Event #2–The Arizona Nationals from Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park-Phoenix, AZ
Yeah! You made it back for Round 2 of the Recliner Report! Thanks for hanging with us again, and we’re all thrilled that our Week 1 Report from the Winternationals didn’t cause you to think all our staffers are like, I dunno…insane or something. It’s just that we love bringing you all the epic quotes and news from the Fox Sports 1 coverage of the 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Racing Series! Anyway, welcome to the big AZ, where the temps were downright frosty! This week, we met a dude that actually believes Top Fuelers are slow, ‘cause he travels at 17,500MPH in his own ride. Next, we located a driver who might not want to go fishing with his dad this week. Finally, we learned about one Top Fuel pilot who may just end up having to take out the family trash for a month! So, let’s hit the throttle!
SHE’S FORCE TOUGH–Brittany Force’s unfortunate crash two weeks ago in Pomona left the young Californian feeling like, well, she’d been in a car crash! But in true Force style, she was back at the track ready to roll when her engine fired on Friday. You want to talk tough? A staging-lane camera shot of Brittany donning her driver suit revealed big ‘ol rainbow-colored bruises up and down her left shoulder and arm, not to mention a bandage on her left hand. That young lady? Man, she’s tougher than boot leather.
LICENSE AND REGISTRATION, PLEASE–Had the races taken place on the roads surrounding Wild Horse Pass, the Arizona police would’ve had a field day passing out tickets, as Top Fuel qualifying sessions found drivers playing “Top This!” with new speed records. Antron Brown led the charge in Session One, tying the mark with a 333.66MPH effort, however, Session Two found Clay Millican quickly jumping past Brown with his 335.23MPH run. Finally, not to be outdone, Tony Schumacher leapfrogged both with his 336.57 mark, also in the second session. Would’ve loved to have attended that Defensive Driving class…
WHIP IT GOOD–Speaking of Schumacher, he’s pretty much a straight shooter. After falling to Greg Carillo, who picked up his first-ever career round win in his victory over the Sarge, Tony gave the victor some pretty easy-to-remember advice regarding Carillo’s next opponent, Antron Brown. “Go up and there and give Antron a butt-whippin’.” Well…that doesn’t sound too technical…it’s simple to understand…got it!
THEY CAN FLAT-OUT DRIVE–The first-round matchup between Doug Kalitta and Billy Torrence resembled two guys careening down an oil-slicked Slip ‘N Slide while trying to chase and catch a greased pig. This pedalfest featured bouncing, weaving, and bobbing all over the place, with Torrence crossing the finish line first. The top speed? Kalitta’s 154MPH-effort, but just the fact that these guys could keep those machines in their assigned lanes proved that NHRA racers have no equals. Imagine that happening to the average driver, even at less than half of that speed! Unreal…
I KNOW YOU’RE FAST, BUT…–Fox Sports 1 reporter Amanda Busick visited the Bob Tasca pit to talk NASA-type stuff with astronaut Mark Kelly, and learned that even though he had never launched in a Funny Car, he appeared willing to try, saying, “If Bob lets me, maybe today I’ll jump in there for him, though that would probably not be a good thing for people to see. Probably get kind of ugly.” Kelly added, “Where Bob’s car gets about 330, we get to 17,500MPH. It just takes us a little longer.”
HIM? WIN? REALLY?–On paper, the second round Top Fuel matchup between Antron Brown and Greg Carillo appeared to be a wash, with Brown’s three championships, 65 event wins, and 458 round victories seeming to give him just a bit of an edge over Carillo, who had collected his first-ever round win only a couple of hours before. But, the new guy took the advice provided earlier by Tony Schumacher and defeated the three-time champ to move on in the event. Yep, they don’t run ‘em on paper…
HEY, GOT ANY TRASH BAGS?–Hey, curious minds want to know: was there a possibility of “Family Feud: The Home Game” following Round 2 wins by Billy Torrence and son Steve? See, their victories created a semi-final showdown between the two Texans, and after the younger Torrence took out Blake Alexander, Billy was shown shaking his fist in support, which, at first glance, seemed to be a dad happy for his son. But, after thinking about it for a bit, one of our staffers decided that maybe the elder Torrence had other ideas. See, our guy thought that it was possible, just maybe, that this was a father thinking, “If this kid beats me next round, he’s gotta take out the trash for a month. If I come out ahead, I’m in the finals. Either way, it’s a win-win for me! Cool!” OK, this idea came from a staffer who had just downed his 6th Twinkie in about 40 minutes…so, maybe a cream filling overload fueled his thought process. We dunno.
