Monday, September 17, 2007

Weekend In Memphis

Well, technically it's Millington, TN but who's really checking. I was at the Midsouth Nationals for the weekend and I had an amazing time. I also got t odo something that is remarkably cool in my opinion. After the 4th round of qualifying, I got to sit down with my favorite driver, Max Naylor, and ask him some questions, but I'll get into that later. First I'll tell you about Friday.

I got done with my only Friday class at 11, and shortly after that was on the road. It took me about 4 hours to get to the track from TTU, and I went to the Will Call window. They had LOST my tickets! When I finally got my tickets 10 minutes later I noticed a note on there that said *REPRINT* So ok, now I've got my tickets. I head to the gate with my stuff. Before this year fans were not allowed to bring coolers, but they were allowed to bring in outside snacks. My plan was to bring a sandwich, crackers, a water bottle (they had fountains) and powdered Gatorade since the price of food and drinks was outrageous ($3.25 for a 20 oz bottle of anything for example). I got all the way to the gate and the lady says "By the way, no outside food or drink." So now I had to walk all the way back to the car drop off my stuff, and head back in. I finally got seated after round one of Pro Bike had finished, and Pro Stock car was almost halfway through. But what I was really waiting for was round 2. As the sun set further the speeds picked up because the track was 10 degrees cooler. However the adjusted altitude was still at 2,500 feet. Not good for naturally aspirated motors. Chip Ellis led the bikes with a 6.997 second pass at 187.44 MPH, and Dave Connolly led the Pro Stocks with a 6.673 sec pass at 205.41 MPH. Max was in 8th with a 6.715 second pass at 203.86.

Then the fire started. As much as I love the competitiveness of the Pro Stock ranks, there's nothing more aww inspiring as 8,000 horses, and motors shooting flames 10 feet tall out of the header pipes.

Oh, you want pictures??? OK!! (click for much larger)

After the night session, Ashley Force led Funny car, and Schumacher led the rails.

I finally got to check into the hotel that night, and settled down for the night.

Saturday's forecast was cool and dry. And did it ever bring out some HUGE numbers for the stock guys. The air temperature was only 79 degrees and the track temp was at 104, but the killer was the adjusted altitude. It was at just over 1,500 feet, a full 1,000 feet lower than the night before. In Pro Bike Chip Ellis ran the now second fastest pass in bike history! A 6.892 second pass at over 193 MPH. Then the factory hot rods took the stage. The round went well, and then the Jager crew rolled up to the line. Max laid down an AMAZING 6.594 second pass at 207.37 MPH to take the poll, and the SECOND TRACK RECORD in a row! The amazing stat was his 60 foot time at 0.966 seconds, almost .01 faster than any other driver.

Needless to say I was floored. I met the Naylor crew last year at Indy, and then they were struggling to make the 16 car fields, and now just 1 year later, they were consistently racing on Sunday, and had set 2 track records in consecutive events!

The Top fuel guys took to the track, but no real changes happened in the rankings, and round 4 was a bit slower as track conditions slipped. One cool statistic was that in the Pro Stock Car the previous track record was too slow to qualify.

After the 4th round I made my way to the Jagermeister pit and waited for Max to get done discussing the day, ans asked him a series of questions.

(The interview can be found here)

Sunday came, and it was go or go home time. Already I could see many empty trailer spots where teams had left the night before after not making the field. I watched all the rounds of elimination and there were MAY upsets. Like in round one, Tony Schumacher blew the motor at half track and lost to #16 qualifier Doug Foley, and in round 2, Foley KO'd Rod Fuller. In Funny Car, Fast Jack Beckman made good of his name as he not only got to the final, but knocked out John Force and Robert Hight in the process.

In Pro Stock Max took out Greg Stanfield in round one, but spun the tires hard in round 2 and had to let out, giving up the race. In the final round it was a repeat of the US Nationals as Dave Connolly beat Greg Anderson, and in the bikes Andrew Hines took home the Wally when Steve Johnson's bike broke and coasted to a stop without passing the finish line.

After the 3rd round I went into the pits to thank Max for the interview, but he was tower, but I saw his wife Jane at the trailer and thanked them, and that hopefully I will get to see them again next year at either Atlanta or Bristol.

It was a great trip and I got 170 pictures and 2 hours of video to remind me of it.