THE RECLINER REPORT!
Stop #22-NHRA Carolina Nationals, zMax Dragway, Charlotte, NC
The Carolinas. NASCAR country. The birthplace of left turn-only, oval-shaped cathedrals of speed. Here, nothing else matters…right?
Ummm…nope. Not when the NHRA circus brings the nitro party to this part of the world. Sorry, folks, but for a couple of weekends throughout the year, those 500-mile races take a back seat to the 1000-foot variety. Depending on what info you choose to believe, NASCAR rides produce 850-1000 horsepower, which is a ton…until you put it up against 10,000!
Whatever. It’s all good. It’s all fast. It’s all fun. It’s all about racing. And in this edition of the Recliner Report, the rattlesnake strikes again, a NASCAR driver says “No way” to even starting a Funny Car, and some Minnesota cows are now really happy. Let’s fire ’em up!
PINK IS THE NEW FAST–You gotta give Brittany Force credit. Top Fuel’s defending champ, she has currently suffered 13 first-round losses this season, but the California Kid just refuses to back off the throttle, as she qualified #1 for Sunday’s eliminations. Also, she drives the sweetest-looking ride in the category, rockin’ the pink in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness during the month of October. Pink looks killer going 320-plus miles per hour.
GONNA RETURN THE FAVOR…SOMEDAY…MAYBE–Stevie Blaze Torrence is the ultimate Tejas gunslinger, firing off his imaginary six-shooters after winning the last three events to take a commanding lead in the Top Fuel category. However, the Capco pilot has a softer side, as was seen in video shown following last week’s win over Terry McMillen in Dallas. See, McMillen’s son Cameron takes his dad’s losses hard, but the tape showed Torrence consoling the teary-eyed junior Extermigator after defeating his dad in the final. Cool move. But, five bucks says that if Cam’s anything like Terry, he was probably thinking, “One of these days when I get my own hot rod…”
C’MON DAVE, GIMME A BREAK–Dave Richards owns a pool maintenance and repair company in Florida. Tommy Johnson, Jr. is a full-time Funny Car driver. Dave’s last round win came during 2017 in Atlanta. Johnson, Jr. has won 18 NHRA events and is currently ranked third in the Countdown chase. In Sunday’s first-round action, Richards crossed the finish line…way before Tommy, who stumbled out of the gate, ending his hopes for the day. It’s easy to think that the mega-teams, with their seemingly never-ending budgets and supply of parts, have these races locked up. Nah, you can throw away that key. We’re starting to sound like a broken record here, but, “On any given Sunday…yadda, yadda, yadda…”
IT AIN’T ALWAYS EASY, BUT…–Gotta love these NHRA dudes and dudettes. They’re interviewed moments after their greatest victories, most violent crashes, and also their devasting losses. Try doing that today with other pro athletes or coaches, then get ready to run as they sic their “posse” on ya. Take Tommy Johnson, Jr. for example. Dude loses in the first round, knocking a huge hole in his championship hopes. Does he throw a fit or his can of Mello Yello at Amanda Busick? (By the way, Amanda is a real pro who also deserves a medal for being in the position of interviewing the folks at these moments) Nope, he pulls on his big boy firesuit and treats the interview (And Amanda) with mucho respect, and even a sense of humor. When asked, “Do you feel your championship’s over?” , Johnson grinned and commented, “Well…gotta big dent in it right now.” Epic.
GET THOSE FOLKS SOME COFFEE!–Like we said earlier, Hurricane Michael went beserko on a huge section of the Southeastern US earlier in the week, but nothing could stop the NHRA Safety Safari. Following Thursday’s assault on the Charlotte area and zMax, the road repair warriors pulled an all-nighter on Thursday, running split shifts from 5pm until midnight, followed by a second group from midnight until 7am. Oh, and then they went to work from Friday until Sunday. Each and every one of those folks deserve a personal Wally for their late-night asphalt efforts!
