“WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS, WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS…”It’s true! We are the World Champ in Top Alcohol Dragster again!!! It’s only been a few days since we won the Charlotte NHRA NTK Nationals and wrapped up the points championship, but we are still on a roll and haven’t had a day to rest yet. We quickly flew home for a couple of days before flying to Texas and they have been filled with interviews, wedding planning, house work, and catching up on Netflix.
As I mentioned in my last blog, we flew in to Charlotte at the beginning of the week to stay downtown to visit the Freightliner plant in Mount Holley, the Hendrick Motorsports facility and collection, have lunch with Jeff Gordon, who was well spoken and down-to-earth, and drive go-karts at the GoPro Motorplex. It was a couple of fun-filled days with some close friends to get our minds right before we headed to zMAX Dragway.
The day before the NTK Nationals started, we hit the track to drive some Toyota Camrys with fellow sponsored NGK Spark Plugs drivers and NGK employees and customers. We had a blast – it was Team NGK vs. Team NTK and our team won the team challenge! Unfortunately, most of us lost first round. I say it’s because their cars were faster.
We finished qualifying in the second spot with a 5.18 ET at 277 mph behind Troy Coughlin Jr., who ran 5.12 at 282 mph. My teammate, Julie, sat fifth with a 5.22 ET but fell short to Robin Samsel in first round. We faced Mick Steele in first round and came very close to losing the race by slowing down to a 5.37 ET. I’m not sure why we slowed down so much, but we really needed to step it up to face Shawn Cowie in second round, who just took out Duane Shields. I’m not going to lie, I was the most nervous I’ve ever been in the hours leading up to it. I was almost shaking, but I spoke with Shawn before the round and told him that I’ve respected him and Norm Grimes all year long, it’s been fun but stressful battling together, and I wish him all the best win or lose. I kept telling myself, stay out of your head, stay out of your head. My best friend, and former Super Gas World Champion, Mia Tedesco, reminded me to not get too worked up; they are chasing us in points, not the other way around. She was able to calm me down a little bit, but after I was strapped in I reminded myself that Shawn was 3-0 against me in prior races, and each loss kept flashing in my head even while I was inching up to the staging beams. I took a deep breath, stuck to my routine, and said it’s all or nothing. I cut a great light, .032 reaction time, and we ran a fast 5.25 ET. Luckily for us, Shawn had something in his transmission break, so he wasn’t able to give it a full pull and had to abort the run.
I was so relieved! We had just beat the toughest guy in the class, and we were one step closer to the championship. As soon as I saw my crew guys at the top end the waterworks turned on and I couldn’t stop crying happy tears. We have worked so hard for this moment, and it felt like our biggest road block was removed, but the fight wasn’t over just yet; we had to take down TJ too. Our semi and finals were scheduled for Sunday, but the rain came in and we changed our plans to finish on Monday, which was a beautiful, cool day; perfect for racing.
We took out Dan Mercier in the semis running a 5.18 ET at 275 mph, identical to TJ, who beat Josh Hart also running a 5.18 ET. We were told that as long as we didn’t get penalized in the final round by oiling down the track or crossing the center line, we would be crowned champs no matter if we won or lost the race. It was discussed that we could potentially not even make the run and we would still keep the championship, but we came here to race and weren’t going to step down. I knew that there wouldn’t be a chance that we would have an oil leak or cross the center line, so we put our best tune-up in and gave it our all for the finals against TJ. We sped up to a quick 5.14 ET to take out their 5.16 ET, which became the quickest side-by-side drag race in Top Alcohol Dragster, to win my fourth National event this year, the ninth of my career, and clinched the Championship!!!!
To see how happy my dad was made it all worth it. This win is for him and is a result of all of his hard work and sacrifices he made over the years. Although I resented him for missing important moments in my life growing up because he was gone racing, the time spent together over the past four years when I joined the team full-time has been worth it.
Adrian and JJ, and the rest of my entire team have done their best every weekend to make sure we have the best race car at each and every race. Without them and my great relationship with all of them, this wouldn’t be possible. And of course, thank you to the entire NGK Spark Plugs group that was at the races. I’m so lucky to be partnered with a fun group that loves drag racing.
My next, and final, race of the year will be this weekend in Dallas for the Texas Fall Nationals, where we will be partnered up with Smart Chicken again. I’m excited to return to the track as the Champion, but I’m also ready to wrap up the season and get started on hunting season back home. I’ve fallen behind on my archery practice, and seriously need to spend quality time at the range as soon as I can before my first whitetail hunt.