THE RECLINER REPORT!
Stop #19–34th Dodge NHRA Nationals, Maple Grove Raceway, Reading, Pennsylvania–Only six races to go!
Maple Grove. Aaah. Such a peaceful sounding place. Walks through the woods. Happy, smiling children flying through the air on tire swings. Ice cream socials under lush, green, leafy branches.
Ummm…well, sorry to disturb the rainbows and unicorns dream sequence there, but that was all replaced on this weekend by 10,000 horsepower, fire-breathing monsters with enough earth-shattering power to turn any solid ice cream into instant milkshakes! But boy, do those shakes ever taste great! Thanks for joining the Recliner Report this week, where, thanks to the epic Fox 1 Sports coverage of the event, we watch high-flying crewmembers pound each other into the asphalt, learn the scariest way to drive a Winnebago, and hear about a crewmember who has been around more than eight decades! Let’s fire ’em up!
MUST’VE BEEN A BOY SCOUT–Stevie Torrence is one prepared-for-anything dude. He’s gonna be in Maple Grove for the weekend, so he brought extra clothes, toothpaste, maybe two sets of jammies for a good night’s sleep…ya know, the usual traveler stuff. Heck, even when the Recliner staffers are loading up on snacks for Race Day, they always seem to manage to squeeze in an extra can of bean dip, some additional Twinkies, and if they’re feelin’ it, packages of Ding Dongs with the epic cream filling. But, they got nuttin’ on Stevie Blaze, who threw an extra Top Fueler into the top of his hauler, just in case ‘ol number one bit the dust. During Bruno Massel’s ultra-sweet “NHRA 101” segment, Massel took us into the Texan’s rig and showed off hot rod #2, which if needed, is only 20 minutes of preparation from being track-ready. The RR staffers stood in unison and saluted Torrence by raising their Flamin’ Hot Cheetos in Steve’s honor. Those dudes are wacked…
BOING, BOING, BOING...A very general check (That means, staffers looked at one website while doing their research) shows that there are 311,531 folks in the U.S. with the first name of Mike. Now, another site states there are 2,806,195 people that claim Smith as their family surname. So, staffers (Who by this time were totally exhausted after their two website effort…goobers) did a final search and learned that when combining the two, we find 2,744 U.S residents named Mike Smith. But, it only took one Mike Smith (The #16 qualifier) to bounce #1-ranked Courtney Force out of the Grove and back into the trailer. On Sundays, names mean nothing…nada…zippo.
DON’T FEAR THE RIEFFER…BUT WATCH OUT FOR THE CRUZER…Sounds nutz, but folks who know will tell you, “Don’t ever get near the head of a rattlesnake, even if it’s cut off the body. It can still bite you.” Crazy? Nope. Truth. And even though he didn’t make the Countdown list and is cut off from winning the Funny Car championship, Cruz Pedregon can still bite…hard. Dude is one lethal cat, and proved it following his first-round takedown of Jack Beckman.
THANK GOODNESS FOR TAPE DELAY–Thankfully, “Fast” Jack Beckman’s tongue was slow enough to stop himself from giving the broadcast a distinctly adult flavor following his first-round Funny Car loss to Cruz Pedregon. When Amanda Busick asked what he was thinking after smoking the tires during his run, he paused, smiled slightly, then commented, “I’m not sure I can say that on TV.” Whew. No earmuffs needed…
YOU GOTTA BE KIDDIN’! John Force took down #2 Countdown Qualifier Matt Hagan in a Round One battle of the giants. A big win? Well…sure! Round wins keep you in the hunt for Mr. Wally, but this win was extra special, ’cause the 16-time champ had not won a single solitary round at Maple Grove in…wait for it…four years. Four. Quatro. One more than three. Sounds impossible, but it be the ‘thang.
NO SPEED LIMIT…NO AGE LIMIT–You might think that being 82 years of age means rocking chairs, birdwatching, and well, more birdwatching. Forget ‘dat. Pro Stocker Matt Hartford brought his grandmother Delores out to the Grove to help at the starting line this weekend. OK, so she wasn’t tuning the car or breaking down his motor in the pits, but working the door right before leaving the line means that Matt leaves with some fresh air inside his rig. Watching flying critters from the backporch rocker? Fugeddabout…that’s for the birds! Grandma Delores, you go get it!
C’MON, PUT UP YOUR DUKES–On her “Behind the Visor” segment, Amanda Busick quizzed Pro Stock pilot Greg Anderson about his biggest threat at the Grove. Anderson grinned, then replied, “Who? About 20 of ’em. It seems like I’m surrounded by wolves. Everybody wants it. Everybody’s got fast cars, everybody kills the tree…man, we are gonna have one heck of a brawl.” You gotta give it to Greg. With family back in North Carolina battling the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, dude’s gotta be hurting, but Anderson’s still bringin’ it.
