It was an interesting day today.
First off, the NHRA testing ban on Nitro cars was officially lifted on Monday and today Bob Tasca had his Funny Car on America's Greatest Drag Strip.
Our crew was anxious to get back to doing what we do better than any other track in the country...running nitro powered race cars. We are the premiere testing facility and we've missed out on shooting cars down the quarter-mile...I mean 1,000 footer...for quite some time. I'm glad to say that we're back in business and are proud to be helping the teams get ready for the 2009 season.
After making sure the timing system was hooked up and that our crew had the track dialed-in, I put on the old coat and tie and took off with our P.R. Director Jeff Motley to the State Government Building to meet with Gov. Jim Gibbons. One of the great things that NASCAR has put in place for the Whelen All-American Challenge Series is that each state champion gets a meet-and-greet opportunity with their governor. Motley got our program put in place and we met up with the Bullring track champion Scott Gafforini this morning for this special occasion.
It was an interesting meeting as Gov.Gibbons told us about his love for high-performance driving. He's been through several police agency driving programs and told us about his desire to really go through a high performance racing school. Soon the subject changed from Scotty's championship and trophy to the governor's love of muscle cars. He informed us that he's in the middle of getting an engine rebuilt and is looking at putting a 400 turbojet tranny in his car. That's when Scott told him that if he really wanted to get the car off the line a little better to consider some other options. It was quite surreal. The governor was talking about drag racing, Scotty was talking about street rods and I was thinking about just how cool it is that the governor is a car guy. He asked me to send him a schedule of races because he not only wants to come out to The Strip but he also wants to make a few passes in his own car.
That makes me wonder if we could put together an event out here where we get 50 equally matched cars, strap in 50 governors and let them run the oval, the drag strip and the road course. I'm going to see if our public relations staff of Motley, John Bisci and Aubrey Hall can make that happen. If they can, I'm going to be crew chief for the governor from Alaska...no offense Gov. Gibbons but that would be way cool.
The 2008 Duel in the Desert is in the books and David Murray Jr. has been crowned the champion for the second time in his career. I enjoyed the racing action in the feature event as the track had several grooves and a lightning-fast line around the top side. My experience at this year's event was far from usual. I found myself behind-the-scenes in the announcer's tower with race control and scoring in the next booth over. Most of the time I get in the car when it's my turn and go home when it's over, never giving much thought to the effort that goes into putting on the show.
The announcers are amazing and do a great job of keeping on top of car numbers, driver names, hometowns, sponsors, chassis types, and finishes. Computer keypads are clicking away on the announcing side while on the other side the pens and pencils are scribbling away keeping up with the scoring. Two-way radios carry the chatter of officials on and off the track as everyone communicates to keep the show moving. At times I found myself just sitting there listening, trying to take in all the organized chaos going on as the cars circled the track at high speed. Hats off to all the officials who worked so hard this weekend to help bring a great show to the fans and the racers.
Race fans certainly saw a racing variety show. Fifteen-year-old Nate Caruth and seventy-five-year-old Sherman Barnett won heat races in the modifieds. David Murray won the feature event riding the high line of the race track, Johnny Saathoff went through the middle groove to make his way to the runner-up spot and Reese Coffee hugged the bottom groove to make his way from the back to the front of the field. When the roar of the modifieds and full bodied stock cars subsided it was replaced by the bee-like buzz of the motorcycle powered Legend's cars. The final events of the night got you feeling a little nostalgic as the Bombers and Nevada Coupes took to the track for their feature events.
I really want to thank Chet, Chris, and Toby for putting up with a rookie in the booth, and LVMS for giving me the opportunity to see the other side of a race event. The experience will give me a greater perspective and has changed my attitude about racing in general. It was announced that the event will expand to four days of racing in 2009. I suggest you start planning, saving and preparing now. The racing action at this event is second to none. I cannot count how many times the announcers would say in unison, "WOW!" Don't believe me? Come see for yourself in 2009!
See you at the races, Dan Fitzgerald
Hello race fans!
I will be trading in my fire suit and seat belts at this season's Duel in the Desert for a microphone and a seat in the sky box. While I would much rather have the seat with the mud flying at my face shield, the change of perspective will be good for me. I have competed in the Duel since it first became an event in the late 1990's. However, I destroyed a car this summer and am currently in the process of completing a new ride for the 2009 season. This will be my first experience behind-the-scenes at the event and I'm excited.
Racers from all over the country converge on the half-mile of magic mud for the season-ending event for the International Motor Contest Association (IMCA). The list of past winners is a virtual ‘who's who' of the modified ranks. Close to 200 men and women are expected to fight for the 28 starting spots in the starting field for Saturday night's $5000 to win feature event. Just making the final field at this event will erase any bad memories racers may have of the 2008 race season. Be sure to keep an eye on racers Todd Shute, Christy Georges, Johnny Saathoff, David Murray, and Brad Pounds, just to name a few.
The track surface always provides great racing with several grooves to choose from. Many drivers prefer the low-line right around the tractor tires lining the infield, while those gutsier drivers take on the high-side running just inches off the outside retaining wall. The best (or craziest) racers shoot off the occasional shower of sparks as the tip of their rear bumper gently grazes the concrete barrier.
During the earlier events you will notice the speed of the cars, but as the track dries out you will notice ability of the drivers to finesse the car. The drying surface becomes really slick, like ice, and drivers have to keep the tires from spinning by easing onto the accelerator. Forward bite is something drivers will search for as the night wears on and the track wears out.
This year the IMCA Stock cars, Legends cars, and Bombers will also be hitting the track at the Duel. If you haven't seen the stock cars before, you will not be disappointed. While back in Iowa visiting friends, I have taken in some IMCA stock car races and they are amazing! The racing is always close, clean and entertaining. I'm hoping there is a large field in every class.
It will be nice not having the pressure of competing, however I think the pressure of announcing will be worse! Will I stumble over my words? Will I ramble on about nothing? Will I sound like a fool? YIKES! Keep those fingers crossed for me as I embark on a very new endeavor. I hope to check in with you all again before the weekend is up.
See you at the track!
Well, it has been a couple of weeks since my first blog. I have a lot to chat about, so let's get to it! I have had the pleasure to flag two great weekends of racing: the Fall Classic, two weeks ago and Speedfest, this past weekend.
Let's start with the Fall Classic. What a great seat I had for some of the best racing I have seen in quite a while at the Fall Classic. It was a good weekend to see everyone having a good time and we had lots of cars to watch battle it out on the track. The Fall Classic is always a bittersweet time for me because it means a great night of racing, but it also means that the racing season is coming to an end, and that I will have to wait during the winter for more asphalt racing. It is fun to see all of the different racecars that come to the Fall Classic. People that normally don't race here because they are racing at their own home tracks are able to come hang out with the racers and fans in Vegas and put on a great show. Congratulations to all the winners! And I can't wait until next year!
