Tom Hessert Wins First Super Speedway Race at Talladega

Grant Enfinger, driver of the Casite-Motor Honey-Advanced Auto Parts #90 Ford, and winner of the first 3 races of the season in the ARCA racing series started from the pole at Talladega Superspeedway in the International Motorsports Hall of Fame 200 and was looking for win number 4 of the 2014 season. Once the green flag flew, the front of the field ran single file up front for the first half of the race with Mason Mitchell, Justin Boston, Mark Thompson, and John Wes Townley rounding out the top 5 behind Enfinger.

Green flag pit stops began on lap 36 of the 76 lap event. Multiple drivers were penalized for speeding on pit road including leader Enfinger who had dominated the first half of the race. Clay Campbell, Mark Thompson, and Frank Kimmel were among the 16 pit road speeding violations. Justin Boston in the #25 Zloop Chevrolet took over the lead after pit stops until lap 54 when he was passed on the track by the Zaxby’s #15 of John Wes Townley.

The first and only caution of the race came out on lap 56 when Justin Allison, grandson of Donnie Allison, in the #88 HAVACOSales.com Ford, blew a right front tire and slammed into the side of Clay Campbell driving the #52 Federated Auto Parts Chevrolet for Ken Schrader Racing, causing Clay to spin out. The caution put many of the the penalized race cars back into contention for the win.

The race went back to green at lap 64 with John Wes Townley in first followed by Boston, Mitchell, and Tom Hessert. Bobby Gerhart, making his 300th start in the series took the lead with 4 laps to go and was quickly over taken by John Wes Townley. With two laps to go Tom Hessert, driving the #77 Cunningham Motorsports Caregard-AxiomWarranty.com Dodge took the lead for the first time of the day after passing Townley on the high side and lead the final two laps to win his first ever super speedway win and the 4th of his career. Hessert was followed by John Wes Townley in 2nd, teammate Austin Wayne Self, driving the #22, in 3rd, Mason Mitchell in 4th and Spencer Gallagher in the #23 rounding out the top 5. The rest of the top 10 were Derrick Lancaster in 6th, Bobby Gerhart 7th, Frank Kimmel 8th, Grant Enfinger 9th, and Buster Graham in 10th.

Leilani Munter, driving the #55 Blackfish Toyota for Venturini Motorsports ran in the top 10 most of the day and ended up finishing the race in the 14th position.

Familes of Flight 370 Forced out of their Hotel for Ferrari F1 Team

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The grief stricken families waiting for news of their loved one on Flight 370 have been forced out of their hotel on Friday.  Their rooms had been booked months in advance buy the Ferrari Formula One team for the upcoming Malaysian Grand Prix.

Bernie Eccleston, F1 Chief, confirmed to NBC News that the block of rooms at the Cyberview Hotel in Kuala Lumpur were being taken by the Ferrari team.  “I feel terribly, terribly sorry for these people,” he said. “But it is up to the hotel. What would happen if you told somebody that they no longer had a booking? You would get sued, I’d imagine.”

Ferrari has yet to release a statement.

More than 3,000 team members, support staff and media travel to each Grand Prix race – this does not include the huge number of fans that are filling hotels in advance of the March 30th race.

Malaysian Airlines has transferred the families to another hotel – but it is about 30 miles from the headquarters that is heading up the search for the missing plane and providing updates to the relatives who are desperate for answers.

IndyCar: Oversexed or On Point?

Last week, new IndyCar sponsor United Fiber & Data announced the UFD Grid Girls.  These 6 women will serve as the spokesmodels for James Hinchcliffe’s #27 UFD IndyCar for the 2014 season.  Although the exact details of their involvement for UFD and at each race haven’t been detailed, it’s fairly safe to assume their duties.  Having attractive women in tight clothing serving as models for a product at a race track is not a new concept.photo-1-300x300

My initial reaction is it is great to see a new sponsor getting involved with the series.  For me, sponsorship should be more than logos on a car.  Being a sponsor should mean having a presence at the track.  It means being visible to fans.  What’s more visible than attractive women?  Not much.  Of course I don’t care for their bits a pieces as I’m more of a nuts and bolts type of guy myself, but I recognize the instant benefit of these women.

