Man, I dunno…maybe the fresh Colorado air had something to do with it, but energy was practically dripping from the Fox broadcast of the Dodge Mile-High Nationals in Denver on Sunday! Drivers, broadcasters, fans…dang, the TV was about to fall off the milk crates it was sitting on in the staffers’ lounge here at Recliner Report World Headquarters! Even the staffer goobs were feelin’ it, ’cause the rate of Twinkie crushing resembled Joey Chestnut on a hot dog binge at Coney Island on July 4th! One of the dudes had to make a bean dip run after it ran out following the first round of Pro Stock, and even though we buy it by the barrel, the stuff usually makes it till the Semis at least!
Needless to say, the 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing series found Denver, the first stop of the vaunted Western Swing, setting the bar really high. All we can say is…Sonoma and Seattle had better bring their “A” games, ’cause…dang, dudes, the place was epic! We saw a nuclear blast during Friday qualifying, races that ended in wins by less than the length of Twinkie cut in half, and the awarding of the first-ever…Recliner Report Awards! Let’s get to it!
UNLIMITED POTENTIAL–One word says it all: DRONES! Yeah, during a starting line shot of the first-round Top Fuel matchup between Antron Brown and Scott Palmer, a drone being used to create what FOX calls “Aerial Cam” shots was seen hovering just over the right-side lane, and needless to say, the staffers went nuts! One of the guys has six of ’em at his house, and he went bonkers telling us how sweet the shots were going to be. Dude was right on target. Those little flying critters are able to get in spots that no traditional camera placement could ever achieve, and all we can say is…more drones, please. Killer!
BIG WIN, BIG LOVE TO OTHERS–Alright, let’s say you’re a guy who has never won a single round of Top Fuel. You look at the matchups and find out you’re up against 2017 reigning champion Brittany Force in the first round. Your first thoughts? Ummm…probably not printable. Hey, this is a family mag. Well, none of that mattered to James Maroney, who sent the defending champ back to the trailer for the day. And, we gotta give some love to Maroney, who during his top end interview with Amanda Busick, displayed emotion not often seen in the biz. After driving Nostalgia cars for 30 years, he achieved a lifelong dream, and the dude gave props to everyone…except himself. Nice to see a good guy get a shot in a biz where anyone can win on any given Sunday.
NEVER SEEN THAT BEFORE–The drones were at it early in the show, as we witnessed a shot of the matchup between Top Fuelers Clay Millican and Greg Carillo from about eight feet off the ground, directly in the center of the track between the pair. Never before seen…nothing but cool.
NO BEANS, DUDE!–Man, the first-round Top Fuel duel between Doug Kalitta and Tony Schumacher was a blowout…that is, if you consider a blowout winning by one 10,000th of an inch. Yep, the distance separating the pair was less than an inch. Less. That’s not even the length of a broken Cheetoh. Add bean dip to it and you’ve gone too far. So, let’s call it, “…victorious by a no-bean, broken-in-half Cheetoh.” Yeah, that’s pretty scientific, huh?
KA-FREAKING BOOM–Cruz Pedregon needed a new car body Saturday. Yeah, it’s kinda necessary when Friday’s version found itself in about six different Colorado counties following an explosion that could only be described as…I dunno…nuclear? Following the blast, cameras showed the Cruzer being pushed to the top end by multiple Safety Safari vehicles. And how about Pedregon? Yup, he was seen sitting in the driver’s seat…flashing a peace sign at the camera. Dude is nails.
RECLINER REPORT RIDDLE–The rear racing slicks on a Funny Car take on a slightly different shape while burning down the lane. Question: how much do they grow in height while they’re at work? Talk amongst yourselves…the answer to come later. No wagering, please. Aaah. We’ll just tell you now. It’s eight and a half inches.
I DON’T LIKE THIS SANDBOX–Funny Car pilot Jack Beckman may have felt a bit lonely during his first-round matchup against Todd Simpson, but he had a good reason: Todd just wasn’t able to make it. But, it’s not because his dog ate his homework or something goofy like that. He was, well…without a car. See, during the Qualifying One session, Simpson’s run ended a little later than he hoped, after his chutes refused to deploy, causing him to visit the local sandpit at the end of the track. Thankfully, Todd’s ride never actually crashed, but the body damage suffered in the pit caused his weekend to end a bit early. Yeah, you’re on the local freeway, doing 300-plus miles per hour, and suddenly, your ride not only won’t stop, it can’t come to a halt. Give Simpson props for killer driving skills. These NHRA folks are the best by far.