This past weekend at Speedfest was something for the record books. It was the return of the Super Modifieds to the track since it was repaved that had me on the edge of my seat! We broke the track record at 12.459 during the SuperMod qualifying session!! Those cars are wicked fast and I could not get over how they could stop in time to make the turns...it was awesome! If anyone of you were there, you noticed that I didn't flag all of the races. The Supermods and the SRL divisions brought their own flaggers, which was way cool because for the first time in a while, I was actually able to enjoy the races as a spectator. The speed and the centrifugal force that the Supermods put out was amazing and it was a feeling I will never forget. I stayed in the flag stand to experience the race...one word to describe that experience: sweet!!! It was really cool! I did have the opportunity to flag the USAC Quarter Midgets for the first time and it was awesome! They move so quick and I had to be ready on the lights just in case there was a wreck so I could get the field slowed down quickly if we needed to. Our bandalero drivers did a great job, and as always, I love seeing the kids come out there and race. They are the future of racing! The best part of the night was to see one of our local drivers take home the win. The Bullring's local driver Bear Rzesnowiecky won the SRL feature. I have seen Bear drive many different cars and he was fantastic during that race. The first time in that type of car and he wins! It was terrific!
This weekend I am going to hang up my flags until next weekend at the Duel in the Desert and spend some time with my friends over at The Strip. I will be taking my position in the water box for the Lucas Oil Division 7 races. Drag races are a completely different animal than the "roundy round" races that I am very comfortable with. You definitely have to be on your toes over at the drag strip. But in two weeks, you can catch me over at the Dirt Track flagging the Duel in the Desert. I hope the weather will hold up and not be too terribly cold. It is more painful when the cars kick up the rocks that hit Bryan and I in the flag stand...but cold or not, I look forward to some good racing!
I think that is it for now...See ya at the races!
I am waiting for my flight back to New Jersey, usually on Mondays I like to sleep in and take my time going home. I am in the Continental Airlines Club, a must for frequent fliers.
They have snacks, drinks, comfortable chairs and most important free Wi- Fi! I forgot to mention that the entire airport here in Las Vegas has free Wi- Fi. Maybe Newark Airport will get the message and do the same. Probably not! The best part about the lounge is that there is not one Wheel of Fortune slot machine in view. Thank God for that one. I might have lost 30 dollars playing random slot machines this weekend. I did not place one bet on the races, and that was a good thing because most of the favorites won the race.
First, a few things I forgot to mention in my prior blogs: One was my chance encounter meeting with NASCAR car owner Ray Evernham on Friday in the tower press room. He was just inside the door when I walked in to say hi to some friends and I could not resist a chance to chat with him. He, like yours truly, grew up close to the Jersey Shore (What exit?) so we have some things in common. When Ray was just a local short track racer at Wall Speedway he would do odds and ends on customers' racecars. Back in the 80's he installed the roll bar in my friend Joe Mocci's M/SA 1969 Camaro. I mentioned that to him and he asked if my friend ever needed it and I said, no way. He brought up the fact that Wall Speedway was going to have what might be their last ever Turkey Derby race on Thanksgiving weekend. The track is due to close and that is a real shame for everyone. We chatted for a few more seconds. I knew at that point my time was up. I thanked him for coming to the drags and wished him an enjoyable afternoon. The other celebrity I met was a woman named "Brooklyn," as in New York, who I met at a club on Saturday night. She was way cool, 90 under the index in Comp Eliminator Speak. I did not get her real name but I knew where she was from so that's what I called her. You can meet some nice people in Las Vegas in the middle of the night.
Race Day; Things got crazy.
On Sunday morning I woke about at 7:30 a.m. which was about half an hour later than I wanted to. While getting ready I received at phone call from Eric (the show producer) asking me where I was. I told him I was still at the hotel and asked if there was anything I could help him with? He was getting ready for race day (a Dave Reiff and Mike Dunn Spectacular) and had some "stat" questions for me. When he realized I was not at the track he said goodbye and that left me with the usual thoughts about my job security. I would buzz out to the track and arrive in the TV Compound just after the Live Race day show was finished. I ran into Eric right off the bat and it seemed everything was cool. My next stop was breakfast in the tent with the rest of the crew. For some reason everyone looked a little bit sleepy!
Post breakfast, it was time to start preparing for the first round of eliminations coming up at 11 a.m. I had already done work on the TF and FC class on Saturday night so all that was left was PS car. The PSM class first round is highlights so I typically see what happens and give info to Paul and Mike about each rider. PS car "stat" usually take about one hour to look up. Most of the work, as I said in a prior blog, is done before I get to the racetrack. Once done with PS, I spent time checking out the ladder in the Professional Classes to see what stat I can give the guys when the ladders are shown on TV. Sometimes the pairs speak for themselves. Next on my list is a social visit to the tower to say hi to all my friends in the business that work the control room and the press room plus a stop to say hi to Bob, Alan and Leo. That proved to be a lot of fun, as everyone knew what trouble I got into the night before. They all had a good laugh at my expense and that was OK with me! I went back to the TV truck to get ready for the first round and as we say in the business "sell" my stat adds to my boss Eric. The best one that did not make air was how Laurie Force took John to her 40th High School reunion. She said that as usual her husband was the star of the night working the room as only he can. With some quick math you can guess how old Laurie is. She is a really nice lady. My job as the "Stat Guy" is to come up with something that no one else would know. Except maybe Bob Frey! I keep track of Team Force and when Ashley won the first round that was the 1,700th round of racing won by Team Force drivers. That was my add for round one...nothing out of the box, but a decent number. I did also mention that John is responsible for over 1,000 of those round wins and that he became a team back in 1996. The best part of that number is that a couple of those round wins came from Phil Burkart, who filled in for John at the last two races of last season. I totally forgot about Phil when I complied my list a couple of months ago, but was reminded when Dave Densmore (PR guy for all others to be judged by) took a look at it for me. Imagine when Team Force wins their 2,000th round of racing; I will be all over that one. There were some surprises in the first round of FC when Tim Wilkerson lost to Mike Neff. Then Jack Beckman fouled out and the entire ball game changed in FC. PS continued and then we went into the PSM class.
