THE RECLINER REPORT!
Stop #24–AAA Auto Club Finals, Auto Club Raceway, Pomona, California
Are you kidding me? The last event of the season? Already? Man, has the nitro flown by this year, or what? I gotta tell ya, this is one weird day at Recliner Report headquarters. The staffers? Well, they’re all pumped to watch the show, but tomorrow? Man, it’s back to finding something to fill the racing void that takes place until February 7th back here in Cali when the 2019 season begins. It’s kinda scary, actually. Most of the guys will dig on some football, while we have a couple of NBA ballers, and even one dude who gets his jollies watching curling. Yikes. But, the dude that most of us are concerned about is flannel shirt-wearing guy, who swears he’s gonna subscribe to the Cricket Network. His reason? “Dudes, those games can go on for days. I watch a few matches, and…boom! February is here, and I’m back with Fox Sports 1 in Pomona. Problem solved.”
Ummm…OK. His reasoning is understandable, but all the staffers were hoping that during the break, he would roll off the couch, go outside for awhile, and work off some of the bean dip and Cheetos. Yup, he’s getting a bit…chunky, and walking around the block for a bit might improve his ability to at least sit upright without sweating. Whatever. The bottom line? We’re gonna miss this stuff! The drama, driver disagreements, dogpiles from winning crew members, drivers that misspell their own name on the side of the car, (Bob Utner) the “Walking 1000 Feet” segments with Amanda Busick, the epic commentary and sense of humor from broadcasters Dave Rieff and Tony Pedregon, and Lewis Bloom’s obscure facts and info.
OK, enough already. Let’s get down to biz. We’ve got a show to recap, and it was sweet. In this episode, you’ll learn about a champion that’s hitting the road, a nuclear dogpile, and a party that’s probably still going on somewhere! Let’s fire ’em up!
I’VE GOT WHO? FUGEDDABOUT IT…–If race event wins could take place in the first round, Blake Alexander would have been the king of
Top Fuel in 2018. His win over Mike Salinas on Sunday gave him a perfect 11-0 record in initial round matchups this season. Not sure what makes him so tough, but in 2019, anyone facing Blake in the first go-round might suddenly come up with a horrible hangnail or claim to have been bitten by a really big mosquito.
THAT’S WHY THEY RUN THE RACE–Leah Pritchett pulled off a 3.631 effort in Top Fuel qualifying during the weekend, vaulting her to the second-fastest time in NHRA history to go along with her seven event wins. Her first round opponent, Bill Litton, had a total of three wins in his career, making their matchup one that caused some folks to quickly run to grab a beverage while the inevitable took place. But, 3.979 seconds later, Litton crossed the finish line first after Leah smoked the tires and crossed the center line during her run. Let’s say it together: “Anyone can win on any given Sunday.” Word.
HE WON IT ALL WITHOUT MOVING–J.R. Todd won the Funny Car title while sitting still. Nope, his motor wasn’t running, and he was just chilling while sitting inside his ride in the staging lanes. The reason? Robert Hight, the only competitor in the category with an opportunity to win the champ’s jacket, smoked the tires in his first-round battle against Bob Tasca. Needless to say, J.R. was kinda happy. And the crew? Dude, they were primed for a major league dogpile, but couldn’t make the time at that moment. Why? They had to immediately go up against Jim Campbell in the next pairing. The dogpile? Yeah, they managed to get one in later in the day.
BAD WORDS AREN’T ALWAYS CURSE WORDS–Through the years, society has developed words that weren’t around in years past, such as “bingeable”, “hangry”, and “Google.” This season, in response to a crisis that takes place on roadways across our country, Robert Hight displayed the phrase “Don’t drive intexticated” on the sides of his nitro ride, referring to the injuries and deaths that have been caused by drivers distracted because of texting while driving. Amanda Busick interviewed Howard and Dawn Mauer, who lost their daughter in 2011 after she was hit by a texting driver, and since that time, the couple has been on a mission to get that message out to all. Though we love to goof around in this column, we appreciate Fox 1, the NHRA, and John Force Racing for bringing that message to the masses. Dudes, let’s try and get the word “intexticated” out of our vocabulary. Texting can wait.
YOU AIN’T GETTIN’ A GIFT FROM ME–Steve Torrence put on the Top Fuel champ’s jacket two weeks ago at The Strip in Vegas, and in the process won his fifth consecutive event of the Countdown. Unreal. So, you think he’s gonna just show up at Pomona and go through the motions in the final race? Ummm…no. Dude was more motivated than ever to achieve perfection by winning his sixth straight to sweep every Countdown event. But, standing in his way during Round Two was dad Billy, who wanted nothing more than to run Stevie off the road and spoil the party. For those who thought Billy might roll over…think again, as the pair locked horns till the finish line before the younger Torrence crossed first, giving him his 22nd consecutive round win and bragging rights at home over the winter.
