Coming off a tough weekend in Norwalk, Ohio, it was great to have the next few days off to celebrate my sister Brittany’s birthday in Catalina. It was a jam-packed weekend and we even took a helicopter over to the island! It was such a cool experience to have a view like that on the ride over.
When we landed we hit the beach for some sun and walked along the streets looking in all the unique little shops. When our friends arrived we decided to do something spontaneous that we had never done before: zip lining. I was so nervous, terrified and excited all at the same time, which seems pathetic considering I go 300 mph every weekend, but something about being up that high connected by just a rope scares me. We got suited up, headed up the hill and zip lined across the island, which was absolutely breathtaking. This was definitely an experience I will never forget and want to try again soon! We finished off the weekend by going boating, hanging out on the beach and touring the island on a golf cart. It was a great time!
When we got back home I quickly switched gears and repacked my suitcase for the Western swing, which is a tour of three back-to-back races all along the West Coast.
My first stop would be in San Francisco for a media tour to promote the upcoming race in Sonoma, Calif. The staff at the Sonoma track is amazing and planned out a full, detailed media day the Wednesday before my race in Denver. When I arrived in San Francisco, I was a little shocked. The weather was a drastic change from Catalina; cold and windy, but at least the sun was shining. The following day was packed with phone interviews for various newspapers and radio stations, plus a media luncheon to discuss the NHRA Sonoma Nationals. With a two-hour gap in between all of this and a live television interview, Sarah -- my PR girl at John Force Racing -- and I decided to be touristy and see Pier 39. We walked around and shopped, saw sea lions by the water, learned about Alcatraz and got an ice cream from the famous Ghirardelli Square, before heading back to do the TV spot.
After a long day in San Francisco, the next day we hopped on a 6 a.m. flight and headed to Denver for the race. As soon as we got into Denver, we drove to Colorado Springs to take a special NHRA tour of the top secret Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station facility, commonly known as NORAD. It was a busy few days but it was an honor to tour Cheyenne Mountain and really get a behind-the-scenes look at what our military does for our country.
Going into the race weekend in Denver, I was tied for ninth in the point standings, and with only a few races left before the top-10 competitors are locked into the Countdown to battle it out for the NHRA Championship, the races are getting tougher and tougher. I got qualified for the event and had a tough first-round matchup against fellow Ford racer Tim Wilkerson, who is right behind my dad in points. It was a big round because my dad needed me to win it so there would be a larger gap between he and Wilkerson, and my dad would remain in the top 10. Luckily, I got the win. Second round I was up against my teammate and brother-in-law Robert Hight. We both struggled getting down the track. My car dropped a cylinder and his car smoked the tires, but I got to the finish line first.
In the semifinal round I had to race another tough opponent, Ron Capps, and was able to proceed into my second career final in Funny Car! Although I went home runner-up, our Traxxas Ford Mustang team had a well-deserved strong weekend. We moved up from ninth to sixth in the points, which can sometimes take much longer to accomplish. I’m very proud of my team and my crew chiefs, and of course Traxxas for giving me an awesome car to drive.
Denver was the start of the Western swing, so if a runner-up finish at the beginning is any indication of what is going to happen next, I’m really excited to finish the tour. Hopefully we’ll have a couple of more great weekends, and not just on the race track!