THE RECLINER REPORT!
Stop #20–AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals, Gateway Motorsports Park, St. Louis, Missouri
Dudes, this is getting fun. Whether you agree or disagree with the Countdown format, it’s here to stay. But, unlike some sports where those who aren’t eligible for the playoffs start planning their beach vacation and phone in a half-hearted effort, even those NHRA folks that are out of the running just turn up the gas week after week. Matter of fact, many of ’em love spoiling the fun of those who are in the chase, so you never know what to expect during the Fox 1 broadcasts of the 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Racing Series. What you can count on in this edition of the Recliner Report is that you’ll learn that even headless snakes still retain their venom, guys that most consider past retirement age can still take down racing’s young guns, and even one-thousandth of a second matters, especially if it relates to the color red! Let’s. Fire. ‘Em. Up!
10, 11, 12…14, 15, 16—The number 13. Many folks avoid it at all costs. Doesn’t matter what, when, why, or where. After first-round Top Fuel action, you can make number “many folks plus one”, as Brittany Force lost her 13th first round matchup during this season, on this weekend to Mike Salinas. Our staffers understand, and they stay away from 13 as well. Why? About three weeks ago, one of the goobers ate 13 Twinkies in a single sitting. They found him later in the backyard behind the RR offices, all sugared-up and babbling to a squirrel about the pros and cons of using a five or six disc clutch. The squirrel wasn’t really listening.
STILL BITIN’–Remember last week’s episode when we talked about not getting close to a dead snake, even when it’s been decapitated? Yup, last week in Reading, Cruz Pedregon, though not a part of the Funny Car Countdown, brought a halt to “Fast” Jack Beckman’s desire to take a Wally back to live with him in Cali. Well, the reptile appeared again in St. Louis when Pedregon ended the hopes and dreams of Ron Capps in Round One action. The Cruzer, a multi-time champion, is one bad hombre behind the wheel, and he’s thrivin’ on keeping other competitors from drivin’…
FREEZE FRAME–The beginning of this week’s show featured an overjoyed Hector Arana, Jr. giving his newest Wally a hug and a Mello Yello bath. Dude was pumped, not only because the Pro Bike winner took home a gold dude from Maple Grove, but because brother-in-law Vincent Nobile also gave the top prize a personal ride back to Jersey following his own Pro Stock win. Last week, Arana Jr. was flyin. This week? Frozen. During First Round action versus Angelle Sampey, the 42-event winner from Louisiana left the starting line with a reaction time of .037, while Arana Jr.’s was just a bit behind at 8.111. Yup, dude didn’t even move due to mechanical issues. Crazy. Sometimes you’re the hammer, other days the nail. Ouch.
NOT EVEN A SPLIT SECOND–Eddie Krawiec exploded to a 6.828, 195.70mph effort in First Round Pro Bike action versus Joey Gladstone, whose 6.893 ride was just a bit behind ‘ol “Steady” Eddie. Unfortunately, Krawiec’s reaction time of -.001 meant that Joey moved on, while EK moved on…to the the trailer…for the rest of the day. One thousandth of a second. Not enough time for our staffers (Who eat Flamin’ Hot Cheetos on a professional basis) to even consider picking up one of the red-orange, crispity-crunchy jewels to munch on. Still, that’s all the time it took for Joey to win a ticket to ride…to Round Two.
FOR SURE, DUDE…THIS ONE’S OVAH–One guy is 72 years young, has two career wins, and six final rounds. The other? 49 years of age, with 84 career wins and 152 final rounds…and just for good measure, owns eight World Championship titles. On paper, a mismatch. On Sunday, a victory…for the dude that been on the planet for over seven decades. Yep, Round Two action in the Top Fuel category saw Pat Dakin sending Tony Schumacher out of the state of Missouri until next year. You’ve heard this before, and you’ll hear it again someday: throw the records out of the cockpit when the green light turns on. Throw out everything. Well, not exactly everything. You gotta keep what’s necessary. Sure, if you find stuff like candy bar wrappers or those Cheerios that seem to land in the weirdest places, get rid of ’em…aww, you get the idea.
IN ABOUT AN HOUR, YOU’RE NOT MY HUSBAND–Crazy. Leah Pritchett pilots a Top Fuel land rocket, while her husband works on the ride of fellow competitor Steve Torrence. That’s gotta make for some interesting talk during the week over morning coffee for the duo. When interviewed by Amanda Busick at the top end following her Second Round win, Leah said all the right things, and was as smooth as a politician when discussing the rounds ahead. Tell you what, though. Pritchett is a heckuva lot better looking than those government dudes, that is, according to staffers, who were unanimous in their opinions. Advice to staffers who are interested in meeting women like Leah: you guys exist on enough junk food that your internal organs are probably permanently preserved. Eat. Vegetables. Now. Anyway, back to the broadcast. Following the interview, Fox 1’s Dave Rieff translated Leah’s comments regarding their upcoming semifinals meet and greet with the Torrence Gang in simple, classic Rieffer style, commenting, “He’s not my husband next round.” Don’t fear the Rieffer. Only enjoy. Dude paints pictures with words. Epic.
