Spring is in the air, and rubber got put down on the track last weekend at the season opening Southern Outlaw Tour in Montgomery, AL. I had plenty on my mind as we pulled up anchor in Chattanooga and headed south for the weekend. During the off season, my bride and I decided to step it up a bit and acquired a ’94 Holiday Rambler motor home (affectionately known from this point forward as the “Mayflower”), so it was with some apprehension that I hooked my trailer, race car and most of what we own onto it for the very first time and sat out on a 6 hr road trip.
I swear I had more arm pump after that first hour of driving than a professional motocross racer does after a 40 minute moto. Our RV/trailer combo is 65’ + and is susceptible to semi’s, crosswinds, strange noises, etc.…but a couple of hours into the trip everything seemed to ease up a bit. At one point, I glanced back over my shoulder and saw Amber sitting in the captains chair with her feet up, book on a desk, cheese-its, and drink in hand…”I love it” were her exact words. So I guess that’s the official verdict…we’re now RV people.
Upon getting to the track Friday evening we decided that it would be best to sit out the first round of qualifying until we had a chance to test the new combination in some slightly better conditions Saturday afternoon. After an initial shake down pass that was a little on the sketchy side, my good buddy Paul Baxter and I made a couple of adjustments and went up for qualifying. At this point in the day, I must admit I was tired and distracted with everything that it took to get to the track; sponsorship obligations, customer obligations and a race car that wasn’t too friendly on my first pass of the season. Add it all up and what does it mean??? Apparently a knucklehead driving job as I rolled the beams when staging the car and didn’t get an official time for qualifying. Although I felt like a donkey…I took solace in the fact that the car went straight as a string and in two quick passes Paul and I sorted out what took us 10 races to do last season.
Before the next round of qualifying my sweet wife kept my spirits up and Paul calmed my nerves by praying with me in the staging lanes. This time we laid the smack down with a 4.92 at 147 mph, which was a great pass, but unfortunately a little too quick and put us at the bottom end of the qualifying ladder for eliminations.
In the first round, without lane choice, I had a decent (not great) light, and was out on my opponent at half track when the car started a move towards the left wall that I couldn’t pull out of. So I decided to live to fight another day, and clicked the car off coasting through the traps…oh well, there were a lot of firsts this weekend, and after digesting it all for a couple of days, I’m pretty excited about our prospects for the rest of the season. I expect great things this year and feel confident that a solid foundation is in place for some strong results.
April will be a very busy month, as I have the Chattanooga Cruise In (at Coker Tire) on April 6th, Headhunters South in Steele, AL on April 13th, Southern Outlaw Tour in Montgomery, AL on April 20th, and if all goes well…we’re going to try to make it up to the great state of Kentucky for the NOP race on April 27th.
Thanks again to everybody who makes everything possible to race; Coker Tire, M&H, Dart, Comp, TCI, Zex, Lunati, K&N, Amsoil, Holeshot, Hedman Hedders, Texas Jungle Racing and REV Ministries. Thanks again to the almighty God who makes all things possible, period.
Check it out! Hot Rod Live radio show with Dennis Pittsenbarger, talking about M&H Racemaster tires and our upcoming drag racing season!No Comments »
In the song “Bad Luck” by the iconic Southern California punk rock band, Social Distortion, a couple of the lyrics are – “Thirteen’s my lucky number…to you it means stay inside.” Well, I believe that “13” is my lucky number too and I aint staying inside. After all, I was born on the 13th, my racing number has always been “13”, and I truly believe that 2013 is shaping up to be a great year.
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After everything that’s gone down in the past couple of weeks, it’s been difficult for me to get my mind around the words to put this blog in motion. The 2012 season of racing and season of life have been a journey that I wouldn’t particularly care to travel again anytime soon. Whether it’s been perception or reality, I’ve felt a lot of pressure to repeat the successes of my 2010 and 2011 seasons…after all, I started out the year with a newly refurbished race car, loyal sponsors, and a loving spouse. So what could go wrong??? Pretty much anything race related that you could think of and it seemed like the harder I tried, the worse it got. A late start to the season, freak parts failures, bad weather, bad luck, bad timing, bad circumstances…just bad, bad, bad. Everything hit critical mass a couple of weeks ago in Huntsville, AL when on a very chilly 40 degree morning the engine kicked backed, shot flames through the carburetor, and destroyed the clutch in my starter…sending me on a 4 hr search for a spare. Ultimately nothing I borrowed worked, and we pushed the car on the trailer defeated, embarrassed, and headed back to Tennessee.
