A ROLLER-COASTER SEASON
Hello again all my NHRA.com Nitroholics. The 2013 season has been like a Cedar Point roller coaster ride and we’re only three races in. I can’t wait to see what the other 21 races have in store and we’ll find out in a few weeks when we head back out West to Las Vegas for our first of two visits to The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. I’m hoping there are more races like Gainesville!
Our Matco Tools team here at DSR did a great job of moving on from a tough situation at Pomona. I’m very blessed to be driving here at DSR and to have a well-built Matco Tools dragster. I was able to walk away pretty much unscathed from a violent crash. I want to thank all the fans for the well wishes and words of support at the track, via e-mail, on Facebook and Twitter. It means so much to hear the words of encouragement, so thank you all.
It was good for our entire team to regroup at Phoenix the next weekend rather than have time to think about it. I went home to get checked out by my doctor, while my team worked away at putting our backup car together. It was like getting bucked off the horse and getting right back on it. We ran 3.76 on Friday’s second lap at Phoenix to grab the provisional No. 1 spot before Doug Kalitta got us on Saturday’s last run. We had a solid performance on race day until the semifinals when I wasn’t on my game. I was late and Tony was on it and the Army team got us and went on to the win, but overall Phoenix was a great rebound event for our Matco team; made all of us go back to work hard!
I went straight from Phoenix to San Diego for Matco’s Tool Expo at the beautiful Grand Hyatt hotel. I always have a great time at Expo. The Matco distributors and their families make me feel like an “A list” celebrity. It was such an awesome time for them to get to take pictures with the 2012 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series championship trophy. Let me tell you, after @MatcoTools Expo, my right hand got a good workout from signing autographs. Matco’s send-off dinner this year was on the U.S.S. Midway. San Diego is a fantastic military town and it was so cool to tour the Midway and for all the Matco families to get to take tours and see the fighter planes and use the simulators before heading home to sell the best tools in the business. And hey, if you’ve ever thought about a career change and want to be your own boss and join our championship team with Matco, go to www.gomatco.com to see about becoming a Matco Tools franchise owner.
After Phoenix, we had a few off weeks, in which I worked hard in gym, spent time with the family and got to join some of the other championship winning teams and drivers based in the state of Indiana for Indiana Motorsports Day at the Indiana Statehouse on March 5. We got to stand in with the state House and Senate and then got some time with newly elected Gov. Mike Pence. DSR presented Gov. Pence with a special NHRA “Wally” trophy for his office in the State Capitol building.
Gainesville was another busy race for the brothaman. I met Scott Smith of NHRA on Wednesday and we did a media tour in Jacksonville before driving down to Gainesville. Let me tell you, I didn’t get a ticket driving through Waldo or Starke on 301 this year! Both John Force and I have gotten tickets on that darn road. LOL On Thursday, I joined “Fast Jack” and DSR’s Sr. Vice President Mike Lewis for an event with Sandvik’s mining division in Alachua, Fla. What a great group of people who love NHRA racing. That night, I attend my first-ever Don Garlits Drag Racing Hall of Fame dinner at the Paramount Hotel. I was asked to present inductee Louis Senter. It was so cool to meet a pioneer of drag racing and hot rodding. Louis was one of the people that helped form SEMA. I even got to spend some time with Louis family when I was in California for Toyota Motorsports Day last week. They are my new extended Cali family.
The Gators was another good event for us. We qualified second, again, after Doug Kalitta got us again on Q4, again. Racing from the No. 2 spot, Brian and Mark and the Matco boys gave us a 3.7-second bracket car. We held off DSR teammate Spencer Massey in the semis to race up against my buddy Clay Millican, who’s going to be a force all season long over there at Vandergriff’s. With Johnny Gray in one half of the Funny Car final, we had a chance to get DSR’s 200th win. After Johnny knocked off Del, DSR had win No. 199. We put down low ET of the day at 3.761 in the finals and grabbed the win light and win No. 200 for DSR. It was such a special day for many reasons. Don got win No. 200 at his home track in Gainesville with many of his Florida friends in attendance. I won my first-ever Gatornationals “Wally” after many years. I’ve been trying to win the Gators since 1998. The ’98 Gators was my first career NHRA race. And Johnny got to put his beautiful Pitch Energy Funny Car in the winner’s circle to celebrate his father’s memory. Johnny and his sister, Terry, were very emotional. Can you believe Johnny and I have double-up three times?
We flew home from Gainesville Monday and I was back on the road on Wednesday night. I flew to LAX for Toyota Motorsports Day at Toyota USA headquarters in Torrance, Calif. All the Toyota Racing drivers gather for a few hours to sign autographs and lunch. That night, I met up with Louis Senter’s family Rodney, Marsha and grandson, Shane, for dinner and I got to meet NFL icon Jim Brown. I now call him Uncle Jim now. Joking aside, what a great opportunity to meet a great legendary person. We also got to see Bruce Meyer’s private car collection where I saw famous Greer, Black & Prudhomme bright yellow dragster. All I can say is amazing! They even had Terry Vance’s leathers there. The next day, I drove to Fontana to attend the STEM program for Toyota and then hung out in the NASCAR garage for a few hours before flying home. I got to sit in Clint Bowyer’s No. 15 Camry. Maybe, just maybe, Clint will sit in my Matco Tools dragster later this year. We’ll see…
I came home on Friday night before we got hit with a big winter storm on Sunday. We got 8 inches of snow, which isn’t the way for the kids to start spring break, but let me tell you, they did have some fun playing in the snow on Monday. It’s Easter this weekend, so have a great weekend and remember the reason for the holiday. It’s not to eat Reese’s eggs. LOL
I head out again Monday for our annual visit to Western Technical College in El Paso, Texas before getting into Vegas on Wednesday. If you’re coming to Vegas, stop by our annual NHRA Fan Fest at DSR’s Vegas home New York-New York Hotel & Casino at 6 p.m. in the Staten Island Room. There were be a ton of NHRA stars there. We’re going to try and keep our momentum going strong. All the best and thanks for reading.
Until next time, a little love, peace and hair grease, and I’m out like shout.