Motorsports Recap And Behind The Scenes Access

No Catching Any ZZZZZsss At zMAX–It’s The Recliner Report!


Stop #6–The NGK 4-Wide Nationals, zMAX Dragway, Charlotte, North Carolina

Woo-hoo! Charlotte! North Carolina! BBQ! Nitro! More BBQ! More nitro! Again…BBQ! Four-wide racing with twice the nitro…woo-freakin’ hoo!

Man, it just doesn’t get any better than this. Heck, it’s hard enough describing the nuclear explosions that take place at a “normal” NHRA event, much less what happens when you double the starting line insanity that takes place at zMAX! Seriously? 40,000 horsepower per run? Man, there probably wasn’t any wildlife within 100 miles of the racetrack during this weekend. Why? Any animals that couldn’t fly could be found on on the interstate trying to hitch a ride out of the Charlotte metro area for fear of losing their hearing or sanity! Double the normal nitro? Yikes! Anyway, the rolling circus invaded North Carolina as part of the 2019 Mello Yello NHRA Racing Series, and the results were, like…crazy noisy! In this edition of the Recliner Report, we learn about a team owner celebrating Christmas in April, the Barnum & Bailey Circus showing up, (Almost) and getting hit in the head with a baseball bat . Let’s light ’em up!

UHHH…CAN I HAVE ONE? Last month, Mike Salinas secured his first-ever NHRA win at Las Vegas in the most recent four-wide event. So, the grateful team owner gave each of his crew members a small token of his appreciation. OK, so did the crew dudes receive a commemorative keychain? Nope. How about…a sweet plaque inscribed with the date of the victory? Ummm…uh-uh. See, instead, each crew guy found himself the owner of a brand-spanking new Harley. Yup. That’s a Harley-Davidson motorcycle. The kind that can be ridden. So…after hearing that news, Mike probably found his email inbox packed with about 5,000 job requests from folks wanting to turn a wrench in the Salinas garage! Dude…that show of appreciation is just flat-out, unbelievably, tremendously…epic! Hey, by the way Mike…ummm, what’s your email address?

JUST ANOTHER SUNDAY DRIVE IN THE PARK–In an effort to show viewers the complexity of starting a race with two Christmas trees, Fox 1’s Brian Lohnes took to the lanes in a 400-horsepower Camaro. Now, though Lohnes was in the passenger’s seat, he was driven by, as he described, “…an unemployed Funny Car driver”, that being Fox 1 booth announcer Tony Pedregon. So, when you put most folks behind the wheel of a ride with so much horsepower, they’re gonna have their hands full just keeping such a beast in between the white lines of their local streets, right? But, you think Pedregon had the same issues? Nah. After launching from the starting line, he tutored Lohnes on all the ins and outs of what was taking place in the cockpit during a race with double the normal number of participants, sometimes with only one hand on the wheel. Dude is used to going 330-mph. Dude can flat-out drive. Driving with one hand? Piece ‘o cake. Cool to see someone so talented sharing his knowledge with others.

YOU GET A WIN, AND YOU GET A WIN, AND YOU…–Steve Torrence dominated the Top Fuel category en route to winning the 2018 championship. Beginning the 2019 season, the Texan had a 24-round win streak that carried him to the title the previous year. Yep, 24! So, it was an obvious lock that Torrence would pick up right where he left off, yeah? Ummm…nope. Proving that anyone can win on Sunday, the Top Fuel dudes and dudettes entered Sunday with five different winners in five races. Nope, you can’t rest on your pistons with this bunch. Gotta bring it every week.

SMILE FOR THE CAMERA! Someday, Clay Millican is gonna have to hang up the helmet. Nope, it’s not gonna be anytime soon, but let’s be real: at some point, driving 330-mph is juuussst a bit fast for any person. But when Clay decides it’s time to move on, he’s got a really bright future as someone who can motivate others. No matter if he wins a title, finishes second by the slimmest of margins, or blows an engine in mid-race, the Tennessee native always has a grin on his face and a positive outlook when being interviewed. In a day when many athletes have a bad game, then treat their interviewer like a punching bag, Millcan is always just…well, happy. Yep, even when stuff blows up. Dang cool guy.

