January 21st, 2013
January 21, 2013
The EJR team is gearing up to go to Cordele, Ga.for Speedfest 2013. This is the second year for this race and it was just by happenstance that it even came about to be held at Watermelon Capital Speedway. The venue for the original Speedfest 2012 was changed when the hosting track was unable to make it work. Marvin Ragan; David Ragan’s uncle, stepped up and took on the event. I must say that his entire staff worked very hard on short notice to spruce up the facility and they did a great job with putting on a very good show. It would have been a better event for the EJR team if we could have finished the race, but we lost an engine just before the halfway point of the 200 lapper. We were leading the race at that point and the eventual winner, Kyle Bush, texted Erik after the race and basically conceded to Erik that he was the car and driver to beat! So the EJR team has been looking forward to Speedfest 2013 and I have been eagerly awaiting an invitation to go with them. Speedfest is scheduled to be held on January 27th and from what I understand the team is preparing to leave on the 24th.
I’ve been a little apprehensive about asking Dave if I could be a part of the team this year. At a couple of different times I have hinted to him that I have my CDL medical card up to date and that I have been practicing driving when I am very tired and needing rest. I haven’t really been told that I am invited to go but I did receive a text from Dave the other day stating that I missed the team meeting. His text went on to say that the team took a vote and that they decided they would let me have a radio that works this time. In my reply back to Dave I discovered that there are several conditions that I have to meet before I actually get a working radio and there is still debate on whether I get one that I can talk with. So even though I have not received a formal invitation to go with the team, I consider the fact that they noticed that I was not at the team meeting a very good sign! If they actually let me know what day and time that they are leaving I will consider it a done-deal! I do have a back-up plan in case they do not give me that information and I’m getting very pumped up and excited to be a part of EJR’s assault on the watermelon capital of the world!
I’m going to go out on a limb here and predict that 2012 Snow Ball Derby Champion, Erik Jones, is going to be the guy to beat at this year’s Speedfest. I have not seen a list of pre-entries, but you can bet that the southern super stars, Augie Grill, Bubba Pollard, TJ Reid, Chase Elliot, Steven Wallace and more will all be there along with the not-so southern guys like Kyle Bush. It will be a who’s-who of Late Model racing and probably a similar list of racers that showed up for the Snow Ball. Did I mention that the 16 year old kid, Erik Jones, beat all of those guys? So I’m pretty sure that EJR will be the team to beat and if I ever get to be a part of the team meetings I might even learn what the strategy will be to take home the watermelon trophy! So hopefully on Thursday I’m heading south with the team and hopefully we get some “packing snow” before we leave. I plan on taking a very large cooler filled with snow balls so we can do a little watermelon “target practice” on the way down!
I’ve got to go now because I’m feeling pretty tired and I need to practice my driving skills for the big trip! I’ll write more when I can!
Earlier at work today I was surprised as an entourage of EJR staff came into my office. The public relations for EJR, the sister and the mother all came barging in with a very large card. I have been served with subpoenas of this size before so I immediately started to recount in my mind what I had written earlier on my blog. I couldn’t recall anything specifically where one of these women would have taken offense to what I wrote, but I was pleasantly surprised when the mother, Carol Jones, handed me an invitation to join the EJR team! I was elated! I made the team! It doesn’t really matter that it is only until Monday the 28th that I will be a part of this elite program; it is a firm confirmation for me that I have arrived! Of course, even the invitation has stipulations on it. In fact, it is more like a Job Description than it is an invitation. I have a list of duties that I must perform and none of them except the first one should be really hard for me to do. The first one just happens to be; Attendance at Team Meetings. That’s going to be pretty hard if Dave won’t even let me know when they are scheduled! It’s probably his “out” if he needs to let me go on short notice. I also was chastised in the Duties section for misspelling Erik’s name wrong in my original blog. I only committed that error 4 times and it shouldn’t be any big deal but I’m sure that the mother had something to do with that requirement. I don’t really think that legally she should be able to put that under the Duties section. In any event I am still overjoyed that I will be able to go with the team and I’m not going to press the issue. I do have until midnight tonight to RSVP the invitation, but the problem with that is the time frame that I have to do it in. It is supposed to be done by 12:00 am Monday, January 21, 2013. That means that I should have had it done yesterday! Hopefully the powers that be (Dave Jones) will overlook the time constraints and I will be added to the roster. If that is the case I will continue in my duties to blog for the team and whatever else they have for the WaterBoy to do! If not, then this is my last blog.