The one problem about my job is that there is virtually no time to prepare for the second round racing since there is a very quick turnaround. I really have no issues with that because a good, tight, quick show is way better drag racing entertainment. Tony Schumacher continued his march towards the history books in round two. For the second round of the show, we had Tim Wilkerson in the booth. I have to say Tim did a great job, he did not hold back and had some great lines. Consider the fact that his loss in the first round could eventually cost him $400,000! He came in and worked with Paul and Mike and showed some real dignity and class. I came up with some numbers, worst-case scenario, on where he would be in the points if Cruz Pedregon, Tony Pedregon or Robert Hight won the race. We used a shot of my brand new Apple Computer (I am a huge fan and so is Mike Dunn) and I showed the Excel Program I use to calculate points. Round two continued and we would have some awesome match-up's in the semis of FC and PSM. Tony Pedregon would take on his former teammate Robert Hight and Eddie Krawiec would take on Matt Smith.
The semis are a chance for me to take a breath and do some serious research. The whole time in the back of my brain is the thought "What would Bob do?" I really try to find info that no one would know, but sometimes I miss the obvious. If you read Bob's column on Drag Race Central you know what I am talking about. His Tuesday race review is my way to check my work from the previous race. I looked up information about all the drivers still in and had a chance to use some of my numbers about how dominant Tony Schumacher and Alan Johnson have been in the 1,000 foot era. I stumbled my way through that on the air and at that point I was already thinking about the finals. Robert Hight would take out Tony Pedregon and Eddie Krawiec (former E- town Manager and soon to be married to the lovely Ann Marie) beat Matt Smith on a hole-shot in an incredible race. The finals were set and I was ready to get to work on my notes.
I had two stats ready for the FINALS but they needed some help from two drivers. Unfortunately, Eddie lost with a terrible reaction time to Chris Rivas so there goes that opportunity. Chris, a very nice man, has already won this season and is in position to possibly win the championship. If Eddie would have won, I would have had a couple of stats, but it would have been more about my long relationship with his family. I am actually going to be his wedding photographer Thanksgiving weekend! I had nothing for the PS Final other than what I gave Paul. Jeg won and pretty much locked up the championship. The guy is MONEY! FC had several possibilities stats-wise. Cruz won Richmond, so I looked up the last time he won back-to-back races, well with the help of Dave Reiff (assistant stat guy and good friend) we found the last time Cruz won back-to-back was 14 years ago! Wow! My other add was the last time both the TF and FC number one qualifier won back-to-back races from the pole was 10 years ago. Well, Robert Hight lost and that one went by the way side. I thought the Cruz add was better for Paul and he took and care of that one as did Dave Reiff when he interviewed Rahn Tobler. Shoe took care of Rod Fuller, whose car looked awesome and the race was over.
I headed over to the winner's circle to congratulate the drivers who have won the race. I first look for Anthony and Malinda Bertozzi to help celebrate Anthony's Super Stock win. Anthony beat one of the best in Dan Fletcher who was trying once again to pull off the double. Fletcher won Comp in Rick Braun's car but could not close the deal in Super Stock when he was a little late on the tree. Some day Fletch will score the big one! I talked to all of the Pro winners; Cruz knew it had been a long time since he won back-to-back races. Eventually, I made my way up to the press room to pick up copies of the race results so I can add the information to my files. After that I said a couple of good-byes (Kim!) and left The Strip. It is kind of melancholy when I leave a race. I feel I have some emotional contact with the place after spending three days there. Matt and I headed back to our hotel for some relaxation and good food.
Dinner was awesome. We went to a restaurant in the Forum Shops at Caesar's; I believe Wolfgang Puck owned it. Dinner was great and we even saw several drag racing family members, most notable Richie Stevens and his girlfriend Erica Enders. The sport really needs her back in a PS car! We went back to our hotel and Matt chilled while I went for a drink with some of my ESPN workers. I was exhausted, so an early bedtime was in order. We took our time going to the airport on Monday and by now you know the rest of my trip.
I want to thank you for reading my first-ever NHRA race weekend blog. Who knows, maybe it will be the start of something big. Thanks to the staff at LVMS for their help. And most of all Chris Blair who I believe now OWES me lunch! Lastly, writing is really a very good form of therapy. I feel much better now. See you at the FINALS!
7:08 p.m. -- Comments from 2008 NHRA Top Fuel champion Tony Schumacher, who earned his 15th victory of the season and the 56th of his career Sunday at the ACDelco Las Vegas NHRA Nationals:
(The big question is, what's left to accomplish in Pomona?) "It's Pomona, man. It's the end of the year; I can't wait. Every race we've won, it gets harder and harder to do because the bar is so high. I just want to go to Pomona and have fun. There were some times in the season where you've won a lot and our points were getting taken away because of the Countdown and then you go, ‘OK, we've absolutely got to close this thing.' To not capitalize on (a season) so good would have been devastating. I've said it many times, if we can't close the deal, we don't deserve it. We definitely have and I think we've proven to everybody that we deserve it."
(Going into the final round, Rod Fuller said that he wanted you in his house in the final round. Did that get you any more pumped up in the final?) It did, I guarantee it. At some point, you just call in sick if you're getting me, maybe. I get it because I would want to race us, too. When you win a race and you beat the guy that's the best at the time, that's what's great - it really is. He's just had some bad circumstances because we've beaten him so many times and it makes it look bad. He just keeps asking and we'll keep giving it to him, I guess. Right now, if I had to race against the Army car myself, I wouldn't be looking forward to it. I don't think he'd answer the same way if you asked him now."
Good night from The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
6:44 p.m. -- Comments from Funny Car driver Cruz Pedregon, who earned this second victory of the season and 25th of his career Sunday at the ACDelco Las Vegas NHRA Nationals:
(You said that first round with Jack Beckman was the most emotional and important win of your career, that final round had to even surpass that.) "It did, but not by much. I didn't hardly sleep last night. That car of Beckman's has been so good this year - as good as Wilkerson's - but they seem to be able to run fast when the track is fast. As good a season as Wilkerson has had, Wilkerson's strengths are more of a hot track and Beckman is dangerous because he can run good when the track is fast and this was a faster track today. After first round, things just kind of kept going from there and we got to the semis. I knew John Force was running good and I knew John was going to be up for me. John Force is absolutely like Dale Earnhardt and I'm sure all the Dale Earnhardt fans would welcome that comparison because John has meant a lot to this sport, he's done a lot. He's like a boxer that's hurt on the ropes - he's a little wobbly but that's when he's the most dangerous.
"Going into the final, Robert Hight ... that car scares the daylights out of me, too, because it seems to run good when the track's cooler and they're a fast-track racecar. I didn't want to get caught up in the championship points, I just went up there and just tried to maintain my emotions because it seemed like every round was like a championship round and I tried not to think too much about that. So I maintained my focus, which I'm pleased with and we got the win against Robert, which I'm pleased with."
