Watermelons for WaterBoy?

January 25, 2012 10:00 pm (Continuous Blog Until January 31st)

Well, here we go again! WaterBoy will be waking up in approximately 4 hours and flying the friendly skies to the quaint little town of Cordele, Ga in pursuit of High Adventure with the Paragon Racing Team. I won’t go into the details of how this trip came about or even the ficticious reasons why I was invited to rejoin the Paragon team, but I will say that I literally jumped at the chance to share this adventure with our good friends, the Jones family.


It was even suggested to me that I write a blog of our travels and adventure so I will do my best to keep all of our Michigan family informed of our progress.

This racing adventure has been months in the making and it revolves around a young man named Erik Jones, the pilot of the Paragon Racing Team. Erik’s racing career has taken a leap into “opportunity” because of his racing style and the proven results of his efforts on the track. Last month, Erik won the prestigious “Governors Cup” in New Smyrna, Fl in his second start in a Super Late Model. The last non-native Floridian driver to win the race was Michigan’s own, Mike Eddy, something like 30 years ago! Erik is certainly the youngest driver to ever win it at just 15 years old and there is more than one major race team out there that thinks that Erik has a very bright future! (Hence the leap into opportunity) Erik is obviously very talented and he has a real knack for driving a race car, but he would be the first one to tell you, and he has several times while being interviewed, that this is a team sport and it takes a tremendous amount of support from his family and crew to put him on the track and give him a chance to win.

This trip hasn’t even started for me yet, but I have to tell you that it is already become a logistical challenge for the team. The car, equipment and hauler are already in the southland making their way to Watermelon Capitol Speedway. Their trip started a week ago with a stop in the Carolinas in preparation for this race. The race was originally scheduled to be held in Lanier, Ga at a track that is familiar to Erik and most of his crew. The race was moved to Cordele, Ga just about 10 days ago due to some unforseen problem at Lanier. The change of venue has caused some problems for our Travel Agent, Carol Jones, in making sure that the entire team will actually get there for the race and have a place to stay when they do get there. The race team also has a new Crew Chief calling the shots this season; a guy that has proven himself over the years as a champion at this level; Scott Hantz.

So the commitment has been made and we are on our way to pick watermelons in the Speedfest 200! I’m excited for the team and the challenges that they will be facing. As my good friend Dave Jones would say, “if it was easy, everybody would be doing it!” Stay tuned, I’ll post more as soon as I can.

January 26, 2012  8 OClockish pm

What a long day! I got up at 3:30 am and headed over to the Jone’s residence. Dave and I caught a plane out of Bishop Airport and arrived in Atlanta about 8:30 am this morning. My computer was violated by the TSA folks. I guess that they thought it was a bomb because the guy running it through the xray started screaming like a little girl that he needed a baggage check! Another guy came over to me and asked me if it was my bag that was suspect. Of course I told them no, it was Dave’s bag. When they didn’t cuff him immediately then I finally admitted that it was mine. So they ran the poor computer through the machine again and then hooked it up to some other machine that checked it for something else. I don’t know if my computer has been compromised since I am typing this with Erik’s computer. My computer and my luggage are in Dave’s car right now which is somewhere between Cordele and Atlanta. Dave had to go pick up the rest of the crew at the Atlanta airport so he took off out of the race track with Billy a couple hours ago. Erik, Scott and I finally found the hotel where we are staying, (that was an unnecessary round about trip!) and we got our rooms. My problem at that point was that I didn’t have any clothes to change into after taking a shower and I don’t expect to have my clothes or my computer until tomorrow morning. It’s the first time I have ever lost my clothes at a race track! We just had a scumptious late dinner at the Golden Corral and we are now safely back in our rooms. A side note to the dinner excursion is that Scott found out that he has fans from S Carolina and they actually caught up to us at the Corral! I’m sure that you will read all about that little deal on Facebook. But I digress…

