holiday break was a little different for me, with a lot of
snow and a lot of cold weather at home in Tennessee. I had
the chance to do a lot of sledding in the mountains near my
house in Greeneville. We got about a six- or eight-incher
of a storm on Christmas Eve. It was neat, but cold as heck,
with temperatures around zero. There’s a mountain I
can see right from my front porch, and we went up there with
sleds, tubes and four-wheelers, made our own trails and just
had a blast.
wife Pam and I sort of laid back and had a quiet holiday with
family. There was a lot of eating during Christmas, and of
course getting to watch my grandsons get their presents was
a fun time. For New Year’s Eve we really didn’t
do much. Pam and I went to our country club, ate dinner and
stopped at a place that had some music for a bit. We were
home by 10 p.m. with some friends to watch the celebrations
started the New Year off right—with a test session.
I’ve been down in Bradenton, Fla. with my J&J Racing
team this week, making runs in the Dodge Avenger Vinnie Deceglie
drove last year. My crew has modified it to be closer to the
new Mopar Dodge Avenger chassis we’ll be taking delivery
of later this week. The session has helped me get a feel for
the changes we have made on the new chassis. V. Gaines has
also been here, as he’ll once again be driving a Mopar
HEMI-powered Dodge Avenger come the start of the season.
Bradenton sessions are doing two things—giving us some
results from our chassis and allowing some seat time for a
special guest—NASCAR star Kurt Busch. He made about
seven attempts as of Wednesday, including a 330 ft. run, a
half-track run, several launches, and two full runs, a 6.57
and a 6.60 ET, both at over 210 mph. He’s felt the tires
shake, had the chutes not deploy, forcing him to take manual
action—he’s had quite a few incidents to learn
testing has been real good for Kurt, providing him a chance
to earn his NHRA Pro Stock license and get some seat time
in an NHRA Pro Stock car at full power. He’s completed
all his requirements for a license and just needs to get his
number from the NHRA and he’s ready to go for Gainesville.
Kurt’s got a really good feel; any good race car driver
can be successful in a different car if they listen and focus.
If I hop in a different car, it doesn’t take me long
to catch on if I’ve got a good attitude and listen.
Kurt’s been very impressive, and I look forward to seeing
him compete in Pro Stock at the Gatornationals. I just hope
he doesn’t beat me!
got another test session scheduled in Bradenton with our new
Mopar Dodge Avenger chassis for January 17, once my team has
dropped in the engines and prepped the cars. I feel like we’ve
made some positive changes that should make the Mopar Dodge
even better in 2011. We’ll run as many times as needed
to fine-tune our pro stocker and make sure we launch out of
the gate strong on Feb. 24 at the NHRA Winternationals.
off-season has been a nice rest for me and the Mopar®/J&J
Racing team. In early December I did a good deed and took
two buses of high school students from my hometown of Greeneville,
Tenn. and transported them to zMAX Dragway in Charlotte to
take part in a free B.R.A.K.E.S. driving school. Their parents
came along too. It went absolutely awesome. I received one
e-mail from a parent saying they were sure a life was saved
by funding the school, and I was really glad to hear that.
went down to Nashville for the state semifinals for the Greeneville
High School football team. They won the semis, and then went
to Tennessee Tech in Cookville to play in the finals. We watched
the guys win the state football championship, 60-12, in very
convincing fashion. I took my bus to the game and one of my
best friends catered for 300 people. It was cold, snowy—very
fun watching the game.
wife Pam loves Peyton Manning so we went to Nashville to see
the Colts/Titans game in early December. It was hard to figure
out who to cheer for; we like the Titans because they’re
from Tennessee, but Pam likes Peyton! Peyton was able to pull
it out. I flew out from Nashville to the PRI Show in Orlando
the next day.
hit the show and took part in a signing at the Mopar booth
and met with the Mopar folks. My dad, V. Gaines and I met
the fans and signed autographs, then V. and I took some photos
next to the new 2011 Mopar Challenger V-10 Drag Pak. My dad
has his own Drag Pak, and I think his mouth was watering over
the 2011 model. After spending time with the Mopar gang we
went and shook hands around the show and tried to secure our
friendships for next year. We try to get all the help we can
and see what new ideas are out there. I ended the day with
a great dinner with the Mopar team at the Portofino Hotel,
then was up early the next morning for a flight back home.
up, we’ll probably be taking delivery of our new Dodge
Avenger chassis and Nick Mitsos’ new chassis the first
or second week in January. Testing will start in a big way
on those cars. Even before that, we’re going to take
Nick’s car from last year, to which we’ve made
some big modifications, and put Kurt Busch in it the first
week of January for testing. It’s a lot of stuff to
do between now and February. The NHRA Winternationals in Pomona
are right around the corner; it comes at you quick!
night before I left for Pomona for the NHRA Finals I messed
my dang arm up; I pulled my bicep tendon while moving some
chairs. I could barely drive and shift at the race. It didn’t
actually tear the tendon from the bone like we thought, but
it just tore the meat away from the tendon. I was able to
wrap it up and I made it through the race. It’s still
really sore, and I can’t lift, push or pull on anything
for another couple of weeks, but it’s improving every
end of the season didn’t go exactly like the Mopar®/J&J
Racing team wanted, but we claimed four straight No. 1 spots
in the last four races and closed out the year with a semifinals
finish in the NHRA Finals, so I feel we ended on a positive
note. I felt like I drove really well. The car creeped just
a little bit in the semifinals at Pomona and I red lighted,
or I think I would have had three lights that day all under
.020, so my practice on the simulator is definitely paying
Pomona my wife Pam posed for the “Real Housewives of
NHRA” calendar, along with many other racers’
wives. The calendars will help the Andrea Pedregon Charity
Foundation raise money for melanoma skin cancer research.
Pam carried a Mopar HEMI valve cover for one of the photos
for the shoot, giving Mopar some love along with all the other
racers’ sponsors. She had fun doing the calendar; it’s
always all about me at the track, but for a change it was
all about Pam!
entire Mopar/J&J Racing team went to the banquet on Monday
after Pomona. We all had a great celebration of our year and
another top 10 finish in the point standings. The team played
a huge role in the eight No. 1 Qualifier Awards we captured
this year. They all went to the banquet with me to cap off
a great year, but also to hopefully fuel us for the beginning
of an even better season next year as we work toward a championship.
Thursday I took part in a demonstration along with Doug Herbert,
founder of the B.R.A.K.E.S. (Be Responsible and Keep Everyone
Safe) driving schools, for Greene County Schools and Greeneville
High School students. B.R.A.K.E.S. trains and educates teenage
drivers and promotes safe and responsible driving, and I’ve
been a big supporter since it was founded.
donated some money to help fund two B.R.A.K.E.S. driving schools,
of which one will be dedicated to students from Greeneville,
Tenn., my hometown. I’m going to bus 36 local students
and their parents from Greeneville to zMAX Dragway in Charlotte
to take part in a free B.R.A.K.E.S school on Dec. 4, and the
presentations were held to choose the students who would be
whole crew came over and he did most of the demonstrations,
and I also got up and spoke about how important it is for
these kids to respect their cars. We had three different presentations,
and I think in total we had upwards of 2,000 students listen
and watch some outside demonstrations. We didn’t include
any kids in the demos but we used the principals of the participating
schools instead, and put them through the course. They ran
over cones while talking on cell phones, to demonstrate the
dangers of distracted driving; the kids got a good chuckle
out of watching their principals run the course.
event went really well and I’m looking very forward
to the Dec. 4 school, where the kids will be able to go to
Charlotte along with their parents and experience it all for
themselves. I got to talk to a few of the kids about the presentations,
and they said it really makes you think and might help you
make a good choice instead of a bad choice behind the wheel.
next week or so I’m just relaxing after the long season.
The Greeneville High School football team is in the semifinals
of the state playoffs and I might take a bus with about 20
friends to go and watch the game on Friday. The team is 13-0
right now, and a couple of my friends’ kids play on
the team, so we’ll hopefully root them on into the state
up in early December I’ll be heading out to the PRI
Trade Show in Orlando, Fla. to make an appearance in the Mopar
display out there. It’s always a good time to catch
up with our friends at Mopar and enjoy the Florida weather.
Then soon it’ll be testing time as we prepare for the
2011 NHRA season.
A DULL MOMENT IN VEGAS!
Mopar Dodge Avenger/J&J Racing team is coming off the
Vegas race, and of course anytime you go there it’s
fun. There’s a lot of things to do, a lot of good places
to eat. This year I started off my Vegas visit with a jump
off the top of a building, the Stratosphere in Las Vegas!
It was fun, and even one of my crew guys, Brian Voeck, jumped
off the building. That jump, stepping off into the black dark
and then the fall, down 108 stories, that was amazing! It
was a controlled free fall, and it was better than any roller
coaster I’ve ever rode.
thanks to Melanie Troxel, who spearheaded the deal. She put
up $100 for all drivers from the nitro class to take part,
and I matched that for any Pro Stock car drivers who participated,
but none did. I think they were too afraid. It was a great
event, though, and it was for a good cause, Speedway Children’s
Charities, which I also support at the Charlotte and Bristol
events. Anything they do, I’m usually there behind it.
the Mopar Dodge Avenger team got into qualifying for the race
at Vegas, we were able to pin down the No. 1 Qualifier spot
and were No. 1 three out of the four rounds. We really had
a capable car that weekend but again, on Sunday it bit us.
If we can get things straightened out where we run equally
good on Saturday and on Sunday, we’ll be bad to the
met a Mopar and Dodge fan who won the Dodge Super Beard Contest
on Facebook, Adam Ruscha. The Mopar folks told me I wouldn’t
miss Adam when he came to my pits, and they were right, as
he had the thickest beard I’ve ever seen! He seemed
like a really nice guy, and I gave Adam and his wife Ashley
a tour of out pits, and they really enjoyed it.
had a little health scare at Vegas. I woke up on Sunday feeling
dizzy and tired, and it lasted throughout the day, until it
culminated in a ride in an ambulance to the hospital after
my loss in the second round. The doctors said stress and dehydration
caused my blood pressure to skyrocket. I spent the night in
the hospital and had a stress test the next morning, and all
was fine. In fact, the doctors said I have the heart of a
it was a scary night for me, after what my dad went through
with his heart attack at the racetrack a few years ago in
Phoenix. I think that caused me to stress out even more and
make things worse. All in all it was probably a positive,
though, getting all the heart work up stuff done that I had
been meaning to do for awhile. The docs gave me a 100 percent
okay on everything, so I’m good to go.
found out Monday after the Vegas race that my Mopar/J&J
Racing team is up for the 2010 NHRA Full Throttle Hard-Working
Crew Award in the Pro Stock class for our performance at the
Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals, where we qualified No. 1 and
won the event. We’ve claimed seven No. 1s this year,
including three straight at the last three races, and I can’t
say enough about the boys: Mark Ingersoll, Mike Gott, Larry
Cutshaw, Brian Voeck, Matt Hensley, my dad Roy Johnson, and
all the guys at the J&J Racing shop. You can vote for
them at www.nhra.com/hardworkingcrew/
until the Monday after Pomona, so please do so, as I know
they deserve it.
hit the SEMA Show in Vegas on Tuesday, Nov. 2 for some autograph
signings at the Mopar booth and also the NHRA’s spot.