I OPEN MOUTH, I SPEAK, I FINISH–Shawn Langdon. Funny Car driver. Man of few words. Yes. He. Is. When asked by Jamie Howe about his .099 light in the first round (Which he said was a bad job by him) and what work he had ahead to improve his starting line skills, he simply stated, “Get better.” Man, that dude can really run his mouth! A real chatterbox that Shawn! Someone needs to tell him to dial it down…

WHERE’S THE BEAN DIP? The fourth grouping in the Pro Bike category featured Matt Smith, Angie Smith, Scotty Pollacheck, and Hector Arana, Jr. No biggie, right? Nope, until we learned that the Smiths and Pollacheck were all teammates in Matt Smith Racing, leaving Arana Jr. to fend for himself. Talk about gangin’ up on a guy, yeah? No matter. Hector dropped the hammer on the bunch, taking the round, while Angie came in second after defeating husband Matt by the length of a Frito at the finish line. No joke. It was that close. Weird that we have to use a snack food to measure a win, but hey…

KUH-FREAKIN’ BOOM–“Flyin” Ryan Oehler speaks in a language we can all understand. When asked by Jamie Howe about what it takes to pilot a Pro Bike, he responded, “People ask me what it’s like to ride a Pro Stock Motorcycle. I tell ’em, ‘Put on a helmet and take a hit in the head with a baseball bat.'” Uhh…no thanks. How about let’s don’t but say we did? Sheesh…

AND THEN THE JUGGLERS SHOWED UP! OK, hang on to your shorts for this one. Due to a starting line Christmas tree goof, the NHRA determined that the semifinal round of Pro Bike needed to be rerun. Here’s what happened: Hector Arana, Sr. rolled into the lights, but his Christmas tree didn’t properly respond. Next, Arana tried to wave to NHRA personnel to let then know that something was like, really wrong, but by the time they noticed, the other three racers were long gone down the track. Next, it was like the Barnum & Bailey circus showed up at the starting line with jugglers, clowns, elephants, and the entire cast, as Arana met with tons of officials to discuss what took place. It was insanity, I tellz ya! Anyway, after everyone shared their feelings, the NHRA said, “Dudes, we gotta run this baby again.” Make sense? Yep, it was kinda sorta confusing, but, the bottom line? They hadda do it again!

HAPPY, HAPPY, HAPPY–So, the Pro Bike race was rerun, and most likely, Andrew Hines was overheard saying, “Wheewwwww! Sweet! Cool! Amazing! Epic!” Why? Simple. He qualified for the final round after finishing third in the original race. Yep, following double red lights from Angie Smith and Hector Arana Sr., Hines and Hector Arana Jr. cruised to the final shindig.

A DESERVING DUDE–Shawn Langdon was appearing in his first-ever Funny Car final round. Shawn Langdon won a national championship in Junior Dragster, Super Comp, and in Top Fuel. Dude is good. Dude is also now a Funny Car champ after taking the final round. Langdon was also verrryyy happy to be at the top end following the victory, because back at the starting line a dogpile of Olympic proportions was taking place among all the Kalitta crew members. Dudes, it was an event that would’ve caused the folks at the WWE to be jealous. Though sometimes a guy of few syllables, Langdon had lots to say at the top end to Jamie Howe, including a very emotional tribute to his dad, who has been battling cancer for quite some time. A very cool moment when Shawn dedicated the Wally to his father.

TOUGH TALKING TEXAN–Steve Torrence became the sixth Top Fuel winner in six races this season when he blasted his way to victory, setting off a small but mighty dogpile from the Capco Boys back at the starting line. Torrence, who stated earlier that he had been driving defensively all season, also went on the verbal offensive following the win, telling Jamie Howe, “These people out here buyin’ Harleys and all that, but we’re out here stackin’ trophies, so let ’em do what they wanna do.” Dang. See that line in the sand? Yep, Stevie just drew a line in it! Looks like it’s gonna be a long, hot summer with the Top Fuel bunch!

NOT 49, NOT 51, BUT 50–Andrew Hines won his 50th title in the Pro Bike category.  He’s now the 12th racer in NHRA history with 50-plus wins, the first-ever rider with 50 wins, and the sixth-quickest driver in NHRA history to 50 wins. He likes the number 50. He’s also pretty dang good at his job. Back at the starting line, his crew celebrated in a big way, but no dogpile. Hey, there would’ve been only 2-3 people divin’ and flyin’ onto the asphalt. That would’ve been kinda awkward…

So, there ya go! The zMAX four-wide is ovah, as are the dogpiles, for at least another week. Yep, all the animals can now hitchhike back to Charlotte as life returns to normal. But the nitro circus rolls on, and Atlanta, you are officially on the clock, as the Arby’s Southern Nationals are next on the menu. Till then, keep reclinin’!









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