If you’ve read this column with any regularity over the past several years, you know that the subject matter of my ramblings ranges, at times dramatically! One thing that I’ve tried – and largely succeeded – to avoid are tales of my personal racing adventures. It’s been done. Most notably, Dan Fletcher chronicled his travels for years within these pages in the iconic “Route 99” series that we’ve all enjoyed. I penned an “On the Road” column hosted by DragRaceResults.com for years myself. I’ve looked at the opportunity to write for National Dragster as a chance to expand my horizons; a challenge to write on essentially any random thing that has come to mind… And without fail, Phil, Kevin and the ND staff has supported even my most peculiar interests (they haven’t said “no” yet)!
I said all that to say this.
For the next few issues, this column will revert to essentially an “On the Road” format. I’m going to talk about my family’s racing, and our travels. Why? Well, as you read this, we’re in the midst of a pretty unique journey. Starting with the season-opening NHRA Winternationals in mid-February, and stretching through the Spring Fling Million in mid-April, we’re on the road. In all, it’s 10 weeks in an RV with my family: my wife, myself, and our two little guys (Gary, 8 and Jack, 3). Before we return to Illinois, we’ll travel over 5,000 miles. We’ll hit 9+ races. We’ll take in Disneyland, the Grand Canyon, the Hoover Dam, and more. It’s part racing trip. It’s part family vacation. It’s part educational field trip.
For us, it’s the perfect storm, at the perfect time in life. Our whole family is passionate about competition right now, and we love going to the races together. We’re riding high on the heels of the 2021 NHRA Super Gas national championship. We had already made the decision to pull Gary out of public school in favor of homeschooling this semester (his second semester of 3rd grade). We came into the 2022 season with a desire to pursue two racing series’: the NHRA Lucas Oil Series (my wife, Jessica in Super Comp along with myself in Super Gas), and the Midwest Junior Super Series (with our 8-year-old Gary behind the wheel of his Jr. Dragster). We looked over the schedules and realized that we could knock out nearly half of our NHRA season early (when there’s no racing to speak of in our part of the country) with this west coast trip, freeing up our summer months to focus on Jr. racing, and pursue other interests. It didn’t hurt when we compared the weather forecast on the west coast versus our typical winter in Illinois!
Given the nature of ThisIsBracketRacing ELITE, we can work from anywhere. Plus we can justify our racing exploits as a chance to interact with our membership in person. Our new partnership with Moser Engineering simply adds gasoline to the fire. It’s literally the perfect storm: A once in a lifetime opportunity to set out on an epic west coast adventure!
We set sail back on February 10, and managed to make the tow from Southern Illinois to Las Vegas for a preseason test session without setback (no small feat). If you know my wife and myself, you know that the easiest way to our heart is via our stomach: we’re foodies! So it should come as no surprise that my only notable moments from the journey are centered around food. On day 1, we made a stop in Vinita, OK to meet my longtime friend Blake Allen and his son Dylan for dinner at world famous Clanton’s Cafe. The next morning, we made the obligatory stop at The Big Texan in Amarillo; where our oldest son Gary tried his best to convince us that he was up to the task of the “free” 72 oz. Steak (we were able to talk him off the ledge).
My biggest concern of the trip is roadside issues; once we get to the race track, I figure there’s not much we can’t handle! Two passes into our season, however, I was rethinking that statement! The #8 rod in Jessica’s dragster decided it wanted to see what life was like on the outside… of the oil pan. That’s not the start that I had in mind!
Fortunately, we had a spare motor in tow, and day later Jess was back in business! On the bright side, I was pleased with the performance of the new Huntsville Engine powerplant in my Moser Engineering backed Corvette. Plus we were able to complete a great photo shoot while in Vegas to showcase our new Moser look.
The next stop on our journey was the hallowed Fairgrounds of the Pomona Fairplex for the NHRA Winternationals. While our on-track performance was suboptimal (Jessica fell in round one, and I was bounced in round 3), I have to say that Pomona is a pretty amazing scene. There’s an electricity in the air, buoyed by the optimism of a new season. On a personal level, it was exciting to officially activate our new Moser Engineering partnership on the biggest stage of the early season. As if that wasn’t enough, I also got to take the stage Sunday morning during pre-race ceremonies to accept my 2021 NHRA Super Gas World Championship. Pretty surreal stuff.
If Pomona and the Winternationals weren’t the highlight of our trip, the ensuing three days definitely were – at least for the youngest half of our crew. We ditched the trailer for a few days (thank you Ryan and Willie Herem!) and setup camp at an RV park about 4 miles from the Happiest Place on Earth. To say that the boys enjoyed their stay at Disneyland would, predictably, be an understatement (the adults might have liked it too)!
As I write this column, we’re sitting in the pits in Phoenix for the NHRA Arizona Nationals. We’re here for a couple of weeks, as the opening Division 7 LODRS double header follows. From here, we’re off to Tucson for a big dollar bracket race (which includes Gary’s opportunity to compete… Yes, his Jr. Dragster is in the trailer as well!). Following a couple weeks off, we’ll wrap up the trip with a familiar 3-week stint in Las Vegas for the 4-wide Nationals, another double-header LODRS event, and the Spring Fling Million. We’ve made that 3-week swing on a couple occasions in the past; this time around we’re simply adding two months on the road preceding it! If that sounds like a full 10 weeks, I suppose that’s by design! Perhaps we’ll look back in a few months and say “What the heck were we thinking?!?!” I mean, 10 weeks in an RV… just the four of us? It could be a recipe for disaster. But at this point if we didn’t do it, I feel like we run the risk of looking back and saying, “What if?”
In the upcoming issues of National Dragster, I’ll dedicate this column to the nuances of our journey. In addition, we’re documenting the trip in video form by way of a vlog on the Moser Engineering YouTube Channel. Check it out for more of our epic adventure!