Motorsports Recap And Behind The Scenes Access

Bringin’ The Noize From Illinois–It’s The Recliner Report!



Stop #9–JEGS Route 66 NHRA Nationals, Route 66 Raceway, Chicago, llinois


So, the staffers were sitting around the other day, not really accomplishing a whole bunch of work, (Yeah, that’s a shocker, huh?) when one of the dudes brought up cool places that he had visited during his Twinkie-filled life. “Yeah, I’ve had ‘em all over the country, but by far, Chicago has the best Twinkies anywhere. I mean…anywhere.”


That’s like saying that Detroit has the best chewing gum on the planet. Gum…geez, it’s gum! Same package, same shape, same taste, same…dudes, gum is gum!

OK, so what in the world would make this guy believe that a Chicago Twinkie drops the hammer on versions from across the other 49 states?

His explanation? “Dudes, it’s the cream filling. It tastes like no filling you’ve ever had.”

Well, of course it’s the cream filling! That was so obvious! How could anyone have forgotten that? That gem of a fact was right in front of us!

So, we sent the guy out for a walk. He obviously had been inside on the couch binge-watching waaaaayyyy too many episodes of “Gilligan’s Island”. Breathing some fresh air was definitely on his “need-to-take-care-of-now” list.

Look, some items exist that are pretty much the same wherever you go. Take for example, bananas. Sure, some may be more ripe than others, and therefore sweeter, but for the most part, they are what they are. They’re bananas. Same goes for such items as forks…or lightbulbs…heck, let’s go wild and throw in sheets of paper.

Sure this all sounds bizarre, but think about it: you and a friend are having a conversation about furniture and he comments, “Yeah, the folding chairs in New York City are like nothing you’ve ever experienced. I dunno, they’re just…different.”

Five minutes later, you might find yourself looking up psychiatric hospitals in an internet phone book, hoping to find the guy an empty bed…somewhere…quickly.

However, there are tons of items that are nothing like those included in the same category. Restaurants, grocery stores, movies, music…they can be night and day in terms of their qualities.

Sort of like cities across the US. Each has a personality like none other. Yep, they all have buildings, people, food, etc., but occasionally, something sets them apart. Like…Chicago. Man, what an epic town. The place has an energy that’s just different than any spot in the United States. Blues, epic hot dogs, baseball…it’s not something you can measure, but it’s just…there. And when the NHRA hits The Windy City for their annual visit in June, there’s something in the air that seems to make it just…cool. No, that doesn’t make it better than other towns across the land, just…unique.

So, when it was time for the 21st annual JEGS Route 66 Nationals in Chicagoland, we were even more pumped to see the Fox 1 Sports coverage of the NHRA Mello Yello tour, and from the get-go there was wall-scraping, car-exploding, narrow victory action for the Recliner Report to kick back and view. Man, did we ever get our kicks on Route 66!

DUDE, I’VE SORTA SCRATCHED UP THE CAR–During Round 4 Qualifying, John Force hit the right lane retaining wall a total of four times, all at 200-plus miles per hour. How was he feeling? Good enough to get back in his hot rod for Final Eliminations. Man, if you want tough, there’s always boot leather or a $2 steak, but then there’s Force. The man doesn’t define “tough”. He invented the word.

HE JUST KEEPS TRYING AND TRYING AND TRYING…–Imagine not winning at something for 12 years. Checkers, running a race, playing cards, tossing horseshoes. You simply never win. 75-year-old racer Luigi Novelli had not won a single round of racing in the NHRA Top Fuel category in 12 years since a victory in Columbus. However, Luigi’s personal drought ended in the first round Sunday, when he defeated none other than Stevie Blaze Torrence. The win was also the Illinois veteran’s second win at his home track since 2002.