Facing facts here, racing is still very male dominated in fandom.  Men care more about fast cars than women.  It’s one of those unexplainable facts like, why aren’t there more female engineers or more male nurses?  For some reason, guys just tend to like racing more than women.  Well, if you are catering to the audience at hand, beautiful women are the way to go.  There’s a reason there are a lot of ladies in bikinis straddling low-riders on the cover of hot rod magazines.  The two things just go together, right or wrong.  Plus, as I’ve stated before in various posts, humans like looking at pretty things.  Period.  Pretty flowers.  Pretty cars.  Pretty houses.  Pretty beaches.  You name it.  This includes pretty women.

However, there are some that expressed displeasure with the move.  Some people think it’s sexiest.  Others think it sends the wrong image to girls.  There are a few that just think it’s tacky.  I get it.  I understand it.  All of those points are valid in some facet.  But, I don’t think 6 smart, professional, beautiful women should be panned for working what they have.  Heck, if I had a killer rack and rocking body you can bet your sweet rear-end I’d be the ringleader of the crew.  Pass the stilettos and the checkered flag because I would be strutting my stuff.  I also think there is a belief that being attractive somehow makes your IQ drop, that in some way if you are attractive that you must be an idiot.  Brains and beauty can be had.   The valedictorian of my high school class was a drop dead gorgeous, tall blonde with a gigawatt smile.  I don’t discount these 6 women because they are attractive just like I didn’t discount her.  I also know that there are worse signals that can be sent to young girls than them seeing an attractive female in tight clothes working.  Hello, look at Miley Cyrus twerking on stuffed animals with her tongue hanging out while wearing a weed emblazoned one-piece (that said, she’s been brilliant at marketing herself).  You can’t shield your kid from that media frenzy.

photo-2-1-300x300Lots of people, including myself at times, have dinged Danica Patrick for using her body over her perceived talent at times.  IndyCar fans complained that she stole the spotlight just because she could pose half-naked on the hood of a car, while she was often times uncompetitive on the track.  She was vilified for being popular for the supposed wrong reason.  However, it’s a fact that IndyCar television ratings have been down since Danica left IndyCar despite new cars, engine competition, and a vastly improved on-track product.  The ratings dip can’t be fully pegged on Danica, but you can’t ignore the fact Danica was ridiculously popular regardless of reasoning behind the fandom.  Did she draw fans to IndyCar because she was attractive?  You betcha.

I know deep down we all want people to like IndyCar because the racing is great.  We don’t want it to be a gimmick.  Many people love IndyCar because it’s a fairly pure form of racing compared to the more WWE styling of NASCAR the last decade or so.  We hate to admit it, but IndyCar is withering on the vine.  We can all say that the racing is amazing, but that’s only a small portion of the equation for success.  Right now, IndyCar is the awkward, overweight person that’s a bit of a sloppy mess you’re trying to help get a date and all you can say is, “But they have an amazing personality!”  Furthermore, IndyCar has to be cool.  You don’t want someone to show up at their first IndyCar race and it be filled with a bunch of grumpy 70 year olds complaining about the lack of horsepower.  You want the event to seem cool, vibrant, fun, sexy, youthful…you need to appeal to the crowd you want to attract…or in IndyCar’s case, the crowd you HAVE to attract…for survival.

My point is, IndyCar has a new sponsor.  YAY!  That new sponsor is spending money on activation.  YAY!  They are using some damn fine young women to capture some attention and promote the sport, their driver, and their product.  YAY!  IndyCar desperately needs more UFD Girls.  Heck, get all the girls together, the Miss Grand Prix’s, the Fuzzy’s Vodka girls and make a calendar.  Promote the heck out of it.  Make IndyCar sexy.  Make IndyCar cool.  Don’t look down on these young ladies and dig around for a negative.  It’s 2014.  I think we should all be comfortable enough in our own skin to either look past something we don’t like that much, or embrace the positives it could help bring to the sport.

That said, where can I audition to be a UFD Girl?  I have killer legs.