SNAKEBITE–Yep, the rattlesnake may no longer be living, but dude’s head is still biting. Hard and often. Don’t ever turn your back on Cruz Pedregon. Since being eliminated from the Countdown chase, Cruzer has made a living spoiling the hopes and dreams of Funny Car drivers trying to fit themselves with the jacket that comes after winning the Championship at the end of the season. His latest victim was Courtney Force, whose dreams of wearing that coat took a severe hit after her first-round loss to Pedregon. Speaking of outfits, Cruzer’s helmet, a replica of the football version worn by the Oakland Raiders, is still the sweetest dome in the NHRA. Just sayin’…
MANNEQUINS MAKE GOOD FUNNY CAR MODELS!–So, Robert Hight wins the Funny Car category at St. Louis, all while enduring a finish-line explosion that registered on the Richter Scale, and also sent the folks at NORAD scurrying to find the nuclear launch codes. Dudes, it was a freakin’ bomb blast. Still, Hight came back the next week in Dallas, following a surgery to repair his broken collarbone that left him with enough plates and screws inside his chest to set off all kinds of airport metal detectors. Dude is tougher than a two-dollar steak. In Bruno Massel’s “NHRA 101” segment, we learned that Robert has been wearing a device that fits over his chest while allowing him to feel comfortable behind the wheel in his cockpit. Using technology devised by Simpson for Pro Stock driver Greg Anderson following his open heart surgery, Hight and his crew used a mannequin approximately his size, then modified the Anderson version in such a way that when the chutes open at the end of a run, (An event which is very stressful on the upper body) Robert feels no pain in the surgery area, and he plans on continuing to use the device from this point forward. I tellz ya…these mechanic dudes are pretty dang good when it comes to building stuff. Give ’em a screwdriver, some bailing wire, and duct tape, and they can take over the world!
WE NEED MORE OF THESE DUDES…–Minnesota native Jason Line was the star of this week’s “My Journey” segment with Amanda Busick. Growing up on a farm with cows and Saint Bernard dogs, his earliest memories involved going to the dragstrip in his dad’s ’67 Impala. At age 20, knowing that he didn’t want to work with his dad or work on cars, Line was in stationed in Alaska as part of the Armed Services, but by Day 2 of his service, his mind quickly changed, wanting nothing more than a return to Minnesota and the life he once led. Later, Jason let his father know of his future plans in a handwritten letter, signing it, “Future NHRA Stock Eliminator World Champion/Pro Stock Driver”. Strangely, the letter fell behind his dad’s desk and 13 years later in 2003, Jason’s dad found the note right around the time that his son began teaming with Greg Anderson. Introduced to wife Cindy in 2003, Line stated that his marriage was one of the best decisions of his life, and that their children have given him a purpose in life that he hadn’t previously felt. Currently a farm owner, he now is the proud papa of a small herd of cows. Strangely, Line hated cows when he was young, but said when turning 40, he felt the need to buy a tractor and some bovines, so…being a cow owner is now a moooving experience for him! Currently, with 50 wins to his credit, you might expect the Minnesota farmdude to view himself as a pretty dang big deal, but you couldn’t be more wrong. Quick to give credit to his family, crew, and others around him for his success, he simply considers himself “…a regular guy who has been very lucky to be making a good living doing what he loves to do.” Dang. A humble guy who loves his family, job…and cows. Cool.
A BEAST IN THE BOOTH–Nope, the guy didn’t want to be there, but yep, he brought it to the broadcasting booth anyway. Whatever you wanna call him, either Antron, or AB, Antron Brown is one cool cat that, like “Fast” Jack Beckman, can school ya on anything racing, and needless to say, the dude can talk to a wall. Again, NHRA folks are easily the most accessible of all sports. Think about it: Brown loses a first-round matchup to Tony Schumacher, then hangs in the booth with Dave Rieff and Tony Pedregon to provide all sorts of racing insights that only being in the cockpit can provide. No blaming his loss on the position of the sun, no excuses about track conditions, just talking up a smart storm about everything racing, all in terms that even newbies to the sport can understand. What can Brown do for you? Learn ya ’bout racing. So…listen.
THE SOUNDS OF SUCCESS–Great Idea #38: How about a racing show featuring “Fast” Jack Beckman and Antron Brown? Gotta wait till their careers are done, but dang…dudes would be epic together. Both have quick wits, lots of knowledge, personalities deluxe…let’s call it…“Motor Mouths”! Whaddaya say?
