Greetings! I’m happy to be reporting back after our first three-race swing of the 2017 season!
We kicked this swing off in Houston, Texas, with the Spring Nationals. It was the debut event for Shawn Langdon and the Global Electronic Technology team, so everyone was really excited to see how the newest addition would do. It was great to have Steve and Samantha Bryson and the whole GET crew in the house with us to root on their car and the rest of the Kalitta entries! The car and crew were looking super sharp with the fresh wraps and shirts as they rolled to the line for the maiden voyage of the GET Top Fuel dragster, and the performance did not disappoint as Shawn laid down a 3.825 at 314 mph pass right out of the box with a stout .047 reaction time! I think it’s fair to say that it didn’t take Shawn very long to get re-acclimated to being behind the wheel of a 10,000 horsepower beast.
Doug and the Mac Tools team were the reigning champs at the Houston event for the previous two years (and it’s where they kicked off their three-straight win streak during the 2016 season) so I was looking forward to heading to the Lone Star State to see if we could keep the momentum going. As can be typically expected in Houston, it was hot and humid! That type of weather isn’t really our favorite to race in because it’s more difficult to make power, but by the time Sunday’s eliminations rolled around it had cooled down a bit and the water grains had dropped by about 50 percent. Now that’s more ideal weather for us to run in! Eliminations didn’t go exactly as we had hoped – four of our five cars advanced to second round before being eliminated. Even though we weren’t able to score the win, we were just happy to see the cars make it down the track and show a lot of potential! The GET and SealMaster teams overcame a lot of obstacles during the days leading up to Houston as we basically created two new teams, and I think both of the teams learned a lot during the first weekend that will help in the long run.
My favorite part about the weekend was seeing my Grandma and Grandpa O and my Aunt Suzie! Being able to see my family is definitely one of the upsides to traveling as much as we do. The Oberhofer side is spread out in many locations – New Jersey, Texas, Florida, Michigan, and even California! Going to so many races across the country allows us to see different family members throughout the year, and it’s honestly one of the highlights of this job because we probably wouldn’t see everyone as often otherwise.
After leaving Texas, we headed to Charlotte for the Four-Wide Nationals. Once again, we saw hot and humid conditions that resulted in an abundance of tire smoke from the nitro classes. Our cars were able to overcome the tricky conditions to qualify in five different quads, which was simply amazing! What were the odds of that happening?
The stars of the show on Sunday were J.R. and the DHL/WIX Filters team as they went to their first final round of the season, which was also J.R.’s career-first Funny Car final! They weren’t able to close the deal, but they had a pretty good showing during the weekend that I think gave the team a confidence-boost heading into the final race of the swing.
Alexis was not in attendance at the Charlotte or Atlanta events because of a family matter, so Chad Head piloted the Patron Camry for those weekends. For his first time back in a car in months, Chad did a great job! He’s been a great addition to our team as the Director of Safety, and he’s also been a huge asset just as far as giving my dad an extra set of eyes and ears at the track and at the shop, and having him be able to step up to fill the driver’s seat during Alexis’ absence has been extremely appreciated. Although it’s been great to see Chad behind the wheel, I still can’t wait to have Alexis back at the track with us! As we all know, however, family comes first and she’s got to do what she’s got to do.
After Charlotte, I headed back to Ypsilanti for a few days to unpack, do laundry, and re-pack for Atlanta. Even though I’m only home for a few days at a time during these swings, those few days are much appreciated because I get to sleep in my own bed and spend time with my cat. Even though he sheds all over everything, I can’t even be mad – just look at that face!
After a relaxing few days at home, we headed south to Atlanta for the Southern Nats. Friday’s qualifying sessions were unfortunately cancelled because of persistent rain, but the bright side was that we were able to celebrate Cinco de Mayo a bit early, and what better way to celebrate than with Patron tequila!
When Saturday rolled around, it was time to get down to business and get our cars qualified for eliminations. Luckily, there were only 16 cars entered in both the Funny Car and Top Fuel categories so we were pretty confident that we would qualify, it was just a matter of whether we would have lane choice on Sunday or not. Being limited to only two qualifying sessions instead of four adds an extra element of challenge – the teams only have half the usual passes down the track, which means half the data, so there just isn’t as much information for crew chiefs to go off of when they’re adjusting their tune ups. Even with these factors, we still had a decent Sunday in Atlanta that resulted in Shawn getting his first round win since joining Kalitta Motorsports, Doug earning his 600th career round win after defeating Clay Millican in second round, and the Mac Tools team advancing to the semi-finals! I feel like Doug just hit 500 round wins not that long ago, but now he is the ninth driver in NHRA history to hit 600 round wins which is just amazing!
For my 21st birthday last year, I got the best present I could have asked for – an all-Kalitta Top Fuel final that ended up being the closest race in NHRA history! It really couldn’t have gotten much better than that. My birthday falls between the Atlanta and Topeka races this year, so I told my dad that I’m claiming both of the races as my birthday races, which means he still has a chance to get me a birthday Wally in Topeka! I already have pretty much everything I could ever want, so the only thing I really like to request for my birthday is a win!
Twenty-two years ago, I was lucky enough to give my mom “the greatest present ever” when I was born on Mother’s Day in 1995, seven days past my due date. This ended up being pretty funny because it showed that I was stubborn before I was even born, and it became a favorite story for us to tell. There have been a handful of times over my 22 years that my birthday and Mother’s Day have fallen on the same day, the most memorable being in 2006. My dad and I went to the mall to get my mom some chocolate covered strawberries from Godiva, and while we were there, my dad said I could get my ears pierced for a second time because I’d been begging to get my second hole done. After we finished our errands and headed home, I waited for my mom to put one of the strawberries in her mouth before pushing my hair behind my ear to show off my new bling. The look she gave my dad and I was not one you wanted to receive! Just thinking about the look on her face when she noticed my new earrings still makes me laugh. Thankfully, she accepted my new piercing pretty quickly and then we enjoyed the rest of the strawberries.
Mother’s Day has kind of sucked the past few years since my mom has passed, and this one will probably be the hardest since it’s the first time since she passed that my birthday and Mother’s Day fall on the same day. I felt that the best way for me to try to cope with that would be to dedicate this blog to my mom. After all, I didn’t get my writing skills from my dad! (Sorry, Pops.) For those of you that may not know, my mom worked for NHRA for several years in the Public Relations department before joining Kalitta Motorsports as the PR representative when it was just a two-car team consisting of Connie and Scott. She probably had the hardest job of any PR person to this day because Connie and Scott didn’t care about media whatsoever – they just cared about their cars! Regardless of that, she still managed to make them look good and put a positive spin on everything, no matter how the race weekend went.
My mom’s passion for English was one that she passed down to me from a young age. From the time that I could start reading and writing, I would find typos in restaurant menus, at the grocery store, and in magazines. My mom taught me a lot about writing and gave me a love for reading that I still have today. We used to read mysteries like Nancy Drew and The Boxcar Children, and now I’ve advanced into stories like Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train (I highly recommend both, by the way). I truly believe that I got my knack for English from my mom, and it is a skill that I appreciate every day. My dad laughs because I still point out typos in menus and his social media posts, and I think it’s because my grammar police ways remind him of my mom. To this day, the biggest compliment I receive is hearing how much I remind people of my mom – be it through my mannerisms, my voice, or any number of things. Being compared to such a wonderful woman is such an honor, and it is one that I will probably never tire of.
I could sit here and ramble on forever, but I won’t do that to you or my keyboard. I’ll just wrap it up by saying this: Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. This one’s for you.