet. The team assembles every Tuesday after work and all day on Sunday. All year long, with a few days off in between. How lucky is Zizzo Racing to have the dedication and commitment from all of them? VERY LUCKY, I would say.

We are also very efficient. We are always running faster and exceeding even our own expectations, also running better than our budget should allow us to. We can offer our marketing partners a good bang for their buck because we are very frugal with their money. It is their money, not ours, and without a return on their investment, we don’t get a contract for the following year. I like to spend their money wisely. I feel that I am on their payroll; I am just waiting for my first paycheck. I know with all the work that I have put in, some day I will be able to pay for this granite counter that this laptop is sitting on. Trust me, not even one-tenth of one percent is paid for yet.

Thank God and the citizens of this country, we are fortunate to live in America. We can even risk it all drag racing. Every citizen is given opportunities and is not worried about getting shot on the way to vote. By the way, get out there and vote on Tuesday, November 2.

Social networking is unbelievable. Who would have ever thought talking to so many people at one time would ever be this easy. It is great to make friends with fans at the track and be able to keep them up to speed away from the track too. It is funny when I post to twitter on NHRA’s site on my off weekend. I get to see all the results and pictures from the race weekend that is going on at the time and then I see a picture of me cutting my grass, doing yard work or hanging with my kids. I love it! My life has a balance to it. Working at the shop, driving a Top Fuel dragster and spending time with my family, it doesn’t get any better than that! At least I don’t think so!

I can’t believe there is still a mosquito alive. And it is attracted to the only light in my house, my computer screen. It’s annoying swatting at it, but that is a good way to work on my reaction time. I also don’t want to break my screen or wake up my wife with a loud clap. I do not know which would be worse?

Well, we talked about how efficient we are as a team and that boils all the way down to how we eat on Tuesdays and Sundays. No, we don’t have lunch and dinner at Red Lobster, even McDonald’s is too expensive! We eat home-cooked meals. I make pasta for the team on Tuesday nights along with Mike Kern’s soon-to-be famous garlic bread and usually some salad or green beans on the side if the team is lucky. Then after feeding 10 hungry team members, I put all the leftover pasta in a casserole dish throw some more sauce on the top with some mozzarella (that is the most expensive part, I’m usually “cheap” on the cheese) freeze it and pull it out the following Tuesday for dinner. It has become a joke at the shop, but the food is delicious and we do what we need to do to survive. What would we rather spend or money on, wrist pins or food? I can feed 10 people two meals for approximately $20. I love Sam’s Club!!!

I also thought about it. Everyone on our team is a multitasked. There are many examples, but I will give you just two. Ryan Ramos is our bottom end guy, our rack builder extraordinaire, and is also our travel agent. He spends days just finding us the most inexpensive hotels and airfare. Mike Kern, our crew chief, is also the man with all the answers. All of our team members know they can rely on Mike, anywhere from how to make garlic bread to how to tune an 8,000 horsepower beast.

Good Night… for at least an hour, before my daughter wakes up!

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