I AIN’T BACKIN’ DOWN–A round two Funny Car matchup featured John Force versus Dave Richards. Ummm…can you say that on paper, this looked kinda, sorta, maybe, possibly like a mismatch? Well, let’s run the numbers: Force? 1,309 round wins. Richards? Four. So, was there an all-time, earth-shattering upset of the 16-time champ? Naw. Force now has 1,310 wins, but let’s give credit to Dave. He threw down at the legend, and no matter the outcome, you gotta start somewhere. Hey…at some point, Force only had four wins as well…
NOPE. NOT EVEN GONNA TURN THE KEY–Reporter question: “Have you ever thought about driving your buddy’s car, the one sitting behind you?” Driver’s answer: “No, no, I don’t think I haven’t, and I don’t think I ever will. He’s asked me to get in it to start the engine, and I’m a little nervous for that, so…these guys are…insane. It blows my mind how wild these cars are and how loud and it vibrates everything in sight. TV is great to watch but it doesn’t do it justice at all.” So, you’re wondering a few things: Who’s the reporter? Bruno Massel. Who’s the driver, the guy who calls our boys insane? It’s Kyle Larson. Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver extraordinaire. A dude who goes 200-plus while banging metal with 30 other dudes in races that sometimes resemble the WWE on four wheels. The dude won’t even start buddy J.R. Todd’s Funny Car in the pits…that oughta tell ya somethin’ about the NHRA. Dudes, it takes a special breed to hang with this bunch…
YEAH, I LOVE YA, BRO…HERE’S AN ELBOW!–During the “Encyclospeedia” segment, we met Cale Hood, the Blower Specialist for the Steve Torrence Capco crew. After getting his start in the world of motocross, Hood moved into drag racing, first working for Del Worsham, and now with Torrence off and on for around five years. Finally, Hood provided the Recliner Report staff with some very important information. After each victory this season by Steve, the Capco crew celebrates at the starting line by participating in an event that closely resembles a WWE cage match, with the entire gang hitting the asphalt in a gigantic mountain of flying, rolling, and tumbling bodies. The RR staffers? We called it a mosh, but according to Cale, it’s a “dogpile”, and is a stress reliever for the group. Hood even stated that if a crew member has a problem with another guy on the team “…you can take a shot at ’em” during these occasions. Interestingly, while in the middle of that statement, Cale was knocked to the pit area floor from a flying elbow provided by a fellow Capco pal. Dude, that’s love…sort of…maybe. I dunno. Wow.
BOING, BOING, BOING–Matt Smith has a huge supporter in wife and fellow Pro Bike rider Angie, and she could probably be heard screaming for joy at the top end following Matt’s victory over red light-victim Chip Ellis in the two-wheel final. The win was Smith’s third of the season, and a great rebound following last week’s first-round exit in Dallas. Matt also built his points lead in the standings, but with two weeks remaining in the Countdown nothing is set in stone. And, Angie can still be heard cheering…
COOL COW GUYS DO FINISH FIRST–Jason Line hadn’t won a race all season, and after 14 consecutive seasons of winning at least one event, his record was in danger of going by the wayside. Also, facing 19-year-old Pro Stock phenom Tanner Gray in the other lane wasn’t exactly helping his chances. However, his meeting earlier in the “My Journey” segment with Amanda Busick must’ve brought the Minnesota cow guy some good karma, ’cause you can now make it 15 straight years of victories. Happy wife. Happy crew. Happy kids. Happy cows. The victory obviously brought out the emotion in Line, producing a smile that hadn’t been seen in quite awhile. He thanked everyone…except himself. Just plain cool.
BAD LEG? FUGEDDABOUT IT !–700 round wins. That’s, like…a bunch. That’s also the number now held by Funny Car pilot Ron Capps following his victory over J.R. Todd in the final, his 60th win in the category. Normally, Capps can be seen flying out of the cockpit following a finals win, but a problem with the medial collateral ligament in his left knee kept the high-flyer from his usual jump for joy. Still, he leapfrogged Tim Wilkerson into third place in the Countdown with the win. What’s a medial collateral ligament? I dunno, but let’s just say Capps is bunged up right now. However, he can yell for joy without pain and he did.
WALLYS AND WHEELIES–There was a kinda-sorta dogpile by the Capco crew at the starting line after Steve Torrence’s victory over Brittany Force in the Top Fuel final. Lotsa hugs, pats on the back, and high-fives, but no asphalt-eating this week. Sounds like no stress relief was needed. Good thing. Now with a 16-0 round record in the four Countdown races, Torrence has every reason to be boastful, but his post-race interview was full of thanks to everyone except himself. Meanwhile, his crew members, driving in a golf cart to the top end to celebrate with their boss, were engaged in a super-long wheelie that had Dave Rieff and Tony Pedregon laughing out loud. Five guys, one golf cart, one huge wheelstand…you can’t take those crew dudes anywhere…
Two more, folks! Only two more races left in the season before the Cheetos, bean dip, and Twinkies are shelved for the winter, and the staffers are starting to get misty-eyed about it. Unfortunately, one of the guys mentioned the “S” word and almost got a beatdown in the process. While everyone was picking up the post-race paper plates, plasticware, etc., the guy we call “Flannel shirt boy” commented, “You know, we’ve been going at this pretty hard. How about a salad now and then?” In the silence that followed, you would’ve thought that Clint Eastwood entered the room. Oof. Fortunately, Flannel shirt boy realized what he had done, threw away his trash, then went outside. We almost had a mosh…I mean a dogpile, on him of mega proportions. Oh well. Hey, we’ve got a week off before rollin’ and tumblin’ into the Nevada Nationals at The Strip in Vegas, so till then, keep reclinin’!