Okey-dokey, folks. The 2018 NHRA season is now open for business, and the first two events at Pomona and Phoenix have been loaded with more drama than the Kardashians getting ready to go to the mall! Man, we still have 22 more races left, so we are in for a pedalfest of twists, turns, and probably a couple of wheelies!
So, what makes the race scene such a soap opera on wheels…with some nitro added for good measure? Well, you’ve got “disagreements” between teams, sponsor issues, weather conditions that dramatically change in moments, driver concerns over track preparation, crew members that eat all the Oreos from the team junk food table in the pits…you name it. The list just goes on.
But what’s the biggest reason? Personalities. From crew members that pack the chutes, to team owners who pay the bills, to the drivers themselves, watching the NHRA show is a gas because of the people that make up the cast. See, once you get past the firesuits, wrenches, and racing slicks, these folks have actual lives. Yup. In addition to what we see on TV or in the pit area, they actually exist from Monday thru Thursday as well, and man, do they have some cool stories to tell!
It’s time to pull back the curtain, to get a little (Just a teeny-tiny bit) more info about the men and women that compose the most amazing show on asphalt. So, today I’d like to introduce you to “Getting Off Track”, a few moments out of your day to learn some not-so-familiar info about the many personalities that make up the world of drag racing.
Are we talking drivers only? Nope. Who knows? Maybe a crew chief might be willing to stop by, or even a team owner, a member of the Fox 1 Sports announcing crew, or the guy on the team who can eat the most hot dogs at one sitting. Dudes, the possibilities are wide open.
Tell you what. Below you’ll find a couple of examples of “Getting Off Track” interviews that involved drivers that had tons of fun taking part, including Tony Schumacher, Jeff Diehl, and Terry McMillen. Hopefully you’ll see that we’re not trying to go ultra-seriously deep into their knowledge of carburetors, elapsed times, or the pros and cons of taking a ¼ pound of tire pressure off when the temperature drops three degrees. Sorry, but that’s for someone else to handle. Carburetors? Uhhh…nope. So, give these a whirl:
GOT— “You are hosting your fantasy dinner party and are allowed to invite four guests, living or not living. Who would they be?”
Tony– “I’d invite Jesus. Absolutely. Also, probably a good comedian who makes me laugh. I’d love to bring a rock star, just to hear stories, maybe someone like Vince Neil from Motley Crue. Man, you talk about entertainment. But, I’d also like to bring a four-star general who has been there, done that, seen it, but I don’t think he’d like being there with a comedian or a rock star. And, I’m sure the rock star and Jesus wouldn’t have anything to talk about! (Laughs) You know, I think I’d bring the rock star just so he could sit across from Jesus and say, ‘Man, I’ve got to apologize for all that stuff!’”
GOT— “When you were a little kid, what was your favorite TV show?”
Jeff-(Laughs) “Gilligan’s Island.”
GOT– “How could the professor build a radio out of a coconut, but not be able to fix the boat to get them off the island?”
Jeff– “I have no clue. That show had beautiful women, and Gilligan, who was an idiot. The Skipper was also an idiot. I mean, how could they make a car out of bamboo and drive it around?”
GOT– “In high school, you were the person most likely to…”
Terry– “To end up in jail, probably. (Laughs) I had a lot of fun in high school, unfortunately. I just didn’t take school seriously. The real story here is a teacher from my 7th grade year. I really just had no reason to be in school, because I didn’t think at that time that I needed to know anything other than how to work on a car. This teacher, Mrs. Smith, saw that I was really not into writing stories and reading literature, so she would take my Hot Rod magazines and my Super Chevy magazines and allow me to write articles on them. That’s how she graded me. She turned my life around, and from that day on I went on to become an electrical engineer. I owe it all to her.”
GOT– “You’re being sent to a deserted island and are allowed to take two music CDs. What will you bring?”
Tony– “Jimmy Buffet. Bob Seger. I love Buffet’s ‘Boats, Beaches, Bars, & Ballads’. I love the song, ‘A Pirate Looks At 40.’ Bob Seger? Probably his Greatest Hits, like ‘Night Moves’, ‘Like A Rock’ and all that.”
Jeff– “Check this out, man. I worked for KISS and got fired.”
GOT– “Huh? How?”
Jeff– “Listen. I knew a guy who knew a guy who knew the lighting guy for KISS. I said, ‘Oh my God, you gotta get me backstage passes!’ and he said he would. So, they got me and my wife a Working Pass. So, we show up kinda late and the warm-up band was already on stage, and I’m kinda nervous ‘cause I’d never been backstage at too many shows, except for Social Distortion shows. Then, we went out and we were in the front row, and I said, ‘Man, let’s get some beers.’ So, we got some Coronas and were standing there watching KISS, and my wife was hiding behind me because she was so scared of Gene. He was going side to side looking at her and sticking his tongue out, and she was freaking out. Later, it was about over and we needed to head backstage. Well, I forgot that KISS is totally against alcohol, and when the bouncer letting people go backstage saw me, he said, ‘Hey! You’re drinkin’! You’re fired, get outta here!’ I got fired my first and only day with KISS.”
GOT– “What is something you’d like to buy for yourself, but you keep putting it off?”
Terry– “I guess…a plane. I want to get back into flying. I owned a 172 at one time and I’d really like to go back into owning an airplane and utilize it to get back and forth to the racetrack, instead of driving these 20-hour trips. I love flying; it’s just so peaceful up there. It’s really cool.”
OK, so, there you have it. Now, is “Getting Off Track” the most technically informative article you’ll ever read? Uhhh…seriously? Nope, and you also didn’t get a single drop of info on anyone’s driving skills either, but hopefully you read this and remembered that totally tripped-out episode where Gilligan did something especially nuts, thought about reading your own copy of Hot Rod Magazine in school, or considered those folks you would invite to your fantasy dinner party. We have more of these to come, so check back for future installments. Hey, we’re not trying to unearth the serious stuff, but hope you dig it anyway!