Dave, Billy and I got to the track at 11:30 am or so this morning. Scott and Erik were there and waiting on us. Watermelon Speedway is a nice 3/8ths mile track with an inside wall all the way around it. It has a pit lane wall bordering the infield pits and it looks like it may be a little narrow or tight down the front straightaway. The infield pits are entirely paved and the entire facility is a little dated, but it has fresh paint and it is clean. Scott put me to work right away and he kept me busy all day long. It was a beautiful day and tee shirt weather even when the clouds rolled in. It is raining right now but the weather forecast looks great for the rest of the weekend. Dave gave me a radio that actually worked today and so that made me happy. He pulled a fast one on me though because my radio was set to some other channel so I didn’t know what was going on for the better part of an hour and a half. I pulled triple duty today; I was the Jack Man, Tire Guy and the Gas Man. Scott only yelled at me once today after I had jacked up the car and put the jack stands down. Scott didn’t want the stands down and he let me know about it. Everybody thought that it was kind of cool that Scott yelled because evidently he never yells so I was congratulated for finding his limits! I messed up once doing the tires because I was trying to pull one off the rear and it wouldn’t budge. I kicked it a couple of times and then Scott pointed out to me that there was still one lug nut left on the rim. I hope that I didn’t bend the rim! The gas filling was kind of a funny deal. Dave was fueling the car with a can that we had borrowed from another team, (the gas pump was not open at that very hour so we borrowed some gas) and I was keeping an eye on the fuel tube. Dave had to go talk to Glen about something so I took over the filling duties. I emptied that can and then just as I was starting with the second can Dave came back over. So Dave took the can from me and I bent back down to watch the fill tube. All of a sudden Dave started screaming at me and asking me if I was blind because the fuel started gushing back ON him! I started to laugh but I realized that he was serious so I grabbed the screw driver out of the vent tube and headed for the pit cart. I figured that I could dodge him until he cooled off and dried out. So all in all it was a very good day for me. Actually Erik did quite well also. He was in the race car for a solid three hours straight as Scott and Billy made adjustments and worked on the setup. There were 5 or 8 other teams there and Erik was definitely the fastest. Tomorrow’s practice will be the measure since race teams were pulling in left and right when we left. The heavy hitters will be there tomorrow. I met the track owner, Marvin Ragan, and guess who his nephew is? That’s right, David Ragan, and his car and crew pulled into the track at the end of practice. Marvin is cool. A real southern gentleman with a great sense of humor. He was also on his cell phone almost constantly while we conversed. I understand that there are something like 38 Super Late Models registered for this race so the competition will be intense for those qualifying spots. I will write more tomorrow and I’m hoping that I have some clean underwear to put on. What is it about heading south with the Erik Jones Racing team and me having issues with underwear? Last year in Alabama I had to wear Jennie’s pajamas!

January 27, 2012 7:30 pm

We just got back to our rooms after a long day at the track. We’re getting ready to go grab something to eat so this excerpt will be brief and if I don’t fall asleep right away, I will write more. Since we were at the track yesterday we got a little bit of a jump on some of the other teams as far as having time to change things around with the car and try different setups today. Everybody is here! Something like 36 Super Late Models took to the track. Erik was third overall after three practice sessions and I think that Scott has a pretty good idea about what he wants to do for tomorrow. He threw the kitchen sink at it today. Erik is such a smooth driver and so consistent that I think that Scott could be tempted to leave the car alone. Erik finally did say that he could feel that the track was “line sensitive” which I think means that he’s got to try to hit his marks exactly or the car doesn’t drive the same. Going to dinner and I will be back!

