Sometimes it is the ‘little things’ that matter most

ost of you know that I have raced for over 35 years and during that time I always tried to win every race I was in. I have been lucky enough to win quite a few races. From national events to local trophy classes I have enjoyed just about every pass down the track. (The exceptions are probably the few times I have kicked the rods out of an engine during a pass…didn’t care for those runs too much.)

I can honestly tell you that this season was one of the most satisfying race seasons I have ever had. Did I win more races than before? No. Did I win my first track championship? No. Did I win more money than I ever had before? No. So, what was it that made this year so special? It will take a little story to tell you and I think it is worth the read.

(Mike Garland photo)

I started driving Nick Jeffrey’s Olds Cutlass in late 2008. In two years I would have to say we have become great friends and have found that we both love this sport and can’t wait for the next race date. He had to park the car due to health issues and since our combined age is just about 120 years, we decided we better “get to it.” We had a goal to have fun, do wheelies and burn the tires off it with that stout small-block Olds engine he had in it. That was pretty easy and we usually left the track each day smiling.

We planned on running without the delay box, which for me would mean bracket racing a different way for the first time in years -- NO BOX! I pretty much couldn’t get out of my own way in 2009 as we tried just foot-braking. I got a quick education from the boys.

In 2010 we decided to use the transbrake and run off the bottom bulb. I figured to give myself the best chance of having some success I’d better get an education. I attended the first class of the Scotty Richardson Drag Racing School while I was in Florida. It was an eye-opener and pretty much changed how I have raced ever since.

The season started off pretty well when we went some rounds the first couple races. The car was absolutely deadly and repeating ETs far better than I was driving. I picked it up and we got Nick his first No Box race win a few weeks later and we took a good jump in the track points. The competition in the No Box (Pro) bracket is very competitive, as are most local tracks points chases. We ended up winning the track championship but it wasn’t until the semifinals of the very last points race we knew for sure.

The one racer who could catch us had to win the No Box bracket and then win the Box vs No Box runoff to pass us. I thought I had it figured out, but then I noticed Nick had a notebook with him and was “working the numbers” every round. When we knew we had won the track’s No-Box championship it was probably my proudest racing moment, especially when I saw that big smile on Nick’s face. I know what he was thinking: ”My Olds just beat all those Chevys and Mopars!”

When we sat down and realized how much that track championship meant to Nick I knew I had to write a column about it eventually. It proved to me that in my life, his life and everyone’s life it is “the little things that matter most.” This was one of the little things in life that will be a great memory for us to share forever.I want to thank Nick in this column for the opportunity he has given me to drive a really fun and very competitive racecar. You da man, Nick! We capped off that day with a Race of Champions where the bracket champs race each other and the winner gets a Gold Card for 2011. Guess what? We ain’t paying entry fees in 2011 … and it took about two days for Nick to quit grinning!

It proved to me that this sport has so much to offer everyone. I know everyone won’t win a track championship or even a race, but in the long haul that isn’t what really matters. It is all about the people you meet, the people you compete against, and the experiences you can have in an environment where everyone enjoys doing the same thing you enjoy, drag racing. I will never forget 2010 and the great competition and new friends we made. Another championship may never come my way and I am OK with that. I don’t think this is my last title or big win. I guess that’s why we load it up every week and go to the track, to find out one way or the other.

The experiences of 2010 have led me to start a new business and partner up with Scotty Richardson to form the Grassroots Bracket Series. It is not a big money bracket series, actually the opposite of that. We have talked a lot about the importance of the local tracks and the local racers who do not travel. Sometimes it is a money thing that keeps them at the local track and sometimes they are lucky to have a great facility as their local track, like we are at Cedar Falls Raceway, and why travel when you have everything you need there?

The Grassroots Bracket Series will get a start in 2011 in a few regions across the country. In 2012 I think you will be able to attend a Grassroots Bracket Series event no matter where you live. We have some great plans for the little guys in drag racing. I hope you will stay tuned and see what we can do if we all work together with the same goal, to make drag racing more fun and more affordable.