January 22, 2013
It has been a very long day for me today. I was up early to check my status to see if I was on the EJR roster and I did not see the confirmation. I started texting Dave to see what was going on and then I remembered that it was Tuesday and I had to be at a business meeting by 7:00am. I spent the better part of two hours at the meeting before I was able to start texting Dave again. I skipped lunch because I was a nervous wreck and by 1:56 pm I finally got a return text from Dave. He told me to quit texting him because it was getting annoying and that if I wanted to go with EJR I should be at the shop Wednesday night to help him load up. He didn’t give me an exact time to be there…. he pulled that trick on me last year, so I’ll probably show up pretty early in case his schedule changes. I just checked the Erik Jones Racing facebook page and there still is not a confirmation for the roster but I do trust Dave, so if he told me to be there, then I will be there! I am really excited about this trip and not solely for my own enjoyment. I am really excited that the great state ofMichiganand all of its racing enthusiasts have yet another young and talented racer that will represent us well at the national level! Erik has already represented us well but this year at Speedfest, the EJR team will be the team to beat! I am really excited to be a part of this team because of the dedication, determination, talent, wisdom and experience that is assembled to head down toCordele,Ga.There is not one person involved with EJR that wants to drive for 16 hours to have a good time. EJR is going down there to win the race! So let all of your racing enthusiast friends know what is going on this weekend and gather the family around the radio (or computer) as we used to do, to cheer on our hometown racing hero, Erik Jones. This may be the best start to a racing season that Michiganders have seen in many years!
January 24, 2013
We have been on the road for two hours now but we haven’t made a lot of miles down the road yet. Traffic around theAnn Arborarea was stop and go; more stopped than go. We did hit the road at 6:00 am as scheduled. Last night we got the hauler loaded up and everything stowed away by 10:00 pm or so. I had an interesting afternoon just after I got out of work. Dave called me and told me that he would be at the shop around 7ish. A guy named Tony would be there getting things around so I should just go on in when I got there. He gave me a couple of other details about what we would be doing in preparation for leaving and then he told me he would see me when I got there. I had a few things to do myself before heading to the shop and I had about an hour to kill. We have a small pond in our back yard with fish and frogs in it. The waterfall pump had broken just about the time I was going to winterize it so I stuck a heavy duty sump pump in the skimmer with a 2” pipe going out into the pond. With all of the sub zero temps I was worried about the pond freezing over and the fish dying from the lack of oxygen. So after talking to Dave I went out to the pond and sure enough, the 2” pipe was frozen solid and no water was going into the pond. I hooked up the garden hose, turned it on and walked out to the end of the pipe to see if I could thaw it out. I succeeded in getting the pipe dislodged from the huge ice sculptor that it had made and I noticed about that time that the water around my boots was getting deeper. Thin ice makes a very distinct sound just before it gives way and I heard that warning about the time I started sliding in. The pond isn’t deep at that spot and I wasn’t in any physical danger but I also noticed about 3 seconds later that the pond is exactly 2 inches deeper than my 12” cowboy boots. The cowboy boots are another problem when you’re trying to get traction on ice. The good thing about this near disaster is that by the time I got out of the pond I had succeeded in creating quite a good breathing hole for the fish and the frogs and I think that they’re going to be okay while I’m inGeorgia! I’m going to have Stephanie, the EJR PR gal, help me post a picture of a couple of frogs that we have in our pond. They are the biggest frogs that I have ever seen and I will use them as an example for my next “frog fighting” speech at the track! So after I dried out I headed over to the shop to help load up. I was met at the door by a great big guy who I assumed was Tony. When I walked in he said “Yo”. I’m thinking “what does that mean? Yo?” He says to me, “Yo, what do you want?” I said, “I’m Rick and I came over to help load everything up.” He says to me, “what’s the secret handshake?” I’m thinking to myself, “you have got to be kidding me!” I said to him, “are you Tony?” He looked at me real suspiciously and said, “yeah, why?” I said, “I talked to Dave and he told me that you would be here and that I should just walk on in.” I noticed that this big guys accent was becoming more and more “southBoston” and I started to get a little nervous. He says to me, “hang on a minute, stay right there.” He then walked into the shop and got out his phone and started dialing. I could hear him talking real low but I couldn’t make out what he was saying. A minute or so he comes back over to the door and he says to me, “the boss says to let you come in.” I’m thinking to myself, “Dave has really beefed up the security around here!” Last year he had an attack dog on the premises but I was able to circumvent the dog pretty easily with a piece of beef jerky that I had in the truck. A piece of beef jerky wasn’t going to get me in the door with this guy. I give Dave an “A” for stepping up the program! Anyway, I get into the shop and then Tony tells me that the car needs to be cleaned and that there’s a stack of wheels that need cleaning before we load them onto the tire rack. So guess what I did? I started cleaning! It was a little bit spooky working with Tony until Dave and Erik got there. I knew that Tony was watching me out of the corner of his eye, but I couldn’t catch him doing it; I could just feel it. Pretty spooky! Then when Dave gets there, he gets all anal about my cleaning job. I had to do the pit cart twice just because everybody kept using tools out of it and they were getting their fingerprints all over it. Dave does have some quirks. He kept telling me to be careful as I’m cleaning around and he kept pointing out spots that he thought I missed. So here I am on my knees, using my bifocals to make sure everything is just right and he comes barreling across the garage dragging this huge plastic pan, splashing water all over. He slammed the pan under the race car just in time to catch the last few drops of water that were dripping out of the block. (evidently Dave and Tony drained all of the water out of the car so it wouldn’t freeze up on our trip down) After Dave completely waters the floor of the shop, he says to me, “Rick, grab the mop and bucket.” Guess what I did? I grabbed the mop and the bucket! So while we are loading the hauler and we were just about done at that point, Dave says to me, “Do you know the guy that runs this place?” I said, “what?” He says, “I heard that the guy that runs this place is a real ……. He tells these guys that show up to help him that he can’t pay them after the work is done.” Now I know where this is going. So I said to him, “maybe that guy should be hiring people that can never get the job done so he’ll never have to worry about paying them!” Dave says to me, “that’s exactly why I allowed you to be on this team!” I think that Dave and I have a good understanding of each other! So we are off to the Watermelon Capital Speedway inCordele,Georgia. Say a prayer or two for a safe trip for us all and be sure to “like” the Erik Jones Racing Facebook page. I will write more later.
