December 4th, 2013
12-4-13 I’m sitting on the veranda of a three-story beach house in Pensacola Florida right now at 7:00 am, watching and listening to the ocean crash the beach and I’m debating about writing a blog about this weekend’s race, the Snow Ball Derby, detailing our defending champion, Erik Jones, and his team’s efforts. I’m debating because I will obviously be having fun in the sun here in Florida while all of you in Michigan will be stressing out about possible upcoming rule changes for 2014 and wondering why the schedule is not posted yet? I really considered staying home and dealing with these pressing issues but,,,,, the lure of the sunshine and the smell of racing fuel is too hard to resist! So, early next week when I get back I will post some details about rules and schedules. In the meantime if you care to learn about snowballs, check back on this article from time to time and see if there’s anything new. We are off to the track to watch race cars arrive so I’ve got to go! WaterBoy out!
10:37 pm- I had a long day at the track but it was a lot of fun. The weather was varied with intermittent rain showers followed by bouts of sun. At one point we got pretty wet and it took a while to dry out and warm back up again. But even with the weather being a little off for racing, I will tip my hat to the Bryants and their team here at Five Flags Speedway. These folks are very well organized and capable of dealing with a large group of people. The staff is friendly and eager to serve their patrons. I think that I can learn a lot about running a first class show from these folks. While the program at the track went pretty smooth the relationships department took a little bit of a hit from time to time. It started out quite early this morning with NO coffee in the house! Carol was quite argumentative about that and she continued to be contrary throughout much of the day. She nearly brought our waitress (Ruth) to tears over a condiment choice and then a request for more chicken! It would not have been so bad just to deal with Carol, but Stephanie was overly distracted and was not available to listen to important things being relayed to her. Thank our dear Lord that Dave was a great leader and referree to keep everyone under control. I’m hoping that tomorrow will be a good relationship day as we look forward to several hours of practice. Erik, who has also been a little obnoxious today, drew an 11 for qualifying. He will actually qualify 8th because a few cars are missing. So there’s a lot to work on tomorrow and I’d better get some rest. We do have coffee now so the morning should go much smoother! WaterBoy out!
12-5-13 7:18 am – I’m sitting once again on the veranda and this morning I am enjoying my first cup of coffee while the waves crash the beach. It’s shaping up to be a nice day for practice and last night our crew chief, Chirs Gabehart explained to me how this is all going to work. Practice will start at 10:00 am and go until 4:00 pm for the flake and snowball cars. The track will be “hot” for the entire practice and there is no specific practice for either of these two divisions. There will be a one hour break where the track is silent at noon for lunch and there may be other unscheduled breaks if there is a funeral! Evidently there is a cemetery adjacent to the speedway and out of respect and probably more due to the noise, the track is required to be silent. The unscheduled breaks may make things interesting and force some crew chiefs to change their plans. I will blog more here in a bit but I have to tell you now that Carol is still argumentative today. We just got done “discussing” how she parked the car last night at the restaurant! WaterBoy out!
12-6-13 am – The waves are really crashing the beach this morning! It appears that today is going to be a tough weather day for all of us at the track. It is scheduled to be a big day for all of us with two hours of practice scheduled and then qualifying starting at 6:00 pm tonight. Yesterday we had no unscheduled breaks for funerals or track cleanup delays. It was a steady six hours of race cars, 15 at a time, going very fast around this half mile track. The practice for the 51 car was an information gathering event. Short runs and then back to the pits to make some adjustments before going back out. It was very cool to keep an eye on the cars on the track and then checking their progress on Speed51.com and on my phone app, Race Monitor. It’s going to be pretty interesting to see how the two hour practice session today changes things. There is always some strategy and possibly some posturing with those final practice times! I can’t wait! I also can’t wait for lunch/supper today since I heard a rumor that Carol is treating us to a homemade specialty dish! I’ve said before that I get nervous when skinny people cook for me but Carol is that one exception. Carol and Stephanie were very busy yesterday and I didn’t see much of them at the track. Stephanie did take the time to fix my wireless connection while she was there which did help me out for the next five minutes before my battery died. It will be nice to have the ladies present today! Good food and technical support when you need it will be a great compliment to the team! It’s going to be a great day; I can feel it shaping up. I’ll post more once we are done with final practice. WaterBoy out!