I DON’T EVEN GET A SHIRT?–Top Fuel driver James Maroney’s second-ever NHRA event resulted in his first-round victory over Brittany Force, but that meant a 45-minute turnaround to prepare the car for the next round, something that James and his crew members had not previously experienced. Additionally, Maroney was running under the Terry Haddock banner, which meant that half of his crew was at the starting line with Haddock! So, with half a crew, some willing friends, and a never-say-quit attitude, Maroney took on the task. The worst part? Hey, these guys didn’t even have matching crew shirts! Fashion mistake! But, they pulled it all together…big love to James!
HEY, NOTHING TO WORRY ABOUT!–Nitro. Just the word conjures up images of supersonic speed and bomb-like explosions, so the stuff’s gotta be totally dangerous just to be around, right? Of course, folks have to be ultra-cautions, but no, just being in the vicinity of the liquid isn’t always the problem. It’s all about what comes in contact with the solution. During the “NHRA 101” segment, Bruno Massel visited the pits of Clay Millican to show viewers first-hand what was necessary to remember about this, “…part of the TNT family of explosives.” With cameras up-close-and-personal, Millican poured nitro into a small metal container, then proceeded to fire up a blowtorch directly onto the liquid, with no reaction whatsoever. However, Massel then commented that if Millican were to take a hammer and hit the material directly while it was still hot, then, as Bruno suggested, “…it would get a little crazy”, as it takes heat and pressure to transform this liquid into 10,000 horsepower of insanity. By the way, while pretending to hit the nitro with the hammer, Clay’s cat-like grin showed that…well, he does drive 320-plus mph in less than four seconds, so…dude’s got a wicked sense of humor. That’s why we love him!
TIME TO HAND OUT THE HARDWARE!–Amanda Busick’s “Best of Walk 1000” segment was nothing short of epic, as the blonde dynamo took viewers on a stroll through a year of her 1000-foot asphalt journeys with various NHRA stars. Following the segment, one of the bean-dip covered staffers who was scraping the bottom of both the bean barrel and a family-sized bag of nacho chips yelled out from across the room, “Man, that was sweet. She needs to give awards for you know, like Best Victory Dance or whatever.” Moments later, the room grew deathly silent, well, ’cause the guys can’t think and talk at the same time. But then? The place erupted with cries of, “Sweet, let’s create our own awards for ’em!” A couple of the staff wanted to pat him on the back, but the dude had bean dip everywhere, so they all gave him a thumbs-up instead. So, because of the best idea he’s had in at least, I dunno…forever, we’ve decided to announce the winners of the first-ever Recliner Report awards, lovingly named…”The Buseys”! (Get it? Amanda Busick? The segment host? The Busey?) So, here are the categories and first-time winners!
“Bravest Dad” goes to: Bob Tasca. Dude’s raising four boys. He’s gotta have nerves of steel. Funny cars? Nuttin’ to this guy.
“Victory Dance” won by Brittany Force, who hoped that the dance she performed during the segment (On national TV) wouldn’t be seen by anyone. Oops. She was wrong. It was very popular.
“Most Agreeable Teammates” is awarded to Jason Line and Greg Anderson, both who agreed that between the two, Jason would most likely lose to Erica Enders on a holeshot. Both laughed. Cool cats.
“The Homebody Netflix & Chill” is given to Tanner Gray, for his thoughts on the ideal first date.
“I Can Drive 300-Plus MPH, But I Hate Heights” goes to Tommy Johnson, Jr., who feels cool traveling at speeds that would curl the hair of most folks, but doesn’t care much at all for being far off Earth turf.
“Yeah, I Cry At Movies, But My Brother-In-Law…He’s The Worst!” is won by Vincent Nobile, who freely admitted to expressing his emotional side, but then tossing relative and Pro Bike pilot Hector Arana Jr. under the bus that just happened to be passing by. Yikes. Sunday dinners must be interesting in that fam…
“I Look Like An Accountant, But I Drive A Bomb On Four Wheels” is awarded to Doug Kalitta, who, though he might appear mild-mannered, has nerves of nitro when guiding his Top Fueler. One cool cat.
“Understatement Of The Year” goes to Terry McMillen, who, when asked what he learned from the multiple engine explosions he’s endured during his career, simply replied, “Not to do that.” Mic drop!
“You’re The Best Cooker, But I’m The Best Date Booker” is awarded to Matt & Angie Smith, who agreed that cooking from scratch is her game, but the two weren’t of the same opinion when deciding who plans the coolest dates. It’s all good. Hey, they’ve raced each other before. They’ll make it just fine!
“Best Victory Dance By A Wanna-Be Dentist” is won by Blake Alexander, whose version of “The Floss” warmed the hearts of professional tooth caretakers across the country. Dude’s got the swing!