SEMA is the biggest show of the year for Mopar and the brand
always has one of the best booths in the place. You can check
out photos of the Team Mopar signing, which included Ron Capps,
Jack Beckman and Matt Hagan, at www.mopar.com/sema2010.
There’s also images of the Mopar display and cool new
2011 models of the Dodge Charger, Challenger and Durango.
I had the opportunity to visit with Mopar’s new Director
of Marketing, Tricia Hecker, at the Vegas race and at SEMA.
It’s great having a new creative mind on-board. It seems
like she fits right in with Mopar CEO Pietro Gorlier and the
rest of the Mopar team. They’re just all real down to
earth people, and I’m proud to be associated with them.
SEMA was over, I flew to the Caribbean for some rest for a
few days. I definitely needed it after my hospital stay. Pomona
begins in a few days, so I should have a lot to write about
in my blog as I recap the 2010 season for the Mopar Dodge
Avenger crew. You can also follow me at www.facebook.com/moparcaptured,
Hope to end the year with a win!
AS WELL JUMP!
week I went to a BP retailers and jobbers convention in Washington,
D.C. I own several BP stations and convenience stores, and
we all get together once a year to discuss business and new
programs, and of course this year we talked a lot about the
oil spill and ways to keep that from happening again. The
spill did affect my business in some areas, as it took folks
time to understand that people like me are just independent
and I didn’t get out much to see Washington; we pretty
much stayed at the resort, the Gaylord National, the entire
time. You could almost see the White House and Washington
Monument from our room, so that was pretty wild. Unfortunately,
I had to leave early and come back to be a pallbearer for
my great-uncle, who passed away. He was actually the man I
was named after, so I made sure to get back home to Tennessee
and be there for him and his family.
relaxed a bit after that and had a chance to watch the Tennessee
vs. Alabama football game from a skybox at the stadium. It
was a sold-out crowd, and the place was jammed an hour before
the game started. We did have a chance to do some tailgating
with some friends of ours before the game—some good
food and drinks. Tennessee played great in the first half,
but didn’t do anything in the second half; it’s
a rebuilding year. After the game we stayed at a cabin on
Saturday night in Gatlinburg and hung out with a few other
couples, grilling out and visiting.
I have a little jump I agreed to do. I’m taking part
in Melanie Troxel’s challenge to do a 108-story free
fall from the top of the Stratosphere Tower in Las Vegas to
raise money for Speedway Children’s Charities. Melanie
made the initial challenge to put up $100 for every driver
in the nitro categories who makes the jump, and then I decided
to take the challenge and donate $100 for every driver from
the Pro Stock ranks taking part, to see if we can’t
match the nitro folks.
Dave Connolly said he was possibly going to jump a few days
ago, so we’ll see if he takes the challenge. I called
a few other Pro Stock guys and they said no way! I’m
excited to do it and excited to help the charity but also
scared a little bit. I hope I don’t get up there and
chicken out. I’ve always wanted to sky dive and I think
this will be the next best thing to it. I’ll be at the
NHRA Fan Fest at the Fremont Street Experience from 6-8 p.m.
signing autographs with all the other NHRA drivers, then I’m
heading over for the jump at the Stratosphere at 9 p.m. If
any Vegas Mopar® fans want to come out and encourage me
on, please feel free—I might need it!
At the NHRA Las Vegas Nationals this weekend we’ll look
to capture our third straight No. 1 Qualifier Award and then
dominate on race day in the Mopar/J&J Racing Dodge Avenger,
like we know we can do. After that, on Tuesday, Nov. 2, I’m
going to make an appearance at the Mopar exhibit at the SEMA
show with a number of other Mopar-powered NHRA racers. It’s
always a cool deal to check out the new Mopar displays and
cars at the show, and visit the Mopar and Chrysler Group folks.
That same night I take a redeye to Miami to meet Pam and then
we’re off on a trip to St. Kitts for five days, which
should be a fun journey. Then we get back and it’ll
be about time to head to Pomona for the NHRA Finals. Can’t
believe 2010 season is all but over!
now the J&J Racing team and I have a little bit of a break
before we head to Vegas for the second-to-last race of the
year on Halloween weekend. I can’t believe the 2010
season is nearly over; seems like it was only a few weeks
ago that we were debuting our new Mopar® Dodge Avenger
NHRA event at Reading did not go as we hoped. We tested at
Budds Creek in Maryland prior to the event and had a great
setup on the car. We were real strong in qualifying once again,
taking the No. 1 spot for the second straight race and for
the sixth time this year. Unfortunately, our awesome performance
in qualifying didn’t carry over into race day.
Sunday morning, just like seven other Pro Stock cars in the
first round, we shook the tires and went out early in a first-round
loss to Warren Johnson. It was my first opening-round loss
of the 2010 season and a real blow to my title hopes, but
we’ve got a really great engine program right now and
great car in the Mopar Dodge, so there’s a lot to be
Reading my wife Pam and I went and spent a couple of day with
Justin Humphreys and his wife Gina at their place in Maryland.
Pam and Gina got some shopping in and Justin and I did some
golfing and relaxed a bit. This week I think we’ll do
the same thing, head to the lake, do some fishing and just
hang out. I’ve mentioned before in my blog that I’m
a big football fan, as I played when I was in high school,
so I’ll also catch some more Tennessee football on the
tube. It’s been a tough year for them, but it’s
a rebuilding year and they’re a young team, so they
approach at the Vegas race will be the same as it was at Dallas
and at Reading. We need to go out there, qualify No. 1 again
and try to win the race. We’ve got the qualifying No.
1 part down pat, but now we’ve just got to start winning
the races and have a strong finish. We’re not going
to go out easy in the Countdown playoffs. This J&J Racing/Mopar
Dodge Avenger team is going to be scratching and fighting
and clawing all the way to the end. We’re going to see
if we can’t score another couple of wins and No. 1 spots
and generate some great momentum heading into next year.
just finished doing a presentation for the National Exchange
Club here in my hometown of Greeneville, Tenn. I explained
to them what our J&J Racing/Mopar® Dodge Avenger
team does. I showed them a few videos, even a video of one
of my wrecks, and took questions for 20 minutes or so. It
went real well and everyone seemed interested. The National
Exchange Club is sort of like the Kiwanis club. The club does
all kinds of fundraising across the nation. They meet once
a week to talk about business, and this week it was the business
of drag racing! Hopefully I made a few more fans for the sport.
this little down time between races, my wife Pam and I will
probably head out to our lakehouse and just R&R it for
a few days. It’s going to be a little cool, so we might
do some boating as the weather allows, and grill out with
some friends. I’ll watch some Tennessee football as
well. It’s been a hectic stretch of weeks, so the rest
is welcome. I’ll get my mind set to go after the championship.
that little weekend break the J&J Racing team will be
heading to Budds Creek, Md. for some testing prior to the
Reading event. We think the air will be cool and great, so
we want to make sure we’ve got our tuneup on the Mopar
Dodge just right, because I think we could come close to setting
a record at Reading. If so that’s 20 more points, and
we can use all of them.
had a setback at the NHRA event at Concord N.C., but I think
the J&J Racing team really rebounded well from it at the
Dallas event. We qualified No. 1 and beat Jeg Coughlin in
the first round to move up to fourth in points. In the second
round we didn’t have a great run and Greg Anderson had
a psychic light and took us out.
just gives me even more fire in my belly. We’re a lot
of points out, but we still have a fighting chance. Hopefully
the air will be cool at Reading, and we can go there and set
the record, qualify No. 1, win the race and come out with
140 points. That’s our goal, that’s what we’re
going to test for, and that’s what we’re going
got to Indy a day early to participate in a golf tournament
for the Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital. I had a
great time there and got to play golf with Quinn Buckner,
who played basketball under Bobby Knight at Indiana and played
in the pros with Larry Bird. He was a super nice guy.
was the first race of the Countdown to the Championship. There’s
a lot going on, with all the P.R. and media activities happening,
and of course the nerves and tension of getting ready for
the Countdown. We missed qualifying the Mopar® Dodge Avenger
No. 1 by one-thousandth of a second. That was a heartbreaker,
but to make it to the semis and still be in second in the
Countdown with a little cushion on third was awesome.
thing we do in Indy that’s awesome is go to St. Elmo’s
restaurant and eat some of their shrimp cocktail. I always
look forward to that. They also have a real big 24 oz. prime
rib that I love. I eat it as raw as you can get it!
left Indy and got home on Monday night. I got up at 5 a.m.
on Tuesday and drove to Charlotte where I tested all day.
I came home Tuesday night while the team stayed and tested
on Vinnie Deceglie’s car on Wednesday, then Thursday
morning I had a 6 a.m. flight to go to Pocono Raceway for
the Dodge Viper Cup event I was racing in as a celebrity driver.
wife Pam came with me as well to watch, so that was cool to
have her there. I spent most of Thursday getting fitted into
my Dodge Viper SRT10® ACR-X and Friday was a full day
of testing and practice. There was a race on Saturday and
a race on Sunday, and I managed to come home in the top 10
for both in my road course racing debut. It was a long day
every day, and you’re completely wore out when you’re
think I got better every session. I absolutely loved every
minute of it. There was rain on Sunday, and that was the most
challenging. In drag racing, you get even a sprinkle, and
we stop racing. It was hard for me to push the car as far
as it could be pushed even on the dry track, let alone a wet
one. Until I get more seat time under my belt, going into
those turns at 160 mph and keeping your foot in it all the
way through, it was hard for me. To get out on a wet track
and running that car fast through the curves, that was really
tough for me.
drivers on the Dodge Viper Cup series were so cordial. They
had a banquet during the event and I told them they are more
of a brotherhood than any I’ve ever seen. Cindi Lux
and her husband, Fred Lux, who manage the celeb driver program,
were awesome folks and they helped me tremendously. The whole
experience was very thrilling, and I can’t thank the
folks at Dodge Motorsports enough for including me.
new Dodge Viper ACR-X, built just for the track, is amazing.
It’s one hell of a vehicle. I told Cindi she may have
hooked me. I may have to get me an ACR-X and go out and train
so I can come back out again and compete with the front-running
left Pocono on Sunday and flew to Orlando that night for Chrysler
Group LLC’s 2010 Dealer Announcement Show. I had to
be ready to go on stage the next morning with Pietro Gorlier,
Mopar’s CEO. It’s humbling I was even invited
to attend the event and have our J&J Racing team and car
spotlighted. To go on stage with someone of Pietro’s
caliber was very humbling, but he’s also a very witty
and fun guy. To go up there and match wits with him and do
what we do to advertise for Mopar and Dodge is very fulfilling
for me and I enjoy it.
