Hope you’re diggin’ these installments of “Getting Off Track.” See, the point of ‘em is for all of us to get to know the folks from NHRA, whether they’re drivers, Fox 1 broadcasters, or anyone in the field who’s willing to spend a few moments shooting the breeze about “stuff”, whether it’s a fave baseball team or just random, off-the-wall thoughts about life in general.
So, what’s the point of GOT? Well, hopefully by the end of the article, you’ll know more about these folks than just their amazing talents in the drag racing world. Believe it or not, they’ve got lives. Really! (And they’re pretty dang cool!)
But yeah, I get it. We’re not exactly talking about hard-hitting stuff here. No Pulitzer Prizes are in the future of this writer anytime soon for uncovering a big-time, world-changing story. Oh well. What matters is that hopefully you’ll spend a few minutes having fun reading something enjoyable. Simple as that.
Alright, then, let’s give you an opportunity to participate in today’s article. If GOT was on the phone with you, here’s a question you might be asked, so just give it a bit of thought, and most of all, have fun with it! Here goes:
Question: “What’s your idea of the perfect day?”
Talk amongst yourselves! Give the idea a little bit of “thinkin’ time”!
So, how’d you do? Wouldn’t it be amazing to actually take part in those 24 hours? For a single day, you find yourself “living the dream”! Here’s betting your ideas are pretty epic!
But guess what? That perfect day may someday take place. You find yourself able to meet your music idol, or maybe just hang out at the beach while cold adult beverages are shuttled to you at a moment’s notice. Who knows? It could happen!
Well, there’s a guy in the NHRA who gets big kicks out of making his wishes come true, and after reading this, you’ll have to admit that he lives life his way. It’s the one-and-only Jeff Diehl, more commonly known in NHRA circles as “The Nitro Surfer.” This Californian doesn’t just love cars…he lives cars, so how does he spend a great deal of time? Touring the country with wife Leeza, all while guiding his “Nitro-A-Go-Go” Funny Car at 300 mph speeds at the finest tracks the NHRA has to offer. For a car freak such as Diehl, the dude is experiencing a Hall of Fame bucket list! Yep, this pilot extraordinaire has more than his fair share of tales to tell, and GOT has the 411, including his personal idol, his fave female from a famous island, and how he was fired…from the rock band KISS!
GOT--Name a famous person (No longer living) that you wish you could’ve met.
JD–Probably Elvis Presley. I’d want to talk to him about why he loved Cadillacs so much, ‘cause so do I.
GOT–Speaking of music, do you play a musical instrument?
JD–Heck, no. I’m all thumbs when it comes to that. If I had to learn an instrument, I’d play guitar. I’m pretty interested in it. I just don’t see how they do it so well.
GOT–Talk about your favorite bands.
JD–Ohhh, I’m kinda widespread. I like Linkin Park, ‘cause it gets me aggro, and that’s the way I race. I get pretty aggravated when I race. That’s my mentality. I love Spanish classical music…I’m pretty widespread. Yeah, I also like Social Distortion. Mike Ness (guitarist for Social Distortion) is a good friend of mine. I love rockabilly and punk rock. I’ve actually met Brian Setzer (guitarist for the Stray Cats) ‘cause I was into the whole custom chop-top lowered hot rod thing, which is what I’ve been doing for the last 20 years to make money to go do this, and Setzer’s totally into hot rods. So I went down to L.A. and got backstage and hung out with him. He checked out our cars. He’s pretty cool and mellow, but that cat can play a guitar, can’t he? I’m really into that deal.
GOT–Do you believe in UFOs?
GOT–What if you were alone and saw something you couldn’t explain? Would you tell someone what happened?
JD–Oh, yeah. I’m not shy, as you can tell. Yeah, I talk a lot of crap, but if I saw something that really made me think something was there, I guess I would pursue it, but I’ve never seen anything. I don’t really believe in it.
GOT–What’s your favorite hometown restaurant, one that’s not part of a chain?
JD–Lemme think. You know, I don’t know the name of it, but there’s this little, tiny place on Wharf #2 in Monterey where my wife and I go to have breakfast. I love calamari and they have it for breakfast. People think I’m crazy, but I eat it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I don’t know the name of the place, though.
GOT–What’s your favorite beer?
JD–(Immediately replies) Oh, Corona. By far.
GOT–When you were a little kid, what was your favorite TV show?
JD–(Laughs) Gilligan’s Island.
GOT–OK, so how could the Professor build a radio out of a coconut, but not fix the hole in the boat?
JD–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–So…Ginger or Mary Ann?
JD–(Laughs) Mary Ann.
GOT–What’s your favorite TV show as an adult?
JD— “Family Jewels” with Gene Simmons.
GOT–You’re a Simmons fan, huh?
JD–Oh my God, he’s my idol! I met him at Vegas at the races. He and Paul Stanley (lead vocalist for KISS) sponsored Tony Pedregon. I hung out with them in the tower, and I said to him, “Dude, you pretty much guided my life from sixth grade,” and he just laughed. He was pretty cool. Check this out, man. I worked for KISS and got fired.
JD–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 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 places except for Social Distortion shows. Then, we went out front and we were in the front row, and I said, “Man, let’s get some beers.” So we got some Coronas and we 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 I said we needed to head on backstage. Well, I forgot that KISS is totally against alcohol, and when the bouncer who was 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–If someone wrote your biography today, what would the title be?
JD–(Laughs) “Fake It Till You Make It.” (Laughs again) How’s that? Because I’m just fakin’ it right now, dude. I just roll the dice and keep rollin’ with it.
GOT–When you were in high school, you were the person most likely to…?
JD–(Laughs) Drop out. High school was just nothing for me. I barely made it through that deal. I was also the person most likely to go surfin’. I went to San Clemente High and we had surfing for first period. We wouldn’t get out when the coach told us to come in. I didn’t want a car. I didn’t want responsibilities. It was cool.
GOT–Then, you were the person least likely to…?
JD–Get straight A’s. You know what? In Surfing and Driver’s Ed. I got an A-plus. I knew it right then. I would say I was least likely to be the prom king, for sure.