5:59 p.m. -- Comments from Pro Stock Motorcycle rider Chris Rivas, who earned this third victory of the season and third career win Sunday at the ACDelco Las Vegas NHRA Nationals:
(You trail Matt Smith by 39 points with one race remaining. How does it feel to be at that point after this win?) "It feels pretty incredible. I honestly didn't expect it. There were a few people said that we definitely had the possibility for this year. The team is so strong, with George Smith leading the way. It's been an incredible opportunity for me this year. I just feel so blessed to be on a team like this and get to show off some of the talent that God has given me."
(What do you have to do now to close the gap on the other two guys in front of you?) "The same thing we've always been doing. We don't have to do anything different, it's part of racing, it's circumstances that have to come together and come to you. That's kind of what this event worked out to be. We qualified fifth and we weren't really that strong ... fifth position, mathematically we shouldn't have won the race but it's just all the events fell into place the way it's supposed to and it's kind of out of my hands at that point. There was a very small part of me that was rooting for Eddie (Krawiec) because he needed his first win but, of course, I always want to win."
4:55 p.m. - Tony Schumacher capped his championship weekend by defeating Las Vegas resident Rod Fuller in the Top Fuel final of the eighth annual ACDelco Las Vegas NHRA Nationals. Schumacher clinched the 2008 NHRA Top Fuel season championship on Saturday when he qualified for Sunday's eliminations.
Cruz Pedregon captured the Funny Car title by outrunning Robert Hight and took over the points lead in the category. Jeg Coughlin (Pro Stock) and Chris Rivas (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also won on Sunday.
4:34 p.m. - Final results from the eighth annual ACDelco Las Vegas NHRA Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway:
Top Fuel: Tony Schumacher (3.806 at 314.53 mph) def. Rod Fuller (3.821 at 315.19)
Funny Car: Cruz Pedregon (4.100 at 304.67 mph) def. Robert Hight (4.111 at 304.67).
Pro Stock: Jeg Coughlin (6.708 at 205.07 mph) def. Greg Stanfield (foul).
Pro Stock Motorcycle: Chris Rivas (7.052 at 185.79 mph) def. Eddie Krawiec (7.307 at 152.31)
Check back shortly for comments from the winning drivers.
3:22 p.m. - Semifinals winners and final-round matchup in Pro Stock Motorcycle:
Semifinals: Eddie Krawiec (7.042 at 189.34 mph) def. Matt Smith (7.039 at 186.41); Chris Rivas (7.095 at 183.12 mph) def. Andrew Hines (foul).
Final: Krawiec vs. Rivas.
3:15 p.m. - Semifinals winners and final-round matchup in Pro Stock:
Semifinals: Greg Stanfield (6.737 at 204.39 mph) def. Greg Anderson (24.669 at 26.11); Jeg Coughlin (6.719 at 204.51) def. Allen Johnson (6.744 at 204.01).
Final: Stanfield vs. Coughlin.
3:09 p.m. - Semifinals winners and final-round matchup in Funny Car:
Semifinals: Cruz Pedregon (4.092 at 305.36 mph) def. John Force (4.111 at 300.86); Robert Hight (4.115 at 298.80) def. Tony Pedregon (4.151 at 300.53).
Final: C. Pedregon vs. Hight.
3:01 p.m. - Semifinals winners and final-round matchup in Top Fuel:
Semifinals: Tony Schumacher (3.833 at 305.15 mph) def. Larry Dixon (3.899 at 305.56); Rod Fuller (3.821 at 314.46) def. Antron Brown (5.960 at 104.96).
Final: Schumacher vs. Fuller.
2:40 p.m. - NAPA Auto Parts Funny Car driver Ron Capps had a chance to test the NHRA's newly mandated Electrimotion Safety Shutoff Controller during his first-round loss to Ashley Force.
The controller is designed to shut off fuel and ignition to the engine and deploy the parachutes as a result of a variety of engine or mechanical failures. The system deployed on Capps' car when his supercharger exploded toward the end of the run.
"We were actually ahead of Ashley, according to the time slip," Capps said, "and for some reason it struck the tires loose in a very weird spot, pretty far out during the run, which just doesn't seem to happen very often.
"It was so quick. It struck the tires and then exploded the supercharger right after that. If there is a bright side, we have the new shutoff controller on it, so when an explosion happens like that it shuts the fuel off and puts the parachute out.
"As soon as it blew up, I reached down to shut the fuel off, because you're trained to do that as a driver, and it was already off. So the chute was out and everything did its job. If something like that happens and you get knocked out or something goes very wrong with the car, having that system is a good thing. It worked."
2:08 p.m. - A pair of interesting matchups will make the Funny Car semifinals a must-see event. It'll be the Pedregons vs. John Force Racing as Robert Hight will meet Tony Pedregon in one semifinal and John Force will face Cruz Pedregon in the other.
"All due respect to those guys, they're a tough team," Tony Pedregon said of John Force Racing. "They're like family and it's kind of like a love-hate relationship only because we're competitive. I know what's on the line ... and I'm excited."
Force, as expected, was revved up after knocking off Melanie Troxel and advancing to the semifinals against Cruz Pedregon.
"There's nothing I'd love better than to have a shot at this title," Force said. If I can do my job here and take out one of these Pedregons and Robert (Hight) can do it, we've got a shot at winning. What's cool is that the Pedregon boys, they're good, but so are we."
1:55 p.m. -- Second-round winners and semifinals matchups in Pro Stock Motorcycle:
Second round: Andrew Hines def. Angelle Sampey (foul); Chris Rivas def. Chip Ellis; Eddie Krawiec def Mike Berry; Matt Smith def. Steve Johnson.
Semifinals: Hines vs. Rivas; Krawiec vs. Smith.
1:45 p.m. -- Second-round winners and semifinals matchups in Pro Stock:
Second round: Jeg Coughlin def. Dave Connolly; Allen Johnson def. Ron Krisher; Greg Anderson def. Mike Edwards (foul); Greg Stanfield def Kurt Johnson (foul).
Semifinals: Coughlin vs. A. Johnson; Anderson vs. Stanfield.
1:35 p.m. -- Second-round winners and semifinals matchups in Funny Car:
Second round: Robert Hight def. Mike Neff; Tony Pedregon def. Ashley Force; John Force def. Melanie Troxel; Cruz Pedregon def. Gary Densham (foul).
Semifinals: Hight vs. T. Pedregon; vs. J. Force vs. C. Pedregon.
1:10 p.m. - Second-round winners and semifinals matchups in Top Fuel:
Second round: Tony Schumacher def. Clary Millican; Larry Dixon def. Cory McClenathan; Antron Brown def. David Grubnic; Rod Fuller def. Hillary Will.
Semi-finals: Schumacher vs. Dixon; Brown vs. Fuller.