JUST GLAD IT DIDN’T ACTUALLY HAPPEN–When interviewed by Amanda Busick at the top end, Novelli, also known as “The Rod Father”, was asked how he felt when he saw the win light come on in his lane. His response was short and simple: “My heart stopped.” Ummm…that wouldn’t be good. The NHRA has this thing called Round 2…

MAN, THAT’S GOTTA STING–Following John Force’s first-round victory over Tim Wilkerson, his extremely slow and careful exit through the roof of his Funny Car wasn’t quite so funny. Dude needed a side door on that hot rod like nobody’s business. Imagine being in a 200-mph wreck with a very unforgiving wall, them climbing back in a car the next day. Better yet, just imagine getting out of bed the next day. Again, tough doesn’t even begin to describe the man.

RECLINER REPORT RIDDLE–Which racer did not qualify for Final Eliminations at Route 66 (For performance reasons) for the first time ever in a long, storied, and successful career? The answer is somewhere below. No, no, don’t jump ahead! There’s lots of cool stuff between here and that spot. You’ll get to it in a bit. Keep reading. Patience, dudes, patience…

YES INDEED, I’M WALKING–During Amanda Busick’s “Walk 1000 Feet” with Top Fuel pilot Blake Alexander, we learned a couple of cool facts, including that his first-ever round win came against none other than Tony Schumacher, that buying a home for the first time was more difficult than any Elimination Sunday, that he met his wife when both were 15 years old after Blake “just happened” to be wakeboarding by her house on a local lake, purposely took a spill, then invited her out to join him on his boat. Ever the optimist, he believes that his first career win is just around the corner because of the passion for success held by his crew and team, and his desire is to reward them for all their efforts. When asked to demonstrate the celebration dance he would perform after winning his first event, Alexander demonstrated his version of The Floss. The Recliner staffers immediately placed Blake’s efforts on a scale of one to ten, with comments including, “Nice rhythm. He gets a seven from me”, and, “I get the feeling he’s rehearsed the moment. No more than a six.” Hey, ignore those guys. They couldn’t come close to Alexander’s efforts, as they’re about as athletic and coordinated as a loaf of bread. Blake’s got it goin’ on!

I KNOW YOU ARE BUT WHAT AM I?  Alexander’s moves provided Fox 1 commentator Tony Pedregon the stage for the line of the weekend when he stated, “You know, I’m gonna tell my kids there was this guy named Pee Wee Herman who was doing that a long time ago”, which was enhanced by the sound of Herman’s laugh over his comment. Fellow boothmate Dave Rieff stated simply, “I’d better leave that one alone.”

THAT’S GONNA LEAVE A MARK–John Force was shown exiting his car following his second round win over Jack Beckman, and he still needed a side door due to soreness from the previous day’s “Smash ‘Em Up Derby” incident. Dude earned his weekend paycheck big-time.

SURPRISE, SUPRISE!   The previous verbal back-and-forth sparring between Pro Stock’s Tanner Gray and Erica Enders was expected to fuel another round of comments during the weekend from the duo, but following Gray’s close victory over Enders in the second round, the 19-year-old Tanner was surprisingly modest when asked about his victory by Amanda Busick. After mentioning their “Good ‘ol drag race there”, Gray simply looked forward to his upcoming semifinal matchup versus Jeg Coughlin. Looks like the gloves were put up in the closet for the weekend. Granted, the pair didn’t shake hands and exchange chocolate chip recipes at the top end following the battle, but the fireworks were definitely shelved for the weekend. Cool.

THREE BY ME!  Hector Arana’s 200.89 mile-per-hour effort in his win over Angie Smith was the 3rd all-time 200mph barrier-breaker in the Pro Stock Motorcycle category. Which racer owns the other two efforts? Why, ‘ol Hector himself, thanks very much. Arana Jr. must love board games, especially Monopoly.

JUST CHUTE ME NOW!  At the 800-foot mark of Clay Millican’s Top Fuel win over Doug Kalitta, Clay’s chutes experienced “premature parachute-itis”, as his laundry left the car a little bit too early, slowing his ride so that his margin of victory was reduced to five-thousands of a second. Dude was almost…wait for it…hung out to dry. Thank you! Please remember to tip your servers, and yes, we’ll be here all week!