Bob Frey did the voiceover for our presentation. I was behind
a curtain with my Mopar Dodge Avenger and Bob cued me to crank
it up. I revved up the HEMI engine a few times behind the
curtain, then the curtain was raised and I drove the car up
the ramp onto a turntable. Pietro came out, shook my hand,
and we did our talk. It was very cool and the dealers loved
been a whirlwind the last few weeks, and it doesn’t
get any better from here. I left Orlando yesterday and then
I drive today to Charlotte for the NHRA event at zMAX Dragway.
Sunday night I’m driving to Savannah, Ga. for the Tennessee
Oil Marketers’ convention, and I’ll stay there
until I fly out for the Greg Morris Memorial Golf Tournament
on Wednesday, Sept. 22, the week of the NHRA Dallas race.
I’m home about three days in four weeks. It’s
a pretty hectic schedule.
My dad Roy, who’s my engine builder as well, will have
his Mopar Dodge Challenger Drag Pak car at the race this weekend.
It was very special to have dad out racing with us at Bristol,
and I’m looking forward to having the chance again this
weekend. I think dad can match his semifinals performance
at Bristol. He tested at Charlotte when we did, so he’s
got a few runs down that track already. I think he’ll
come out of the box pretty stout. If I could take the win
in Pro Stock and he could do it in Stock Eliminator—well,
that would be a dream.
been honing my road racing skills with the down time I had
before the U.S. Nationals. I’m competing as a celebrity
driver in the Dodge Viper Cup event at Pocono Raceway on Sept.
10–12, where I’ll take a new Mopar®-powered
Dodge Viper ACR-X out on the road course.
had four 30-minute practice sessions at Miller Motorsports
Park in Utah on August 20 to prepare for the event. I got
to ride in a Dodge Viper Competition Coupe with road racer
Cindi Lux, who is running the celeb driver deal for the Dodge
Viper Cup. I followed Cindi in the Comp Coupe, and then she
followed me. It was an intense day of school and practice.
Not only did we have to learn things on the track, but we
had to learn the flags, the rules, the entrance and exit rules.
It was a long, hard day of training.
Lake is a beautiful area. It was the first time I had been
out that way. And Miller Motorsports Park is an awesome facility.
There were all kinds of racing going on all day long out there.
It was very busy. It’s one of the premier facilities
for road racing in the country. I just really enjoyed the
day, and Cindi and her crew treated me like royalty. I’m
hoping to not just do this one Dodge Viper Cup race, but maybe
even more of these kinds of events.
hardest part for me was learning how to get into and out of
the turns correctly. You would think you need to go into the
turns as hard as you can and brake real hard, and pass people
going into the turns, but it’s not like that at all.
You have to get into the turns gently and come out hard. That
was a different type of learning for me, and also knowing
when to brake and when to accelerate. There’s an art
didn’t make any major mistakes; I didn’t go off
the course. One boo-boo I did was confuse my turns right at
the end of the day. I confused a long, sweeping turn with
a real sharp turn, and before I knew it I had too much speed
and had to spin it out on the track. There were a lot of turns
out there and it’s easy to get confused when you come
up on one.
Viper Comp Coupe I drove was the first or second that was
built as a prototype for road racing. It was great, but I
can’t wait to get behind the wheel of the Viper ACR-X.
Cindi has really got me pumped up for it. She says the ACR-X
has got more power and more stick than the Comp Coupe. And
I thought the Comp Coupe was awesome! I’m really looking
forward to the Pocono race.
think I’ve got enough experience where if I’m
smooth and patient, I can do okay. Cindi gave me an A- to
a B+ score on my driving, so that excited me. My biggest thing
is that I’m one of those people who wants to go, go,
go! And in that deal you have to be patient.
weekend coming up, however, my mind is as far from road racing
as can be. I’ve captured the No. 1 Qualifier Award at
Indy, but I’ve never won at the U.S. Nationals. I’m
hoping I can change that on Monday, so stay tuned!
after the Mopar® Mile-High NHRA Nationals we had a couple
of weeks off. Pam and I had a chance to go to our lake house
one weekend to relax and have some fun. We spent three days
on Douglas Lake in Tennessee and did some boating and ate
out on the water a lot. It was good down time before the playoffs
went to Martin, Mich. and tested last week. We tried out a
few things and then headed to Brainerd for the Lucas Oil NHRA
Nationals. Of course, going to Brainerd is one of our favorite
things. We hit the Black Bear restaurant, our favorite prime
rib joint in the world, and ate there a few nights. We got
to go out and see all the inventions the Minnesotans had cooked
up to cruise the “Zoo,” as the fan area at Brainerd
is nicknamed. That’s always a blast. I think those folks
only have about 10-12 weeks of summer and the rest of the
time they sit in their basements and dream up different vehicles
Brainerd we had a really, really good car right out of the
box on the first run. To be honest, after that we struggled
at the track the rest of the weekend. On Sunday on the first
run we struggled and got lucky when Greg Stanfield had a red-light.
In the second round we made a decent run but Shane Gray dug
down and did what he had to do. They made the best run that
they’ve made all year, probably. It just worked out
that it was the wrong time, wrong place for us. I think we
would have beat anybody else second round other than him.
You can’t take anything away from him; he did what he
needed to do.
week I’m heading to Miller Motorsports Park in Utah
to get some road-course training with Cindi Lux, a great driver
who has raced for Mopar in the past and has had success driving
a Mopar-powered Dodge Viper Competition Coupe in the SCCA
World Challenge Series. She’s in charge of the Dodge
Viper Cup celebrity driver program and has asked me to compete
in the next event at Pocono Raceway on Sept. 11–12.
I’ll drive a new Dodge Viper ACR-X in the race, and
if I win my purse will be donated to help out the charity
of my choice. I met Cindi a few years back at a Team Mopar
photo shoot. I mentioned back then how cool it would be to
have a chance to drive the Viper Comp Coupe she was competing
in at that time, so when the Dodge Viper Cup celebrity driver
program came about she said I was the first person she thought
of because of how excited I was back when we met.
geeked to be able to drive the ACR-X. It debuted at the PRI
Show in Orlando back in December and I asked Ralph Gilles,
the Dodge CEO, what I would have to do to get in one. Now
I have the chance! I love all forms of racing, and this one
will be a little different. I’ve done some kart racing
in the past, but nothing like this. I’m really excited
and looking forward to it, and I’m serious about being
good at it. I’m heading out to Salt Lake for a full-day
of practice, so when I go into Pocono next month I’ll
have some experience under my belt to compete with the pro
drivers. I’m not going out there just to drive the car;
I want to be able to compete with the professionals.
road racing will be fun, but what I really have my focus on
is the chance to capture my first Pro Stock championship.
The entire Mopar Dodge Avenger/J&J Racing team is elated
and excited at the spot we are in. I wish the U.S. Nationals
was this week! We’re only 30 points behind Mike Edwards,
we’ve got momentum, we’ve got great cars, great
engines, I feel like I’m driving great. I think it’s
going to be a knock down, drag out fight between me and six
love a challenge. I consider myself an athlete, and I’ve
competed all my life. I feel like I get down and do some of
my best work when it’s a really hard challenge and we’ve
definitely got one on our hands. We’ve got a great shot
at this thing, so we’re going to go in there with our
teeth showing and try to bring home a title for Mopar and
all the Mopar fans.
is the first time Pam and I have stayed out for the entire
three weeks of the Western Swing. We went from Seattle to
Vancouver and it was an awesome place. We stayed two days
and it was amazing, cool weather and no humidity. From Vancouver
we went to San Francisco and spent the night downtown and
went to my favorite place in the world to eat, the House of
Prime Rib. Pam also got to do a little shopping, and on Thursday
we did what we always do before the Sonoma race, we went to
of course, we raced Sonoma and had a little bit of bad luck
in the second round with the lifter breaking or I think we
would have had the car to beat there, too. We had the No.
1 Qualifier spot there at least, so that was a highlight.
Pam and I flew to Denver Monday morning and went up to V.
Gaines’ cabin and also spent one night in Vail. We had
a blast, charging up the batteries for my biggest race of
the year, the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals in Denver.
went to the NHRA press conference in Denver, at Morton’s
Steakhouse, so I ate good again! I talked with an impressive
young reporter from the Denver Post, Shemar Woods, and the
paper ran a story on me and my team in the Friday edition
of the paper. We had a ton of coverage all during Mopar’s
brought the Mopar Big Block Event in downtown Golden. I felt
like it was the best Block Event we’ve ever had, as
far as attendance. Mopar had my car on display and Matt Hagan’s
Funny Car, both wrapped in Mopar graphics, and fans crowded
the cars all night. We took part in an autograph signing until
it got dark, and the fans still kept coming. Each year Mopar
puts on a great show for the fans.
we got to meet Mopar’s CEO, Pietro Gorlier. Having Pietro
there at the event, and Jim Sassorossi from Mopar and Byron
Kearney from Dodge, it was awesome to get that type of support
from our sponsors. It means so much for us to have those guys
out and see what we do. The entire Mopar gang was amazing
think I made all the Mopar folks happy, qualifying No. 1 on
Friday and also holding it on Saturday. We missed the setup
on our first run on Friday and Mike Edwards was able to hit
it better and take the No. 1 spot. After that we honed in
on it and got up to par really quickly. Each run we ran just
a little better and had a little better setup each time, all
the way to the final on Sunday. It’s awesome for the
crew to be able to do that.
J&J Racing team’s performance amazed me on race
day, to be honest. I didn’t do my job very well in the
first round and was lucky I didn’t get beat on a holeshot.
After that I got on my game. Every round the car got better
and I got better. The final against Jeggy was an outstanding
run. I reached down deep and had a .004 reaction time and
recorded a 6.974/198.26 mark in the Mopar Dodge Avenger to
score our first win of the year and third in four years at
the Mopar Mile-Highs. To have that kind of performance at
your sponsor’s big race, well, it’s a great feeling.
hadn’t won since the ’09 Denver event. It was
very emotional for me. It’s more than just your sponsor’s
race. I’ve become friends with many of them. To try
so hard to do well there, it takes a lot out of you. After
the final run, and to be able to pull it off again, I was
just absolutely wore out emotionally and physically. To be
able to do it for the people that are depending on you, it’s
just so fantastic. I was so happy, yet so tired.
still had some strength to go out and celebrate with Mopar.
We cooled out and had a chance to get our emotions in check.
