Greetings to all on yet another Thursday. Elon Werner has submitted a great installment that really takes you into the nitty gritty of what people like him (and me, before I retired) go through to get a big event worked out, plotted out, and executed perfectly.
Reading this took me back to my days with Worsham Racing, when we’d race at the Checker, Schuck’s, Kragen Nationals in Phoenix. It was a marathon every year, but we got used to it and never missed a beat as long as they sponsored us and the event. We’d get in on Tuesday and have media work, displays, and other events set up until late on Thursday night. My day-to-day contact at CSK, my friend the late Joe Spica, used to say, “We’re going to run you ragged for a few days but after Thursday night it’s over. Once we get done with that, you guys can focus on racing.” It always worked, and we won the CSK Nationals twice.
So what you read below will give you a flavor for what pros like Elon go through to make the magic happen. It’s great stuff.
As for an update on my new book “How Far?” here you go. I have roughly three weeks to get the manuscript done and fired off to my publisher. Today, rather than write Chapter 36 I instead plotted out how much I have left and what each remaining chapter will be about. Basically, I have nine chapters to write in the next three weeks. It doesn’t matter if I feel up to it. I have to be up to it. I have to get this done. It looks like it’s going to be around 44 chapters, as of this moment. I hope it’s worth the read…
And if you even slightly like this blog, clicking on the “Like” button at the bottom would be appreciated.
Last weekend in Charlotte, at the NGK NTK Four-Wide Nationals, I had one of those races where I hit the ground running on Thursday and I felt like I never took my foot off the gas until Sunday night. I was involved with three press events, a car unveiling, and I worked with an amazing charity organization all before the second round of qualifying started on Saturday. It was also a four-wide event so the racing action was fast and furious. This was the kind of event that made me really love my job because I got to see a lot of pre-event planning come together.
On Thursday, Kalitta Motorsports hosted NASCAR drivers Bubba Wallace and Daniel Hemric for a full day of racing activities that started at the Toyota Racing Development (TRD) office outside of Charlotte. The event was a Toyota Racing cross-over event put together by Golin PR, the massive global PR firm that handles all of Toyota’s public relations needs and activities. This PR group is the all-star of all-star teams led by Lisa Hughes-Kennedy and Cody Poor. Cody used to be on the NHRA tour as Kalitta Motorsports’ PR guy. They put the entire event together and I was able to float around and help keep the trains running on time.
At TRD our drivers, Shawn Langdon and J.R. Todd, got some seat time in the NASCAR simulator which was as real as it gets when it comes to giving a driver the experience of turning laps at almost 200 mph. The mapping of the race tracks was exact down to every bump on the course. The seat was on hydraulics which gave you the sensation of movement and the screen was the complete wrap-around version so you felt like you were in a race car or truck making laps. By the time drivers climbed out of the simulator after a couple of hours they were drenched in sweat.
From TRD the group made its way to zMAX Dragway where Daniel and Bubba were given a pit tour of the DHL Kalitta Air Top Fuel operation by Shawn. Daniel and Bubba had a ton of questions and they were really into learning about what it was like to go 330 mph. As part of the experience we had Daniel climb into Shawn’s dragster and the team let him warm up the race car. Shawn was right by his side giving him instructions on the procedure for the warm-up. As the fumes from the nitro cloud settled around all the media, PR reps and drivers, there were more than a few runny noses and wet eyes in the crowd.
From the DHL Top Fuel pit we made our way to J.R.’s DHL Toyota Camry Funny Car pit. Getting the group to move from one pit to the other was a bit of a production. The Golin folks had lined up a film crew from “NASCAR On FOX” as well as a crew from “NHRA on FOX” and there were a number of local TV stations covering the event. There was also an 11-person crew from Netflix who were following Bubba around for his upcoming six-episode Netflix series coming out in 2022. In addition, there were social media people, crew guys and reporters from RACER Magazine, The Athletic, RacinToday.com and a few other outlets. It was a huge crowd and filled up just about every inch of the pits.
J.R. gave Bubba the run-down on the Toyota Camry Funny Car and how sitting behind the motor sometimes can get interesting when it came to motor explosions. Bubba also got his chance to run through the paces of a warm-up and J.R. was right beside him giving him tips and instruction. Again, the nitro cloud gassed everyone out and Bubba definitely got a snoot full. He scampered out of the cockpit in record time trying to find some clean air to refill his lungs. He loved the experience and afterward Bubba and Daniel talked to the media gaggle about how cool it was to get to experience something like this.