 

Safety – an Important Read

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Last week, Jim Downing, the co-founder of HANS Performance Products penned an open letter to the racing industry.  Downing manufactures the HANS (Head and Neck Restraint Device) – one of the most important pieces of saftey equipment ever developed for race car drivers.  This has been a bleak season in the world of Motorsports, with several drivers lost – and Downing has some thoughts to share.

This letter needs to be read by every driver – from all racing series…and their fans:

To: Drivers, Track owners and Motor Racing Media
From: Jim Downing, co-founder of HANS Performance Products
Subject: Safety on U.S. short tracks and drag strips

It’s a sad fact the number of fatal accidents in motor racing is worse than people realize. We know, because it’s been part of our responsibility as a safety company to keep up with injurious accidents to learn what we can for future reference.

From April of this year through August, there have been at least 20 fatal accidents around the world where a driver or co-driver has been killed due to a racing incident. By any standard, it’s been a disastrous season. But there’s another statistic that’s even worse. The rate of fatal accidents on short ovals and drag strips in the U.S. continues to get worse. Since Dale Earnhardt’s fatal accident at Daytona, there have been at least 194 drivers killed in crashes on short tracks and drag strips – despite all the new safety improvements available. This data comes from the landmark safety study by the Charlotte Observer, SFI and current media accounts.

This tragic trend among weekend warriors has been evident in the past two seasons. In April through August of last year, four drivers were killed by crashes on short ovals and two were killed on drag strips. With several months remaining in the season, this year five drivers have been killed on short ovals during this same time span and three drivers have died in drag racing accidents.

We can do better than this in U.S. motor racing. This letter is a plea for drivers and track owners to take steps that can immediately improve safety on short ovals and drag strips. Four pieces of equipment can make a vital difference in cockpit safety: Head Restraints, full containment seats, head surrounds and side nets.

Of the eight fatalities on short ovals and drag strips this year, we believe the proper use of this system of cockpit safety equipment could have resulted in more favorable outcomes in five of the crashes.

Weekend warriors can install this equipment at a reasonable cost without waiting for track owners to build expensive solutions that may not be feasible.

It’s a matter of drivers realizing that the sport of racing will always be dangerous no matter what type of track or car is involved or how high or low the speeds. When it comes to speed, last December at the IMIS Safety and Technical Conference, we demonstrated that a Delta V (sudden decrease in velocity) of 42 mph can result in a fatal head or neck injury.

At the IMIS conference, we also cited statistics about the deaths of weekend warriors on short ovals and drag strips increasing since the death of Earnhardt. Sadly, that trend appears to be continuing. In honor of those racers who have been killed and with an eye on the future, we hope that as a respected member of the motorsports community you will join us in making racing safer and help raise awareness about improving safety for weekend warriors.

Two Loves Combined

Two of my biggest automotive loves might not seem like the mesh – VW’s and NASCAR.

Wuste (Fest) took care of that last weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.  Wuste is one of the largest VW/Audi shows in the US – and they came from all over the country to Vegas for a weekend in the sun.

On Saturday afternoon, over 1,000 cars pulled through the turn 2 tunnel and took over the Cup and Nationwide Garages, the Neon Garage and just about every point in between.

Fine German engineering and a NASCAR track….. it just doesn’t get any better than that.

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credit Michael T. Myers – Queers4Gears

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credit Michael T. Myers – Queers4Gears

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credit Michael T. Myers – Queers4Gears

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credit Michael T. Myers – Queers4Gears

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credit Michael T. Myers – Queers4Gears

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credit Michael T. Myers – Queers4Gears

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Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix Day 1

Greetings motorheads!  This is Cody (@theSAABwriter) reporting from my airport-overlooking hotel room in Romulus, MI. I’m only slightly distracted by planes on the glide path in front of my face…

I’m here for the Belle Isle GP – IZOD IndyCar Series, Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series, and Pirelli World Challenge GT and GTS classes.

For photos, see my feed on Twitter. Technology and signal here is not being cooperative with uploading them anywhere but Twitter (and consequently my Facebook).

 

IndyCar Belle Isle Update

This week brought sudden news of J.R. Hildebrand’s release from Panther Racing, which dominated the press this morning.  Silver lining: Ryan Briscoe is replacing him for the rest of the year, minus his ALMS conflicts. Theory: If Dryer & Reinbold can sort out their contractual issues with Oriol Servia (upon the closure of that team after Indy), we could see the veteran Spaniard behind the wheel of that National Guard car when Briscoe is out.