“I Don’t Dance But I Can Put A WWE Bodyslam On Ya” goes to Angelle Sampey, whose victory celebration was replaced by an over-the-shoulder toss of her beau Seth onto the finish line in a way that would cause even the Undertaker to mumble, “Ummm…nope. I’m not goin’ up against her. I’m outta here.” Sampey’s final comment while walking off camera? “I didn’t come here to dance.” Wow.
A MAN AMONG MEN–In Amanda Busick’s “My Journey” segment with Top Fuel pilot Clay Millican, viewers were guided through the life of someone who can only be described as an incredible human being. Millican, a Drummonds, Tennessee resident, grew up stocking shelves in his daddy’s grocery store every Wednesday, was driving everywhere by the age of 12, and was raised by Jimmy and Martha, with dad being “…his buddy” and his mother referred to as “…the community counselor.” Unbelievably, Martha was shot in the right temple during a robbery at the grocery store, and though bleeding profusely, told those who apprehended the shooter, a person she had known since his birth, “…not to hurt him. He didn’t mean to. He’s sick.” Told by his parents that they would do anything and everything to help him race, (As long as the streets weren’t his lane of choice) his first memories of drag racing included watching match races involving “Big Daddy” Don Garlits, causing him to say, “I want to do that.” After marrying his high school sweetheart Donna, he received total support from her, despite spending everything they had so he could chase his dream. A father to son Cale, Millican has also endured a parent’s worst nightmare, that being the death of his second son Dalton, who at age 22, was killed in an accident in August of 2015. Awakened late one night by two policemen, Clay’s initial thought was that his son had gotten in some type of trouble, but he soon learned the horrible truth. Dalton, who Millican described as a person who lived more in 22 years than some folks who were 70 or 80 years of age, toured the world as a Monster Jam driver and lived life to the fullest. Later, Clay was given the motorcycle that Dalton was riding before his accident, and when feeling he could do so, rebuilt the machine in his shop. In an incredible display of love and affection, Millican eventually went to the scene of Dalton’s accident for the first time, and did so while riding the restored motorcycle, completing a journey that “…was finished. He was headed home.” Finally, on Father’s Day in 2017, his incredible saga continued, when, after arriving at the track, Clay was presented with a child-sized racing chest protector from a gentleman who stated that it had been signed by Dalton. Amazingly, the item was also the first autograph the younger Millican had ever signed in his career. Later, that day, following his 254 attempts to achieve a victory during years of NHRA Top Fuel racing, Clay won his first-ever title, a win that, “…I could never top.” The segment was an instant classic, one from a man who is not just a husband, father, and racer, but also a truly amazing and inspirational person.
FINALLY!–Hector Arana’s victory in the Pro Bike category was his first since 2015, and his screams of pure joy could be heard through his helmet even before coming to a halt at the top end. Needless to say, the Wally placed in his hands got “the love”, receiving a huge smooch and hug. Arana Jr. also gave a shout-out to his wife Nicole, and announced that a baby is on the way. Bet the Wally would look really sweet decorating the nursery…
BY THE BLINK OF A BLINK–Greg Anderson’s win over teammate Jason Line was, unbelievably, the first victory for either of the Summit pair this season. The 37th matchup between the two ended with the clock describing the difference at the finish line between them as being 21 ten-thousandths of a sec. Can you say evenly matched?
STILL SMOLDERING–You might think that with 16 championships under his belt, winning an event title might be a ho-hum moment for John Force. Fugeddabout it. Dude wants to win more than ever, and following his Funny Car victory over Ron Capps, his first since Gainesville in 2017, John proved his absolute love of his desire to reach 17 titles and possibly beyond. Proving the fire still burns, Force’s top end interview emotionally described a story regarding the support of John Bandimere, (Original owner of land purchased in 1958 for what is now Bandimere Speedway) as well as references to Don Prudhomme and Tom “The Mongoose” McEwen. Sometimes hard to follow, but always passion-filled, Force is an interviewer’s dream.
IT TAKES A VILLAGE–Leah Pritchett’s Top Fuel ride, described by Bruno Massel as, “…running on mean all weekend long”, took a nail-biter from Doug Kalitta in the final, winning by 24 ten-thousandths of a second. Following her top end interview, Leah immediately ran to her crew to give hugs and show the love she has for her behind-the-scenes mechanical wizards. The only disappointment of this matchup? No mosh by the Kalitta crew, who would’ve had gone WWE Smackdown in a heartbeat. Those dudes have no fear of asphalt.
Denver, you were stellar, and this was only the first step in the Western Swing! The next two weekends are gonna be some kinda dance! Till next time, keep Reclining!