NO WAY! DON’T LIE TO ME!–Time flies. But, how long do you think it’s been since Steve Johnson has had a round win at Maple Grove? Not an event win, but a round victory? T-E-N years. Un-freaking believable. But, with his first-round Pro Bike beatup over Jerry Savoie, the Johnster broke the curse. Would love to see Stevie in the top end interview after winning an event. Dude makes pro comedians look like hacks…hilarious!
LISTEN, I LIKE YOU GUYS, BUT…Yup, Jack Beckman was back in the booth for Round Two of the nitro events, and as much as he likes Dave Rieff and Tony Pedregon, he’d rather not ever see either of them on a Sunday. Why? Simple. It means the dude lost in Round Uno. He backed this up with his first comments during his time with the Fox 1 commentators, saying, “No offense…I don’t wanna come up here anymore this year.” No harm, no foul. The Reiffer and Tony P. understood completely. Gotta say, tho, you can’t get any better than “Fast” Jack in the booth. Dude is smart, funny, knows everything about racecars, and totally has a future hangin’ behind the mike someday.
“YEAH, AND MY CAR WAS FALLING APART, TOO”—Facing Tony Schumacher in Round Two action is no fun for anyone, so try running the roads against Schumacher while body parts from your own Top Fuel rocket are flying in your face during the journey towards the finish line. Yup, that was the dilemma encountered by Scott Palmer, whose car began to disintegrate at 320-plus mph towards the top end. Think of how many folks on the streets today get rattled by a bumping into a pothole while cruising the neighborhood, then picture Palmer with a face full of carbon fiber while barely falling to the “The Sarge”. Dude is nails.
TOLD YA SO!–No way. Uh-uh. Forget it. Stop it right now. This was the absolutest, (?) bestest, coolest line of the show, from our earlier-mentioned buddy-turned-broadcaster Jack Beckman. When describing the skill it takes to guide a Funny Car missile down a lane, Jack brought the staff to tears laughing when he stated, “Funny cars are a lot like a Winnebago in a crosswind with a flat front tire. You can’t just let go of the steering wheel and steer with your knee.” Around the room, cans of bean dip were raised by the entire staff after that punchline. Freaking priceless. Definitely a, “Remember to tip your servers…I’ll be here all week!” moment.
“SUPERSTITIOUS? ME? FORGET IT!”-–Some folks like to avoid the number 13 at all costs. Stay on the 13th floor of a hotel? Nope. Go to the doctor on the 13th of the month? No way. But, that odd number was more than welcomed by Hector Arana, Jr., whose final round win over Matt Smith was the 13th event championship of his career. That means 13 Wallys at the house. That also means a few more and he’s having to build an addition to his casa…
ALL IN THE FAMILY…NHRA STYLE–Vincent Nobile’s family has gotta be the coolest ever, ’cause the hugs shared by the New Jersey bunch (And not just when winning an event) are proof that they’re the model for loving families everywhere. But the good vibes aren’t just blood-related, as Hector Arana, Jr., brother-in-law to Vincent, was shown acting as the Pro Stock winner’s personal cheerleader after watching his bud cross the finish line first. Hector even got an on-camera kiss on the cheek from Vince after both met at the top end. There’s gonna be some epic partyin’ happening in Jersey after the fellas doubled up. Stellar.
AND THEN A MOSH BROKE OUT…–Connie Kalitta picked up his 100th event win as a driver/owner thanks to J.R. Todd’s Funny Car victory over Tim Wilkerson. Thank goodness Connie wasn’t involved in the mosh that followed, ’cause he would’ve ended up in a local hospital. Those Kalitta boys are killers on the starting line, and we’re not talking about anything that has to do with the abilities of their drivers. Dudes, we’re talking serious, high-flying asphalt action. Hope that bunch has great group health insurance…
FIRING ON ALL CYLINDERS–Just a guess here, but we’re thinking that the Army has many more powerful weapons stockpiled than Steve Torrence could ever have in his own home. But, the imaginary six-shooters Steve fires off following a victory have more than enough firepower for the Texan who currently stands #1 in the Top Fuel Countdown. Additionally, Torrence launched a few verbal shots at his competitors, as evidenced when he commented at the top end to Amanda Busick, “I’m not here to play games, I’m not here to be friends with anybody. Piss on ’em all, we’re here to win races and go home.” Well… OK then, Steve! That’s quite a visual!
Alrighty then! The Countdown is now officially on, and next week, the fun bunch is off to the Arch. Nope, they’re not looking for Happy Meals or chicken nuggets, but the St. Louis landmark that let’s ’em know that the Midwest Nationals are just around the corner. Till then, keep Reclining!