Short downpour makes for an interesting qualifying! The rain ceased just before Q1 went green, which meant the laps got faster and faster as time wore on.  By the time the Firestone Fast 6 session rolled around, cars were quickly discovering they needed to pit and change to the soft dry tire. The starting order was a bit interesting, however…

Dario Franchitti snatched pole for tomorrow’s first race of the weekend but will start P11 tomorrow because of a grid penalty. This puts EJ Viso on pole, followed by P2 Mike Conway and P3 James Jakes – names we don’t often see at the sharp end!

The crowd got a bit of excitement at Belle Isle’s backstretch complex when Scott Dixon had a harmless spin (read: burnout) and went on his way with no more than a local yellow in Q2.  That sessoin was red-flagged with roughly two minutes remaining when Helio Castroneves spun and parked his car just past an apex.  He didn’t look pleased on the jumbo-tron…

Grand-Am Day 1 at Belle Isle pleasent for GM

Jordan Taylor and codriver Max Angelelli took their Wayne Taylor Racing Chevrolet Corvette Daytona Prototype to pole for tomorrow’s two-hour race, leading a quartet of Corvette DPs in the top five.

If you’re not a sports car racing fan, I think you really will be after seeing Jordan Taylor, his older brother Ricky, and their friends lip-syncing RuPaul style in homemade music videos.  They are absolutely hysterical, and one of them even features the fine gentlemen shirtless… YouTube them now. They’re a great bunch of guys.

Know who’s another great guy?  Veteran sports car and open-wheel driver Max Papis.  Mad Max took the GT class pole in his AIM Autosport Ferrari 458.

GX class pole goes to Tom Long in his Speedsource Mazda 6 Skyactiv diesel.  The two Mazdas look fantastic and sound like trucks (not a bad thing to me – I’m a bus driver now as a day job), but Belle Isle is a rough ole street circuit, so we’ll see how long it takes both Mazdas to break tomorrow.  They tend to do that a lot.  My win money goes to the only other car in the GX class: a Porsche Cayman that clearly has a H-pattern gearbox based on how it sounds in braking zones. They’ve won the GX class in every race bar one so far this year…

Shout Out

I have to give a big shoutout to a Twitter buddy of mine who I finally had the pleasure of meeting today: Jeremy Scott (@jscottontheair) – an up and coming road racing broadcast personality (who’s always looking for work! Much like me, his print-media counterpart and also broadcasting-hopeful) who currently is working with the Intercontinental Trophy Cup series for Porsche Caymans. Follow the man on Twitter. He’s delightful (and so is his girlfriend of 2.5 years – harass him for the story of how they met – so cute).

 

Stay tuned for tweets (@theSAABwriter, and my trip buddy Eric, @theTrueRaceFan) and another full text and photo update tomorrow if possible, and by Sunday for sure (I’m only at the track tomorrow – headed home after the IndyCar race).

Oh, and did I mention a lot of my non-action photos will be in the paddock?  If you go to a race, it’s the place to be. Last year I met Dr. McDreamy, and we regularly run into Robin Miller, John Dagys, Calvin Fish, Brian Till, and Dorsey Shroeder. I may be meeting briefly with SPEED’s Marshall Pruett tomorrow morning, and I’d like to grab Dagys and some others for quick quotes.

See you at the races!

Westboro Baptist Church Plans NASCAR Protest at Kansas Speedway

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Maggie Phelps, spokeperson for the Westboro Baptist Church and their endless “God Hates Fags” campaign that have plagued the funerals of US Soldiers and the children in Newtown have turned their eyes on NASCAR. The daughter of the Church’s founder says that they are planning a protest at a NASCAR race. Tueday, Phelps Tweeted. “NASCAR is racing fag cars.”20151213201034

It’s not clear what set them off, but it appears it may have been an interview by Queers4Gears with Brad Keselowski in Phoenix.  The current Sprint Cup Champion said there was room for an openly gay driver in the sport. In a seperate tweet, Phelps linked to an SB  Nation/Outsports article that had picked up on the Keselowski interview, adding, “Next they’ll have a splashy fag wedding.”

