THE RECLINER REPORT!
Stop #7–Arby’s NHRA Southern Nationals, Atlanta Dragway, Atlanta, Georgia
Woo-hoo! Ain’t no party like a Hotlanta party! Add to that the NHRA insanity that roams from city to city during the 2019 Mello Yello Racing Series and you’ve got yourself a big-time get-down in the Southland! Yup, after enduring weather systems that could best be described as “…just a bit combustible”, the rolling circus got down to business, putting on a show that rivaled any thunder and lightning that Mother Nature dished out. In today’s Recliner Report, we learn that even “senior citizens” love the smell of nitro, that a “Widowmaker” heart attack can’t slow down a Funny Car pilot, and that some NHRA superstars have a future (After their race career ends) working the Arby’s drive-thru! Let’s light ’em up!
YOU CAN HAVE ALL THE WALLYS, BUT…–Ever wonder why they race ’em on Sundays? Don’t ask Doug Kalitta. One of the marquee drivers in the Top Fuel nitro circus, “Air Doug” boasts 45 career wins along with 97 final rounds to his credit. Compare that to Shawn Reed, Kalitta’s first-round opponent who lists a single career final round on his resume. Yep, you know what’s coming. When the top end interview was taking place following their matchup, Fox 1’s Amanda Busick found herself chatting it up with Reed, who found himself on the winning end of the microphone. It sounds like a broken record, but…anyone, anytime, on any given Sunday can take home a victory.
BEATEN BY THE LENGTH OF SNACK FOOD–Dom Lagana and Austin Prock finished their Top Fuel qualifying sessions by posting best elapsed times within four-hundredths of a second of each other. That’s pretty dang close. However, it didn’t even compare to the distance between them at the finish line following their first-round hootenanny on Sunday. Yup, after the parachutes had popped at the top, Lagana learned he had nosed out Prock by 35 ten-thousandths of a second, which translated into a difference of a miniscule 20 inches. For those of you who like cool comparisons, that’s about the length of five Twinkies laid nose-to-nose. Or, just about 20 Fritos. Either way, snack foods make great measuring sticks. Even better? After measuring with ’em, you get to eat ’em.
WE DON’T NEED NO STINKING AGE LIMITS!–Steve Torrence just turned 36 in April. Luigi Novelli also just turned 36…about 41 years ago. Yup, the “Capco Kid” faced off against the 77-year-old “Rod Father” in a first-round Top Fuel get-down. Who took the win light? Who cares? Just the fact that a dude who has been around for almost eight decades can face off with the sport’s defending champ speaks volumes about the joys of lovin’ what you do. Novelli may put in a ton of hours preppin’, travelin’, and participatin’ throughout the race season, but it ain’t work for the Crete, Illinois resident. The “Rod Father” is one epic dude.
TONY P. IN THE HOUZE! Friday night qualifying featured a super-duper kerblammo from the Funny Car ride of Jim Campbell, and though the cause of the blast wasn’t immediately known, the effect was obvious, as the initial hit of the throttle caused Campbell’s four-wheeled roman candle to create a nitro nightlight just after leaving the starting line, one that probably could be easily seen from outer space. Though not currently employed as a standup comedian, Fox 1’s Tony Pedregon delivered the line of the broadcast when he commented, “If you didn’t know any better, you’d have thought he hit a pinata in the car, because we see a lot of debris come out from the bottom. Those are engine parts.” With a delivery drier than sandpaper, Pedregon most def has a career on the lighted stage if he wants to hit the comedy circuit. Remember to tip your servers!
NOTHING BUT CLASS–Regrettably, we had a death at the starting line on Sunday. Yep, the Funny Car of Blake Alexander just gave up the ghost moments before his first-round fiesta against Paul Lee. With cameras just feet away, we watched as crew chief Daniel Wilkerson and the rest of Alexander’s crew went into overdrive trying to resuscitate the malfunctioning ride, but despite all their efforts to bring the motor back to life, Alexander was eventually forced to head back to the pit area. However, along the way, several events took place proving that even though folks in drag racing will give their left piston to win a race, they will also do everything possible to help a competitor who needs assistance, even those they race against. While Alexander’s crew thrashed at the starting line to get the car started, his opponent, Paul Lee, would not fire up his car until ordered to do so by the NHRA starter. Also, Tim Wilkerson, not just a competitor of Alexander, but also the father of Blake’s crew chief Dan Wilkerson, delivered extra parts to try and help start the car, while also jumping under the body and personally trying to get Alexander’s car running. Despite their incredible efforts, the situation came to a close, and Lee was awarded a solo pass by NHRA officials. Finally, crew chief Dan Wilkerson was interviewed by Bruno Massel in regards to what took place. Wilkerson thoughtfully and respectfully answered Massel’s questions, even at a time when most would forgive him for feeling anger and frustration . An epic moment from a class act.