We’re a little over 13 hours into the trip and we have about 4 more to go. We’ve made a couple of fuel stops which we had planned, but we also had to stop a couple of times because the side door to the trailer popped open. The second time that we stopped to secure the door, Dave decided that we should fix it from the inside so we could be sure that it wouldn’t pop open again. So to fix the door from the inside, that meant that we would have to open the back door, enter the trailer from there, secure the side door and then return out through the back door. The plan worked flawlessly until we came to the part where we had to close the back door after the work was done on the side door. Normally to close the back door you would grab the handles on each side of the door and just lift it up with the help of two cables that are under tension. (very similar to a garage door setup) So up we go with the door and the back door all of a sudden decides that it doesn’t want to seat properly so that we can close it. It was 18 degrees outside with a wind chill of 35 below zero each time a semi truck and trailer went by at a range of let’s say, 5 feet! Well since this was going to be a very quick and easy fix, neither one of us wore a coat or a pair of gloves. So Dave and I proved the definition of insanity by doing the same thing over and over again all the while expecting different results. We continued to raise the door and try to get it seated properly. The only thing that we modified with this system is that we applied more and more force each time. To prove that we were insane we ended up with a mangled door jamb as the aluminum casing wadded up into a ball. We also proved the theory that if you can’t get it to move, use a bigger hammer. And so we did. We used the very biggest hammer and the very biggest pry bar to finally convince the back door that it should seat properly. Guess what I’ll be fixing tomorrow? Meanwhile the girls were in theYukonabout 30 miles behind us on their own adventure. About the time that we got back into the hauler and were able to move our fingers and our mouths, Stephanie texted me and said that their oil change light came on so Carol made a last mili-second decision to hit the exit ramp. Stephanie said that she was up on two wheels for at least a three count. Stephanie says that Carol is a “wheel man”. She must have taught Jennie something because after the girls had the oil changed they stopped and ate. Jennie drove after that. Stephanie texted me to “save her” because Jennie found out that theYukonhad a slight push and a large tendency to go up on two wheels while taking a mountain turn at 90 miles per hour. The girls seem to think that this trip is all fun and games while us guys are very serious with our hammers and pry bars! We also had another break where we stopped at a truck wash and the girls finally caught up. Dave was explaining to me that these truck wash stations were a great value. He explained that they usually charged around $10 per foot. Well, I’m no mathematician but I did a quick figure in my head of : 75 feet long x $10 per foot = $750 That really didn’t sound like such a great deal to me and I almost offered to do it right there and right then for the same price but I remembered our conversation from yesterday when he explained that he wasn’t very reliable when it comes to paying. So Erik, Branden and myself stayed in the hauler while Dave went out to make “his great value deal” with the truck wash guys. It turns out that the truck wash guys really felt sorry for Dave, or maybe he explained to them that he didn’t like to pay for work performed, so they did a very nice job, including a liquid waxing, for about a tenth of Dave’s original estimate. I worry that these really smart guys down here are going to take advantage of him. I’d better stay close and keep the big hammer handy! So the last stop at this point was just made. The girls went on ahead (about 50 miles) and ordered us dinner from B Dubs. They met us at the Home Depot parking lot but we made a wrong turn on the way and ended up in the Lowe’s parking lot. Evidently they have the same planning commission in Chattanooga Tn as they do in Linden Mi because we, (Dave), got the hauler stuck among the islands in the parking lot. Evidently they don’t use big trucks to deliver lumber to Lowe’s here in Tennessee because the islands are about 20 feet apart and a 75 foot rig isn’t able to drive around or through them. I don’t think that we damaged the curbs at all but we did take down a couple of scrawny crab apple trees as we headed out of the lot. We made it to Home Depot but there we had to navigate around the same type of islands plus a bunch of barns that they had sitting there. The girls dropped off the food to us in the parking lot and again we hit the road. We are about 200 miles away from our destination right now but the traffic is fairly light and the mountains are behind us. I took a 4 hour turn at the wheel and only upset one professional driver (trucker). When he finally got around me he gave me the thumbs up, like you see our racers do with our flagman, using his middle finger. I don’t know how many non-professional drivers I upset because you can’t see through the roof of the car as you’re looking down on them. A couple of people must have gotten new horns for Christmas because occasionally they would drive by and let me hear how they sounded. No thumbs up though. I think that Jennie and Carol are tipping martinis while Stephanie is driving because Carol sent me a text when we were stopped for road construction. Her text said; “which knows”. So I sent her back a text explaining; “none of us which knows”. Evidently that made sense to her in whatever state she is in and she typed back; “trailer is secure”. Maybe the road is getting to us all at this point. I don’t know. “Which knows” At some point I’m sure that this is all going to make perfect sense! In any case, our driver is rested and I am confident that he will be ready to go tomorrow. Erik and Branden have done nothing but watch racing movies, taped races and NASCAR racing legends cds all day long. The ARCA race at Berlin that they watched must have been 5000 laps long because it lasted forever. Erik said that the volume control was stuck on 99 and he couldn’t turn it down. Dave slept through it. I probably won’t write more until tomorrow since we will be pulling in late. I’ll get a jump on it in the morning.
