Motorsports Recap And Behind The Scenes Access

Oh, Yeah! The Recliner Report Visits The Gatornationals!







Randy Cunningham


Tour Stop #3–The Amalie Motor Oil Gatornationals, Gainesville Raceway, Gainesville, Florida-


Hey, you made it back! Thanks for hanging here with us for a few minutes at the Recliner Report, where we visit about the wild, weird, and wonderful that we learned from watching the Fox Sports 1 coverage of the 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Racing Series! OK, let’s be honest. Some folks reading the last two installments have walked away thinking, “Man, whoever writes this stuff must not know much about racing. Where’s all the technical info? I want to know about engine setups, gear ratios, and carburetor settings!” Umm, sorry folks. See, talking to our staffers about gear ratios leads to what you call the “deer in the headlights” look. Not exactly the sharpest knives in the box, if you know what I mean. But hey, where else will you be able to learn about some pretty cool stuff that took place this past weekend, such as the three Battles of Long Island, John Force’s “car demon”, and a racer’s son who rocked green hair? Yep, right here! Let’s roll!


GET OUT THE DUCT TAPE! Announcers Dave Rieff and Tony Pedregon opened the show with Rieff holding a small alligator in honor of the local critters that love this part of the state. But even though the little green guy had his mouth taped shut, Pedregon had a bit of a “Dude, this creature is creepy, so like, get him away!” look on his face during the segment. Yup, we don’t blame him. Them dudes are mucho better off hanging out in a body of water far, far away. Yikes.


MAYBE…UHH, MAYBE NOT–Robert Hight won the event in 2012, 2014, and 2016. All even-numbered years. So, it’s 2018. Maybe…Ummm, more to come on that topic…


GIMME A MINUTE TO SHAVE–Steve Torrence is no longer known as “The Gunslinger” to staffers. It’s simple. No more beard. Yep, sometime during the weekend he whipped out the razor and went back to being Stevie Blaze. Dave Rieff expressed disappointment, commenting, “That ‘ol Pancho Villa thing was working for me.” No biggie. Being named Stevie Blaze is sweet!


RECLINER RIDDLE #1–So, a certain driver made the following bold statement on the morning of Elimination Day: “That’s when you switch your focus, get into fight mode, and we’ll be ready to take him down.” Any idea who would draw that line into the sand? Keep reading. The answer can be found later!


HE’S A POET AND DOESN’T KNOW IT–Antron Brown is a man of many talents, and maybe he should consider writing a book of poetry after the conclusion of his racing career. After his first-round victory pedalfest against rookie Audrey Worm, one which was waayyy too close for Brown’s comfort level, he commented during an interview at the top end, “You know what? Audrey, I’m glad your last name is Worm, because you let me worm out of that one!” Dude’s got Shakespeare skills!


NOT JUST ANOTHER CLANGING NOISE–Here’s a record all racing fans hope will end very soon: three races, three massive engine explosions for John Force. Not just ticky-tack pops, pows, or kablooies, these have been monster boomers. Though he didn’t use this phrase on-air, one of Dave Rieff’s fave descriptors comes to mind: “That motor just grenaded.” We’re just glad Force has walked away from all three.


RECLINER RIDDLE ANSWER FOR #1–Courtney Force, who was more than ready to “take down” her first-round opponent, did so when she won over…father John. But, there was good news for the 16-time champion: no engine explosion. Excellent.


WHO HAS THE RINGS? Not only is Jack Beckman a killer driver, a journalist’s dream with his excellent quotes, and a pretty nice guy to boot, he’s apparently a minister as well! Racing fans Donna and Scott Blanchard were shown getting hitched by “Fast Jack” in the staging area early in the day. We can hear it now, “Do you take this man and his love of El Caminos to be your lawfully wedded husband? Through good tuneups and bad, till death do you part? Super! You may kiss the bride…just watch out for those headers sticking out off the Top Fueler behind you. No sense in tripping and falling!”


RECLINER RIDDLE #2–This person made the following creepy comment, “We’ve got a demon in there we can’t seem to sort out.” Any ideas who this might be? Keep reading!


WOAH, NELLIE!  J.R. Todd’s chutes opened up at just the right time…if the right time was following the burnout following his first-round matchup. Man, he must’ve been flying out of the waterbox, huh? The on-air comment made was that his “laundry” opened up during this time. We just think it left Todd “hung out to dry.”


HEY, YOUZ GUYS!  The Pro Stock matchup between Kenny Delco and Vincent Nobile turned out to be Round One of “The Battle of the Guys From Long Island.” Nobile took the victory, his 200th career round win.


YOU WANT FRIES WITH THAT? It’s tough to find races with closer finishes than those in the Pro Stock category. Following Tanner Gray’s victory over Deric Kramer, the slo-mo camera showed Gray’s margin of victory to be 23 ten-thousandths of a second! In layman’s terms, that’s two french fries and a ketchup packet difference between the competitors. Had there been two ketchups, we might have had to flip a coin to name a winner.