We had a great after-party, but then we started to talk about
winning the next one—and the championship!
to Norwalk our Mopar® Dodge Avenger team had an engine
that we rubbed on and rubbed on to get ready for the K&N
Challenge. It showed off a little bit the first run during
qualifying, as we had top speed, but then it broke when I
pushed in the clutch. We had to go to our backup engine, which
we had run the last three races. That was a little bit disappointing
as things didn’t go to plan, then we shook second round
in the Challenge and got knocked out. I think we had more
for them than we showed, but that’s how it goes.
the main event on Sunday at Norwalk, we had a lot of support
from folks from Mopar and Chrysler’s Auburn Hills, Mich.
headquarters who made the drive to Ohio. Their support meant
a lot to us, and to be able to go to the final round and have
the chance to play spoiler to Greg Anderson, it was nice to
do that while the Mopar folks were in attendance. We settled
for a runner-up finish, but it was a good outing overall.
was nice to have some R&R time after Norwalk, which was
the last of four consecutive races. Pam and I had to get ready
for a Fourth of July weekend party we were having at my house
as soon as we got back home. We had about 50 people over to
the house, with a band, catered food and a fireworks show.
made it a two-day party, both Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday
we did the partyin' deal, with fireworks and the band, called
Skin Tight. That lasted until about 2:30 a.m. Then Sunday
was a bit more low-key, as we had several families and their
kids over to hang out, go in the pool and ride motorcycles.
We had a busy weekend, but then Monday, of course, you have
to clean up—which I did! It was a neat Fourth of July,
though, maybe the first annual at my house.
boys at the J&J Racing shop enjoyed a three-day weekend
as well. They refreshed our top-three engines, so we’ll
be ready to go during the Western Swing, beginning this weekend
in Seattle. Pacific Raceways is one of my favorite tracks,
with good reason. I’ve been to three finals there in
the last four years, with a “W” in ’06.
My Mopar Dodge Avenger/J&J Racing team has three runner-up
finishes so far this year, so we’re due for a win. We’ll
try to get the job done this weekend!
The title of my Bristol blog should be “Running My You-Know-What-Off!”
Between trying to get all my employees, family and friends
suite passes and tickets and satisfying all the media requests,
I was on the go the entire race. The Bristol weekend is a
lot of fun for us since it’s at our home track, but
it’s also very tiring.
did an appearance at Grindstaff Chrysler Dodge Jeep in Elizabethtown,
Tenn. the week of the event. I brought out my Mopar® Dodge
Avenger and had a nice time visiting with the folks at the
dealership. The media was in a frenzy over us during the event.
I felt like Jimmy Johnson in NASCAR! Being at our home race,
each day somebody was calling us and asking us to do something.
I made a morning show appearance, did a number of TV interviews,
and our J&J Racing team was featured in so many newspapers
that I lost count. I love doing the media stuff, helping to
promote the Mopar brand and the Dodge brand. That’s
what we’re out here to do, help them sell more parts
and cars, and hopefully we helped do that.
Sunday night hit, after the race, my wife Pam said she had
never seen me so tired. I’m like an Energizer bunny;
it’s hard to drag me down. But when I laid down on the
bed on Sunday night and turned on the TV, I was asleep before
I could even see what was on!
was just a dream weekend, though. It was awesome watching
my dad Roy drive his Mopar Dodge Challenger Drag Pak in Stock
Eliminator, and seeing my mom and dad and the joy and the
pride they had in racing again, in doing that thing that they
had done so well for so many years. Watching them do it together,
that was worth every minute for me.
for me, it was special to get the No. 1 Qualifier Award and
advance to the semis at Bristol. It was my best showing at
my home track ever. I’m still looking for my first Pro
Stock win there, though, so maybe I can bring it home next
What really stands out for me was when Dad got his class win
over David Rampy. Seeing the Mopar Dodge Challenger Drag Pak
be that much faster than a Chevy is one thing, and then for
Dad to beat a guy who has won so many races and championships,
it was really awesome. I qualified No. 1 in Pro Stock and
Dad qualified No. 2 in Stock Eliminator; not bad for a guy
who hadn’t raced in almost 30 years! He didn’t
miss a beat. He went out there and battled the big boys and
took out a few of them. The guys at the J&J Racing shop
said Dad can be a little crusty now and then, he’s so
focused on making horsepower, but he smiled more last weekend
than he smiled in a year combined.
My dad will be back tuning the engines this weekend at Norwalk.
The race is only a couple hours from Mopar’s HQ, so
we’re expecting some Mopar brass to stop by and visit
this weekend. I’m hoping to show off for them a little
bit and capture my second K&N Horsepower Challenger title
on Saturday and then double up with a main-event win on Sunday.
you’re in the area, stop by my pits and say hello!
wife Pam and I had a great visit to Key West over Memorial
Day weekend to attend a surprise birthday party for Virginia
Humphreys, Justin Humphreys’ mom. They had about 30–40
people out there and it was a great time. Then we got to ride
a big 70-foot yacht from Key West to Sanibel Island, where
the Humphreys have a home. We spent another three days in
Sanibel playing golf, hanging out and laying by the pool.
We got to play a really good course down there, Gulf Harbor
in Ft. Meyers, a real exclusive course that we were able to
get on. I played the Par 3 holes at two under par; there were
three Par 3s, and I birdied two of them. So I was pretty happy
and I went straight from Sanibel Island to Chicago on the
Thursday before the race there and enjoyed the fine Chicago
weather—rain one second and then sun the next! I was
really disappointed with our outing at Chicago, a quarterfinals
exit. We should have carried over our great runner-up performance
at Topeka to Chicago and done just as good, but we just basically
missed the setup.
stayed over and tested at Route 66 on Monday and I think we
found the changes we needed to make. I fly out today for the
Englishtown race, where I took the No. 1 Qualifier Award in
2006 and advanced to the semifinals last year. The forecast
looks to be hot and grimy, and our Mopar® Dodge Avenger
usually excels under those types of conditions. I’m
confident the J&J Racing team and I can have a quick rebound
from our Chicago weekend.
dad Roy is getting everything ready for his Stock debut in
his new Mopar Dodge Challenger Drag Pak car at the NHRA Thunder
Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway next weekend. After his
test session at Bristol a few weeks ago, Dad and the J&J
crew have got the 5.7-liter HEMI® engine apart, going
through it and making sure everything is rubbing together
right. Some of the little problems he had, such as with the
brakes, they are fixing and improving and getting prepared.
is a huge race for us, since it’s our home track. My
goal is to get my first win there and Dad’s is to qualify
No. 1 in Stock Eliminator. It would be awesome if we could
both do that in our respective Mopars at the same race and
really give ’em something to talk about it!
into the Atlanta race, our Mopar® Dodge Avenger J&J
Racing team felt really confident because we had tested there
earlier, and also because we felt like we had picked up some
horsepower at the previous event in St. Louis. I think we
demonstrated what we could do at Atlanta and showed that we’ve
caught up with Mike Edwards performance-wise. We reached the
semis at Atlanta; right before the finish line we seized a
bearing and lost by nine thousands of a second. But we were
very happy with that outing, and happy with our Mopar HEMI®
engines and the power we found.
went to Topeka next and we were pretty dominant, I think.
I was happy with every phase of our Mopar Dodge team—the
car, the motor, my driving was okay. We just ran into the
“buzz saw” again there at the end. You’ve
got to be great to beat Mike. He did a great job, and I did
a good job. The ESPN crew gave us a lot of TV time during
the race coverage from Topeka, so that was cool. This little
rivalry that’s brewing between Mike and me, how we’re
keeping up with him now in the horsepower department—I
think that’s going to give them something to cover for
didn’t do much else at Topeka besides race! My wife
Pam won’t go to Topeka. The first drag race she ever
went to with me was there, back in 1999. It got down to 30-some
degrees at night, and it was only 50 degrees during the day
with a cold, hard rain blowing. She liked to freeze to death,
so she won’t go there anymore.
been playing a little golf lately. I took part in my company’s
charity tournament, the Greeneville Oil and Petroleum Quick
Stop Market’s tournament that we put on, with our vendors
raised about $15,000 for two charities here in Greeneville,
Tenn., the food bank, which gives out food to people who are
down on their luck and helps pay their light bills during
the winter, and a foster care agency in town that provides
items to people who have just adopted a child or become foster
parents and need support.
tested at Bristol earlier this week. We had a good session,
but more significant was that my dad, Roy, got his Mopar Dodge
Challenger Drag Pak car out on the track for the first time.
He ran a second under the index and ran under the national
record the first time out, and the car still wasn’t
quite right. He was really, really happy with it. He did exceptionally
well driving. The first couple of runs he was a little rusty,
but by the third or fourth run he looked like he had never
quit. His first race will be at Bristol, our home track, during
the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals on June 18–20. If
you’re in the area, come on down and watch Dad race,
and me as well.
and I are leaving this morning to spend Memorial Day weekend
in Key West. It’s good to have a little R&R, since
starting with the Route 66 NHRA Nationals near Chicago next
week, we’ll have four races back-to-back, then a week
off, then head off on the Western Swing. Should be a busy
summer—and hopefully a successful one for the Mopar
Dodge Avenger J&J Racing team!
recently paid a visit to Glenwood Elementary School in my
hometown of Greeneville, Tenn., right before the NHRA St.
Louis event. My wife Pam’s friend, Shandi, has a daughter
named Riley, and she asked me to come out to her school for
the Glenwood Fun Day. I came to Riley’s classroom and
visited, signed personal autographs and talked about what
we do. I showed video of one of our runs and of the winner’s
circle at the Mopar® Mile-High Nationals.
kids asked a lot of questions. We tried to keep it to subjects
regarding science or math, or something they could learn a
little bit from, but they asked questions like if I had ever
wrecked, or how fast I can go. Some of them said 1,200 mph!
One little girl raised her hand and said, “My grandfather
just loves you!” I got a lot of comments like that.
It’s really amazing how many of the kid’s parents
watch us on TV. After my classroom visit the whole school
went out into the auditorium, and they had tables set up.
The kids could spend quarters at each station on different
items, and one of the tables was mine. I signed autographs
for everybody, but of course, I didn’t charge them a
was special to participate in the event for Riley, who I’ve
known since she was a baby. I do stuff like that every now
and then at schools in the community, career days and fun
days. Sometimes I even take our Mopar Dodge Pro Stock car
out and do a burnout. It teaches the kids about the importance
of education, so maybe when they grow up they can do what
we do. And hopefully it makes Mopar enthusiasts out of them!
St. Louis, Pam wasn’t able to make it out for the race.