HAPPY, HAPPY, HAPPY–Most folks have a happy place. Our staffers? Staring at a pre-race table full of grub, sometimes even shedding a tear if a bowl of queso has been added. Throw in guacamole and you can actually see grown men sob with happiness. Not even gonna tell you what happens if the occasional hot wings are delivered mid-race. Use your imagination. Anyhoo, Steve Torrence’s fave spot involves food as well, only his doesn’t have to be enclosed in a plastic bag, or eaten after a can opener is involved. See, Steve’s food is still alive. Yup, if you want to see the real joy come out in Torrence, visit him in his deer stand down in Texas, where he hangs out in search of some grub that comes equipped with antlers. Dude loves to hunt, and he carries a visual reminder of his spot, a photo that’s taped in his cockpit during every event.
YOU WON AND I DIDN’T? WHO CARES? THAT’S GREAT!–Six ten-thousandths of a second. Heck, it takes longer to say it than it actually lasts. Still, that was the distance between Matt Smith and LE Tonglet in their Pro Bike final, and that number translates into a distance of two inches. Two. With the win, Smith took over the points lead, and his biggest fan, wife Angie, could probably be heard all the way down at the top end. Angie’s yells of support and appreciation for his victory proved that the couple, while being competitors, are still each other’s biggest supporters. Very cool. In a day where married couples can experience jealousy over even the smallest issues, Angie showed her love at Matt’s success. Nice.
I’D LIKE A DOZEN WALLYS, PLEASE–Tanner Gray is 19 years young. Tanner is in his second year of drag racing. Earlier this season, Tanner and Erica Enders had what folks might call a bit of a “tiff” regarding a few racing issues, but for the past few weeks, the on-camera tension between the pair has been replaced by a mature effort from both drivers to play nice. Epic. With his win over Drew Skillman at St. Louis, Gray added his 11th Wally (His 6th this year) to an already weighted-down mantle at his home, and this after only 44 races in his entire Pro Stock career. We’ve got no math pros in this bunch, which means that figuring out Tanner’s winning percentage is pointless, so we’ll just say…dang. Dude is stellar.
NOTHING MORE TO SAY–OK, we’ll be the first to admit that we goof around a lot in the Recliner Report. Tons, to be more specific. But following the explosion that took place in Robert Hight’s Funny Car at the finish line in his victory over Tim Wilkerson, we won’t dare say anything in an attempt to bring humor to what was initially viewed as a possible tragic event. What can be said? First, Hight is a flat-out warrior. Even immediately following the blast, the slo-mo camera showed Hight actually steering the car down the left side wall despite a flame engulfing his ride that can only be described as terrifying. Next, big love to the NHRA for instituting safety features that more than likely saved Robert’s life. None of us can even begin to understand the horror of living through such an event, and because of the improvements that have taken place over time, drivers now survive those occasions that more than likely would have previously resulted in certain death. Also, thanks to the Safety Safari, who immediately arrived and made Hight’s well-being their top priority. Finally, a huge, “Dude, you are an epic human being” goes to Hight’s opponent Tim Wilkerson, who quickly exited his own ride to help Robert in any way possible. Wilkerson is class personified. Now, wanna hear something crazy? In two weeks the nitro circus visits Dallas. In two weeks Robert Hight will be back in the cockpit, where most of us would still be nervous about getting anywhere near a car. Dude is absolute nails. Though all high-speed motorsports have an element of danger, sitting only a few feet from a motor that creates 10,000 horsepower, and by the way, is fueled by nitromethane, takes more courage than any type of racing on this planet. Period.
A VERY FAMILIAR PLACE TO BE–Though a deer stand is the first choice “happy place” for Top Fuel pilot Steve Torrence, we’re betting that standing in the Winner’s Circle currently runs a close second for the Kilgore, Texas resident, as Steve’s win over Clay Millican gave him his seventh Wally of the 2018 season, and his fifteenth in only 45 racing events. Though coming out on top in the event, we gotta give big love to Millican, who stood by watching Torrence’s top end interview with only one thing…a big smile on his face. For a guy who has endured a great deal of personal and professional struggles, Millican is the consumate pro, and it’s no wonder he’s a fan favorite.
Well, alright! With four more races to go, we’re closing in on crowning the champs, and there’s no better place to be than Dallas in two weeks for the AAA Texas NHRA Fall Nationals! Yep, they say everything’s bigger in Tejas, so let’s get ready to rumble! Till then, keep reclinin’!