Motorsports Recap And Behind The Scenes Access

Dialin’ It In At Dallas–It’s The Recliner Report!


Stop #21–AAA Texas NHRA Fall Nationals, Texas Motorplex, Dallas, Tejas!

Yeah, yeah, you’ve all heard this a kazillion times before. “Everything is bigger in Texas. There are oil wells in everyone’s front yards. All the women have big hair. Longhorns roam the streets. Yadda, yadda, yadda.” Dudes, I’m here to tell you. It’s all true. Yeah, there’s nothing better than going out for my morning paper, then having to reach under the oil derrick where the goofy paperboy tossed it, all while keeping an eye out for my herd of steers that are aching to chase me down like it’s the streets of Pamplona, Spain in their warped version of the “Running of the Bulls.” Finally, after snagging the paper, escaping the insane bovine herd, and hightailing it back into the house, I have to wash my hands from all the oil that covers the plastic bag protecting my newspaper. Yeah, it’s tough figuring out new ways to spend all the cash I rake in from that liquid gold.

Said no one. Ever.

Hey, don’t believe everything you read, hear, or see in the media. Well, all except for the oil wells. Man, you’re nothing down here unless you have a couple in the yard. OK, OK, it’s not true. I’ll hush now. But, you can believe that for one weekend out of the year, the folks in Dallas have the biggest and baddest hombres ever taking over the Texas Motorplex, and on this stop of the 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, things got big-time freakin’ serious in the Countdown to the Championship. Yup, among other things, we had a dude willing to blow up his car on the starting line, another guy that for the rest of his life will probably send airport metal detectors into Launch Mode, and a racer who left the starting line with a six-pack! Let’s fire ’em up!

I AM IRON MAN–Hey, the crack staffers from the Recliner Report predicted this would happen, even when we overdosing on the Twinkie/Cheeto/bean dip trifecta two weeks ago: Robert Hight, the Funny Car winner in St. Louis, went totally kaboom at the finish line while taking the event win. Our prediction? Roberto would be back in the saddle in Dallas following that monster boomer, and he was, along with six screws and a plate holding his broken collarbone together. Dude’s gonna give the folks running the airport metal detectors fits from now on, but ya gotta admit, that is one guy you want in any type of fight. Less than two weeks after a blast heard halfway to Chicago from St. Louis, Hight is driving a 300-plus nitro-bomb on four wheels. Seriously? A lot of folks need to visit a therapist after accidentally running over a neighborhood squirrel, but Robert is already behind the wheel. Just bow, peeps, just bow.

I LIKE EVEN NUMBERS AND I CANNOT LIE–Antron Brown won Dallas in 2012 and 2016, proving that there’s something about even numbers that A.B. enjoys, and he was hoping to carry that streak over into 2018. Oops. Didn’t happen. Some of the RR staffers said, “It weren’t to be”, as Brown fell short on Sunday. Seriously, those guys fall pretty dang short in regards to utilizing the “good grammar” category. Really? “It weren’t to be“? Boy, they make their folks so proud…

I HATE ODD NUMBERS AND I CAN’T LIE EITHER–Prior to Sunday’s event, defending Top Fuel champ Brittany Force has had 13 first-round losses during this season, but on this day, the California hot rodder took out her frustrations on Scott Palmer, ending her personal skid. The kid’s as tough as Texas boot leather, and it’s good to see her back on the winning side.

JUST THINK PINK–Yep, any folks out there who think the color pink is reserved for Barbie and tea parties, well, think again. Several racers, including Brittany Force, Antron Brown, Courtney Force, Cruz Pedregon, and Shawn Langdon all displayed pink on their cars and/or firesuits at the nitro party Sunday, reminding everyone to always remember that October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. Pink? It’s tight. The staffers honored the moment by eating strawberry-pink ice cream, including one goob that dipped Flamin’ Hot Cheetos in his, but this is the same guy who puts his tongue on icy metal poles. He’s one sandwich short of a picnic basket, I tellz ya…

IT AIN’T HOW YOU START…–Matt Hagan began the Countdown at second position in the Funny Car category, but three consecutive first-round losses have put the Virginia farmer/cow wrangler/muscle dude’s chances to take the title in serious jeopardy. Hard to explain this biz sometimes, ’cause you won’t find a harder-working guy, or a dude owning a bigger “never-quit” attitude. Tell you what, though. Dude is jacked. The next time he’s holding a Wally, (And he will) that little gold guy will be having a complex, ’cause compared to Matt, he’s the proverbial 98-pound weakling. I’m telling ya, Hagan’s cows listen when that man speaks. They don’t want to end up as dinner…

CAN THE DUDE EVEN SHAVE YET?–Riddle: Who is currently the youngest champion in NHRA history? At 20 years and 10 months, Pro Bike’s LE Tonglet, the Louisiana first responder, is the winner. However, LE has some serious competition currently in a great position to unseat him from his throne. The challenger? Tanner Gray, current points leader in the Pro Stock category, who is a ripe-old 19 years and five months of age. We’ve got a staffer with shoes older than Gray…course they can’t be worn anywhere near the offices, otherwise the guy would be tied to a chair while the shoes are removed, then burned in the fire pit behind our building…

RED…NOT HIS FAVORITE COLOR–Hector Arana entered his first round Pro Bike matchup against Steve Johnson with five fingers worth of red lights during the 2018 season. Oops. Arana now owns a half-dozen of those little jewels, but they’re not the type he’s interested in wearing. Johnson? He took the win over Hector, and he likes that kind of bling.