12:51 p.m. -- First-round winners and second-round matchups in Pro Stock Motorcycle:
First round: Angelle Smpaey def. Junior Pippin; Andrew Hines def. Craig Treble; Chip Ellis def. Angie McBride; Chris Rivas def. Michael Phillips; Eddie Krawiec def. Shawn Gann; Mike Berry def. Karen Stoffer; Steve Johnson def. Hector Arana; Matt Smith def. Matt Guidera.
Second round: Sampey vs. Hines; Ellis vs. Rivas; Krawiec vs. Berry; Johnson vs. Smith.
12:27 p.m. -- First-round winners and second-round matchups in Pro Stock:
First round: Jeg Coughlin def. Rickie Jones; Dave Connolly def. Warren Johnson; Allen Johnson def. Vinnie Deceglie; Ron Krisher def. V Gaines; Greg Anderson def. Justin Humphreys; Mike Edwards def. Jim Yates; Greg Stanfield def. Jason Line; Kurt Johnson def. Richie Stevens.
Second round: Coughlin vs. Connolly; A. Johnson vs. Krisher; Anderson vs. Edwards; Stanfield vs. K. Johnson.
12:08 p.m. - Tim Wilkerson won't be joining Tony Schumacher in celebrating an NHRA World Championship in Las Vegas. Wilkerson, who held a 52-point lead in the Funny Car standings going into Sunday's eliminations, lost traction early in his first-round run against Mike Neff.
"We sure weren't trying to do that," Wilkerson said after the first-round loss. "We got down the track about 300 feet and spun the tires. Hey, the drama continues, right?"
Noon - First-round winners and second-round matchups in Funny Car: Robert Hight def. Tony Bartone; Mike Neff def. Tim Wilkerson; Ashley Force def. Ron Capps; Tony Pedregon def. Bob Tasca; John Force def. Jeff Arend; Melanie Troxel def. Gary Scelzi; Gary Densham def. Jerry Toliver; Cruz Pedregon def. Jack Beckman.
Second round: Hight vs. Neff; A. Force vs. T. Pedregon; J. Force vs. Troxel; Densham vs. C. Pedregon.
11:27 a.m. -- First-round winners and second-round matchups in Top Fuel:
First round: Tony Schumacher def. Joe Hartley; Clay Millican def. Brandon Bernstein; Larry Dixon def. Terry McMillen; Cory McClenathan def. Morgan Lucas; Antron Brown def. Troy Buff; David Grubnic def. J.R. Todd; Rod Fuller def. Tim Boychuk; Hillary Will def. Doug Kalitta.
Second round: Schumacher vs Millican; Dixon vs. McClenathan; Brown vs. Grubnic; Fuller vs. Will.
10:30 a.m. - Angelle Sampey, the three-time Pro Stock Motorcycle World Champion and the No. 1 qualifier this weekend, apparently has had enough of being dwarfed by the statuesque Las Vegas showgirls who flank the stage during driver introductions at The Strip.
Sampey, who stands an even 5 feet tall, brought her own milk crate to stand on this morning while she addressed the crowd from the stage. The added lift allowed Sampey to look the two showgirls in the eyes.
10:20 a.m. - Good morning from The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway where it's sunny and windy for final eliminations for the eighth annual ACDelco Las Vegas NHRA Nationals. Although there is only a slight chance (10 percent) of rain forecast for today, the wind is gusting to 33 mph out of the south. Pre-race ceremonies and driver introductions are under way and eliminations are scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. (PST).
Check back here often, as we'll be updating this blog throughout the day with news, results and driver interviews.
Dateline: Saturday morning....LIVE from the ESPN TV Compound!
Last night was an early night...really sad for yours truly! Dinner at the Hard Rock was fun and then a quick tour of the casino to check out the Halloween-themed costumes was a blast but at 11:30 p.m. I was in sleep mode... bummer, total bummer!
Wow, what a day for a drag race. Nice weather and hopefully a great crowd. As I write this it is the start of Pro Stock Motorcycle qualifying session number three. I have been in the truck since 9:30 a.m. getting ready for our first show of the weekend. We, as in yours truly, Paul Page, Mike Dunn and our producer Eric S. go over highlights from Friday's qualifying. Of course we pick the best runs from the Sarge and the race for second in Top Fuel. In Funny Car we pretty much stick with the top five in points. Last night we saw the third quickest run in the 1000 foot era by Tony Schumacher and his crew chief Alan Johnson. What's great about the Las Vegas race this year is the amount of cars racing in both Nitro classes. Is it the location of the race, the facility or is the fact that you can race and have a whole lot of fun in town that brings out all the competitors?
I have pretty much done all my work prior to the event so I spent some time this morning in the tower working the room. I love to see Kim, the woman who works the clocks here at The Strip. She is smart, funny and a real pleasure to talk to. Her nickname among those in the know is "Super Cute," which is a dead on the "DIAL" nickname. After some time in the control room I had a chance to talk to Bob Tasca III who was in the press room to announce his alliance with Tim Wilkerson for next season. Tim will be driving a Ford, just as "Stat Guy" does. Mine has over 237,000 miles on it though. I would say the alliance is a great deal for both teams. After a quick tour of the Super Stock lanes to say hi to some of my friends from both coasts, it was time to go back to the truck and get ready for work.
At the moment Paul and Mike are practicing the open for the qualifying show seen tonight on ESPN2. I am in the process of getting ready for session 4 of Pro Stock Motorcycle. I have already looked up the fact that Angelle Sampey will possibly score her first pole of the season on the Buell that she rides for Karl Klemment. She would also become the Pro Stock Motorcycle rider with the most number one's in history. I would call that a COOL STAT. She has not won a race this season, so maybe her first number one finish on the Buell would give her some momentum on race day. We will see......I do love the bikes, it is a great class. My favorite thing about a Pro Stock Motorcycle class is the fact that you can actually see the person in control of the vehicle as it rockets down the race track. We do not promote that fact enough in the drag racing media. Pro Stock Motorcycle driver Eddie Krawiec looks like he will pick up qualifying points on Matt Smith and turn a three-round deficit into just two.
Pro Stock car is on the track right now so things are going to get crazy in here real soon. Jason Line just made a really awesome pass. He was a field bet at the Palace Station at 18 - 1, did yours truly place a bet, no way! Mr. Cool Jeg Coughlin was number one after last night and so far, I do not see that changing in any way. He is so good under pressure it would take a major disaster for him not to win his fourth Pro Stock Car Championship. What I love most about Jeg is the fact that he still bracket races in his time off and wins in that arena just as much as he does in Pro Stock car.
Time to focus. Stat Guy needs to concentrate! Be back later with more updates.....