LONG ISLAND BATTLE #2–Long Island native Val Smeland took his first-ever round win over Alex Laughlin, a racer who also calls that part of the state his home, setting up a next-round confrontation against none other than Vincent Nobile. Hope these guys get along when they’re back in the neighborhood, otherwise we’ve got a rumble brewing…

RECLINER RIDDLE ANSWER #2–So, who’s got that demon that won’t come out? John Force, who mentioned, “Austin Coil’s been on the phone. The Braintrust will figure it out.” Man, our staffers feel sorry for that demon. Once Force figures out that little bugaboo, it’s in for a serious butt-kicking from the champ. Ouch.


LET’S GO FOR A WALK–During his 1000-foot walk with Amanda Busick, we learned that Terry McMillen has been teamed with Amalie for 18 years, was “initimidated” by the mega-teams such as Team Schumacher and Force back during his 2007 entry into the NHRA, has a mascot, Willie the alligator, who is also Terry’s number one fan, and is the very proud dad of a 4-year-old son, Cameron, who was shown on camera rocking some absolutely epic green hair! Finally, McMillen provided us with the understatement of the year, after being asked by Busick, “You’ve been a part of some pretty epic explosions. What do you learn from those?” His reply? “Not to do that.” Mic drop!


ANYTHING YOU CAN DO, I CAN DO BETTER-The Funny Car matchup between Matt Hagan and Robert Hight resulted in not one, but two major league finish-line explosions that probably rattled windows in Colorado. After Hight’s motor and body blew to smithereens, Hagan also joined in the fiesta, with his version going to smithereens, then on to the next county. The slo-mo photo, though an epic shot, brought fear to a whole new level, as both cars crossed the finish line with fire but without car bodies. Thankfully, both drivers walked away, and though Hagan won the race, both drivers received the benefits created by such incredible safety measures built into the hot rods. Imagine sitting on a 10,000 horsepower bomb rolling on four wheels. Incredible.


ALL COWS, LOOK OUT—Hagan’s post-race interview proved that the guy’s got bazookas for arms. Dude is stacked. Even world-class bodybuilders have to be thinking, “Geez…” Anyway, this is a guy who works wrangling cows during the week back on his farm. If those cows know what’s good for them, they’ll listen the first time Hagan calls out, “Hey, Bessie. Get over in your pen.” A smart bovine’s not gonna walk, but run to that spot. Pronto.


ROUND THREE, COMING UP!  Vincent Nobile defeated Val Smeland in Round Three of the “Hey, you guyz!” Battle of Long Island. Here’s hoping the fellas will make nice in their old stomping grounds when getting back home. We don’t want no fightin’ now!


MAN, I JUST…MAN! Shawn Reed’s first trip to the final round of Top Fuel left the guy a little bit, well, discombobulated, (Feelin’ kinda different) when commenting on his feelings about the situation, saying, “Well, I’m officially shaking.”


HARLEY TIME! Following his final-round victory over teammate Andrew Hines in the Pro Bike category, Eddie Krawiec commented on his 44th win, “We may be old and fat, but we’re still good racers.” He moves pretty fast for a fat guy…


ALL IN THE FAMILY–Tanner Gray became a third generation winner of the Gatornationals, following father and grandfather into the Winner’s Circle. Shane, the defending Pro Stock champ, and Johnny, the 2013 Funny Car victor, must be awful proud!


THIRD WINNER’S A CHARM–Funny Car pilot Jack Beckman accomplished what had never taken place in NHRA history, as the winner of the 2018 Gatornationals, Winternationals, and the Arizona Nationals have all come from the #1 qualifier position. Check this out: he wins the event, and he’s also a minister who marries a couple in the staging lanes! At 330-plus miles per hour, Beckman makes those drive-thru weddings in Vegas seem turtle-like in comparison. How about this? “Reverend Nitro.” Nice.


NO CRAMPING HIS CHAMPIONSHIP STYLE–Richie Crampton’s trip to the Winner’s Circle was made much easier following Shawn Reed’s starting line breakdown. Crampton’s winning solo run was his first since 2015 and the 96th win for Connie Kalitta as an owner and driver.


FACE FIRST ON THE ASPHALT–The starting line mosh pit that took place following Crampton’s win was Hall of Fame-quality. If anyone ever writes a manual detailing the perfect mosh form, the video of this little jewel should be included. Unfortunately, someone had to be hugging the asphalt at the bottom of the pile during the insanity. Better take ‘em out for some ice cream or something fun. That had to be pretty darn wicked. But, dang was that ever epic!


FINALLY…DO YOU FEEL LIKE WE DO?–Dave Rieff produced the classic rock line of the weekend following Richie’s Top Fuel victory when he exclaimed, “We go back to the top end, where Crampton has come alive again!” 


Next up? April 6-8. Vegas. The Strip. Four-wide racing. Yup, four lanes fully stacked with beautiful, incredibly-loud, epic, over-the-top, insane, Richter-Scale volume racing. Fun for all ages. See you afterwards, and keep reclining!




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