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Last weekend I got a chance to blow off a little bit of the figurative ring rust from my 1 month August hiatus and headed down to Holiday Beach Raceway located near “roll tide” country in Tuscaloosa, AL. So what did I do with my late summer vacation from racing? Prepare for more racing, of course….the entire car was nut & bolted front to back, a new vacuum pump, belt/pulley combination was installed, valves adjusted, oil and transmission fluids were changed, carb, filters, lines cleaned from the corrosive Methanol fuel residue…and the on board race computer data reviewed in an effort to establish effective nitrous tune ups for the rest of the season. I also experimented a little further with wing angles and suspension in an effort to create a little more down-force for added down-track stability.2 Comments »
Here we are in August, coming off of the hottest July on record. The last three times I’ve raced it’s been at or above 100 degrees. Suffice it to say, the conditions have been very hard on crew, equipment, and driver. However, there appears to be some relief in sight…and hopefully some better results are on the way. At Lassiter Mountain, AL a few weeks back, I struggled to get down a very green & slick race track – definitely not forgiving conditions for someone struggling with a new set up. We managed to get the car tuned into the low 5.30’s in an effort to be competitive. However, in the first round of competition, the back end of my steed started to come around sideways at about 130 mph…and I basically wrecked. But fortunately for all involved, I didn’t hit anything. Although I sure didn’t win anything either. After my early departure from competition, and the multiple oil downs, crashes, scoring delays, etc., we loaded up at the not so early hour of 2 a.m., and headed to the hotel where we’d pre-paid for a room in anticipation of staying over and racing the next night on down the road in Holiday, AL. As it turned out, our not so accommodating host hotel had sold our room, and complete with noel story in hand, he told us that we could stay across the street at the “other” hotel. Now I’ve stayed in some dives, but this one definitely makes the low-light reel…complete with nicotine aroma, stains, and malfunctioning AC unit. The Mrs. and I both got up the next morning and felt like we’d spent the night in a trash compactor. She was way worse for wear than I, and after a morning of vomiting, headaches, etc., it was decided to lick our wounds and head back to Tennessee.
Things went better a couple of weekends ago at the Southern Outlaw Tour held in Montgomery, AL, even though it was still hotter than Hades. After making some more fine tuning adjustments during the week, I qualified #3, and put together a string of competitive passes that once again had us running near the front of the field. With new found confidence, I was really looking forward to a long night of racing, as I’d won my first round, and felt like everything was falling into place. That confidence would soon turn to calamity, as I fired the car to meet my opponent in round 2. My engine vacuum pump had seized, and the belt was getting eaten up by the crank mandrel. I could’ve cut the belt and run the engine without vacuum relief, but I decided that I’d already tempted fate enough this season and didn’t think it would be wise to risk pushing oil out of the engine and onto the tires of a fast door slammer. Live to fight another day…
After driving 5 hours home that night, I pulled up in front of my house at 7 a.m. Sunday morning. During the night/morning I had plenty of time to think about everything that has and hasn’t happened this season…and what could’ve been. I guess it was best summed up by my buddy Paul who said “the school of hard knocks has the highest tuition rate of any learning institution in the land…so don’t be too hard on yourself, but continue to set high standards and goals. Otherwise, you won’t know that you’ve accomplished anything.” I can honestly say that even though the results don’t show it….I know it. Put differently, I know what’s gone into getting to this point, and there’s no way I’m going to let up now. Discipline and hard work are never any fun when you’re going through it…but like I said in an earlier post, the harvest will come. With the fall season right around the corner, we have 5 more races to go in September/October and I feel great about the prospect of finishing strong.
Thanks to Coker Tire, M&H Racemaster, Moon Pie, Dart, Comp, TCI, ZEX, Lunati, Holeshot Wheels, Joe Gibbs Oil, and K&N Filters for all you do to keep me on track.
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Here we are in the first week of July, and I haven’t won a single round of racing this season. Let me repeat that, I didn’t say that I haven’t won a race yet, I said that I haven’t won a single round of racing within a race. So far, I’ve hurt a lot of parts, and only done two races; Montgomery, AL where I qualified last, and lost in the first round, and Holiday, AL where I also qualified last, but was mercifully spared another beating in the form of a rain out. Not exactly all star material.
So what have I been doing? Waiting…I’ve been actively waiting. The book of James tells us that we’re to wait on promises like a farmer waits for his crops. I started thinking about that one. A farmer plants his crops, and then he actively displays his faith by getting his tractor ready, sharpening his tools, preparing the storage facility, etc…even though the field is empty. The farmer waits with confidence (not worry) because he knows that the preparation and work he put in will cause his crops to come up….it’s not a matter of if it’s going to happen, but when it’s going to happen.
