Howdy everyone! There’s been a LOT of exciting stuff going on at the Kalitta camp since my last blog, so I’ve got a lot to catch you up on!
Going back to Gainesville, we saw solid performances from both of our dragsters during qualifying, and Doug was able to make it to the semi-finals on raceday! Obviously the goal is to ultimately win the race, but being able to make it to the semis with the level of competition we have today is still a major feat. The Mac Tools team has shown a lot of consistency so far this season, and I’m really excited to see what Doug and the boys can do for the rest of the year!
During the second round of eliminations on Sunday, TJ ended up hitting the wall in the SealMaster dragster. Nobody wants to see any driver make contact with the wall, especially when you’re travelling at 300 miles per hour. It was definitely scary to be on the starting line and watch it all happen, but thankfully we got the news that he was out of the car and ok really soon after he actually hit the wall. Is it a bummer to damage the car? Absolutely. But – cars are replaceable. You can fix them up and make them good as new. The most important thing is that TJ was safe, and we are all so thankful for that!
I know I’ve said it before, but being in Gainesville always makes me think of Eric Medlen. This year marked the 10-year anniversary of his passing, and it’s just so hard to believe he’s been gone for that long. On March 23, my dad and I shared an ice cream sundae in honor of our friend. Eric was right – we definitely weren’t upset while we were eating that ice cream!
After Gainesville, we had a weekend off to get ready to head west for Las Vegas. As usual, the guys and girls at the shop worked super hard to get everything in tip-top condition so we could come out swingin’ in Sin City! It’s always fun to head to Vegas because we’ve had quite a bit of success at The Strip in the past four years I’ve been going there. Alexis won the spring Vegas race in 2016, and that was where we had our first all Team Kalitta Funny Car final round! Going to tracks that we’ve been successful at just makes it more exciting to head there to see if we can keep our luck going. Unfortunately, Lady Luck just wasn’t on our side this time, but we still saw some good performances and we’ll be ready to come back for Vegas 2 in the fall!
One of the other things that makes going to Vegas exciting for me is being able to see my best friend, Rachel. This time was even more exciting because it was the first time I got to see her since she got engaged to her long-time boyfriend, Jacob. Rachel managed to thoroughly surprise me when she picked me up at the airport by greeting me with a sign asking me to be her Maid of Honor! Of course, I said yes, and then we celebrated by heading to In-N-Out for our traditional post-airport burgers. I’m so lucky that I get to see Rachel twice a year when we go to Vegas for the race – she’s like my other half! The fact that she enjoys coming out to the races makes it even better because she gets to see these insane cars I get to work with and meet the people I spend more than half of my time with throughout the year. It always seems like we don’t get enough time during my week-long stay, but we can always be thankful that there’s only about six months until I’m back in Vegas!
Things really started to get exciting at Kalitta Motorsports after the Vegas race came to a close. Ever since Global Electronic Technology (GET) came on board during the off-season, Steve and Samantha Bryson’s enthusiasm for the sport and our team was obvious. They became so passionate about NHRA drag racing and Kalitta Motorsports that they wanted to become more involved, and becoming more involved meant adding a new dragster to our stable of hot rods – this time, a Top Fuel dragster with the signature colors of GET. After Steve and Samantha were shown some renderings that Sean “Blackbeard” Cain had done of a GET dragster, they wanted to see how fast we could get a car put together. Initially, we were thinking Denver might be a good time to bring a new car out, but Steve was adamant about getting a car out as soon as possible. When my dad asked, “is Houston soon enough?” Steve and Samantha were on board, and the ball started rolling!
It’s so exciting to add a new dragster to our team and have GET more involved in the sport, and I’m really excited about the addition of Shawn Langdon! Shawn is such a cool guy, and I really think he’s going to be a great addition to our team. He’s a world class driver that’s pretty laid-back and just loves racing. He fits right in with the rest of our awesome drivers! The addition of Shawn went really smoothly, and Don Schumacher played a big part in making that possible. My dad said that Don was great to work with about this whole transition and that Don was just happy to see another full-time car get added to the field. A new full-time car is a good thing for the sport, and Don recognizes that. He is a very successful business man, after all, so he knows a thing or two about what’s good for the business of drag racing!
Everyone in the shop has been working incredibly hard to get everything ready for Houston. There were only two weekends off between Vegas and Houston, and there was a LOT to get done in that time frame. From wrapping dragster bodies, to wrapping and re-wrapping semis, to building chassis, getting Shawn fitted in his new seat, designing and ordering new crew shirts, and adding new members to our team, it’s been a bit of a mad house. Seeing everyone come together to make it all happen has been amazing – the Mac Tools team has stayed late to help the SealMaster and Global teams, the Funny Car guys have built motors for the dragsters to use, and everyone has just been willing to lend a helping hand wherever it’s needed. I even got to help out a bit and get my hands dirty by building a short block for the SealMaster team! From washing the bare block to degreeing the cam to putting the mag drive in, I got to build a complete motor. To all of the short block specialists that work on these things, I give you MAD props. There is so much that goes into building short blocks, it’s crazy! Seeing firsthand everything that has to be done makes me much more appreciative of all the work the guys have to do. It was a great opportunity, and I’m very thankful that Glen Huszar had enough faith in me to take on the challenge. I’m also thankful that Isaac helped me with everything along the way! Keep your fingers crossed that block #317 is a fast one!
I’ve been staying busy outside the shop as well – Isaac and I just moved into our own apartment! We’ve been getting settled in for over a week now, and everything is finally coming together. After we finished moving all the big stuff in, we took a day to relax by going to a Tigers/Red Sox game at Comerica Park! Even though I root for the Tigers, it was cool to see the Red Sox win because that’s the first time Isaac was at a game they won. He’s been to maybe 10 Red Sox games, and they’ve lost every time until now, so I was just happy to be there for him to experience that!
It’s been a lot of work and a lot of long hours, but everyone’s efforts helped to make the new addition as smooth as possible. Now we’re ready to head to Houston to debut the Global Electronic Technology dragster! I can’t wait to see what the future holds for our five hot rods now. As always, make sure you follow along with all things #KalittaStrong by following us @teamkalitta on Twitter and Instagram and by “liking” Kalitta Motorsports on Facebook! Blog at ya soon!