FILLING IN ON THE FLY by Lisa Richards

1-2-07-prettyflycover.jpgI apologize to any Geezer fans out there, but I’m high-jacking his column!  I’m his daughter, Lisa, and I just returned from spending a day with him at the Nitro Jam World Finals in Rockingham, NC.  I have to preface this editorial with a little background about who I am. I’m a Business Analyst for an e-commerce and logistics company which basically means I’m half business professional and half geek.  I can grep XML log files for transaction data and I can use SQL to join tables to query the database.  I’m the Project Manager for some high profile projects in our company, but I don’t know SQUAT about drag racing!  That was the case until this weekend.   

Dad has been after me to attend a race for 2 or 3 years now but various things have kept me from attending.  I’ve been trying to work with him all summer to find a day when my schedule agrees with the IHRA schedule.  Needless to say, he was very excited when it became clear that I was finally attending a race.  He emailed me and IMed me several times to tell me he would have 2 tickets waiting for me at the gate.  Then I got a phone call at work on Friday to remind me again that I had tickets waiting for me at the gate.  I got up early Saturday morning to meet my friend, Brian, for the four-hour drive from Greenville, SC to Rockingham, NC.  Before we even got out of town, I started getting phone calls from the Geez asking if I was on the road yet.  It turns out that it was a good thing that he checked in on a regular basis because he gave us crappy directions.  Great photographer, crappy cartographer.  Oh yeah…it took us about 3.5 - 4 hours to get there and not 4.5 – 5 hrs like he said it would.  I figured after all these years hanging out with race car drivers he would have learned to make good use of that gas pedal by now.

 

A Day at the “Office” with Dad

Photo1.jpgI apologize to any Geezer fans out there, but I’m high-jacking his column!  I’m his daughter, Lisa, and I just returned from spending a day with him at the Nitro Jam World Finals in Rockingham, NC.  I have to preface this editorial with a little background about who I am. I’m a Business Analyst for an e-commerce and logistics company which basically means I’m half business professional and half geek.  I can grep XML log files for transaction data and I can use SQL to join tables to query the database.  I’m the Project Manager for some high profile projects in our company, but I don’t know SQUAT about drag racing!  That was the case until this weekend.   

Dad has been after me to attend a race for 2 or 3 years now but various things have kept me from attending.  I’ve been trying to work with him all summer to find a day when my schedule agrees with the IHRA schedule.  Needless to say, he was very excited when it became clear that I was finally attending a race.  He emailed me and IMed me several times to tell me he would have 2 tickets waiting for me at the gate.  Then I got a phone call at work on Friday to remind me again that I had tickets waiting for me at the gate.  I got up early Saturday morning to meet my friend, Brian, for the four-hour drive from Greenville, SC to Rockingham, NC.  Before we even got out of town, I started getting phone calls from the Geez asking if I was on the road yet.  It turns out that it was a good thing that he checked in on a regular basis because he gave us crappy directions.  Great photographer, crappy cartographer.  Oh yeah…it took us about 3.5 - 4 hours to get there and not 4.5 – 5 hrs like he said it would.  I figured after all these years hanging out with race car drivers he would have learned to make good use of that gas pedal by now.

When we finally arrived, Dad met us in the parking lot and handed us tickets and ear plugs.  Let the fun begin!  He took us straight in and right over to Dale Creasy, Jr’s pit to meet Dale and his wonderful mother, affectionately known as Mama Creasy.  Mama Creasy, I hope you can continue to be the nag in my absence. *wink*   They greeted us with big smiles and immediately made us feel at home.  From there we went right over to Jack Wyatt’s pit where we were again greeted with smiles and invited to have lunch with them.  A little later we were hanging out with Jack and his team when Jack said he was ready to do an engine warm up and I “might want to stick around for this.”  I asked him where we should stand and he directed us to stand right in front of his car.  See for yourself  WATCH THE VIDEO

Photo2.jpgDad had to go back to work but he told me about a really nice racer named Andy Kelley.  He said just go up and introduce yourself…so I did.  Now I didn’t know any of these racers before I arrived so I just sort of walk over to Andy Kelley’s pit area and look for a guy “with bright blue eyes and a goatee.”  I see a guy matching that description and he looks at me and says, “Hey!  How are you doing?”  I respond with, “Hey!  Are you Andy Kelley?”  He had to think I was a fool!  In any other sport, the sportsman would have been offended but Andy just smiles and says, “Yep.”  I introduce myself and we immediately start talking like old pals.  Dad has been telling me for years that the drag racing community, his other “family”, is the nicest group of people you’ll ever meet.  He wasn’t kidding!  Later in the evening…midnight actually…Andy invited us to eat some Low Country Boil in his pit area.  I couldn’t turn it down!  I saw that Andy had a woman’s t-shirt on display and asked to buy one to which Andy replied, “No, she can’t buy one but I’ll give her one!”  You rock, Andy!  I proudly wore it to dinner at a friend’s house on Monday night.  My friends heard all about Andy Kelley and IHRA racing!  

