the last word w/Aaron Polburn

Thoughts on SammyDogs … and Talladega




For those of you who raced IHRA National and Divisional events throughout the years, the sight of IHRA official Sam Kearns was a part of your experience -- whether you wanted it or not. Sam may have parked you at 3 a.m. or he may have pulled you out of the staging lanes. Sammy would tell you he had an MBA in Redneck. The truth was it was closer to a PhD.


A few weeks ago I was watching the news and they ran a piece on the Redneck Olympics. The first thing I thought of was Sam. If there ever was a gold medal winner in waiting it was Sammy. I fought the urge to secretly enter him under Team IHRA. I could see it clear as day: Sam would take the podium and officials would place a golden deer antler around his neck as Lynyrd Skynyrd played the Greatest Hits of the Confederacy. Why was I so sure of his redneck DNA? Read on.


Sam was rooming with IHRA Event Director, Satch Gragg. Sam comes out of the bathroom and says, “You are not going to believe this but they have a mirror defroster in there.” Satch replies, “Sam I believe that is a hair dryer.” Sam’s final words were, “Yeah, I suppose you could use it for that too.”


When we were at Milan, Sam went into a Cabela’s. He was looking at some night scopes that were priced between $200-$300. When a clerk asked Sam if he needed help Sam asked why they are so expensive when back home they were $9.95? The clerk was dumbfounded until Sam explained his night scope consisted of a Maglite Flashlight attached to his gun with electric tape.


Sam also believed the per person limit for deer hunting in his home state was 42 deer. And just in case, he had 300 rounds of ammunition under the seat of his mobile deer stand that also did duty as his pickup truck.


Sam still attends some IHRA events and his ever-present smile and words of wisdom remind us why we had so much fun at IHRA. Thanks, my friend.




To this day I still get asked about my dogs at least once a week. I am not sure what the common thread is between drag racers and dogs but my K-9 columns were always some of the most well-read. After having gone dog-less for two years I am now the proud owner of a plott hound. It is a rescue dog and is the Official Dog (I’m not kidding) of North Carolina. It is bred to hunt bear and wild boar which have become a menace in Ashland, Ohio. OK that’s a little stretch.


If you discount the possum, raccoon and skunk he has fearlessly placed on my doorstep, his greatest talent seems to be trying every piece of furniture until he finds the right softness for his 22-hour naps. His name is Ninja because the breed has been described as the Ninja Warrior of Dogs. I resisted my second choice Harry……Plotter. The arrival of Ninja also gives me the chance to pass along dog wisdom. Enjoy.


-Don’t accept your dog’s admiration as conclusive evidence that you are wonderful.

-A dog teaches a boy fidelity, perseverance, and to turn around three times before lying down.

-If your dog is fat, you aren’t getting enough exercise.

-There is no psychiatrist in the world like a puppy licking your face.

-I wonder what goes through a dog’s mind when he sees us peeing in his water bowl?




Last Sunday I decided to watch Talladega and the NHRA Texas Nationals in lieu of the Cleveland Browns. Tough choice given the last Browns victory was about the same time bottled water was invented. Here is what I learned.


I watched Talladega because I knew I would see a big crash and I am a Dale Jr. fan. I saw several crashes that resulted in down time that had to drive the biggest TV audience the race had seen in five years absolutely nuts. Trying to follow the NASCAR playoff scenario required an advance degree in quantum physics. When you start with 40-plus cars and about 14 remain for the checkered flag, something is wrong.


The NHRA race went long for the same reasons. I did find it more palatable probably because the playoff system was easier to understand and there were some pretty good story lines. Still, it was hard to invest that much time in a TV show.


But in the end I was pretty entertained and that’s all I can ask for. And it sure as hell was better than watching the Cleveland Browns.




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