9:30 pm

Another scrumptious dinner at the Golden Corral and we are safely back in our rooms. I’ve got to back up to this morning so that you can appreciate what type of day that I have had. I was wide awake this morning at 5:35 am. I learned two things when I woke up. I found out why we all percieve Erik as having “Ice Water” in his veins. He set the room temp last night and when I woke up it was 50 degrees in here! I went out in the hall and grabbed a bucket of ice to start warming up the room and then reset the thermostat to 65 degrees. It never did warm up before we had to leave the room and head to the track. The second thing that I learned is that it is one of the best feelings in the world to get up and put on a clean and dry pair of socks! I finally got my luggage this morning. It turns out that Dave DID put it in the hauler before he left for the airport and so my clean clothes sat out in the parking lot all night while I wore my dirty blue jeans to bed! I am an idiot! I actually proved that statement true a couple more times today but fortunately no one got hurt and everybody is pretty much talking to me again. We got to the track around 9:00 am or so and we had to get the hauler into the pits and get it parked in front of the trailer before we got blocked in. The pits are nice but they have us parked nose to nose, so once your rig is there, it’s there for the duration. Scott had to wait for most of an hour before they let him take the Paragon rig into the pits. Once we got all settled they made us wait to unload the car until most everyone else was parked. That took some time but we were able to get on the track just a little after 1:00 pm. Oh yeah, Branden, Barry and Adam made it in to Atlanta all safe and sound last night but it was 2:30 am before they got to the hotel this morning. Those guys and Dave included have had a very long day, but I think very productive as well. We gathered a lot of data today and it really seems that the team was very comfortable in working with each other.(Its good to see all of these guys working together again; Barry, Chase, Branden, Scott, Dave and Erik) Scott yelled at me once early into practice so I just headed over to turn three and stayed out of the way. I think that Dave has my radio set so that when I talk on it, the battery goes dead. Scott gave me instruction on watching Erik’s car as it entered the corner and when I responded with 10-4 the radio quit! Dave is pretty ingenius. He also let me gas up the car and this time he watched the fill tube from underneath. Somehow he had removed the vent on the can so that it would not pour out properly and then as I’m trying to get the gas into the car, he commented on how slowly I was doing my job!  He’s probably going to stay up late tonight hatching out another scheme to pull on me tomorrow. All in all, I would say that it was a very good day and I cautiously say that I like the way that things are going. (Last year in Alabama I said pretty much the same thing and Erik qualified P2. During the race he had an oil line break and it ended the race early for us) So I definitely do not want to speak boldly here, but I think that you folks who tune into Speed 51 on Sunday are going to hear some pretty good things about the 4 car. You should also be able to tune in for qualifying tomorrow sometime around 4:00 pm. Scott seems to have a solid plan for the day tomorrow. It’s time to get some rest so we can hit it early. We should be at the track around 9:00 am. The WiFi signal is very weak at the track so I couldn’t post from there today but perhaps I will be able to tomorrow. One last thing; Erik, Branden and Barry came into our room and grabbed Dave’s car keys and they hung out for a few minutes. I think that they were just distracting us because a few minutes after they left both Dave and I noticed that the room was considerably cooler than what it should have been. Sure enough, the temperature on the thermostat was set to 40 degrees! Of course, no one knows how that happened! Have a good night and we’ll chat in the morning. WaterBoy,,,,, Out!

January 28, 2012 7:30 am

We are “up and at em” this morning to go to the track. The girls got here last night at 3:30 am. I know this because Dave’s phone was beeping an alert which sounded like an alarm going off. Sleep seems to be very much overated around these people, or maybe they just like to get their sleep in 4 hour segments. I was considering calling Jennie this morning to see how she was doing but I think that I will pass on that since she likes to get her sleep 8 hours at a time. I think that I will wait until she calls me this morning. It should be a light day at the track today. Gates open at 9:00 am and then we will have 2 practice sessions, tech inspections and then qualifying. I have not been on the Speed 51.com web site yet but Dave said that they have things updated and current. It appears that we will be qualifying in the late afternoon, so check the Speed web site for updates. I will try to post from the track but the WiFi signal was very weak yesterday and I kept losing it. I will post when I can. It looks like it is going to be a gorgeous day today and I am optomistic about what this team is doing. Lots of good cars here! This is going to be fun!

