Every summer, I make a pilgrimage to two places, Jim’s Original and The O’Reilly Auto Parts Route 66 Nationals at Route 66 Raceway in Joliet. This last week, I did both. Jim’s Original is still good, and the Route 66 Nationals are always fun. This year, I went on Saturday and Sunday. Normally I would only go on Saturday, but this year I decided to double the fun. I went with Argie, a friend from work, and I spent Saturday watching racing and wandering through the pits. NHRA tickets promise that “every ticket is a pit pass” and trust me, they more than live up to that claim. You can walk around the pits and watch as the teams setup cars before races and fix cars after races. The wear and tear on nitro cars is such that the entire engine has to be disassembled, repaired, and reassembled between races, sometimes in as little as 45 minutes. Needless to say, speed is paramount.I had been fortunate enough to get a pass to the Don Schumacher Racing hospitality tent. This not only got me the tickets, but also a chance to meet Tony Schumacher, and Ron Capps. I came into the tent a little later than normal, and I got to listen Tony talk to the crowd, and take questions. I got a chance to ask him something that I have always wanted to ask a driver… “What is the weirdest thing you have ever autographed?” Having done autograph signings since I was 5, I’ve seen a lot of odd stuff get autographed over the years, and I was interested in the answer. He responded that he has signed a lot of body parts, arms, legs, etc, and that his wife hates that.
A few minutes later, he mentioned that he wears a 5-layer firesuit, as well as two additional layers of fire protection. That adds up to a total of 7 layers. Most NASCAR suits make up 3 layers, with an additional layer underneath. Nomex is not a lightweight material, and on days like Saturday, when it was 88 degrees outside, that can get very uncomfortable. He is also credited with the aforementioned canopy to Top Fuel dragsters.
One thing I love to do is to buy race-used equipment from dragsters, and I did so this year as well. I bought a couple of valves from Tasca Racing, one large,and one small,Both show tremendous use, and have chips missing from them. Valves like these are used for one race and then replaced. The wear they go through for one run is very evident.
It just wouldn’t be a race for me without getting some autographs. I bought a Ron Capps funny car die cast, and had his sign it in person, and it looks really good. I had a pair of gloves I wanted to get signed, and I did, by Tommy Johnson Jr. My favorite item it this brightly painted helmet. It was signed by Robby Gordon when I bought it, and I got it signed by Clay Millian, Terry McMillen, Tony Schmacher, Tommy Johnson Jr.,Ron Capps, and the legendary Shirley Muldowney.
One thing I didn’t do as much this year was take pictures. I did take some, but not as many as last year. I did make a number of videos, as shown below.
That’s all for this week, I’ll return next week with a set of paint scheme reviews, and believe me, there are a lot of them! Hope you are all having a fun summer! Happy Belated Canada Day for our friends up North, Happy Fourth of July to my readers in the USA, and to everyone else, See you soon!