Even though my field is empty, I have been making preparations. People have been asking me why I’m not attempting the 4.70 class and I tell them that it’s just not my time yet. I have a completely re-vamped race car, which is a combination of tires, chassis, geometry, engine, safety equipment, etc, and also a completely re-vamped trailer, generator, golf cart, racing radios, etc…all of which will be put to good use when we go faster. Yes, it’s taking me longer than I expected to get where I want to be. Sure I’m disappointed, but I’m not going to settle. I’m temporarily pitching a tent in the 5.30 class until I find the right combination of resources to run 4.70, pro-mod or funny car. All I know is that my wife and I have sacrificed, worked hard, and actively expect God’s goodness….so any day could be the day that we get the break we need. Could be tomorrow, next month, next year or next 5 years…but it will happen.
For now we will continue to prepare, and maintain an attitude of gratefulness to those who are helping so generously to get us out there this season; Coker Tire, M&H Race Master, Dart, Comp Cams, TCI, ZEX, Lunati, Gibbs Racing Oil, K&N…and most recently our very own version of Chattanooga Caviar – Moon Pie!!! That’s right, special thanks to Chattanooga Bakery for jumping in this season, and giving us enough Moon Pies to spoil kids’ dinners all throughout the Southeast.
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What a couple of months it’s been. Engine issues & new car/new chassis blues have led me to the point of wondering exactly what I’m doing…and questioning what’s best for my employer, sponsors, my marriage, etc. It’s so exhausting to think you’re close to the end zone, and then the goal posts just keep getting moved further back. Such has been the case with almost every aspect of getting to, and actually getting the car to go down, the race track this season.
BUT, I think I’m starting to see some light at the end of the tunnel. My devotion this morning was from Joel Osteen’s “Living your best life now”, and he talked about the mindset that is required for victory in our individual lives. He gives a brief overview of how God’s chosen people, the Israelites, were delivered out of bondage and promised an abundant life in another land. The land really wasn’t that far away….only about 11 days via a direct route. However, because their collective mindsets were so beaten down and negative from all the years of captivity…they were unprepared for God’s blessings and subsequently doubted Him all along the way, making a series of poor choices. We all know the rest of the story – what was intended to be a few days journey turned into 40 years wandering in the desert.
I started reflecting upon how hard things have been lately when I’ve focused on the problems and had my doubts whether this was all going to come together…it’s at these times that the mountains seem bigger, and choices more difficult. Then I thought back upon how much God has delivered me out of, and that there’s no way that He would have brought me this far just to drop me off in the desert. Racing is a passion and a gift, but it’s not a necessity…so regardless of the outcome, I need to become more confident that I already have victory in Christ.
That being said…my good buddy Paul Baxter and I had a pretty good test session the other night on a very slick local track. We’re making progress, and eating the elephant one bite at a time. Now that the chassis is settling down, our major hurdles seem to be behind us, and we can now focus on making more power and applying it in steady increments until we find the right tune up for outlaw heads up racing.
“Friday night, Test and Tune”
A couple of months back, Paul and I discussed a mission field of sorts. We wanted to reach out to those at the track who may never have heard the gospel….and to be an encouragement to those that already have. I’m so proud of him and his family as Paul recently received Chaplain Certification from the North American Mission Board and the project is really taking shape! (now we just need to get to some races). The ministry is officially called Racing to Exhault His Victories or R.E.V. Please check them out and show your support at:
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Last weekend I got reacquainted with the Camaro at Steele, AL for a test and tune session. After evaluating the finished product and my goals for the season, it became apparent that a shift in racing focus was in order if we were going to have a successful season. Without going into a ton of technical detail, my car is now best set up to run on a 10.5W tire with the Southern Outlaw Tour’s “Extreme 10.5” class which is based around a 5.00 index, and the National Outlaw Professionals series up in KY and OH. So with that in mind, we went to Steele to sort out the best combination for this type of racing.No Comments »
The Camaro is 95% complete, and with a few minor adjustments we should be ready to test it for the first time on April 15th. For those of you that have been following along since last September when the insanity of this project started, you’ll recognize that not only has the car been turned “Inside Out”, but so have I. There have been so many; people, personalities, deadlines, companies, parts and places involved with putting all this together that at times it was difficult to imagine that it would ever be completed…and I can’t honestly say that I want to do it again anytime soon. BUT (and it’s a big BUTT), I think it will all be worth it when the first little kid comes up at the track and smears cherry slurpee and corn dog grease all down the side of my white paint, gives me a hug, and tells me that he’ll be cheering for me…or the old guy that walks right past all the exotic rigs, trailers, race cars, in the pits and says “Son, I hope you skin ‘em up today”…it’s been a while since I’ve heard these kinds of things, but that’s what I “Hold Fast” – for me it’s not about a bigger and badder race car…it’s about all the people that touch you along the journey.14 Comments »