3:20 pm

We just concluded the last practice session of the day and upstaged David Ragan on camera. Today is Adam Chase’s birthday and while FOX News was interviewing David, the team covered Chase with Silly String! Of course the cameras took their focus off David and put it right on Chase! We will probably have to start calling him Hollywood Chase now. He will appear on the 6:00 news tonight. Good day of practice and we will be qualifying after the Pro Late Models. It looks like we are still third in the overall practice sessions. It will be very interesting to see what happens with qualifying. I think that most of these guys are showing their hands and Branden has been keeping track of what everybody else has. Lots of Games-man-ship going on with this racing stuff; Was that a mock run for that car? Are they on stickers or scuffs? How much did that car drop off during that long run? Branden keeps track of a lot of information on other cars, not just the Paragon car. So qualifying here in a little while is going to be very important. It doesn’t seem like it is going to be easy to pass unless you are on the bottom of the track, so starting up near the front is going to be one of the keys. The track should be cooler when we qualify and so the car may work a little differently. I am very impressed with our driver though; he keeps it under control and drives what he has. Stephanie got us hooked up with WiFi so I should be able to post more in a little while.

7:50 pm

Wooooo Hooooooo! Erik was P2 with a 15.685 just a whisker behind David Ragan who set fast time! The Paragon Team put forth a Hurculean effort and really came through! Erik will start 4th in the 200 lap feature event tomorrow afternoon after an invert of 5. It’s pretty cool that the small race team can hang in there with the big guys who do this for a living. The worst part of the qualifying effort for me was to have to run to the other end of the track after Erik laid down his qualifying time. I was standing in turn 1 where Erik staged to go out onto the track. Barry and Chase were like near the middle of the frontstretch when Erik went out to qualify. After Erik’s second lap and the time was announced I could see Barry and Chase start running towards turn 4. All of these haulers are in the infield and so I could not see down to turn 4. So all I saw was these two guys running, so away I went in hot pursuit. That short burst of speed lasted for about 50 feet and then I fell into a fast jog which soon slowed to a slow jog and then a fast walk. By the time I got down there the guys from Speed 51 were done with the interview and walking away. We had to go through post-qualifying tech and then turn in our tires for impound. It’s pretty cool when you are getting teched and David Ragan, Kyle Busch, Chase Elliot, Bubba Pollard and a Nemecek are all getting teched along with you. We are supposed to be at the track at 9:30 am tomorrow and we won’t have a lot of time to do things to get the car ready, so we worked on several things tonight before we put it in the hauler and headed for the hotel. Since today is Chase’s birthday, we ordered pizza and had that delivered to the hotel. Right now there is a pretty hilarious discussion in the hotel lobby and birthday boy Chase is in the middle of it. The mood is light and optomistic and I think that everybody is looking forward to tomorrow. Carol wants to break out the watermelons now. It’s kind of strange but here in the Watermelon Capitol of the world, the only place that we can find them is at Walmart. I guess that they have everything! Good party going on right now and I need to join in so, until tomorrow, WaterBoy,,,,,, Out!

Sunday, RACE DAY!

It’s just about 7:00 am and I am typing this in the dark. Dave is still resting and I am trying to be quiet. Jennie says that it is not in my nature to be quiet and I am sure that Dave will say the same thing in just a few minutes as he is starting to stir. Dave will probably be lethargic today since he got more than 4 hours of sleep. I hope that he isn’t crabby while we’re at the track! It is quite a priviledge to be on the inside of the inner workings of the dynamics of this team. Scott Hantz, the crew chief, is the newcomer and it has been really interesting to see how the team has changed over the last year. Things are different now and the team as a whole has to adapt to new ideas and ways to do things. Dave has done a very good job of being the “glue” while restructuring his team and keeping them at the top of the charts. I don’t think that yesterdays qualifying effort was a fluke. I don’t think that we showed up and got lucky. I have watched these guys work together to try different things and gather the data that they will need to keep this car up front. And there have been problems! Did it ever get out into the public that Erik brought out a caution for a spin out on the backstretch? That right there was funny! Not for Erik and not really funny for me either because I was standing in my usual turn 3 spot when Erik came down the backstretch scubbing his tires just before he hot lapped. Erik hit the gas and flat out looped the car and spun it right down by the inside wall and right in front of me! I was stunned and actually worried that someone was going to drill him in the side. I didn’t have time to get my camera on my phone working so I didn’t get a picture of the car sitting there facing the wrong way. I did get chewed out for not getting a picture of it from all the other crew members. Erik’s comment over the radio at that time was priceless; he said, “that was about the dumbest thing that I have ever done!” Of course Branden agreed with him and made a few other comments before Erik got it refired and back on the track. There have been other problems and mistakes as well (I feel good about the fact that they can not all be attributed to me) over the last three days, but we’ve got a team here that works through the problems and works towards a solution. Dave has done a tremendous job in assembling this group of men. Dave knows the big picture, the opportunities ahead and where this team is headed. I am very encouraged about what I see going on here and I am very optomistic about our chances today. I think that we are ready!