Without her, when I wasn’t at the track, I was at the
casino. You might remember in my last blog I said I left a
little money in Vegas—well, I brought some back from
St. Louis. Justin Humphreys and I did pretty well out there.
wise, the track at St. Louis was a little iffy, but we were
great in qualifying. We probably should have been No. 2 in
qualifying, third at least, but fourth wasn’t bad. In
eliminations we made a pretty good run in the first round,
but in the second round we just went up there and, like in
Vegas, made a mistake and shook the tires.
stayed after on Monday and tested at St. Louis. I feel the
test session was very beneficial, just like the session at
Dallas prior to the Houston event. I think we figured out
a common mistake we’ve been doing that’s been
making us shake the tires. We really tested that on Monday
back and forth, our old way, our new way, our old way, our
new way. It shed light on what we’ve been doing wrong
and I believe we made a big gain with that.
race at Atlanta and Topeka, and then we’ve got a week
off and then four in a row. We’ve got six races in the
next eight weeks. I really feel good about what we figured
out, and I feel like we gained some horsepower on the dyno
right before St. Louis and it showed at that race with our
speed. So hopefully it all will pay off at Atlanta next weekend.
spring Vegas event is in the books. It’s always one
of my favorites. I took part in another NHRA Fan Fest, this
time at Town Square Mall. It’s hard to top what we do
at the fall Vegas race, having the Fan Fest at the Fremont
Street Experience, with the huge screen overhead playing NHRA
videos, but we had a great crowd at the new venue. There was
also a great turnout of drivers, including Funny Car racers
Matt Hagan and Jack Beckman, who run with Mopar power like
I do. And the weather was just freaking awesome, like it was
during the entire Vegas event.
at Vegas we made a couple of good runs and a couple of marginal
runs in our Mopar Dodge Avenger. But our first round run during
eliminations was one of the best we’ve made in awhile,
a 6.738-second pass at 205.35 mph to beat Johnny Gray. Then
we boo-booed in the second round. We just messed up. We let
the two guys in front of us make our decision for us when
we should have run our own race. We should have taken the
left lane, because the right hadn’t been good all weekend.
The decision bit us, and we lost to Greg Anderson, but hopefully
we’ll learn from it and move on.
have time to take in any Vegas shows with my wife, Pam. I
DID have a little time do some gambling, though. This trip
didn’t go as well as the last one back in November.
I left a little of what I won last time out there; Vegas will
always get you in the end.
started up a new channel on YouTube, “Mopar Captured,”
and the first video posted was a recap of my weekend debuting
the Mopar Dodge Avenger at the NHRA Winternationals back in
February, so that was cool. I’ve gotten a lot of positive
feedback on it after I posted a link to the video on my Facebook
page. I try to keep up on Facebook, so if you’re on
it hit me up with a friend request.
weekend was Pam’s birthday, so it was nice to have an
off-weekend from racing to celebrate her big day with some
festivities. We went to a spa on Saturday and then I had her
a cookout and birthday party on Sunday. We’re flying
to St. Louis today, where I’ve advanced to two finals
but haven’t yet won. Hope to have good news to report
I haven’t done a blog since Gainesville, so I’ll
try to catch up on all that’s happened since then. We
had the Four-Wide Nationals in Charlotte. My J&J Racing/Mopar
Dodge Avenger squad and I adapted to it, and it was fun for
a change and generated some publicity. However, I don’t
think the place for it is in a competitive points race. Now,
if they want to do a four-wide high dollar incentive race
during qualifying, sort of like the K&N Horsepower Challenge,
that’s fine. Maybe they do a big shootout with the top
four in points from each class during qualifying. I could
see doing something like that. But a regular points race,
where we’re all so serious about winning a championship,
it’s just not a place for it.
helped out the B.R.A.K.E.S. (Be Responsible and Keep Everyone
Safe) auction and attended their pancake breakfast fundraiser
during the Four-Wides. I’m a big supporter of the organization,
which was founded by NHRA Top Fuel driver Doug Herbert in
memory of his two sons who were killed in a car accident.
I’ve supplied auction items to them for the last couple
years, and I donated the jacket of my racing suit this year,
while my primary sponsor Mopar donated autographed hats and
photos. My firesuit jacket was the highest selling item, so
I was pretty proud of that!
auction raised enough money for B.R.A.K.E.S. to provide hands-on
driver training for 65 teens. It’s one of my favorite
charities—the work they’re doing to educate teenagers
about the need to be responsible behind the wheel. I didn’t
flip any pancakes during the breakfast, but I went from table
to table meeting people. B.R.A.K.E.S. really has a lot of
support in the drag racing community.
a Tennessee boy through and through, I was very happy with
the success of the University of Tennessee basketball team
during their March Madness run. They overcame a lot of adversity
from the middle of the year, losing their best player, and
to come back and make the Elite Eight of the tournament was
awesome. If not for a last second shot we would have been
in the Final Four. Head coach Bruce Pearl is doing a great
job. Pam and I both follow the Volunteers really close.
dad Roy, who is also my J&J Racing team’s engine
builder, is close to getting the Mopar Challenger Drag Pak
vehicle I surprised him with for Christmas on the track and
racing. He just finished running the engine on the dyno with
engine builder Gary Stanton. Gary showed him how to do the
fuel injection on the computer and the motor is sitting in
front of the car. I think after Vegas he’s going to
get the motor in the car and get ready to go. We’ll
probably go up to Bristol Dragway, which is close to our shop
in Greeneville, and test during the track’s regular
test ‘n’ tune day.
I got to play some golf a little in Houston. I hit the links
with some of the Super Comp drivers, Greg Odom, Craig Anderson
and Gary Ross, who works for NHRA. Those are the boys who
also support the Greg Morris Golf Tournament, which I take
part in each year during the NHRA stop in Dallas. I didn’t
play very well. I can’t remember what I shot, but I
didn’t break 80 for the round. I also had a chance to
go out to dinner with Erica Enders and her family, who are
from the area. We ate at Lupe Tortillas, a restaurant that
sponsors Erica. Then I went out and made the finals at the
Houston race, after advancing to the semis in the previous
four events, so that made my week.
weekend we’re going out west to Vegas, where I have
a chance to earn my 200th career round win. If all goes well,
I’ll end the event with 202 round wins—and a Wally
trophy for my eighth NHRA National event victory!
tested Monday through Wednesday last weekend at Bradenton
prior to the Gatornationals. We tested a lot of stuff; some
was good and some bad. Vinnie Deceglie came down with his
car from last year on Wednesday and we sorted that car out
and got it set for Gainesville. On Thursday Pam and I took
an R&R day and sort of slept in then drove up to Gainesville
later that afternoon. We stopped at Cracker Barrel for a late
kicker at the Gatornationals was buddying up with Dodge NASCAR
star Kurt Busch, who was racing his Mopar® HEMI®-powered
Dodge Challenger in the Super Gas class. He’s real interested
in drag racing. He spent quite a bit of time over at the trailer,
sitting in the car, checking out our data graphs on the computer,
and we talked a lot during the Team Mopar autograph session.
After each of our runs, he would come back to the rig and
check out our graphs. We even talked about getting him to
a test session and doing some driving in a Pro Stock car,
or maybe even on one of his NASCAR off weekends doing a rental
deal for him and getting him in one of these Pro Stock cars.
told him we might have to trade out, though. I might have
to do a Camping World Truck or a Nationwide ride! I’d
love it. Every time I get in a circle track car, I seem to
perform fairly well. With a little more track time and a little
more training, I think I could go over there and compete in
one of those races. It’s something I love. We’ll
see what happens.
race time at the Gators, it was an interesting event, with
the delayed Arizona race run during Gatornationals qualifying.
Just having the two races in one weekend kept the adrenaline
pumping and kept us all on our toes. Running into Mike Edwards
twice was definitely bad luck for us. But you know what, that
just makes me and the whole J&J Racing team rise to the
challenge even more and get things sorted out so we have a
shot at beating him. It brings out the competitive fire in
us. Getting beat by the same guy twice in two days, I don’t
it was a good weekend overall at Gainesville, going to two
semis and moving to second in points. The new Mopar Dodge
Avenger is definitely a better car than what we had last year.
I think we still have more in it. When we get it to its optimum
point, I think you’re really going to see the Mopar
Phoenix race was a challenge. It was one of the most trying
weekends that I’ve spent as a racer for a lot of reasons,
but mainly because of the tragic accident.
won first round and then eliminations were postponed. NHRA
did everything it could do to make that lane better. Actually,
they gave us the option, after it turned out they couldn’t
make it better, to go to Gainesville and finish the Phoenix
race during Gainesville qualifying. It says a lot about the
NHRA as far as looking over us for safety.
has his car from last year, the Stratus. He’ll have
that out at Bradenton before the Gainesville race, with my
dad Roy supplying his HEMI® engines. We’re going
to test a couple three days. His Stratus should be just like
it was last year. It’s a good car, maybe not as good
as the Avenger, but it’ll do for three or four races.
should basically be like the K&N Horsepower Challenge
deal. It should be exactly the same format, a sort of race-within-a-race.
We won the K&N a couple of years ago, so maybe it will
play right into our hands. It would be huge if we could win
both the Phoenix event and the Gatornationals in one weekend!
With our experienced team, our new Mopar Dodge Avenger and
all the help and assistance we are getting from Mopar—hey,
it could be ours.
Mopar Dodge Avenger has just been awesome in its first two
races. After seeing all the efforts of the Mopar and Dodge
engineers in the wind tunnel, and seeing how much better the
Avenger was, we thought for sure that it would be quite a
bit better on the track than the Stratus. Now, have we got
the full optimum output out of it? No, we have not—it’s
still got a little bit left. It’s not performing at
the 60-ft. mark as well as our old car did. We were always
No. 1 or No. 2 in 60-ft., and now we’re down to No.
5 or No. 6 in the new car. If we can get it up there to the
top at the 60-ft and 330-ft. mark, I think you’ll see
it show off even more.
far as a social life, I pretty much don’t have any plans
between now and the Gatornationals. I might go into Bradenton
early before testing and play some golf with the guys down
there. After two straight weeks of flying back and forth on
the West Coast, and testing the week before that in Vegas,
I need a weekend or so of R&R just to get my feet back
on the ground.
to the NHRA Winternationals, we went out to Vegas for the
Pro Stock Showdown. The weather was unusually cool and the
track was cold. It wasn’t a very good test for us. We
had one day we could run, then on Monday it was too cold and
then on Tuesday we made one run and it started raining. It
was pretty much a disaster, but it did give me and my J&J
Racing team some warm-up time.
the craps table was anything but a disaster. I played every
dang night ’til the wee hours of the morning and left
with a bunch of the casino’s dollars. I was there by
myself in Vegas, so my wife Pam didn’t get any shopping
money out of all my winnings!
headed to Pomona, and my dad and mom, the engine guys, Brian
and Matt, and Pam flew in on Wednesday. Pam then took some
of my winnings and went shopping, so I didn’t get out
of it totally. It was Valentine’s Day weekend, so I
had to give her a shopping spree. She bought several tops,
including one that said, “I Love Johnson,” and
a pair or two of shoes. She bought me some really nice cologne
and a nice card. It was our thirteenth Valentine’s Day
weather at the Winternationals was like night and day compared
to last year. We sat there for about four days last year and
didn’t even make a qualifying pass. This year it was
awesome, sunny and warm, with a great crowd. Hopefully NHRA
made a lot of money so they can give it back to us in the
form of pay raises! We had a driver’s meeting near the
Golden Corral the NHRA hosted at Auto Club Dragway to celebrate
the 50th anniversary of the Winternationals, and I stopped
by to check out the historic cars. I spent a few minutes eyeballing
those old race cars. It was packed over there, with a ton
of fans crowding the area.
made the semis in the race debut of my new Mopar Dodge Avenger.