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The leader of the “church” tweeted that the injury of the fans in Daytona was a punishment from God because NASCAR is pro-gay (follow the link in his tweet)

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As of now, there is no indication of what race the Westboro Baptist Church plans to protest.

Queers4Gears spoke to NASCAR this morning at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, they agree with what Keselowski said and will stand with their driver.

UPDATE:

The Worstboro Baptist Church will be picketing at the Kansas Race on April 21st. You can read the announcement from their site – note their note at the end: “God Hates Brad Keselowski”

Queers4Gears reached out to Kansas Speedway to ask if the Westboro Protesters would be welcome on the Speedway grounds or required to use a public space outside of the Speedway.

Kelly Hale, Director of Public Relations said, “We do have a spot on speedway grounds that groups that want to protest are welcome to use. We worked closely with our local law enforcement to make sure the area is safe for the groups but also doesn’t create congestion for traffic (we’re located across the street from restaurants, retail destinations and hotels).”


DO YOU DISAGREE WITH THE WESTBORO BAPTIST CHURCH? THEN SUPPORT Queers4Gears in the 2013 AIDS Walk! What better way to send that “church” a message than donating to a pro-gay NASCAR Charity effort – and it’s a GREAT cause!

Click Here to Donate!

Every dollar you give will be matched by Penn and Teller!

NHRA is different than NASCAR

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This weekend I headed out to the The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the NHRA Full Throttle Vegas Nationals.

I am not sure I understand enough about the sport to properly “report” on the race results.  Plus, with the TV delay of the on-track action, I was hesitant to live-tweet the race results.  Because there isn’t any “beating and banging” there isn’t as much on-track drama in NHRA….. everyone seems to get along.

So with the lack of drama and dirty jokes on my part – I wanted to focus on how NHRA is different from NHRA:  how do these two “experiences” differ for the fans in attendance.

The pit areas could not be any different from what you would see at a NASCAR Race.  Obviously, there is no infield at a drag strip and there are no permanent garage structures for the teams to work in.

The hauler for each team is the garage.   The sides of the trailer open and a large awning provides shade and cover.  Interestingly, these haulers are not simply for traveling to the races.  Most of the teams work out of large empty warehouse type structures.  They pull the haulers into the empty space and set everything up inside the shop exactly as they would at the track.   At John Force Racing they stage the three teams haulers side-by-side so that their “pit” is the same – whether at the track or back at the home shop.

In NASCAR the car is built and worked on by teams of specialist in shops – most of them based in NC. Early in the week a hauler is loaded with 2 cars and sent towards the track.  On Thursday night – the crew for each NASCAR team flies into the track.  For the most part, in NHRA, the teams travel with the hauler – day in and day out – on the road driving from drag strip to drag strip.

John Force actually hauls two full trailers to the race that are attached together forming a double-wide Technology Center.  It is a full machine shop.  I repeat – a full machine shop. Why bring spare parts to the track when you can literally make ANYTHING with the tools and machines that Force carries to every track.

Q4Gs-NHRA-30OCT2010-006NProbably the biggest difference in a NASCAR pit and the NHRA pits is the type of access than fans have.  At a NASCAR race your ticket gets you a seat in the stands and that’s about it.  NASCAR fans can access the garages and pits if they buy additional passes.  For NHRA events  every ticket is a pit pass – fans can get up close and personal with their favorite driver and team.

A fan might go to a NASCAR race and try all weekend to get one autograph from their favorite driver.  With the open access provided by the NHRA, it would be almost impossible for a fan not to be able to get autographs from several drivers.

But – before we go tagging NASCAR with not being fan friendly- you have to look at the entire situation.  It is not an apples to apples comparison.  NASCAR does have safety concerns to think about.  They have a “hot pass” and “cold pass system.”  Most fans are only allowed to walk around the pits and garages when they are “cold.”  Basically this means that no race cars would be driving around.   During any race, practice or qualifying session NASCAR officials make the garage and pits “hot.”  It would not be safe to have fans walking around the garage as cars were speeding back to their stall.