FINAL FOOD FINDINGS–Jeg Coughlin defeated Bo Butner in Pro Stock second round action by five inches, setting off a rush to the table by staffers for the final food measurement of the season. After about ten minutes of a completely time-wasting experiment, they figured out that five inches was 1) just longer than one Twinkie, 2) a bit longer than the diameter of a can of bean dip, 3) three pretty-good sized Cheetos, or six smaller ones, and 4) about the length of one-and-a-half chocolate cupcakes. (One of the staffers brought a couple of boxes. Hey, the last race of the season is a big deal!) We gotta get some new snacks for next season. Suggestions from any of you are more than welcome. Just keep a couple of criteria in mind: no fruit, vegetables, or food that actually comes directly from the earth. Lots of preservatives are essential. Items that come wrapped in packages that have an expiration date at least a couple of years down the road are appreciated. Hey, no one said this was a healthy bunch. They all have cardiologists on speed dial…
I GOT YOUR MOTIVATION–Here’s your riddle of the day: this dude has 48 career wins, 86 final rounds, and a career best speed of 199.55mph. He’s a feared competitor, a guy that no one likes seeing in the other lane. But, for the first time in 15 years (That’s one more than 14) he went winless. Absolutely zero. Nada. None. Nula. (That’s Czech) Sifir. (That’s from Turkey) And finally, from the good ‘ol American vocabulary…zippo. Yep, for the first time in 5,475 days, Pro Bike’s Andrew HInes went winless. Here’s betting that Andrew is gonna be on a two-wheel motorcycle mission next season…
YOU WON HOW MANY?–Lewis Bloom always blows staffers’ minds with his insights and obscure facts that cause them to just shake their heads. Sure, these are the same guys that lost it when one of the dudes put an entire can of bean dip in his mouth during the SpringNationals back in April at Houston Raceway Park, so we’re not exactly talkin’ brain surgeons. Still, Bloom is the best ever at finding facts that make viewers say, “Dude…no way.” This week, we learned that in 2008, Tony Schumacher won 15 Top Fuel races, while in Funny Car, John Force won 13 events in 1996. Greg Anderson, Pro Stock pilot extraordinaire claimed 15 wins in 2004, while in 1998, Matt Hines won 10 races in the Pro Bike category. Those dudes must have fireplace mantels in their homes that are like, 30 feet long…
THAT WAS KINDA BOLD–Eddie Krawiec defeated Hector Arana, Jr. in the Pro Bike semifinal, setting up a winner-take-all battle against Matt Smith for the champion’s jacket in the final round. Turning into the top end area, Eddie stood up on his ride while pointing at Smith and yelling multiple times, “I’m coming for you!” Smith? He said nothing in response, but simply sipped his Mello Yello, smiled, then walked his bike away from the scene. The staffers grew totally silent, till one mumbled, “Dude…” The group, in shock over Krawiec’s bold statement, then pulled out bags of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos for the final rounds. Dudes, this was serious…
THIS WAS A PRETTY DANG GOOD DAY–Matt Smith had what some folks might call a banner day, as he won his 3rd Pro Bike championship on his birthday, all while resetting the category speed record at 201.22 mph. Also, he got a really nice-sized check, a sweet jacket, a giant champ’s medal the size of the clock worn around Flava Flav’s neck, and a fireworks display in his honor while on the winner’s stand. All makes for a pretty good Sunday, yeah?
HE’S HOW OLD…AND DOING WHAT?–He’s 19 years old, participated in 48 national events, and won 13 of ’em. He won three of this year’s Countdown races. On this day, he not only won the Auto Club Finals, he donned the jacket that only belongs to the Pro Stock champion, in this case, the youngest title holder in NHRA history. Yup, Tanner Gray is pretty darn good. So, he’s leaving the sport to begin competing in the NASCAR K&N East Series on a full-time basis. Dang. Talk about leaving on top…
EATIN’ ASPHALT–Finally! A dogpile! No, that’s really not fair. This wasn’t a dogpile. This was a human asphalt dive-bombing of massive proportions. There were bodies flying from multiple teams from every direction possible. This. Was. Epic. Staffers swear they saw guys who had been selling cotton candy in the stands joining in on this one following J.R. Todd’s victory over Tommy Johnson, Jr. in the Funny Car finale. Broadcaster Dave Rieff said it best when he commented, “A scene I would like to have zero part in.” Rieff is a very wise man.
WE GON’ HAVE OURSELVES A GOOD TIME TONIGHT!–Steve Torrence joined a very elite club on Sunday following his victory over Tony Schumacher in the Top Fuel final. With his 11th win of the season, he joined Schumacher (15 wins) and Larry Dixon (12 wins) as the only other driver to win ten or more events in a single season. After winning all six races in the Countdown, Torrence’s pursuit of perfection was followed by an interview with Amanda Busick in which he thanked all his sponsors as well as Mello Yello and a certain company that manufactures a soft drink that Steve commented, “I might drink with some whisky tonight!” Ummm…we’re betting that the party was ON somewhere in Cali on Sunday night…
Well, alrighty folks! The first year of The Recliner Report is now in the books! From all of us at world headquarters, we appreciate each and every one of you that joined in this insanity to follow along with this cross country-traveling nitro circus called the NHRA, and hopefully next season you’ll hear from us again! It’s been a real joy to share our bean dip, Twinkies, Cheetos, and random thoughts with all of you folks, and until we meet again…keep reclinin’!