We were tickled to death. We made three good runs. We even
made a decent run in that right lane at Pomona, which gives
everyone fits. I felt like my driving was decent all day.
I think we reached all of our goals in the new car’s
debut—short of winning the race.
and I flew out early Monday, with a 6:45 a.m. flight back
to Tennessee. It sort of forces you back on East Coast time,
which was good. The boys are thrashing right now on a new
engine combination to get together in time for Phoenix. We’ll
fly it out there if we finish it, but I don’t know if
they’re going to make it or not. I stopped by the shop
earlier today to check on it. I’ll have a day of rest,
then fly to Arizona to see if I can’t get my second
win at Firebird International Raceway and eighth career win
at the airport as I type this, having a cocktail, waiting
to head home after four long days of testing at Bradenton
Motorsports Park in Florida. Pam and I actually got into town
on Saturday and stayed with some friends, played some golf
and just chilled out. Then we began testing on Monday. Vinnie
Deceglie and his team owner Nick Mitsos were down here as
well, so we tested both cars all week. Vinnie’s going
to run with Mopar® HEMI® engines supplied by my dad
Roy in 2010.
tested our new NHRA Pro Stock Mopar Dodge Avenger through
Thursday, and I think I got in about 19 runs total, so we
definitely got in some work. We’ve made quite a bit
more progress since the last test sessions at Bradenton and
Palm Beach International Raceway. The Mopar Dodge Avenger
ran real good the last couple of days. I felt we were pretty
close to where we need to be; we went 6.54 seconds at 210.70
mph for our best run of the four days. We tried quite a few
different things, and I think we’ve got the car sorted
out pretty well.
J&J Racing crew and I will recharge our batteries now
until the Pro Stock Showdown in Vegas. Dad’s got some
HEMI engines he needs to work on and freshen up between now
and then. He’s still on a high after I gave him that
Dodge Challenger Drag Pak by Mopar as a Christmas gift. He’s
talked with Gary Stanton on getting the engine for it, and
he’s hoping to get out to Gary’s shop after our
swing out West to open the NHRA season. So he’ll have
that to look forward to in a month or so.
was actually thinking about bypassing the Pro Stock Showdown
and instead just going out to test Monday and Tuesday before
Pomona, but the crew talked me into it and said it’s
like our preseason game. We won the Showdown last year so
we’ll head back and try to have a little fun, hopefully
win it again and get in the groove before the season starts.
I can’t wait to race, especially with all the news coming
just saw the announcement about four-lane racing at Charlotte
in March. It’s definitely a unique approach that should
generate a ton of publicity. It may be good for the sport—I
guess you just have to try it. I think the jury is still out
as of now, but I’m sure it will be exciting. It’s
just another interesting thing we can look forward to during
the upcoming season.
holidays are over, and I have to say mine were very relaxing
and peaceful. My daughter Kimmie and her son came into town
from Hawaii and we celebrated Christmas at my house on Dec.
22 along with my daughter Heather and her two sons. Kimmie
had to return to Hawaii so we had to celebrate it early. I
gave my three grandsons their presents from my wife Pam and
I early on Tuesday morning—three dirt bikes! I’ve
got a farm of 40 acres around my house and I have my own dirt
bike, so I spent all day until dark teaching them how to ride
dirt bikes and picking them up off the ground! We had fun
all day and the boys loved their gifts.
all went to dinner that night and then returned to my house
and celebrated our Christmas together. Of course, we always
visit with Pam’s family on Christmas Eve, then on Christmas
morning my entire family goes to my parents’ house.
It’s a tradition. My mom fixes a huge breakfast with
homemade sausage, country ham and biscuits and gravy. Actually,
Pam’s mom, dad and brother came to my mom’s as
well. They used to go to Pam’s grandparents’ house
on Christmas, but both her grandma and grandpa passed away
last year, so they came to our celebration. It was nice to
welcome them in and help fill that void by doing something
different. All went well and we all had a great Christmas.
threw a big party on New Year’s Eve, at the same place
Pam held my surprise birthday party this year, the General
Morgan Inn & Conference Center in Greeneville. We had
a band in from Charlotte and stayed right at the hotel. Then
the next day was consumed with planning how to surprise my
dad with the new Dodge Challenger Drag by Mopar vehicle I
was giving to him.
got the car in October and B&B Racecars finished it in
two months time so I could surprise dad with it. I had the
guys delivering it wait out on the interstate near our house
until I knew mom had dad out of the house. Once he left, we
unloaded the car into our race shop. We had about 20 people,
friends of my dad and folks who he used to race with, who
were going to be there when I gave him the Drag Pak. Pam shuttled
them all from our house a few miles away to the shop, so dad
wouldn’t notice the cars.
was on the phone once or twice with mom. She would sneak off
and call and ask, “Are you ready for me to bring him
back yet?” When they came back all my dad saw was my
car in the shop driveway. They pulled up and I called for
him to come into the shop and check out what I had rigged
up on the practice tree I use to improve my time off the starting
line. He walked in the door and it took him about 30 seconds
to even notice there was a crowd in the shop. It was a total
surprise. He had no clue. He was absolutely thrilled by his
new Mopar Drag Pak. He called Gary Stanton that night and
was like, “Where the hell is my motor?”
all the holiday excitement, now we’re just doing the
small things needed to get ready for the upcoming season.
The crew is sprucing up the trailer, stocking it up and preparing
for the long season. We have a test session planned for Bradenton
in a few weeks and then after a quick return trip home we’ll
go to Vegas for the Pro Stock Showdown. Then it’ll be
time to visit Pomona, Calif., and get our season started at
the NHRA Winternationals.
hard to believe we’re in the homestretch of the season,
with the Countdown to 1 playoffs in full swing. Heading into
the first Countdown event at Charlotte, I took part in the
B.R.A.K.E.S. dinner on Thursday prior to the race, where I
spoke a little bit about the organization. It’s a very
important cause for me, helping to promote safe driving by
teenagers. During the dinner/auction I sat next to Anna Lisa
Smith, the daughter of Bruton Smith, owner of Lowe’s
Motor Speedway. Anna was in a severe car accident herself
auction included a puppy to bid on. She bid around $1,500
and then someone went to $1,600. I heard Anna Lisa tell her
friend she really wanted that dog. The bid was at $1,600,
and the auctioneer called out, “Going once, going twice
…” I stood up and said, “$10,000!”
The whole crowd went crazy. I got the puppy, walked over and
gave it to Anna Lisa. She was tickled, to say the least. I
bid $10,000 on an item last year as well. I do it to help
out B.R.A.K.E.S. It’s a great cause and it saves a lot
was a great race; we put our Mopar®/J&J Racing Dodge
in the semis and got off to a great start in the Countdown.
I feel like I’m really driving well again. I’ve
been working hard on the simulator, trying to get better off
the tree. I think it’s starting to pay off.
been a whirlwind since Charlotte. We stayed over and tested
the Monday after the race, then the next day I went to Rick
Jones’ shop to get fitted for a new car. I got back
that night at 7:30 p.m., then flew out the next morning for
the Dallas race. I played in the Greg Morris Memorial golf
tournament in Dallas. Greg worked at Texas Motorplex before
he passed away from brain cancer. His little daughter Heather
also lost her mother in a traffic accident, so the event helps
raise money for her college expenses later in life. Top Fuel
driver Shaun Langdon and several sportsman racers also took
part in the event. It’s another great and worthwhile
thought I drove well at Dallas, but we just had some bad luck.
We experienced some mechanical issues that got us behind the
eight ball. But in the last round of qualifying and the first
round of eliminations we had the second-quickest car of the
field. We were happy with that, despite losing a close race
to Greg [Anderson] in the quarterfinals by only one inch!
got home from Dallas and only had time to uncover my desk
full of papers, then I left today for Memphis and the race
this weekend. We have to get on our game at Memphis right
out of the gate during qualifying, get some of those extra
bonus points, and try to catch up to Mike [Edwards]. We have
to find a little bit better performance on the track. If I
can be within a hundredth of a second or two of him, we have
a chance to win if I can outdrive him. We’ll see how
it plays out this weekend!
the Countdown to 1 playoffs are ready to start, and thankfully
we made the cut and are in the hunt to bring home an NHRA
Pro Stock championship for the Mopar®/J&J Racing team.
into the first playoff race at Charlotte, the NHRA Carolinas
Nationals, it’s been a little hectic, especially having
the huge Indy race a few weeks ago. We tested in St. Louis
before heading out there to O’Reilly Raceway Park. I
was supposed to play in a golf tournament for Morgan Lucas
on Thursday the week of the race, but we stayed an extra day
and tested in St. Louis because we weren’t satisfied
with the set up, so that nixed the golfing.
wife Pam wasn’t able to get to Indy until Saturday due
to some work obligations, so she missed Friday’s qualifying
for the U.S. Nationals. We were able to visit with Justin
Humphreys and his wife and Dave Connolly and his girlfriend
during the week. They’re close friends of ours who we
spend a lot of time with, and Pam hadn’t had the chance
to see them for awhile, so it was nice to have the chance
to catch up.
the U.S. Nationals—it’s just awesome. It’s
a long weekend, and you’re absolutely worn out when
it’s done, but it’s fun. I love watching the Darts
and Barracudas run against each other in the Mopar HEMI®
Challenge. It’s one of my favorite weekends of the year.
I raced sportsman cars back in the day, just like my dad,
so I have a special place in my heart for them.
had a hiccup in the race at Indy and exited in the first round,
but we just got right back to work. After our loss at Indy
we drove home to Greeneville, Tenn., and spent less than a
day there before we headed out for Charlotte to test for the
NHRA Carolinas Nationals.
had to break away to attend a Tennessee Oil Marketer’s
conference in Hilton Head, trying to stay on top of happenings
in the industry in my other role as owner of a chain of gas
stations. I’m flying out to Charlotte today, and then
tomorrow I’m attending a dinner to support B.R.A.K.E.S.,
the organization founded by Doug Herbert to promote safe driving
by teenagers. Doug founded B.R.A.K.E.S. in honor of his two
young sons, Jon and James, who were killed in a car accident.
I’m proud to help out in anyway I can to support Doug
and his organization.