January 25, 2013
We did get in late last night. It was 1:00 am before we were in our room. I did get a good night’s sleep and I am showered and ready for the day. Dave and I are rooming together so I have to be very careful about what I write, or at least how I say it! Dave did tell me that I fell asleep fast; within the first few minutes. I think that falling asleep first when rooming with another man is a good thing. I already know that I snore so I would rather have him listen to my snoring than to have to listen to his. Is that weird? Other than the fact that both Dave and I slept well, there is not much to report there. Branden, aka Super Spotter, told us that we are meeting at “Awful Waffle” this morning for breakfast. If you need any agenda information, weekend information or track information, you ask Branden. He always memorizes the schedule and he makes sure that Erik makes it to any driver obligation on time. Pit gates open at 10:00 am so Branden will have us there on time. We are staying about 10 minutes from the track which is just down the road. Branden shouldn’t have too much trouble keeping us all together and informed. I’m ready for my first team meeting. I hope that I can have some meaningful input and make all the guys glad that I made the trip. Dave asked me to be “seen and not heard” today. He complimented me on my attire this morning and said that I should be the “face” of EJR, not the mouth. He wants me to walk around in the pits all day and see what everybody else is up to. Dave is really a good boss even though he has problems paying people. Hopefully I have an internet connection at the track and I can write more in a bit.
WaterBoy …. Out for now!
5:00 pm plus or minus
Weeder is cool! Pockets is too! Wow, what a busy, busy day! We got into the track just after 10:00 am. The track staff here at the Watermelon did a great job getting things ready to go and getting everyone through the pit gate and out to the track. The pits are in the infield here and everything is asphalt. It’s very clean and well organized. Our hauler will be here in the infield until Sunday morning when we will have to pull it out for the race. When we got the rig parked around 10:30 or so we took our time unloading it. I met Pockets for the first time. Pockets is a very mechanical young man that works full time for a pretty major race team. I asked him if Pockets was his first name or his last name and he said, “yep”. I figured that “Pockets” would be a nickname, but evidently not. Pockets is a pro at knowing what needs to be done and how to do it. He doesn’t waste any time when Rich, our crew chief, gives us a command. Now Weeder on the other hand……. I’m not sure about him either. Weeder appears to be an older guy but it is hard to tell. He is not very tall and he has the energy of a really young kid. Weeder does tires, and he is the best in the business. Now I’ve seen some good tire guys with this team but I have never seen a tire guy as good as Weeder. Dave sent me over with a check to pay for the tires and to help Weeder. Hoosier Tire brings in this huge semi trailer full of stacks of tires and all of the tire guys from all of these teams cram into that thing to find just the right size tires for their car. So I went over to the Hoosier trailer to help Weeder with the tires and to pay for them. Weeder was nowhere to be found. So I looked around for him and then went back to our pit area. No Weeder there either. Now I figured that Weeder was out socializing with some of these other guys. There seems to be only a couple of people that Weeder doesn’t know. So I went back to the Hoosier trailer again; no Weeder. I went back to our pit again; no Weeder. The tire rack was still there with our wheels on it so I decided to haul that over to the tire trailer and set it there in case Weeder showed up and needed it. When I got back to the tire trailer I still couldn’t find him. Branden, Super Spotter, came over to the tire trailer and he couldn’t find Weeder either! So this went on for the better part of an hour before Branden called Weeder’s phone. Weeder told Branden that he was in the trailer still digging out tires. This guy is dedicated! Actually, Weeder has been working for Kyle Busch Racing for several years and he is very well known in Late Model racing for his ability to get that perfectly matched set of tires. I helped Weeder get the tires back to our pit area and just hung out with him as he worked on them. I feel very confident that EJR has the best set of tires in the pits right now. If Erik can’t go fast in the race I know that it’s not going to be Weeder’s fault! We went out and practiced several times today. Rich doesn’t seem to be real concerned that we aren’t the fastest right now. We are in the top 5 but I know that Rich isn’t done working on it. We have one more run to make and then we will be loading it up for the night. Tomorrow we will have maybe two practice sessions before we qualify. After we qualify they will impound our tires and we will be done until Sunday afternoon when we race. We are getting ready for our last session so I’m going to get back out to help. There were a couple of things that happened today that I need to tell you about but I’m going to have wait till I have a minute to write about it.