Photo3.jpgWe met up with Dad later and he took us up to the press box to meet the voices you hear through the loud speakers and the hands behind the words you read on the websites.  Once again we were greeted with smiles all around!  Renee promptly slapped wristbands on us and gave us Restricted Access badges.  Bob Unkefer asked me to draw the next name for the MetalWood bat giveaway and Berserko Bob asked me how old I was to which I replied, “Legal.”  We left the press box and headed straight for trackside!  I just THOUGHT I was having fun up until that point…I don’t think my smile left my face for the rest of the day!  We hung out beside the start line and experienced drag racing like everyone should!  Every time a nitro or top fuel car left the line, it gave me cold chills.  I kept holding up my arm to show Brian the goosebumps!  The vibrations start in your feet and come out your eyelids!  WATCH THE VIDEO  ANOTHER VIDEO  

 


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Photo4.jpgDuring the breaks, Dad took us around to meet more drivers!  We stopped by to see T.J. Zizzo and I learned how he was just 26 points ahead of Bruce Litton.  I couldn’t believe how friendly the competition is between them!  He had nothing but nice things to say about the man that was trying to take the title away from him.  And later that evening Bruce did exactly that! We also went over to Scott Cannon’s pit where his dad, Scotty, was working on his car.  Photo5.jpg As Scotty was busy digging around in the engine, he looks up and over in my direction and asks, “Where’s my calipers?”  Now, obviously that was just a rhetorical sort of question and he wasn’t really expecting any sort of answer from any of us but I said, “My bad…I was using them to fix the …uh, manifold.”  It made me and Brian laugh anyway.


Photo6.jpgThen we moved over to Quain Stott’s pit where I learned that his daddy taught him to never shake a woman’s hand.  So I received a great hug from Quain!  

Next was Laurie Cannister. Dad couldn’t quit bragging about her…since she refuses to do it herself!  After a good run earlier in the day, her husband told her to “hang on” for the next run, “It’s heroes or zeroes!”  That man knows what he’s talking about!  She ended up running the track record that night!  Another amazing woman was Bunny Burkett!  She told me about making sure her fans get to see her burnout with the American Flag flying!  She is all about her fans!  She has an amazing life story too and is just an inspiration to chat with.  She also thought my friend, Brian, was cute.  <laugh> 

At this point in the evening I am having a BLAST!  But the highlight moment was yet to come.  We headed back over to trackside to watch the final runs for the top fuel cars.  I’m watching Bruce Litton’s car in the staging area and one of the officials, Josh Peake, motions me over to center track!  He positions me right beside the exhaust pipes of Bruce’s dragster.  He’s pretty cool…for a Gamecock fan.  Go Tigers!  So I have the ear plugs in and I’m just standing there all giddy when the lights go green.  My eyelashes are pressed back against my eyelids, I could feel my internal organs rattling around inside, and I’m pretty sure I uttered a choice phrase…or two.  Photo7.jpgCheck it out in the picture!  I’m the one in the blue jacket grabbing my Clemson hat as it’s being blown off my head.  When it was over all I could do was turn to Josh and say, “That … was … awesome.”  Yeah, I’m a child of the 80’s.  And THEN to conclude the evening, the Extreme Machine jet engine truck put on an impressive display!  I really don’t think I can describe it any better than the video.   WATCH THE VIDEO

Photo8.jpgOk, fine!  I’m a drag racing fan now!  Are you happy now, Dad?  Now I’m looking forward to the next race I can attend.  Luckily I’m going to the NHRA event in Las Vegas this weekend!  I hope to see you all there!  Thank you bunches to everyone who helped make my first IHRA experience such a memorable one!  I hope I get to spend time with you all again soon!  For all of you regular track monkeys, I get it now.  For anyone who hasn’t yet experienced an IHRA race, I recommend attending and going down to the trackside fence and feeling the rush.  Make sure you stop by and visit with the best sportsmen (and women!) I have ever had the pleasure of meeting.

Lisa Richards
aka The Geezer’s Daughter

 


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