The four drivers all went up to the starting line for a special treat that included Shawn and J.R. doing side-by-side burnouts in their respective race cars. Bubba and Daniel were positioned right between them on the starting line. Chad Head, the Kalitta General Manager, told our drivers to go ahead and do longer than normal burnouts since we wouldn’t be making a run afterwards. J.R. and Shawn both really put on a show taking their race cars well past half-track to the delight of everyone on the starting line. Bubba and Daniel were visibly surprised by the power they felt through the ground just from the two burnouts.
We pulled the race cars back to the starting line and the crews towed them back to the pits. The drivers all stayed because the final experience of the day was a four-wide race in Toyota Supras. J.R. and Shawn walked the NASCAR guys through the staging process and each of them said they felt comfortable with the Christmas Tree. We had to spend a little extra time on the starting line to allow for the Netflix crew to get just the right shots and positioning. Those kinds of hold-ups took me right back to my time with John Force Racing when we had the A&E reality show “Driving Force.”
The drivers hopped into their Supras and rolled them up to the starting line. In a surprise outcome, Bubba had a pretty good reaction time and he took the win and trophy. There was plenty of ribbing afterwards as Bubba talked about getting the best of the NHRA drivers.
After the NASCAR guys took off, the Kalitta drivers rolled right into the sponsor customer race with NGK and NTK Spark Plugs guests. They were racing Toyota Camrys. Each customer was allowed a couple qualifying runs and then they went right into eliminations. J.R. and Shawn were giving starting line tips and then they each raced the finalist. It was a long but productive day and the race hadn’t event started yet.
The next day I had an even busier day because I had a Kalitta event which led right up to a Justin Ashley Racing event. NASCAR driver and owner of Rowdy Energy drink, Kyle Busch, came to the track to spend time with the Kalitta drivers before the qualifying session started. He hopped in J.R.’s Funny Car and warmed it up. The group talked with another sizable group of media about NASCAR versus NHRA and also about the Rowdy Energy drink and Kalitta Motorsports sponsorship. After the warm-up, all the drivers went to the zMAX Dragway media center for another media gathering.
Prior to that press event I was conducting a sponsorship announcement with Justin Ashley and his new primary sponsor Smart Sanitizer in the media center. Smart Sanitizer would be joining Strutmasters.com as co-primary sponsors for the rest of the season on Justin’s Top Fuel dragster. We had a packed press room for the announcement and the event went off without a hitch. There were a number of great questions from the media about the sponsorship and most importantly we got a lot of info about Justin Ashley to the media.
Before the first qualifying session, we unveiled Justin’s new look Top Fuel dragster. His team did an amazing job designing the look of the race car as well as getting his hauler redesigned and new uniform shirts and a new firesuit. They got this all done in less than two weeks which is record-setting. We were able to work with the NHRA marketing department to get a break in the action before Justin ran, to have Joe Castello, the NHRA starting line announcer, get the crowd fired up about the announcement and then we did the actual unveiling.
The crowd loved it and the Smart Sanitizer people were very impressed. They also have a sponsorship relationship with a NASCAR team but they were blown away by everything they saw at the Four-Wide Nationals. They were so impressed they are coming back to the SpringNationals this weekend in Houston.
With all those events behind me I still had a few major off-track events to coordinate. Saturday morning Kalitta Motorsports was hosting Camden Nobles and his family at the track, as part of our relationship with a great organization called A Kid Again.
Camden, a 12-year-old from the Charlotte area, is battling an illness that prevents him from participating in contact sports, among other issues. The A Kid Again organization hosts “Adventures” for kids suffering from life threatening illnesses, and their families get to experience it with them. We had arranged for an 11:30 a.m. full pit tour with the drivers as well as some seat time for Camden and his sister Bliss in the race cars.
At 10:30 a.m. Doug Kalitta came through the hospitality area and saw Camden and immediately started chatting him up. He took Camden over to J.R.’s Funny Car and began telling all about how the car worked. They had a great conversation and Doug helped Camden get into the cockpit and he walked him through all the pedals and controls. He also did the same thing with Camden’s sister Bliss. It was really cool to see but it was also way ahead of schedule. When 11:30 rolled around Doug had spent about an hour with the kids showing them everything I had planned to show them with all the drivers. It all worked out and we got some great photos but most importantly Camden and his family had a wonderful time. Schedules are really just like a goal sheet anyway.
Following that event we were able to focus on racing and regular sponsor activations, like “meet and greets” and “Q&As” in the hospitality area. The race went off without a hitch and it was great to see J.R. get a runner-up in the DHL Toyota Funny Car. The weekend was a blur but it was a good kind of blur.
On to Houston this weekend where we will be battling Mother Nature. I will pack my Camping World rain coat and hope for the best.
Thanks for reading, everyone!