11:25 am

I had just finished typing and posted the blog and then figured out that I had lost my internet connection. So here I go again! Erik is sitting right beside me eating his BLT before he heads out to the track for the autograph session. The car is in impound until we get ready to go somewhere around 4:00. The Pro Late Model cars are on the track and staged to grid. All of the drivers will be there for the autographs and I was quite impressed that I was asked to sit at the table and sign with Kyle, David, Chase and Erik. Just kidding, Erik was not asked to be at the table! So the car has been through tech 4 times now and as Scott said, “I’ve done all that I can do, it’s up to the kid now.” That’s it in a nutshell; It’s time to put the Game Face On and Go Racing! Just a couple of hours and we will know how we stack up!

Monday, Jamuary 30, 2012 8:00 pm

This is my final post of the weekend. I’m sure that everyone in Michigan knows that the Paragon team lost an engine on lap 99 just before the halfway break. It was disappointing to have that as the result for the team’s efforts, but I am able to say that I was not disappointed with the weekend. It was an absolute thrill to hang out with this great team of fun and professional people with a real knack for doing well on the race track. We left the track yesterday about an hour after the race was over. We were able to pack up early, but not by choice, so we had time to hang out as a group before everybody had to go their seperate ways. As I said with my very first blog that this race was a logistical challenge to get everybody to the track. It was a logistical challenge to get everybody home as well! Chase took the rental car back to the airport where he caught a plane back to Michigan. Barry hooked up with some friends of the family to get him back to Louisville Ky. Branden, Stephanie, Carol and Erik headed to North Carolina to work on some ARCA stuff with the Venturini group and Dave, Scott, Amber, Lindsey, Jennie and I headed home in the hauler. It sounds like everyone made it home safe and sound and as silly as it seems, I enjoyed the 16 hour ride home. It was time well spent getting to know each other better. It was the only time this weekend that Jennie and I sat and viisted face to face. Scott and I talked for about 4 hours before he got tired of listening to me and headed for the bunk. Dave and I had a chance to visit but he crawled into the passenger seat while I was driving and pretended that he was asleep so I just visited with myself. He did wake up once to remind me that I was 4 minutes behind schedule according to the GPS. (I did have a sizeable cushion because Scott had us like two hours ahead of schedule during his driving stint) Lindsey and Amber stayed in the back bedroom for the entire trip and I did not see them until late this morning. When we got home, Dave, Scott and I went to the shop and unloaded. We pulled the engine out of the car and Scott took off for Indiana. The next race scheduled for EJR is in Op, Al on the first weekend in March. That race is called the Rattler and that is the race that Jennie and I attended with the team last year. Make sure that you visit the Paragon team web site @ erikjonesracing.com to see what is coming next and LIKE the Erik Jones Racing Fan Page on Facebook!

Final thoughts:Jennie and I both wish to express our thanks to the entire EJR team for allowing us to be a part of such a great event! It was a blast! Jennie and I agree that it is extremely cool to have a hometown race team that we can be so proud of. We want you to be encouraged that we a local team that is gaining the respect of the “who’s who” in the racing world. Maybe Erik will someday share the tweet/text message that Kyle Busch sent to him after Kyle had won the race. This team is turning heads now and will continue to be up front with the best. I see great accomplishments for this team this season and it is because this group of people ARE a team! Keep and eye on these guys! And thanks to all of you who have read this blog and cheered on the team. Your support is very important to their success!

Take care, God bless,

WaterBoy

Filed Under: Rick Miracle