Top Fuel is on the race track. This is the Top Fuel debut of Terry Haddock. He won the last possible IHRA Funny Car Championship a couple of weeks ago and is here racing Top Fuel for the first time ever. He is a man determined on making a career in drag racing. He has raced Funny Car for many years and has survived some of the most wicked Funny Car fires ever. I wish him the best racing in Top Fuel. There is another oil down so I have time to get ready for Pro Stock car. We usually show about six to eight pairs of cars in the FINAL session. As I said earlier, I did all my work at home so all I have to do is add some notes here and there and hit the print button. Back in the Marty Reid era I wrote things by hand. He thought I could have been a doctor based on my penmanship. My mom would have loved a Jewish doctor in the family. She got a drag racing announcer/Stat Guy instead.
Next up is my first add involving Tim Richards when Brandon Bernstein runs, hopefully I will not screw it up. How's my hair? Well, we ran out of time so no "Stat Guy" just yet. I do get nervous before going on air, I think that is natural but my personality is not to be calm. Top Fuel features the quickest field in 1,000-foot history. We also have 23 cars in Top Fuel this weekend, the most this season. All facts I am responsible to look up and keep track of. Antron Brown made a fantastic pass, low for the session. Shoe and Cory Mac are last up, then it's time for the reason I became a drag racing fan: Funny Car. Blame it all on the late "Jungle Jim," or maybe "Jungle Pam". Shoe makes another good pass but Antron Brown and Lee Beard are low for the round. It's Funny Car time!
First up, Robert Hight and Jimmy Prock made a great run going 4.08 seconds. I then received a text message from Alan Reinhart on when John Force was last #1 qualifier. The answer is Indy 2006. It has been a while for the 14-time champ. Things seem to be going well, no stat drama yet. Qualifying has had some decent runs. Cloud cover always helps out a race track. The best part about TV is lunch which is coming up real soon, I am starving. Funny Car ends with a nice side by side run by Force and Cruz. I had a great add about Lori Force and John's time off between races, but once again no time. I keep selling stats as we say in the ‘biz.'
Lunch is over and it's time to go back to work. We will see how much I can blog here in the fourth session. It should be busy. We have some guests in the booth: Mike Dunn's sister, Patty, who brought her friend Patty to the booth also, how weird is that. She lives on the West coast and if you saw her you would know she was a member of the Dunn Family.
Did my first "Stat Guy" add on my one year anniversary about qualifying in points in Pro Stock Motorcycle relating to Matt Smith and Eddie Krawiec. Angelle stayed number one, her first this season. I have watched her career as long as anyone since she had her star racing debut at Atlanta racing Top Gas at the time at an AMA/Dragbike Event. She has been a friend for a long time. Congrats to her and her team.
Pro Stock car went by with Jeg Coughlin staying number one, no surprise there. He has not lost in the first round since Seattle, so I look for him to leave here with the championship or a substantial lead tomorrow.
TF is on the race track. Shoe virtually clinches based on the number of cars left to run. We announce he is the champion. NHRA will make it official after qualifying. Alan Johnson is the man and think about this stat: Tony has only lost one round of racing in the 1,000-foot era, the final round at Dallas and that was on a slight hole shot. He is now a six-time TF Champion. Congrats to the entire Army TF team. Qualifying continues so we will see what happens next. The track has a pretty good cloud cover it and JR Todd and Brandon Bernstein both run 3.86 seconds. I did an add on Tim Richards and his only NHRA race win back at Atco in 1971 racing in Super Stock. I wonder if Bob Frey was announcing that race? Shoe will most likely stay number one and he would be one pole away from tying Joe Amato for first on the all time number one qualifying list in TF. Any moment now Shoe will take his victory lap or is it victory run down the quarter-mile here at The Strip. The last two years he has won the championship on the final run of the season. This year he will have two weeks to work on his speech. What a victory lap it was, the fastest speed in the 1000 foot era almost 319 mph. Someone will run 320 at the FINALS!
One class away from being done for today and that will be to set the field in FC. Then the real work starts getting ready for race day. I work on TF and FC before leaving the truck to go to dinner. Where that will be and what time it will be remains to be seen. The story in FC is weather John Force will stay #1 and who Tim Wilkerson and Jack Beckman will race in round one tomorrow. The Schumacher celebration is under way just prior Bob Tasca makes an excellent pass to get in the field. They say some weather is on the way, hopefully we will get the entire session in. Tony Pedregon goes from out of the field to #3 and Jerry Toliver along side runs even quicker at 4.06 seconds. I can SMELL the Nitro here in the TV truck, YUM! The cloud cover has provided us with some great Hi-Def shots of Header Flames, reason number one to get a new LCD TV. Wilkerson and Beckman do not improve their qualifying position. Two pairs away from being done. All that is left is three-fourths of Team Force. Ashley, Robert and John. Robert Hight and Jimmy Prock steal the pole from John Force with another monster run, alongside Ashley Force becomes the 1st FC driver to run over 310 in the 1000 foot era of Drag Racing. The fastest speed ever in FC history both in the ¼ mile and 1000 foot era have come here at the Strip. That's something everyone here should be proud of.
That's blog number three for the weekend. I will probably have less time to update on Sunday. I really do work non- stop once racing starts. We will see if time allows.
6:40 p.m. - Comments from Robert Hight, the top qualifier in Funny Car:
"That was probably the most confusing run I've ever made, having to do the burnout, it's raining, I see the water on the side windows, I get back past the tree and then have to shut it off. That kind of scenario throws you all off and we can't have that - it can be dangerous.
"Right now, for this Auto Club Ford team, we have to make every point count. We could be perfect from here on out and still not win this championship. Number-one qualifier here, win this race, go to Pomona and be number one and win the race and that still might not be enough. We've been number one here a lot and lost first round, too. We're still in this ballgame and we can do it."
6:25 p.m. - Comments from Tony Schumacher, the 2008 Top Fuel World Champion and No. 1 qualifier for Sunday's eighth annual ACDelco Las Vegas NHRA Nationals:
"It's very gratifying to end up number one because after the whole season being as great as it was ... we show up and it's like ‘all you have to do is qualify (to win the championship).' We've got to remember we won 14 races, we didn't just have to qualify - we had to do all that to get here. So to be on the number-one spot, at least it goes out there a little bit of an exclamation point that we've clearly earned it. I don't think there's a question anywhere in the country that we left anything on the table.
"To be able to do it in Vegas, I think it was great. There's just something special about Las Vegas. It's an amazing racetrack, amazing fans, amazing crowd and it has been a fun weekend. There are so many things are happening out here and to put this right in the middle of it and to cap off such a great year is perfect.
"We've got the championship done, it's over now, and we're going to show up tomorrow and dig just as deep as we've done since the beginning of the year and do it for pride right now. If we get beat, it's not going to be because we left something on the table."