IT’S BEEN SAID MANY TIMES–Hector Arana, Jr. won the first Pro Bike Countdown event at Maple Grove before losing two weeks ago at St. Louis in the first round. Unfortunately on this Sunday, his .611 reaction time in first round action left him far behind his opponent Kelly Clontz, who picked up her first career round win. We pretty much say this in every column, so we’re betting you can fill in the blank. Let’s try it: “On any given Sunday, _____________.” OK, concentrate…c’mon, you can do it. What do we say? Yep, that’s it. “…anyone can win. Anyone.”

I’M BAAACCCKK…MAYBE…–Normally, commentators Dave Rieff and Tony Pedregon have a second-round visitor in their booth during the Top Fuel and Funny Car categories, and though it sounds weird, that person, though enjoying meeting the fellas, really doesn’t want to be around them at that very moment. The reason? Simple. The guest analyst has the time to “booth it” with the guys because he/she lost in the first round. Ouch. Anyway, this week’s “expert explainer” was none other than the one-and-only Cory McClenathan, and with 28 event titles in 50 final-round appearances, as well as 400 round wins, it’s a safe bet to say that, well, the dude knows his stuff. After providing great insight during his visit, Cory Mac dropped the possibility of appearing at Pomona and Las Vegas with Dexter Tuttle. Sweet. The Mac Attack could be back!

WENT OFF LIKE A ROMAN CANDLE–Ever been to a bonfire? Like, one of those from high school where students spend months gathering anything that they can pile up, douse with gas, then light up into a flame that can practically be seen from the Space Shuttle? OK, that blaze had absolutely nothing on Amanda Busick’s top end interview with Funny Car pilot Bob Tasca following his win over John Force, a victory that saw him lock horns with Force’s unwritten policy of always being the last to stage at the starting line. When reminded by Busick that Tasca had mentioned that he was racing, “…pissed off”, Bob was asked if this would help him take his first victory of the 2018 season. After looking directly into the camera, he stated, “Well, if my psychiatrist is watching, I’m sorry, but I was prepared to burn that car to the ground. Force likes to go in last, he always goes in last, he wasn’t going in last that time. Beating Force in a Chevy, not nothing better than that” before turning and immediately walking away. Two words: mic drop! Fox 1’s Tony Pedregon then added the perfect cherry on top of that interview when he added, (And you could almost hear him grinning) “Me likes.” Hysterical!

TO BE THE BEST, YOU GOTTA BEAT…THE BOSS–OK, imagine being involved in a competition with your boss. You win? Ummm…that means he loses. Do you have your job next day? Maybe…depends. But, do you still want to win against the dude? Heck, yeah! OK, so LE Tonglet faced this dilemma on Sunday when he raced his boss, White Alligator Racing team owner Jerry Savoie, in the Pro Bike final, and it’s a safe bet to say that Tonglet didn’t give one hoot about Savoie’s feelings, because he took down the boss to gain his 20th all-time victory while also increasing his points lead in the category. Another cool moment? LE’s dad opening his team shirt to reveal a black tee with the phrase #LEisawesome. Pretty dang sweet.

SO GOOD IT’S SCARY–Yep, Tanner Gray drives an Pro Stock ride that is composed of automobile parts. Metal. Carbon-fiber. Rubber. You get the idea. He’s not riding a living creature, but instead, a machine. For a second, let’s back up. Remember his age that was mentioned earlier? Yep, 19 years and five months. In racing circles, that’s…well…it’s young, OK? So, Gray has now participated in 45 NHRA events. He’s also won 12, including Sunday’s win over Jeg Coughlin, Jr. Dang. Tanner? Yep, he may be guiding a machine, but he’s a machine as well. A driving machine.

SOMETIMES THE NAIL, SOMETIMES THE HAMMER–Let’s be honest. Robert Hight is lucky to be alive following his mega-explosion at St. Louis two weeks ago. Even with all the amazing features implemented by the NHRA, the fact that Hight walked away (On his own power) from the blast is miraculous. Next, being able to get within 500 feet of a Funny Car following such an event would give many folks a creepy-crawly feeling that might keep them out of the cockpit for quite awhile, so that makes Hight’s win over J.R. Todd that much more incredible. Two weeks ago, Hight never made it to the Winner’s Circle. Why? He was in an ambulance on the way to eventually receiving a plate and screws to simply hold his collarbone in place. Hight’s top end interview with Amanda Busick was very emotional, as he gave total credit to his crew for immediately planning their efforts to be ready for Dallas even after such an horrible event, and he promised them a huge celebration that evening. Here’s betting it was EPIC!

JUST GET OUT OF HIS WAY–Winning even a single round at any NHRA event is hard. Taking four in a row on a Sunday is, well, freakin’ tough. So, imagine coming out on top in 12 consecutive rounds. That means you’ve also won three events in a row. That also means that you’re Steve Torrence, who took down Terry McMillen in the Top Fuel final for his first-ever win in his home state of Texas. After firing off his imaginary six-shooters at the top end, Torrence practically levitated out of the cockpit while a mini-mosh featuring his crew took place at the starting line. (Hey, crew chief Bobby Lagana lost a shoe. This was a primo mosh moment.) Torrence then promised the audience that the party including his crew of “…bad-ass hombres” was “…going to be big tonight!”  He’s the points leader. He took his third consecutive win. He earned his first win in his home state. The party with his crew may end. Someday. Yikes..

So, there you go. Dallas, you wuz spectacular, but the circus rolls on. Carolina, you’re on the clock now. Just a few more days until zMax Dragway in Concord become the center of the mega-horsepower universe. Until then, keep reclinin’!








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