OLE’, DUDE!–Scott Palmer has a creative fan in the big AZ. Several crowd shots aimed directly at a certain part of the grandstand showed a HUGE cut-out photo of Palmer, with the picture mounted on a stick that could be be waved high for all to see. Best of all, Scott was wearing a sweet sombrero! Man, talk about excellent! But then, some of the staffers started wondering out loud, “So, what exactly was the occasion for wearing such a lid?” Aw, who cares? It would make a totally epic t-shirt! Our staffers would wear it with pride!
LET’S CRUZ!–Amanda Busick scored a killer interview with Funny Car pilot Cruz Pedregon, as their visit during the Walk 1000 segment revealed some cool inside info. When asked what he was thinking about while sitting at the starting line following his burnout, Cruzer responded, “On raceday, I’m thinking about the dirty, no-good mofo in the other lane, trying to figure out what I have to do to mess this guy up.” We also learned that his 1991 Top Fuel debut at the Arizona track found him facing none other than Tom “The Mongoose” McEwen. Pedregon recalls that McEwen, while even his 60’s, was still cutting good lights, leading to a victory and spoiling Cruz’s debut. One of five children, Pedregon shared that he and his siblings “…would fight about everything in sight, especially me and Frankie. And Tony would get in on the action, but Tony had it all figured out. He would be the one crying, and when my parents would walk in the room, there’s two big guys and a little one, so naturally we got our butt spanked.” He honored his father Frank, stating that his father taught life lessons to his offspring, “…none of it related to racing, really.” Cruz mentioned that most importantly, his dad wanted all the children to be good people, and to treat others well. A big fan of the Oakland Raiders, Pedregon has followed the team for years, and along the way, has been fortunate to meet and get to know some of the players. (By the way, check out his racing helmet, complete with Raiders logo on the side. Staffers are totally stoked about that piece of hardware. Knowing this bunch, they would wear them here on the job…) Finally, we got the inside scoop on the victory dance he would provide in celebration of a win, featuring him catching a pass tossed in from off-camera, then spiking the football on the finish line, while the “Monday Night Football” theme music played over the actions. Nice.
PICK UP SOME WORMS, WILL YA?–Following his first-round exit, Tony Schumacher joined Dave Rieff and Tony Pedregon in the TV booth, and The Sarge definitely proved that he possesses color commentator skills. After watching Ron Capps fall to Shawn Langdon, Schumacher admitted, “I’m just freaking out because I gotta fish with my dad next week. This is not looking good, man. Do we (Team Schumacher) have anyone left here?” Rieff then checked the Funny Car ladder and reassured him, that yes, Matt Hagan was still in the running. The sigh of relief from Tony that followed could be heard all the way to Recliner Report headquarters.
THANKS, NHRA!–Sadly, we witnessed the accident involving John Force, and for the second event in a row, his California-based clan has experienced the horror of watching as a loved one is involved in a gruesome on-track incident. However, the event highlighted several positives involving the NHRA, including incredible car safety features, a Safety Safari that was en route to the scene even before the cars involved had come to a complete stop, and the fast-arriving, highly-trained medical crews that were able to provide outstanding care and treatment for both drivers. Considering the fact that drivers are basically hanging on for dear life while strapped into 10,000 horsepower land rockets, the organization’s efforts to provide the safest environment possible for drivers should be applauded.
FATHER KNOWS BEST–Dang, that Courtney Force is one tough hombre. Immediately following the crash, she was seen in the consoling arms of mother Laurie, but minutes later, was defeating Matt Hagan to advance to the semifinals, where she was to have faced her father. However, due to father John’s accident, she would make a solo run before moving on to the championship round. Following her victory over Hagan, Courtney stated, “Tough seeing something like that happen to my dad, it’s…I hate it. But I chose this driver’s seat knowing that these things can happen in these racecars, they’re pretty unpredictable, but my dad told me as they were taking him off to get checked to go out there and kick their asses.”