5:55 p.m. -- Here are the 16 qualifiers in Funny Car for the eighth annual ACDelco Las Vegas NHRA Nationals: 1. Robert Hight; 2. John Force; 3. Jerry Toliver; 4. Ashley Force; 5. Tony Pedregon; 6. Cruz Pedregon; 7. Melanie Troxel; 8. Tim Wilkerson; 9. Mike Neff; 10. Gary Scelzi; 11. Jack Beckman; 12. Bob Tasca III; 13. Ron Capps; 14. Gary Densham; 15. Jeff Arend; 16. Tony Bartone.
5:09 p.m. -- Here are the 16 qualifiers in Top Fuel for the eighth annual ACDelco Las Vegas NHRA Nationals: 1. Tony Schumacher; 2. Antron Brown; 3. Rod Fuller; 4. Larry Dixon; 5. Cory McClenathan; 6. Hillary Will; 7. J.R. Todd; 8. Brandon Bernstein; 9. Clay Milllican; 10. David Grubnic; 11. Doug Kalitta; 12, Morgan Lucas; 13. Terry McMillen; 14. Tom Boychuk; 15. Troy Buff; 16. Joe Hartley.
4:58 p.m. - Tony Schumacher clinched the 2008 Top Fuel World Championship with a spectacular run of 3.806 seconds at 318.92 mph on his final qualifying run today. Stand by for comments from the champ.
4:15 p.m. - Comments from Jeg Coughlin, the top qualifier in Pro Stock:
"We've had a great start thus far. The first two shots Friday, we were the number-one qualifier, running 6.70s both times. We got a little aggressive in the left lane this morning. I really felt like we could maybe try and tickle a (6.60) out of this thing and we didn't get away with it and we had to abort the run. But we came back and ran a nice (6.73) and tied for low of the round with Jason Line.
"The momentum we were looking for, the consistency we were looking for, is exactly what we accomplished. We didn't plan on aborting that run this morning but we've got that behind us and I really feel confident going into race day."
3:51 p.m. - Here are the 16 qualifiers in Pro Stock for the eighth annual ACDelco Las Vegas NHRA Nationals:
1. Jeg Coughlin; 2. Greg Anderson; 3. Jason Line; 4. Allen Johnson; 5. V. Gaines; 6. Kurt Johnson; 7. Mike Edwards; 8. Warren Johnson; 9. Dave Connolly; 10. Jim Yates; 11. Richie Stevens; 12. Ron Krisher; 13. Vinnie Deceglie; 14. Greg Stanfield; 15. Justin Humphreys; 16. Rickie Jones.
3:44 p.m. - Comments from Angelle Sampey, the top qualifier in Pro Stock Motorcycle:
"After the first round today, I was praying for a 20-mile-per-hour headwind because I really wanted to keep the number-one spot but I guess I didn't need it. The weather conditions worsened all day long ... so I thought I was pretty safe. I'm really excited - I haven't been number-one qualifier in so long I've forgotten what it feels like. I don't know what my chances are of finishing third, second or first - and it doesn't really matter at this point. What really matters at this point is that we get our first win for the season. That's what we'll be concentrating on tomorrow."
3:26 p.m. - Here are the 16 qualifiers in Pro Stock motorcycle for the eighth annual ACDelco Las Vegas NHRA Nationals:
1. Angelle Sampey; 2. Eddie Krawiec; 3. Hector Arana; 4. Chip Ellis; 5. Chris Rivas; 6. Matt Smith; 7. Karen Stoffer; 8. Andrew Hines; 9. Craig Treble; 10. Mike Berry; 11. Matt Guidera; 12. Michael Phillips; 13. Angie McBride; 14. Steve Johnson; 15. Shawn Gann; 16. Junior Pippin.
2:21 p.m. - John Force and Cruz Pedregon held the top two spots in Funny Car qualifying and Force's teammate, Robert Hight, moved into third after today's third round. Hight made a 4.08-second, 303.23-mph pass and jumped four spots going into this afternoon's final round of qualifying.
Melanie Troxel, Ashley Force and points leader Tim Wilkerson were fourth, fifth and sixth after three rounds.
1:45 p.m. - Tony Schumacher, who is on the cusp of clinching his fifth career World Championship, Antron Brown and Larry Dixon remained the three fastest qualifiers following today's third round. In fact, the top nine drivers after Friday's second round all held their positions. JR Todd, who was 14th coming into the session, moved to 10 with one qualifying run remaining.
12:45 p.m. - Jeg Coughlin and Greg Anderson remained 1 and 2 after the third round of Pro Stock qualifying but Anderson's teammate, Jason Line, moved up three spots to third with a run of 6.716 seconds at 205.13. Allen Johnson, who was third after two rounds, sits fourth going into the final round of qualifying.
12:28 p.m. - Tim Wilkerson Racing and Tasca Racing announced today that they would form a two-car Funny Car alliance for the 2009 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series season.
"It just seems you can't get enough data out here (as a single-car team)," Wilkerson said. "We know that the multi-car teams really have us with our backs against the wall in that aspect, so the discussions we've had through the year with Bob (Tasca) had us thinking it might be a possibility that we could get together for next season."
"I'm elated to be associated with Tim," Tasca said. "He's proven this year is one of the more remarkable championship runs and may go down as THE most remarkable championship runs as a single-car team in the day and age of these multi-car empires. Tim Wilkerson and I really feel that we're creating our own little mini empire here and it's going to be a force to be reckoned with next year."
Wilkerson holds a 51-point lead over Jack Beckman in the Funny Car standings with two races remaining on the schedule.
12:10 p.m. - Angelle Sampey, who is looking for her first victory of the season, remained the top qualifier in Pro Stock Motorcycle after three rounds. Eddie Krawiec still is the No. 2 qualifier and Chip Ellis moved from seventh to third with a 7.042-second, 187.05-mph run. Class points leader Matt Smith is sixth going into this afternoon's final round of qualifying.
11:35 a.m. - Good morning from The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway where it looks as if another great day is on tap for the final two rounds of professional qualifying for the eighth annual ACDelco Las Vegas NHRA Nationals. It's partly cloudy and about 76 degrees with just a hint of a breeze. The forecast is for a high of 82 this afternoon. Professional qualifying is set to begin shortly, with Top Fuel and Funny Car qualifying sessions scheduled for 12:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. (PDT).
Check back here often, as we'll be updating this blog throughout the weekend with news, results and driver interviews.
Hey LVMS blog fans, part 2 of the "Stat Guy" takes on Las Vegas.
First, I would like to answer the two people who left comments about my first blog entry. One was : "Were you the guy who was at the Stone Pony (in the world famous Asbury Park, NJ) wearing jeans and drinking a beer that I met?" The answer would be of course, not sure about the beer part; it would depend on which decade. The first time I went to the Pony, as we locals call it, was in 1977 and at the time I drank beer, lately water.