Friday we’ll do our best to qualify high at Charlotte
and take advantage of the new point system just instituted
by the NHRA that gives points to the car with the lowest E.T.
of each qualifying session. We’re in the home stretch
now. Six races to go with the title in sight!
my win at the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals in Denver on
July 12, the Mopar/J&J Racing team moved on to the last
two of three events on the NHRA’s Western Swing, at
Seattle and Sonoma. My wife Pam always enjoys going to downtown
Seattle with all the girls and going to the Space Needle and
shopping a bit. Saturday night we always enjoy going over
to Don Schumacher’s spread at the track and having crab
legs and seafood. Don came over and invited us to that, and
the whole team went. He has a big party in the hospitality
area of his pits, with fresh seafood, each year at Seattle.
and I flew to San Fran for the Sonoma event with my mom and
dad. The team went their own separate ways and did their own
thing. Pam and I stayed at the Huntington Hotel in downtown
San Francisco. They have a really good spa there. We did all
the spa stuff for two days, worked out, and walked down to
Union Square for some shopping. Every night we were there
we ate at a really good restaurant. We ate at the House of
Prime Rib, Sinbad’s, Bob’s Steak and Chop House
and, of course, at Scoma’s, on Fisherman’s Warf.
We met the team at Scoma’s on Thursday night and had
a big seafood blast there before heading up to Sonoma for
for the races at Seattle and Sonoma, we had a boo-boo in the
semifinals at Seattle and shook the tires. That’s one
of the things we’ve got to get rid of. We did it at
Norwalk also. Hopefully, we’re learning from our mistakes,
but we should have been in position to win at Seattle. So
I wasn’t very happy about that.
Sonoma we took what I call the “A” combination
I ran at Seattle and put it in my partner Johnny Gray’s
Mopar Dodge. We pretty much put the “B” combination
in my car, and we still qualified third and did okay, but
that “B” combination is not totally perfected
yet or I think we could have qualified No. 1 and beat Jeggy
[Coughlin] in the second round. Johnny actually had trouble
with the “A” combination in his first run, so
we had to take it out and put in the “C” combination
in his car. But he still qualified seventh and won a round,
and gained a round on Warren [Johnson], as he tries to make
the top 10 in points and qualify along with me for the NHRA
Countdown to 1 playoffs.
have a nice little break now before we head to Brainerd on
Aug. 14–16. Pam and I will probably go to the lake house
we own about 40 miles from our home in Greeneville, Tenn.
We’ll do a little R&R—some boating, water
skiing and hang out there at least one weekend while we’re
off. We’ll spend some time at home, maybe ride some
motorcycles and play a little golf for a week. Then it’s
back to the races as I try to get my third win of the year
in my Mopar/J&J Racing Dodge!
went into Denver early on Tuesday, July 7, so I could be at
Morton’s Steakhouse in downtown Denver for the NHRA
press conference prior to the Mopar® Mile-High Nationals.
Wednesday morning I met up with my fellow Mopar Pro Stocker,
V. Gaines, and toured his rod and crankshaft shop which was
exciting. I was in awe of what he had going on. It was very
I went to the press conference, along with Morgan Lucas and
Tim Wilkerson. I was interviewed by Sara Geiger, the seven-year-old
daughter of Rob Geiger, who covers the NHRA on his Web site,
I was one of the first drivers there, and Rob introduced me
to her. She’s going to follow in her father’s
footsteps as a reporter. I sat down with Sara for about 15
minutes and gave her a lot of attention and time. She took
like three pages of notes on the questions she asked and a
few days later Rob sent me the story she had typed up herself
on the computer with very little help. It was very, very impressive
and I think she’s well on her way to becoming a member
of the media!
daughter Kimmie flew in from Hawaii for the race, which was
nice, as I only get to see her a few times a year. My grandson,
Andrew, was with her. So that made the Mopar Mile-High weekend,
which is always a huge event for me, even more special.
Thursday I took part in the Mopar Big Block Party in downtown
Golden, Colo. Having all the Mopar execs and Mopar employees
there is just an awesome deal, to be able to share time with
them at the Block Party and talk about plans and about ways
to further our program. We did a “Mopar Squares”
game show on the Mopar stage, where I was asked questions
and fans could either agree or disagree with my answers, and
if they guessed correct they won a Mopar freebie. I had a
lot of fans come up to me during the Mopar autograph signing
and say how cool that was. It was fun, and stuff like that
is good for me because it helps to break up the intensity
of the weekend. The party was as good and as big as ever.
Thanks to Jim Sassorossi, Stephanie, Andrea, Janna and everyone
from Mopar who was there, because the event was awesome.
did great in Mopar Mile-High qualifying, holding the No. 1
spot and also the Bandimere Speedway track record briefly.
We planned all that and tested hard the week before the event,
and to go out there and show it in the first two qualifying
runs the way we did was just awesome. Friday night, when I
saw Greg [Anderson] run the first six second run at Bandimere
right before us, it disappointed me a bit not to be the first
one to do it, because I knew we could. But like I said, I
don’t think it’s the first that matters much,
it’s the best run of all, and we went and kicked him
right between the you-know-what, claiming the track record
right after his run. The next day Mike [Edwards] went out
and upped us one to take the No. 1 spot, so we knew we had
some work to do.
race day I went into the first round a little nervous for
a couple of reasons. First of all, I knew we had the car to
beat, I knew we had the plan and I knew everything was there,
I just needed to do my job well. And I had Danny [Gruninger]
in the first round, who is a newcomer. Not to take anything
away from him, but I knew I had a big cushion. It was creeping
into my mind, you know, “You don’t need to red
light. You don’t need to do this, you don’t need
to do that.” Anytime you start to think too much, you’re
going to mess up. So it was hard for me to get my focus to
go up there and just do a good job. But once I got that behind
me I was okay.
was a little bit of a downer to have to race my partner, Johnny
Gray, in the second round, because I know he’s having
to go rounds right now, and I’m wanting him to go rounds
right now, to get in the Countdown. In the back of my mind
I was thinking, “Man, he needs to be the one to go on
and win this thing and get some points.” It’s
just a hard position for me. Then going to the semis against
Rickie Jones, I’m thinking, “Darn, I’ve
raced a Mopar Dodge three rounds in a row! Mopar’s going
to get mad at me for beating all the Dodges.” But I
got over that real quick.
the finals I was really up for it. I owed Jason [Line] one
from Gainesville, where he beat me on a holeshot in the finals.
I went up there and was very calm and did my job and we pulled
it out—on a holeshot, at that. From there it was great
going to winner’s circle and enjoying it with the Mopar
and Chrysler Group LLC execs, Jim Sassorossi and Byron Kearney.
It was just an all-around awesome weekend, giving Mopar a
win at their biggest event!
been a while since I blogged last, but mostly I’ve just
been working hard at the track. We had a little break around
Memorial Day weekend. My wife Pam and I went down to Justin
Humphries’ parent's place, who bought a new house near
Sanibel Island in Florida. We went down and hung out with
Humphries, and Dave Connolly and Jenny came along. I got in
a few rounds of golf out there, which my game really needed!
that, basically, I’ve been racing and working. We had
three races in a row at Topeka, Joliet and Englishtown, so
we’ve really been at it. Of course, Topeka was awesome.
I got the monkey off my back and got my first win since 2007
at the Mopar Mile-Highs. I had a great celebration with my
Mopar/J&J Racing team, but unfortunately my mom and Pam
weren’t there, so it was a little tame. We were able
to sleep in on Monday because we were only driving over to
St. Louis to test, so we had an extra day of rest to recuperate
from the partying!
then we should have had one more win. We’re still working
on the bugaboos and I think it’s all going to come together
right before the Countdown playoffs start after the U.S. Nationals.
We’re heading to Norwalk next week, where I won the
$50,000 K&N Horsepower Challenge last year, and then on
to Mopar’s big race, the Mopar Mile-High Nationals,
in early July. I’ve done well at the Mile-Highs in Denver
in the past, so I’m really looking forward to heading
out there again and seeing all the folks from Mopar who we’ve
got to know over the years.
the NHRA Vegas race we did a bowling gig before the event
with the U.S. Bowling Congress. It was a blast. There were
a lot of drivers that took part and we were all a little rusty,
but we did pretty well, those of us that hadn’t bowled
in years. The USBC was really good to us and treated us like
professionals. They gave us a free ball, custom-fitted, with
a bag and equipment. It was awesome. It’s going to make
me carry my ball along on the road and do a lot more bowling.
Vegas race itself wasn’t the greatest, as I lost to
Rickie Jones in the first round. The weekend wasn’t
all bad, though. Later on Sunday night my wife Pam and I got
to go to the Country Music Awards show, and had real good
seats up front. The show was at the MGM, where Pam and I always
stay, and the people who run the hotel really took care of
us. We even went to an after-party on Sunday and then stayed
over on Monday night for a tribute to George Strait for being
named entertainer of the decade. We were right up against
the stage for that also. We got to meet almost everybody in
country music. Garth, Faith—everybody you can name,
all the stars, we got to be right up close with them. We really
enjoyed all that, because Pam and I are big country music
that we went home and regrouped before we went to Charlotte
and tested. We spent two days there and felt like we made
quite a bit of progress, but we didn’t really show it
when we went to Atlanta. Johnny Gray’s car was running
really good, though, but he had some unfortunate luck there
in the first round, hitting a wet spot on the track and getting
loose. Overall, his car was running a lot better at Atlanta,
which was encouraging.
before the Atlanta race Pam’s mother, Betty Bird, had
both knees replaced. That took Pam away to take care of her
mom so she didn’t get to come to Atlanta. Betty’s
doing all right, though, and she’ll be able to come
out of the hospital this weekend. We’re all happy about
that and we wish here a speedy recovery.
our quarterfinals appearance at Atlanta, we’re off to
St. Louis next weekend. It’s my 300th race, so it’s
going to be a little bit of a milestone weekend. I can’t
believe I’ve been out racing NHRA Pro Stock that long.
I feel like we can keep going, though, and make it to the
heading for a workout today, making sure I keep myself up
physically for racing. It’s important to be strong behind
the wheel, and also it helps mentally. I spend a lot of cardio
minutes sweating, and the whole time I’m doing that
I’m really just going through my head with runs, and
leaving the starting line. I’m still not where I want
to be, but I have to keep working at it and I’ll get
went to the NHRA Houston event last weekend, and any time
we’re in Houston, we’ve got to eat crawfish. We’ve
got a friend there, Kenny Anthony, who always takes the team
to a great crawfish restaurant. Other than that, really all
I did was go to the racetrack and race!
Saturday morning at Houston we had a clutch malfunction and
blew the clutch out, and I had to lift and didn’t get
down the track. It was the best conditions ever for Pro Stock
runs, and I didn’t get to make a full pass! That hurt
me during qualifying, so I didn’t have lane choice during
eliminations and lost in the first round. We don’t want
to stumble at all, but if you’re going to stumble, now
would be the time, early in the season. Now is the time to
test things and get your A game in place down the stretch.