We graced the Golden Corral with our presence tonight after we returned from the track. The waitresses here look at you like you’ve lost your mind when you ask for plain tea. Once you tell them you’re from the north then they nod their heads and look at you with a sorrowful understanding. Golden Corral is awesome and I was very impressed that they now serve cotton candy! What a party and all of the girls had a great time. Everybody is at this moment in our room as I’m writing this blog and so how this little excerpt is going to turn out is anybody’s guess. Well, getting back to our last practice session while I’m able to think about it; we made some more changes and sent Erik out on the track. We put a little pressure on ourselves because we waited until there was just 20 minutes left. We missed it and made the car worse. Rich said to pull it back in and so Erik pitted and there was a blur of activity as Rich dove under the car and started wrenching. We got Erik back out there with 12 minutes left to spare and the kid really laid down some good laps. We ended up p4 or p5 for the day with those last few laps but there was a ton of information gained from those 3 minutes worth of work. The mood and the optimism is very high for tomorrow. We’ve got a couple of 45 minute practice sessions before we qualify and I know that our crew chief has it all worked out as to what he’s going to throw at it . I do believe that Rich Lushes, our crew chief is warming up to me. He actually gave me a nod today when I had the jack in my hand waiting to raise the car. I started to raise the car but then he started waving his arms around in a motion which made me stop. Evidently he thought that I was going to move the jack out of the way, not actually try to use it. I really am much more valuable to the team if I’m cleaning something. Tomorrow is going to be a little different for me because today was pretty laid back as I understand it. It will be more serious and faster paced. That’s just a little bit scary to me because I worked up a pretty good sweat and added a few moves to my dance repertoire as I dodged this person and sidestepped that one in an attempt to get out of the way. I might be adding a few more moves tomorrow when the pace picks up. Dave suggested to me that I stand with my hands in my pockets in a different spot, preferably in the pit stall next to ours. So I did. Dave pulled me aside in the hauler when I was jotting my earlier blog and told me that I wouldn’t have my radio for the final practice. Evidently our Super Spotter couldn’t make his radio work right, although it sounded fine to me, so Dave gave him mine to use for the last session. I looked pretty stupid walking around with my headset on with nothing attached to the cord but nobody said anything out loud to me about it. Right at this moment there are some pretty strange things going on in Cordele Ga. Rich is in our room and he is getting his hair cut by Stephanie. I’m not really sure why but Rich says that it is for charity and it’s a team building exercise. Which knows. Stephanie claims that she has been to the cosmetology school but then she admitted that it was only to get her hair cut because it was so cheap. Did I mention that we are staying at the Holiday Inn Express and all of a sudden Stephanie thinks that she’s a barber? Back to the radio: I have everything worked out with Super Spotter on the side and I’m getting my radio back in the morning. I’m going to give Super Spotter Dave’s radio in case he needs a backup. I have learned around here that it’s easier to ask forgiveness rather than permission. Stephanie is almost done with Rich’s hair and it looks pretty good! She did just say, “oh I did cut you! Oopsy!” Now there is hair all over the corner of our room and Rich’s shirt but his hair is much shorter and it should look good for the pictures on the track. (Maybe Rich should make sure they take the pictures of his good side) I think that I have the internet thing under control at the track so when it gets real crazy over there I’m going to go into the hauler and blog. The gates open at 8:30 am so I’m going to try to get all of these people out of our room so that I can get some sleep. It may take a while!