At an NHRA event there are no hot or cold passes.  Once the cars have run to the top end of the drag strip they are towed back at a slow speed to their pit.  It makes it safer for the fans to walk around.

I hear NASCAR fans complain about not being allowed into the pits without forking over a lot of extra cash. While NASCAR is right to keep fans out of the garages when they are “hot,” I think the sport would be well served to make cold passes more affordable for the average fan.

One also has to look at the crowd size.  The stands this weekend at the NHRA event were packed – with about 22,000 people in attendance.  Compare that to the crowd size of a NASCAR race:  depending on the track, it could be 60,000 to 120,000 fans.  There is no way, logistically, that every fan could be given all-access at a race.  NASCAR needs to be able to set reasonable limits on the number of people in the garage area.

There is one thing fans in NHRA and NASCAR have in common.  They all bitch about the new cars looking the same. NHRA fans say they like the Nostalgia Cars Division because you can tell what brand it is without having to put decals on it……. Sound familiar???

The differences don’t stop in the pits.  Let’s talk about Qualifying.

NHRA does it right.  In short:  bring your stuff to the track and run it; if you are faster than the other guy, you’re in the show.  There are no Provisional slots for Previous Champions and no one is locked into the show because of owner points.  14-Time Champion John Force has to qualify just like all the rookies.  This is the way racing was meant to be: Go fast or go home!

Did I mention the noise?  I now know why they invented the ear plug.  I have tried to explain what 43 NASCAR Cup Cars sound like – what they smell like and have never been able to find words.  I thought I knew what loud was.  I did not.

Nothing can prepare you for the wave of sound that hits you as a Top Fuel Dragster accelerates to over 300 mph in about 4 seconds.  The sound waves literally rattle you insides!  You can stand there and watch the lights on the tree count down…. Anticipating the noise with your fingers stuck in your already plugged ears….the car takes off and the sound still makes you jump (and you knew it was coming.)

The smell of the Nitro burns your eyes and throat – but it’s a good kinda burn!!! Nothing can prepare you for the feeling when those fumes hit your lungs.

The most impressive thing I saw over the weekend was in the pits between rounds.  They run each engine only one time.  After each round they bring the car back to the pits where they proceed to break down and rebuild the entire engine.  Not just the top end of the block – they take apart the entire engine and rebuild it – all in about 45 minutes.

I have never seen a team work so quickly in such a choreographed way.  Ever person had a mental list of tasks and went about them in almost robotic fashion.  This is why it is so important that they set up their mobile pit the same way at every race.  These guys have to able to reach for a tool and know it will always be in the same spot.  If you like gears and tools then you must make it a life goal to attend a NHRA race and watch a tear down/re-build in the pits.

All in all, a weekend with the NHRA is very different than a typical NASCAR weekend…. But don’t let that stop you.  It is something every race fan needs to see, feel and hear.

Queers4Gears Third Anniversary

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It is September 13th – back on this date in 2009 I made my first post on Queers4Gears and never thought for a minute I would still be posting three years later.

It has been quite the ride and it wouldn’t been possible without all of you reading and following along.

Q4G expanded in the last 12 months adding several new contributors and we started producing and hosting our own podcast in-house.   Out average visits per month jumped to over 15k and we passed 5k followers on Twitter.

We re-focused the content on the site to publish mostly commentary and humor – that whole “real journalism” thing was hard – snark is so much more fun!  I also noticed the readers clicked on the snark more than re-blogged news they could find on any site.

I want to thank a lot of people – they have all helped me out a little or a lot along the way and I appreciate you all:  My Mom, Troy Germain, Edward Ochoa, Brent Summers, Ross Bynum, Adam Lovelace, Hannah Rickards, John Bisci, David Talley, Lee Spencer, Reid Spencer, Jeff Gluck, Jim Utter, Doug Rice, Farrah Kaye, Lewis Franck, Mojo Nixon, Kendra Jacobs, Ryan McGee, The Speed Freaks (Crash and Kenny), Gary and Dino, Josh Hamilton, Owen Kerns, Marty Smith and last but not least ALL OF YOU FOR FOLLOWING ALONG!  (I hope I didn’t leave anyone out)

Three years and we’re just getting warmed up…. stay tuned!