TIED WITH THE TEACHER–Greg Anderson’s semifinal victory over Vincent Nobile placed the Pro Stock pilot in the record books next to none other than “The Professor”, Warren Johnson, as Greg racked up his 151st final round, tying Johnson for the all-time class lead. It may be summer, but Anderson obviously doesn’t listen to rocker Alice Cooper, ‘cause school definitely isn’t out yet for Greg this summer.

DRY AS A BONE–After watching Jeg Coughlin win his semi matchup in the Pro Stock group, Greg Anderson gave Amanda Busick the understatement of the weekend during their top end interview, remarking about his future opponent, “Well, that wasn’t so good”, cracking up one Recliner staffer to the point that he rolled off the couch. However, he still ate the two Cheetos that landed on the floor, quickly implementing the five-second rule. Yikes…

JUST CALL ME “THE OCTOPUS”–Bruno Massel’s “NHRA 101” segment featured the guy with the best hair in the biz demonstrating all the multitasking necessary while sitting in the cockpit of his turbo car. Though utilizing only two pedals, Massel toggled, pushed, flipped, torqued, revved, pumped, braked, checked a mirror, and popped chutes, all in the time it takes for him to guide his ride down the lane on a single run. With that level of coordination, dude can more than likely get ready for work in about 37 seconds each morning, that is, unless he also showers, which increases his time to about one minute, 24 seconds. Slacker.

TELL US HOW YOU REALLY FEEL–Matt Smith, champion of the Pro Stock Motorcycle category and winning his first Wally since 2016, aired it out during his top end visit with Amanda Busick, commenting, “We started the year off on a Suzuki, and the guy bailed on me, and uh, you know, who needs to ride a stinkin’ Suzuki? I pulled my old stuff back out and this thing’s pretty fast.” Smith probably doesn’t need to be on the Dr. Phil TV show to bear his soul and unload unwanted baggage anytime soon. He lightens his load on his own ASAP. Epic.

IT’S NOT RAINING, BUT THE DROUGHT IS OVER–Jeg Coughlin Jr’s victory in the Pro Stock class was his first in 74 races, and the cat was also as cool as the other side of the pillow in his post-race interview, with the real emotion brought by father Jeg Sr., whose cracking voice while visiting with John Kernan let fans and JEGS employees “…who have stuck with us forever” know how much appreciation he felt for their support. Just a downright cool moment from the Hall of Famer.

UP IN THE RARE AIR–Robert Hight brought the Wally to Team JFR following his 42nd win, placing him one career victory behind Fox 1 commentator Tony Pedregon on the all-time Funny Car victory list, with all his success taking place since 2005. Some folks just seem to know what they’re doin’…

TOYS HAVE FEELINGS TOO! Following Clay Millican’s victory in the Top Fuel group, MIllican revealed to Amanda Busick that at the beginning of the year, he was searching for “…a buddy for his Wally”, the trophy he won following his first-ever victory on Father’s Day at Bristol in 2017. Clay is now the father of triplets, as the three-time daddy picked up his second consecutive win following last week’s Topeka triumph. OK, but now he’s got a big-time dilemma on his hands: a middle child Wally, and we’ve all heard how some of those guys claim feelings of being left out, ignored, and simply not heard in the day-to-day life of the family. Some advice to Millican: take the little guy for walks, just the two of you. Toss the ball around, watch some TV together…just anything you can do to boost Wally’s self-esteem. Otherwise, he might rebel someday and try to run off to some NASCAR guy’s house just for attention. Hey, you gotta be careful here. This could get touchy…

WHO AM I? Hey, don’t fret. We didn’t forget! Maybe you’re wondering about the answer to this week’s Recliner Riddle. Remember? Yeah, it’s been awhile. You’ve had stuff to do since then. Anyway, which well-known, extremely successful NHRA racer did not qualify for Final Eliminations for the very first time due to performance issues? Survey says…current Pro Stock Motorcycle’s Angelle Sampey, a 42-time champion.

Man, it’s sad to leave the big city of Chicago, ‘cause this joint is epic! But, before you know it, we’ll be together again in Richmond, Virginia, home of the Virginia Nationals, and lots of, well, Virginians! Till then, keep reclining!




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