But the mission for our Mopar®/J&J Racing team is
always to win races, so if I go out and don’t win the
race I’m disappointed.
stayed over Monday and Tuesday, Johnny Gray’s team and
mine, and tested at Houston. We didn’t really try to
break the national record or anything like that. We were just
going through about eight or ten parts we wanted to test.
It was more an informational test than trying to fix something.
in Vegas now. We’ve gotten to know the management at
the MGM Grand. It’s the only place we’ve stayed
for about the last 6 to 8 years. We always get a nice celebrity
spa suite. And I love to play craps. That’s my game.
I played last night for a few hours, and I’m up!
getting ready to head to the NHRA bowling event at the Cashman
Center right now. The event is being hosted by the U.S. Bowling
Congress, and I’m on a team with other Pro Stock competitors.
We’re taking on Funny Car and Top Fuel teams. I was
a Tennessee state junior bowling champion, but I haven’t
bowled much at all in the last few years. I just hope I don’t
looking for a rebound this weekend at Vegas. I reached the
semis at the fall race last year here, and I’ve got
a pretty good track record overall. I love the track, I love
the facility, and I’m going to be disappointed if we
wife Pam traveled with me down to Valdosta where we did some
testing right before the Gatornationals. We made like a little
mini-vacation out of it. On the testing side, we concentrated
more on Johnny Gray’s car than we did on mine. I think
we proved that our hard work on Johnny’s car paid off.
He qualified in the top half of the field for the first time
this year at Gainesville, and in the process we learned some
things on my car. My Mopar®/J&J Racing Dodge Stratus
R/T seemed to be more consistent, where Johnny’s car
stepped it up a little. Combined we both made 36 runs between
the two cars at Valdosta, so we worked our butts off. We tested
a bunch of parts and some off the wall stuff to make our cars
headed to Gainesville and attended Don Garlits’ Hall
of Fame dinner, and had a great time. Gainesville is a place
that we always love to go to. That dang race is always just
great. I love it—the sunshine, people walking around
in shorts. It’s a race that really gets your blood pumping.
It’s one of my favorites. It was also my mom Revonda’s
birthday on Sunday at the race, and two of my crew guys, Brian
Voeck and Matt Hensley, also had birthdays the week of Gainesville.
So we ate a lot of birthday cake down there!
was also the first race out for the Mopar folks, with people
we’ve known for awhile from Mopar, like Andrea Dicola
and Stephanie Rooks, and also Jim Sassorossi, the new Director
of Global Parts Sales & Marketing at Mopar. I got a real
big kick out of showing Jim all of the hands-on stuff, like
the graphs and how we read them, and why we do tire pressures
a certain way based on the track conditions. He really understands
the hands-on stuff and it was a pleasure watching him absorb
all that data. It was like he just wanted to jump right in
there and get a wrench and start working!
race itself was awesome. I reached my 350th round of racing
at the event. I still can’t believe I’ve been
around that long. It actually made me feel old to think I’ve
already been to all those rounds. Every milestone my dad Roy
and I reach together is special to me. To be able to do all
this with my family, through our J&J Racing team, with
my wife, mom and dad along for the ride, it’s great.
Even some of my crew guys have been with me eight or nine
years. It’s like we’re all a big family.
went all the way to the finals and lost a close one to Jason
Line at the Gatornationals. The weekend at Gainesville moved
us up to second in points, so of course I was very happy with
the weekend. Now we’ll try to do even better at the
next race in Houston!
New Year has arrived and I’m ready to get the 2009 NHRA
Full Throttle Pro Stock season started. We’ve been testing
the Mopar®/J&J Racing Dodge Stratus R/T this week
at the drag strip in West Palm Beach, Fla., working with Johnny
Gray’s team to make sure both crews jell correctly beginning
at the first event in Pomona. With our new two-team set up
Johnny and I will be sharing data, so it’s important
we have both cars set up as close to identical as possible.
It’s also critical both teams develop a good rapport
with one another so we can work together smoothly come race
before we left for West Palm we had a big shindig for my parents
on Jan. 17 in honor of their 50th wedding anniversary. Half
a century together is an awesome accomplishment, especially
in this day and age. My dad, Roy, also provides the HEMI®
engines for our team, so he didn’t have much time to
enjoy the party. We had to head out later that same night
for the trip to West Palm.
a week-long series of tests gives us a great opportunity to
really concentrate on different aspects of the car each day.
First we concentrated on dialing in the chassis, then after
that we’ll spend a few days testing some new Mopar HEMI
engines that dad wants to put through their paces.
a brief trip home to the shop in Greeneville, Tenn. for any
needed repairs and equipment, I’ll head with the team
to Las Vegas for the Pro Stock Superbowl, which is scheduled
to take place on Jan. 30–31. We’ll stay over at
The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for another couple of
days of final testing then we’ll be off to Pomona for
the season-opening NHRA Winternationals on Feb. 5–8.
first event is always fun, to get back in race mode and gear
up for the long road ahead—24 NHRA national events.
It’s a grind, but I love it. I really want to set a
good tone at Pomona to jump start our season all the way to
the Pro Stock title. That’s the ultimate goal, of course,
and we’re going to do everything to make it happen.
went and tested with Johnny Gray in early December at the
West Palm Beach drag strip prior to the Performance Racing
Industry Trade Show in Orlando. Johnny is partnering up with
our J&J Racing team next year. The West Palm facility
is just awesome. They just redid it, and I heard they spent
$30 million on the project. It looks it! The weather in West
Palm was great and the area down there is really upscale.
Just a really, really nice place to test.
had three really good days of testing with my team and Johnny’s
team, and then Johnny stayed an additional day because he
wasn’t quite satisfied with his car, although he did
make a lot of progress with it. The test sessions gave the
two crews, and also my new co-crew chief, Jeff Perley, who
will work with Mark Ingersoll, a really good chance to jell
and get everyone’s personalities in sync with one another.
Johnny and I spent a lot of time together; we ate breakfast
and dinner together almost every day and talked about the
upcoming year, our plans and our goals. He and I jelled perfectly
just like our crew guys did. I think it was a great initial
trial run of the new two-team set up. We got a lot accomplished
and we were really tickled with how it went. I’m really
excited about next year.
there, we all drove to Orlando for the PRI show. We spent
a few days shaking the hands of the vendors who give us stuff—and
asking them for more! We checked out the new racing technology
available, and there’s a lot of it out there. We met
a lot of new faces that we liked that Jeff brought to the
table. Mark and Jeff spent two full days there just going
around visiting. There’s a lot of new stuff on the horizon.
spent a lot of time with the folks from Mopar®, my primary
sponsor, and it’s always good to catch up with them.
I’ve been a part of the Mopar family for so long and
I’m glad to be back next year. I took part in a signing
near the Mopar display with Mopar driver Samuel Hübinette
and also Don Garlits, and of course talked with SpeedFreaks
on the Mopar Stage, discussing my partnership with Johnny
for 2009 and also the challenges the automotive industry is
facing right now.
wife Pam and I met a couple that had moved from my hometown
of Greeneville, Tenn. to the Orlando area for dinner one night
during the show. They were old friends so it was really good
to see them. We went out with the Mopar folks for dinner one
night and hung out a bit. I didn’t do a whole lot, since
I was only in Orlando for two nights. I left PRI on a Friday
and flew to Maryland with Justin Humphreys and his dad, Walter.
Walter didn’t know it, but we were going for a surprise
60th birthday party for him! My excuse was that I was going
up to watch a Baltimore Ravens game on Sunday. We pulled it
off pretty good and gave him a good surprise!
we’re getting ready for Christmas here in Greeneville.
I’ll have my two daughters in, and we’ll go to
my Mom and Dad’s for breakfast on Christmas Day. It’s
kind of a tradition to get up early and go over there. My
mom makes ham, sausage, gravy, everything you can think of.
It’s a feast for about 30-40 people. Then we start running
around to other houses, my wife’s family and other relatives.
go back to Orlando for New Year’s Eve, and spend it
with Dave Connolly and his girlfriend at a resort. We’ll
stay a few days, and then it’s time to get ready for
testing in early January.
everyone out there and to all the people in the Mopar Nation,
back on 2008, I think we had a good season overall. I was
a little disappointed that towards the end of the year we
didn’t win a couple of races after we got the car working
a little better. I guess my feeling is a little disappointment
at the season’s end, but really revved up about the
prospects of testing and getting ready for the next season,
because I feel like we used up all of our bad luck or bad
karma, and something good has to start happening.
highlights of my season were definitely the K&N Horsepower
Challenge win at the NHRA event in Norwalk, Ohio, where I
took home the $50,000 winner’s check, and the runner-up
spot at the Mopar® Mile-High Nationals in Denver was pretty
special. That was the second year in a row I put my Mopar/J&J
Racing Dodge Stratus R/T in the finals at the Mile-Highs,
which is probably the biggest event of the year for Mopar,
my primary sponsor, so that was huge.
made the Countdown to 1 now in the first two years since the
NHRA playoffs were formed, so that’s something I’m
proud of. I think I struggled a bit this year as a driver,
but I feel like toward the end of the year I got back in my
groove, and I look forward to coming out next year in that
same groove and having a little more luck.
the season ended, it’s a little bit of a shock to have
down time. Taking the whole crew, the engine guys and everybody
from my team to the NHRA banquet every year is definitely
a fun time and gives everybody a few days of R&R. We also
had time to visit with some of our suppliers. My dad Roy,
who builds my engines, and some of the guys went out to one
of the piston companies and watched some pistons being made
and went to a couple of vendors that supply parts for us.
We won’t just be sitting around until the 2009 season
begins in February at Pomona. We’re leaving on Sunday
to go testing in West Palm Beach for three days with Johnny
Gray’s team, who is partnering with our J&J Racing
team in 2009.
also made another hire we’re excited about. We brought
aboard Jeff Perley, who worked as co-crew chief for the KB
team the first three years they won world championships. We
hired him to serve as co-crew chief with Mark Ingersoll on
my car and act as a consultant, along with Mark, to Johnny
and Vinnie Deceglie’s teams. All three of us will run
Mopar HEMI engines supplied by J&J Racing. It’s
just another set of eyes and ears that we need with all three
of these cars that were going to be running next year. I think
it will pay big dividends. I feel confident for next year.
I think our Mopar HEMI engines are solid and the team has
already found a little more horsepower. I’m more excited
about the coming season than I’ve ever been.
testing at West Palm, I’m heading to the PRI show in
Orlando, where I’ll be making some appearances at the
Mopar display at the event. Pam and I will just hang around
home with family in Greeneville, Tenn. for Christmas, and
then maybe get together with Dave Connolly and his girlfriend
for New Years Eve somewhere. Pam and I also might take a skiing
trip in mid-January somewhere out West, then we’ll head
to Vegas for pre-testing and then on to Pomona!