12-7-13 7:00 am – I did want to post yesterday after we practiced and before we qualified. I was unable to because my posting apparatus was locked in a car in the parking lot for the duration of the day. I left it sitting on the dash when we got out of the car. Unfortunately, once you are in the pits at 5 flags, you are in the pits until they choose to let you out and then to get back in you may have to wait awhile as well. And of course there is the 2 mile walk to get to your car after getting out of the pits! This is a great place to get some exercise and stretch your legs. The pit area must be pretty close to 4 acres in size and it is packed with race cars, haulers and machinery. Walking through the pits is an exercise in itself as you dodge the race cars, golf carts, four wheelers, pull carts and literally thousands of people all carrying more stuff around than is feasibly safe! So anyway, I apologize for not posting yesterday afternoon; it was just too much work! We did not have the qualifying attempt that we were hoping for although we were pretty darn good and considering the fact that the track record was shattered and 3 cars ran a 16.2 or quicker, it is not really a big set back to start 12th when you are surrounded by all of the fast guys! Some pretty well known racers will be racing the “last chance” 50 lap transfer race just to try to get into the show. I’m guessing that there will be close to 23 cars trying for those final four spots in the Derby! Today there is a “Happy Hour” practice scheduled. I’m not sure why since we all had to roll through tech after qualifying. I guess we get to practice and then roll through tech again? Or maybe we get to practice and then roll through tech tomorrow before the big race. I’m not sure how that all works but the tech line is busy most of the day. Ricky Brooks is the head tech and of course the “Room of Doom” is operational and in full swing. Ricky doesn’t seem to have a problem calling teams out publicly! At yesterdays driver’s meeting he named off 4 teams and driver’s names that needed to work on their stuff and bring it back right. If you had any issues at all in tech yesterday you would only get one qualifying lap. Ricky is pretty adamant about making things as level as possible. Speaking of rules; I’m not seeing any news worthy changes that is going to cause problems for our racers. There are possibly just a couple of things that we will change if it makes sense for us to mirror what some of our neighbor tracks have or a shared series. Yesterday’s weather was actually better than forecast but today is looking like they may have hit it on the head. It is supposed to be a high of 55 degrees today with rain. The Snow Flake is scheduled to go today so here we go with all of those decisions that a promoter has to make! Although I am very happy for the Bryants and 5 Flags Speedway with the promotion and the turnout for this event, I’m sure glad that I’m not calling the shots on adjusting a very full schedule! I’ll try to get back to you later today if Stephanie can get me an internet connection. The best part about yesterday for me is that my beautiful wife Jennie was able to get to Pensacola safe and sound late last night! Vacations are much more fun together! WaterBoy out!
12-8-13 am – Today is Race Day! It is supposed to be in the mid 70′s F for temperature but the chance of rain fluctuates with whatever forecast you choose. My choice says 30%. Yesterday was incredibly cold here all day long. It actually got a little warmer when the sun went down and the last chance races were running. It was 35 degrees F at the lowest point before it warmed up. When we left the track it was 50 degrees F and almost tolerable. Fortunately I had enough clothes with me and did not have to resort to wearing anything that Jennie brought with her! It is strange to me that I have never been so cold as when I am in the deepest parts of the south with a race team!
I’m very optimistic for the KBM Phoenix Construction #51 car and driver, Erik Jones, today. Starting 12th is not where the team would like to start but they will be surrounded by fast cars and smart drivers when they take the green. It is a long race of 300 laps and the last 5 laps must be run under green. I’ve heard that this race has gone 338 laps before it has been called officially completed! I think that these fast cars are going to bide their time and steadily go to the front. I predict that Erik will be right up there with them! It is going to be a challenging race with a lot of strategy regarding fuel and tires. These KBM guys practice fuel and tire strategy every day; even while driving their passenger cars! Every day we have to cross a long bridge and a sign suggests that you check your fuel before you cross. When I ask Frank to check the fuel, he assures me that we will probably need tires before we need fuel! These guys have always got their head in the game and I know that Erik is watching and learning. I am confident that Erik is going to do well today. It would be cool to have a back-to-back Derby win record and it is totally possible to do! Tune in to Speed 51.com today to watch the ticker-tape and hear the radio broadcast of the race. I’m not sure what time everything kicks off but if you go to their web site you will find it there. Have a great day and enjoy the race! WaterBoy out!
12-11-13 – I am sure that you know how the race progressed and what the end result was! It’s very cool to see Erik get back-to-back wins at the Snow Ball Derby! Not too many racers can claim that feat and it definitely puts Erik in a very elite class. I am also sure that you have heard Erik’s response to being awarded the victory after Chase’s car failed the technical inspection and suffice it to say once again; KBM sure didn’t want to win it in the tech barn, it would have been much better to cross the stripe first and win it on the track. However, if you think about it, the KBM team really did win it on the track. They prepared their car to win and Erik raced it with the intention of winning. They put themselves in a position to win the race with 20 laps to go and laid it all on the line. In reality, the KBM car WAS the first LEGAL car to cross the stripe! And the technical inspection for the #51 car was no walk in the park. That thing was torn down and placed on several tables for all to see. I don’t think that there was a stitch of wiring left on the car when they were done and at one point the car had so many machines hooked up to it that it looked like it was on life support! They went through it from stem to stern and found it within the rules. One of the coolest things that I witnessed in the tech barn was when Ricky Brooks was done with tech and he looked around and asked where the driver was? Erik was pointed out to him and he motioned him over by the Scale Monitor. He took the plate off the trophy and then put Erik’s name plate on it. He then handed him the checkered flag first, and then the trophy! That was a very cool moment to witness and to watch the reaction of Erik and his crew. I also confess that I felt real bad for Chase and his crew because they did cross the stripe first. It’s a tough deal when anyone gets disqualified in tech. We did push the car from tech to Victory Lane at the Start/Finish line and got all of the pictures taken and Erik had several interviews with Speed 51.com and the local news stations. After the brief photo session the crew loaded the car and packed the hauler for the trip back to North Carolina. Most everybody, including Erik, had a flight to catch and so the celebration was over around 8:00 pm.
It was a very memorable trip and it was nice to get away and enjoy some time with some great people! I hope that next year it works out that Jennie and I are able to go and be a part of Erik’s attempt at being the first driver to ever win three-in-a-row at the Derby! Wouldn’t that be a very cool milestone to achieve? So with that final thought I will sign off for now. Please keep in touch with Erik by visiting his Face book page – Erik Jones Racing and thanks for taking the time to read this blog. WaterBoy out!
Filed Under: Track News