Hi, race fans. March was a busy month for us and almost too busy for me to blog. But since this is an off-weekend for us, I can tell you all about my trip to see Jay Leno and American Idol.
In my Gainesville winner’s speech, I thanked the women of the program because they let us chase our dreams of racing. Sometimes we get caught up in this sport because we just love what we do. There’s a huge price the women of the sport have to pay, and we couldn’t do it without them.
My wife, Terri, and my crew chief, Chris Cunningham, and his wife, Shelia, scheduled a trip to Los Angeles before the Gainesville race. Chris and I were trying to think of something cool for our wives for Valentine’s Day. So, Chris and I thought going to see American Idol would be fun. One thing led to another, and through the brilliant efforts of the people at Ford and Motorcraft, we were able to take a pretty neat tour of not only American Idol, but we went to The Tonight Show on Monday night, met Jay Leno, and gave him a helmet. That was real special; I’ve never been to anything like that.
Elisabeth Hasselbeck was one of Jay’s guests that night, and she’s from Cranston, R.I., believe it or not, where I’m from. We talked with Elisabeth after the taping about home, and she knew Tasca Ford as soon as I said my name. Before we left that night, I gave Jay one of my Motorcraft/Quick Lane helmets. It was pretty cool because he knew who we were, he loves drag racing, and he’s friends with John Force and Ashley Force Hood.
Tuesday morning, Jay knew we were touring his garage, and he had already taken the helmet down on Monday night after the show, so it would be on display when we arrived. I got there Tuesday morning. We got a first-class tour of Jay’s garage. What can I say about it? I think you could live there; all you needed was a mattress. It had a kitchen that was right out of something you would see in Las Vegas and the history of cars that he has there was beyond words. It was absolutely remarkable. Every car was registered, ready to go, and detailed to perfection.
In the other building, he had a complete restoration operation where he can restore a car from scratch and had all of the equipment needed. The people that he has working there, you can just tell, that that’s their passion. With Jay’s lifestyle and schedule and the incredible amount of hours that guy puts in, that’s his sanctuary where he goes to unwind and enjoy the fruits of his labors, his cars.
Then Tuesday evening it was off to American Idol. What was really cool, for me anyways, was to meet a lot of celebrities. It’s amazing how many people know drag racing, know and follow what we do as drivers. What was even more amazing, and it was a very interesting comment, the people who don’t know who we are, they know we go fast.
I met Simon Cowell, of all places, leaving the bathroom. We didn’t have a lot of time together because it was during a commercial break, but I introduced myself to Simon and he said, ‘Man, you guys go fast.’ That’s all he really knew, and I told him how fast we drive and he grabbed my arm and he said, ‘Impossible, I can’t even fathom that.’ I told him we go 300 mph, and he asked how long it took us to go 200 mph, and then I told him we go about 267 mph in about three seconds and he couldn’t believe it. That’s the reaction of people who really don’t know what we do; when we tell them what we do, they don’t believe. They can’t believe that an object can accelerate to 300 mph in four seconds flat. It’s pretty neat explaining it to people, and I have to be honest, I see these fuel cars come through the finish line, and I drive one, and I can’t believe there’s somebody in it, that’s how fast they are.
American Idol was an amazing experience, and I met all of the Idols backstage. A lot of them saw that I brought a Motorcraft/Quick Lane crew jersey with me. I had all 13 of them to sign it, which I’m going to get framed and put up in our shop in Charlotte. I invited Lil Rounds and her family to the Memphis race in October because that’s where they live. Hopefully she wins American Idol and will be too busy on the tour and won’t have time to come to the race. But even if she wins it and has time, we would love for her to come out with us and see what we do. Some of them were just as excited to meet me as I was to meet them, it just goes to show how far our sport is coming.