January 26, 2013
Dave likes to watch cooking shows. When I came back into the room this morning after treating myself to a Holiday Inn Express microwaved breakfast the television was on. It seems that every time I enter our room when the tv is on there is some fat guy with a big spoon giving us insight on healthy eating. This particular fat guy was camped out in a field teaching us how to cook over an open fire. Dave eats this stuff up! As far as the racing goes, we are at the track and the car is up on stands. We get to qualify 6th today and Weeder will also be the sixth man to pick tires. The tire selection starts right now and I already know how Weeder is going to handle that. It would be very unwise of me to tell you through this blog some of the secrets that Weeder knows about Hoosier racing tires. I know that there are a lot of other teams watching this blog in hopes that I will reveal some of the private information about this team that I have been sworn to keep my big mouth shut about…. Or else Tony is going to pay me a visit! Anyway, trust me, Weeder has this one handled! The bolt check is done on the car and Rich just came into the hauler and busted me typing on my computer. Rich told me that we’re ready to go. We just have to put the tires back on it and set it on the scales for another look-see. Rich’s hair doesn’t look half bad today. If he’s standing on the ramp to the hauler and he has his head tilted just right it looks pretty even on both sides. I think that he came into the hauler just now so that he could look at himself in the mirror while he pretended to wash his hands. (We have hand cleaner in the trailer but the trailer doesn’t have a mirror!) I’ve got to get back out there and help out. These guys have put their fingerprints all over my nice clean car while they’ve been working on it this morning so that’s going to put me in a time crunch to get it cleaned before we hit the tech line 1 hour from now.
We’ve got a couple of problems as I write this tonight. Stephanie had some type of virus or worm or some such thing take out her computer tonight while we were eating dinner. It locked her computer and informed her that she was going to have to pay $200 to get it unlocked and it was some sort of FBI legal enforcement thing. When I left the party to come and write my blog she still did not have it working properly so I don’t know if my blog is going to make it to the Erik Jones Racing web site or not. So let everybody know that for the time being you will only get the blog by going to the Owosso Speedway web site. Hopefully she will be back up and running soon. As most of you may know by now we did not qualify as high up the charts as we were hoping for. We chased the car setup in both of the practice sessions and the disappointing thing about that is the set of tires that we used in the second session had no consistency to them at all. It did not endear me to Hoosier Tire since it was a similar scenario that I’ve been hearing from my racers at Owosso Speedway. (You can never tell what you’re going to get) We certainly found that out with that set of tires and we wasted a lot of time before we went back to the other tires. Rich certainly has a tremendous amount of things to consider as he is trying to get the car to turn through the corners and then get a good “bite” coming out of the turn. A qualifying run, or a “mock run” is another can of worms that you open as you try to get every last ounce of speed out of the car for just a few laps. It is a lot to juggle as he gets information from Erik on how the car is responding to the track conditions at the moment. Rich’s juggling act was complicated with a day that couldn’t make up it’s mind if it wanted to be cloudy or sunny. That will really change how a car handles as the temperature on the track can fluctuate by 15 degrees or more between our practice sessions! But other teams faced the same problems today and we had a decent qualifying run. We qualified in the eleventh position with some really good cars ahead of us and some really good cars behind us. Rich told all of us before he put the qualifying setup in the car that we were rolling the dice to see if we could get in the top five. We were not able to do that but we are very confident that we have a good race setup and that we will be fine when the checkered flag is waved. As I stated in one of the earlier blogs; no one on the team wanted to drive for 16 hours to race and have fun. We came down here to win! Starting eleventh tomorrow is going to be a challenge because we will be in the heart of the pack during the race when everyone is trying to get sorted out. It’s quite possible that we could get caught up in someone else’s mess and so I for one will be on the edge of my seat until things sort out and Erik has some room to maneuver. Now the blessing to Erik’s starting spot is that he will be on the inside row which is the preferred groove at this track Dave just turned the TV on and guess what show is playing. You guessed it; another cooking show. This time it’s a fat guy with a big knife and a thin oriental woman. It’s some sort of reality cooking show which really gets Dave fired up! Dave changed the channel and now we have Lizard Lick towing repo-ing an air boat in the middle of a swamp. I agree with Dave, I like cooking shows better! Today was a beautiful day when the sun was shining and I performed quite well until I tried to jack up the car at the same time Dave was. Rich chastised me pretty good and I remembered that lesson for about an hour before I tried to do it again. This time Dave chastised me and I do not think I will be making that mistake again! Just when you think you have a task mastered there will be a reality check to send you right back to the basics. In all seriousness I want to help if and when I can without upsetting the chemistry that this team has. These guys all work too hard and they do this for a living. They certainly don’t need to go backwards by making allowances for me. I am very optimistic about tomorrow’s race and it looks like we are going to have perfect weather when we take to the track. We have to be there at 7:10 am according to Super Spotter so that is exactly when we will be there. We have to unload the car and all of the support materials and tools for the race and get the hauler out of the pits by 10:00 am. There will be an autograph session for all of the racers and cars around noon. There are 32 cars starting in each race so we will have 64 cars and drivers on the track. The Pro Late Model 100 lap race will be first around 1:00 pm and then we will follow with our 200 lap race. Caution laps will not be counted in either race so depending on how things go; it could be a very long afternoon. I am extremely confident that we will be victorious and bring home a ripe watermelon SpeedFest trophy. I will try to blog early in the day tomorrow and then immediately after the race after we are loaded up and heading home. I really appreciate everyone who has taken the time to read this blog and I know that the EJR team is very appreciative of your support. We couldn’t have a finer team representing us. I believe that EJR is getting the word out that Michigan has down-to-earth, passionate, racing people that are good at competing at any level of motorsports. I’m very proud of everyone on this team. Have a good night and we will go after them tomorrow!