MUCH MORE THAN A DRIVER–Funny Car pilot Paul Lee is not only a great sportsman, but also a Summa Cum Laude graduate of the Wharton School of Business, and a member of the New Jersey Bar Association. Finally, Lee is a tough ‘ol dude, having survived a widowmaker heart attack in 2016, only to return in 2019 as a team owner and driver. When interviewed by Amanda Busick at the top end, Lee expressed thanks to all those who supported his racing efforts, as well as to his family and friends for what has surely been a challenging rehabilitation after such a major medical event. Pure cool.
SUGAR BOMBS AND SEAFOOD–Believe it or not, racers are people, too. Yep, Amanda Busick proved that with her rapid-fire questioning in the pit area of “Fast” Eddie Krawiec, and we learned the following: the dude hates seafood, despises clutter, loves Fruit Loops, is a Sagittarius, and believes without a doubt that New Jersey is the best state in the nation. Yep, we’re with ya on the Fruit Loops. Anything that looks like a rainbow and is full of sugar is numero uno is our book as well!
FOOD…FREAKY FAST–Dig this. You head out to a local Arby’s. Cruising through the drive-thru, you order some grub and prepare to provide the cash to the dude at the window. Dreaming of the food fiesta that’s about to take place, you arrive at the pay station only to find that you’re greeted by none other than Stevie “Blaze” Torrence! Seriously? Yup, that’s what folks at a local franchise found after several NHRA superstars, including Austin Prock, Angelle Sampey, Brittany Force, and Torrence took their talents to a whole new audience. Gives “fast food” a whole ‘nuther meaning, yeah?
YEAH, HE’S PRETTY GOOD…–Andrew Hines went winless in 2018. Nope, you didn’t read that wrong. His victories from last season? Nada. Zippo. Not a single one. But, dude is making up for lost time in 2019, as his victory on Sunday was his third in four races. Here’s betting that the folks at Harley-Davidson give Andrew a really cool keychain or a commemorative mug after his win secured the 100th event title for the legendary outfit. Yep, this is the same guy that picked up the first Wally for H-D in 2004. Think about it: 100 wins in fifteen years. Them’s are pretty good results. C’mon, Harley. At least give him a keychain…
LEMME’ OUT OF HERE!–One of the first rules of the road? Never lift off the top of your car, take your hands off the wheel, and then stand up while driving down the highway. Needless to say, anyone who would attempt a stunt like that needs…well, I think we all know. Anyway, though acting goofy on the road is a definite no-no, you’ll have to excuse Ron Capps for doing just that. OK, he wasn’t driving down the freeway, and he was only going about three miles per hour in the shutdown area, but he was standing up and screaming for joy. Well, who would blame him? Capps had just taken the title after ending a win drought dating back to last season in Charlotte. As Fox 1’s Brian Lohnes commented, “He popped out that car like a caged gorilla once he knew he won that thing.” Yep, dude was pumped…
JOY FOLLOWED BY SADNESS–Yep, the situation was nuts. After winning the final 24 rounds of the 2018 season and taking the Top Fuel championship, Steve Torrence was winless following the season’s first five tour stops. Dude got back on the throttle last week in Charlotte to take home Mr. Wally, and following yesterday’s victory over 2018 champ Brittany Force, last week’s Wally now has a buddy to join him over Steve’s racing mantel. Sadly, his crew didn’t quite cut the mustard following the win. Why? No. Dogpile. At. All. Man, talk about depressing. Dudes, you’ve got a standard to uphold. Bring. The. Dogpile. Back.
Alrighty, dudes. Hotlanta is history. Next, a well-deserved week off after two consecutive weekends of in-freakin’-sanity. Yep, in two weeks we’ll see ya’ll again in Dinwiddie, ’cause yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus, and he’s headed your way in a 10,000 horsepower sleigh!