The next comment was very funny about going over to Bob Frey's house for National Dragster archive parties. I HAVE NEVER been to Mr. Frey's house, the Shrine of Drag Racing Statistics. He does own every copy of National Dragster besides countless other drag racing goodies. I am not sure why I have never been invited. He always has a pre-Englishtown get together and for some reason I am never on the guest list. I have even met the lovely Diana Frey (Bob's wife and comedic teammate) at Kevin and Jill McKenna's wedding last year. Both do work for NHRA but Jill is from Central Jersey (both her Father and sister race NHRA) so the wedding was in the state last fall and Bob brought along Mrs. Frey. Personally, I thought we hit it off so I figured I am in! But still no invite to play among the treasure trove of drag racing history. Maybe someday I will get the invite!
Now onto the first two days at Vegas. I arrived in Las Vegas from New Jersey on Wednesday afternoon. The only drag racing moment was when the gentleman next to me asked what I was going to Las Vegas for. I said I am working for ESPN at a drag racing event. His first comment in response was, as usual, ‘drag racing, huh?' I explained to him the basics and he made the connection to the sport based on what he had seen on Speed Channel watching "Pinks." I was like, if you think that's cool you should check out NHRA drag racing. If you are reading this, you probably know the rest of the story! He did mention his son went to Englishtown a couple of years ago and had a really good time. He then went on to bring up his reason for coming to Las Vegas and the fact that he worked for insurance giant Prudential. If you are familiar with Newark, N.J., Prudential is very involved in the city. He continued to talk about drag racing and its potential from a marketing point of view. He then shifted to NASCAR and how his company looked really hard at getting involved in the sport a couple of years ago. For some reason, Prudential passed on NASCAR but I felt that he was fishing for some information about NHRA. Since I am just the lowly "Stat Guy," I told him NHRA was a great buy, really good bang for the buck and that if he ever wanted an entre to the sport I could make that happen. What you don't know is that prior to our conversation about NASCAR, we made the connection that one of his fellow employees was a longtime friend of yours truly. You may never see a Prudential Race car anywhere but as always, I was working the room. By the way, Continental Airlines: thanks for the upgrade! Many a deal, and I am not looking for one in any way, has been made by pure accident.
Once at McCarran Airport I walk right past the "Wheel of Fortune" slot machines or as they are known to my friends, "Wheel of Torture," to meet my longtime friend and travel companion Matt Polito. Matt grew up in New Jersey and gave up a corporate job years ago to become the guru of motorcycle drag racing through his web site Dragbike.com. He is an EXCELLENT photographer and an even better writer. He has "mad skills" in many other areas too: cooking, culture and even snowboarding. Matt and I have been going to races together since the spring of 1990. Our first road trip was to Budds Creek to see a Pro Mod race. I will never forget our first trip together. If you know Matt, you can ask him why. (Hint, it involves my ex- wife, he is thankfully happily married. He currently does a blog on his web site from the NHRA national events and services clients like Harley Davidson. It is great to have a friend like him on tour!
We would start the Las Vegas experience with a trip to Caesar's to see the Elton John Red Piano show. This time it was courtesy of Jay Wells, public relations man to the Lucas team who long ago introduced Bob Frey and others to a man they call "Sticks." He was kind enough to get Matt and I into the show and in the sound room in the middle of the theatre. We saw a terrific show, the highlight for me being Pinball Wizard from the rock opera "Tommy." It is also amazing how many Elton John songs are classics. The show had and incredible video backdrop, not a show for children, which is ok with me! I had heard through the grape-vine that Tim and Kim Richards, along with Rahn Tobler and his wife Ellen, were in the house so I will track them down for a review later on this weekend. The night concluded with dinner in the Paris hotel and a walk through the Bellagio. I walk through the Bellagio every time I am in Vegas because it makes me feel like some day I could actually afford to stay here. It's one of those moments where I miss former Pro Stock Motorcycle racer Marco Andreano who used to let my play at the Bellagio with his money. I never won much but it was REALLY COOL to sit at one of those $100 tables. Realize that when you are from the East coast and in Las Vegas at midnight it is definitely time to go to sleep!
Odds are is that I will not win any bets this weekend. Oh, first you have to place the bets......
First thing on Thursday morning is to go to the Palace Station and pick up the latest odds for the race this weekend. Only in Vegas can you place bets, and get odds on your favorite racers. I usually get the odds not only for personal entertainment, but also for graphics for the TV show. The last time I cashed in was the spring race here in 2007 when Robert Hight was part of the field bet. With Tony Schumacher a virtual lock in the 1000-foot era to win the race why even look at a Top Fuel pick? But I do like JR Todd at 25 -1. Todd, of course, is the only 1000- foot winner other than Schumacher. In Funny Car the favorites are, of course, anyone in the top five in the points. John Force at 12 -1 looked like a pretty good deal but his last couple of trips to The Strip have resulted in DNQ's. John's luck here has to change! I saw a very young member of the National Dragster staff Thursday night put some of his hard earned cash to work placing a bet on, as he said, "my boy Mike Neff." Mike had his debut here last year so as I always say, that is pretty good karma. In Pro Stock Car how could you bet against the Cagnazzi, or KB cars but this year we have had plenty of different winners, 10 to be exact. I mentioned Morgan, WJ and Yates in my previous blog so why not go with one of the long shots. Remember bet responsibly!
Next on tap for the day was some time spent walking around the Strip taking some photos. For the first time ever, I went to the famous Las Vegas welcome sign to take some photographs and have my picture taken with my pal Matty Polito. I was surprised how cool the sign was up close, a true icon of the Las Vegas strip. We went for lunch and then it was back to our hotel for a quick power nap. After that, it was time for another show "Jersey Boys" at the Palazzo. How ironic, a Jersey Boy at "Jersey Boys." It is the story about Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. Not normally my cup of tea but it was all Jersey. The music, staging and story were terrific. The most surprising part was how funny the show was. I laughed out loud several times. After the show, we went to the Palms for our night out at the Playboy Club. We were there for several hours, saw some crazy stuff and called it a night at 1 p.m. In terms of Las Vegas I was a total loser, in bed on a Thursday at 1 a.m., what, are you joking!
This brings us to day one of the ACDelco Las Vegas Nationals at the Strip. I have been here since 10 a.m., not an early start to the day to say the least, working and getting ready for the race. I will have more about that tomorrow.
Three things before I go: Tim and Kim Richards loved the Elton John show, Bob Frey is so skinny because of the water in New Jersey (look at me!) and Alan is really that cool....or is he?
Enjoy the blog and the races! Where do we go tonight? I am thinking an early bedtime. Let's see Friday night in Las Vegas on Halloween......do I stay in or do I go out. Such drama.......