January 28, 2013
We are all back home and safe and sound inMichigan! I am sure that you know the outcome of our efforts and I understand that Speed 51.com did an excellent job of the coverage. Although we did not get the results that we were seeking it was said by our crew chief that we learned a tremendous amount about working together and never giving up in making the car better. It was a great learning experience and will make the team stronger if the failures of the weekend become opportunities for improvement. That very attitude about perseverance and overcoming is exactly why we can be proud of this team and very confident that they will see great success in the future!
Race Day, January 27, 2013, started at 5:30 am when Dave’s alarm rang. Branden wanted us at the track by 7:10 am because the gates opened at 7:30 am. Branden loves to be the first one there to scope out the lay of the land and to start talking to the officials about race procedures and time tables. We couldn’t pull the car out until 9:00 am and there were several changes that Rich wanted to make. Rich had a game plan on getting the car ready and he assigned everyone a task. We also had to have our hauler out of the pit area by 11:00 so naturally the EJR team wanted to be first in that as well, so it was a mad scramble to get everything out that we could possibly need for the race event. Dave was P1 in the hauler line off the track but the parking lot official made a bad call there and we were placed P2. Dave argued the point but of course the other hauler drivers sided with the official and so Dave was sent to the rear. Rich allowed me to put the car up on stands and pull the wheels off so that we could put our race tires on it. I got to clean the car again and I really did a great job on it. I even cleaned the pit cart because I know that the small details are very important to the overall perception of the team. I was truthfully disappointed with my detail work because I did think about “amor all” on the pit cart tires and I did not do it. Another team had their tires “armor alled” and it really looked nice. Their WaterBoy was better than our WaterBoy and I took exception with that! We pushed the car up to tech for the third time this weekend and once again we were good to go! After teching the car we had to push it to an informal staging area prior to it going on the track for autographs. The autograph session started at 12:30 pm and Erik was kept very busy. Miss Watermelon was an absolute knockout and once again “I wished that I was Erik” during that photo opp! Jennie gently reminded me that I was no Erik Jones and so we just sat there in the sunshine and enjoyed the day. I got to meet some incredible people during the session and I noticed that even though there were several Cup Drivers, Nationwide Drivers, Craftsman Truck Drivers and up and coming racing stars, everyone was approachable. It was one big group of smiling, laughing people that were all gathered together with a passion for auto racing. It made both Jennie and I very proud to be a part of the professional EJR organization! After the track was cleared of autograph seekers we were treated to the Driver Introductions. They introduced all of the drivers from both series and I must say that the announcer earned his pay. It took a long time! The 100 lap Pro Late Model race was first with 100 laps of green flag racing and it gave us an indication that it was going to be a long afternoon. I had no idea that a full moon would affect the racing at 2:00 in the afternoon, but that must the reason for all of the cautions! Chase Elliot won that race by avoiding trouble and saving his car for the end. The amount of cautions raised a concern that the racers would run out of fuel and I do believe that there were one or two cars that did. Our race was up next and it got started late. Pockets and Rich had a plane to catch by 9:00 pm so we were concerned that they would get out of the track on time. I was ready to jump up on the pit box and lead the team but Rich assured me that I would not get that opportunity. I was very happy to “stand on the pit wall” with Pockets and Weeder. It was the first time ever that I was able to be a pit crew member with a professional race team! We started the race in the eleventh position and early on Erik decided to see if the grass was greener off the backstretch. He soon found out that there wasn’t any grass there but an awful lot of very sticky, clayish, sandish, dustyish dirt that swallowed his car and forced him to go to the rear of the field for the restart. We pitted his car so that we could shovel the dirt off of it and I could spring into action with a heavy duty feather duster. I even had to dust the inside of his windshield off and I was able to pop him in the head with my elbow a couple of times just so that he got the message not to do that to my car again. Before we reached the halfway point there was a red flag and so the crew had plenty of time to rehash Erik’s adventure in the field. Erik made a big mistake by announcing to us that he pulled that little stunt just so that I had something to do! I vowed right then and there that he could clean his own face shield after that and so when we did reach the break I made him get out of the car and clean his visor! That punishment let Erik know that I was serious and he focused more on his racing. Kids! As you know we started 6th after the break and Erik started his march to the front. Within 10 laps of taking the green Erik got rubbed pretty hard on his right front tire and it knocked the “toe” out of place. Erik drove that ill handling race car to the lead and held the position for the better part of 30 laps. Just 5 laps from the finish Erik went for the lead on the bottom of the track. It was a restart so everyone was side-by-side and nose to tail when they went into turn one. I did not see what happened but I knew that it wasn’t good when the fifth place car came out of turn two first. Erik was able to drive it to our