DON’T FEAR THE RIEFFER–Nice comment from Dave Rieff following Courtney’s interview, when he added, “Great insight from Courtney Force, who, just like her sister, she is a Force through and through.” The Rieffer always has the perfect words at the right moment.
WANT FRIES WITH THAT?—
Question: How much can a person accomplish in 34 ten-thousandths of a second?
Answer: Nothing, ‘cause by the time these two lines are read, a whole bunch of ‘em have long gone by!
But, shhhhh! Don’t mention that to Alex Laughlin, because he will totally disagree with you. See, that was the Pro Stocker’s semifinal margin of victory over the one-and-only Jeg Coughlin. Looking at the finish line camera shot of the race, there was probably a one french fry difference between the noses of their rides, and that fry was more than half eaten. Dudes, this was tight.
EITHER WAY WE WIN!–OK, you can call it the “Titanic Texan Tussle”, the “Lone Star Showdown”, or “Billy and Steve’s Excellent Adventure.” Hey, whatever you want is cool with us. The bottom line is that the Family Torrence went after it in the Top Fuel semis in hopes of advancing, and on this day, the son kept his chances alive, but dudes, it was close, as Steve’s 3.722 was just a bit better than Billy’s 3.726. And if you’re thinking about that staffer that wondered out loud whether or not this would result in dad assigning extra chores for the kid, ummm…we doubt that’s gonna happen. Oh, and we also hid the staffer’s stash of Twinkies so he’ll quit getting sugared up and making goofy predictions. Finally, we’re searching the internet for “Sugar Rehab.” Just sayin’..
BRING YOUR FRITOS–Following the victory over his dad, Steve (By the way, a staffer who doesn’t gorge on Twinkies nicknamed him “Stevie Blaze”) gave viewers a clue regarding his immediate future both in the final and later in the evening when he stated, “Hey, we’re having a good time, it’s gonna be fun no matter what. And the party tonight is gonna be epic.” Hey Stevie…buddy…pal…the staffers can bring some killer bean dip. Seriously, this stuff will make your knees buckle. What’s your address?
WE DON’T NEED NO STINKING TOP QUALIFIER–So, it goes without saying that qualifying seventh in your category pretty much seals your fate for the event eliminations. Yep, land on that spot and you might as well start packing up the trailer and planning on chicken or fish for supper. Wait…better not share that idea with Chris McGaha. See, the Odessa, Texas resident took out Jason Line in the Pro Stock final for his sixth career championship. Winning an NHRA event? Anyone, anytime, anywhere…
WHEN DAD TALKS…–Props to Courtney Force. She sets aside the earlier trauma endured following her dad’s horrific wreck, then takes to the track and practically blisters the asphalt with a 337.16MPH effort over Tommy Johnson, Jr., proving that when dad gives her advice, she listens. Also, a big, “Dude, that was awesome!” to Dave Rieff, who after watching Bruno Massel’s starting line interview with Force’s crew chief Brian Corradi, commented, “With a crew chief with a name like that, did she just deliver the Corradi Chop?” Mic drop!
OH, IT’S ON NOW!–Lock up your bean dip, ‘cause Stevie Blaze is having a party! Yep, following his victory over Scott Palmer, (And his crew’s mini-mosh pit insanity back at the starting line) Torrence practically exploded out of the driver’s seat after arriving at the top end of the track. Following hugs to everyone in sight, Steve immediately headed over to congratulate his opponent, who apparently was also invited to the post-race festivities. How would we know that? Well, we were pretty sure after hearing Torrence comment, “I’m gonna have to bail out early, ‘cause I know how Palmer parties, and I don’t know if I can hang with him.” Dang. These boys are serious…
So, there ya go! The Arizona shindig is in the books and it was quite the fiesta! Next up? March 13-15 in Gainesville, Florida, the home of the one-and-only Amalie Gatornationals! Till then, keep reclining!