pit but we were done for the night. It was after 9:00 before we were loaded up and out of the pits. It was a pretty glum atmosphere when we started home but we were soon cheered by the news that the girls had gotten pulled over by the police for faulty equipment. They were going to pick up Stephanie’s computer which was confirmed dead from the FBI virus and they were headed over to pick it up from the computer geek’s house. Stephanie makes these online, back alley deals all of the time and so actually it was for Stephanie’s benefit and protection that the police officer pulled them over right in front of his home. Evidently there is a glitch in the Georgian APB (All Points Bulletin) system because Carol was not held for questioning and the officer was so duped that he actually waited around until Stephanie came out of this house that had all of the window blinds drawn, safe and sound! Rich and Pockets missed their flight and I think that they stayed overnight inAtlanta and took a flight out this morning. Our trip home was pretty uneventful although we were a little concerned about the bad weather that was heading intoMichigan today. I took the first turn at driving and since I couldn’t figure out how to get the radio on I started trying to figure out the windshield wiper system knowing that I was going to need it in about 800 miles or so. Of course I waited until Dave was sound asleep before I started my investigation and it was actually really easy to get them turned on, but I couldn’t seem to turn them off. Just when I would think that I had shut them off, the darn thing would take just one swipe and then stop. I knew that they were on “delay” but nowhere did it say, “stop delay”. I also knew that if I didn’t get the stupid thing shut off before Dave woke up there probably wouldn’t be any blades left so every now and then I would push the “washer” button to squirt a little water on the windshield. That worked really good for about an hour and then we ran out of washer fluid. I made a fuel stop around 1:30 am this morning and I woke Dave up when I shut the truck off. Dave took over driving after our stop and when he started the truck the wipers came on. Dave reached over and shut them off. On my second driving stint this morning we were traveling along about 65 miles an hour and we were picking up speed going down a pretty steep grade. This time Dave was awake and I’m not sure if that’s good or bad but I reached over to turn the engine brake on to slow us down instead of using the brake pedal. Knowledgeable, professional truck drivers will tell you that this is the proper thing to do. As I reached to hit the engine brake switch I hit the shift button into neutral. So the transmission went into neutral which is no big deal unless you are careening down a steep mountain road in excess of 72 miles an hour with a fairly sharp turn at the bottom of the grade. I very calmly looked at Dave and he raised his eyebrows at me as if to say what he could not say at that moment. Then just as calmly I took the shift button and flicked it into L 1 which meant that I had just shifted the truck into the absolute lowest gear that it could go into. By now we were approaching the 75 mile an hour mark and nearing the bottom of the hill. Fortunately I never had my foot on the gas because the truck probably would have shifted into L 1 which would have been bad whether Dave was awake or asleep. I finally got the truck back into the proper gear and was able to apply the brake and make the turn into the next grade just as the professional drivers do. I figured that I just saved Dave $3.29 because we were going to stop and get coffee, but now we didn’t need to! Dave never did sleep a wink after that and I let him finish the drive home after our last fuel stop.
Once again we had an absolutely fantabulous time with the Jones family and their race team. As I have noted in earlier blogs, Dave is the consummate leader and we had several great conversations and heart to heart talks. I have a great deal of respect for Dave and I appreciate the way that he welcomes Jennie and me into his family. Carol is fun, energetic and the best event planner that I have ever seen. She keeps us fed, housed and clothed so that we are all presentable! She is also very protective of her children so I had to be very sly when I tortured Erik. We missed Lindsey this year since she had a cheer leading engagement but you can see Lindsey’s contribution to EJR whenever you watch one of her video productions! Rich Lushes is the best crew chief ever. I know because I watched all of these NASCAR guys coming over to him and shaking his hand! Branden Lines is the best Super Spotter just because he talks really fast and he thinks even faster. He must have been born with the ability make every word that comes out of his mouth meaningful and relatable to a driver going in excess of 100 miles an hour. He talks at the speed of light and you can understand him! Pockets is a talented and energetic kid that can flat out wrench on a race car and he knows what tool he needs and he knows exactly how to do it right. Weeder is a Hoosier Tire. He knows more about Hoosier Tires than Hoosier knows. True story: the Hoosier tire guys ask Weeder’s opinion! Stephanie Bigelow is EJR’s Public Relations Director and she is synonymous with Fun! She is a techno geek who relates extremely well to people. Stephanie is also attractive and she is definitely the person that you would want to represent you. And last but not least is our driver Erik Jones. I’m very proud of what the 13 year old kid that won his first feature at Owosso Speedway has done since then and I’m even more proud of what he has turned into as his racing career advances. Erik is a professional race car driver and he has all of the traits and characteristics to move to the next level. Jennie and I have been extremely blessed to have been a part of EJR for this adventure and we eagerly look forward to our next.
Take care, God Bless,
Filed Under: Rick Miracle