“Chaplains Blog Book … Firebird Division 1, June 2009… Part I”
Jim & Linda Jack
With the Chowchilla race being canceled this year (along with the Memorial weekend Red Bluff, CA “Nitro Nationals) the West Coast was getting a little discouraged about the IHBA drag boat races for this year. With all the talk of Lucas Oil stepping up to the plate it seemed the racing world was ready to sprout, not be caught up in a drought.
But thanks to the IHBA, and Firebird Raceway, the IHBA Division 1 sportsman racers were granted a reprieve of sorts…ya’ll come on down to Chandler Arizona and race in the desert and have some fun, in the Valley of the Sun.
So armed with summer clothes, and no racing woes, the Division 1 guys and gals got to play in the desert and here’s how it goes. It was only semi-hot, but don’t let the racers tell you it was not, the weather in Arizona this time of year is starting to warm up, so the racers had to deal with some blazing sunshine while sitting in their blazing saddles. Actually it wasn’t until Sunday afternoon that the thermometer finally registered just over the 100 degree mark, actually quite nice for Phoenix this time of year…believe it or not!
One thing about racers, you put on a race, they’ll show up, rain, sleet or summer heat, these die-hards come prepared to see who they can beat. Its fun and games in the pits out back, but its business as usual when on the racetrack.
Seeing as how there were no Professional boats this time around, a laid-back test and tune was sure to abound. The motors were hot; the drivers were on the spot, to show what they got, with runs right on the dot.
We’re close to home once again, where the short drive is never a pain. You see we were hanging around the raceway, hoping something cool would happen here today, and if you read on, I’ll simply tell you what I have to say.
Friday’s Test & Tune had many of the forty boats at Firebird ready to test the “smooth water” on Firebird Lake. There were even a couple of alcohol boats on hand to get in some runs too. Bob Pizza brought out his “What a Tomato” TAH from Danville, CA to see if he could get Wichita, KS driver Joel Weber licensed again in the TAH category. Joel is a former champion that has been out of the seat for ten years. Bob ran a 5.93 at 204 mph before he turned the wheel over to Joel for a test spin.
During that ten year lay off period, Joel and his wife Shamone have been raising their ten year old twin boys Jaryd and Chase. The boys flew out with Joel to watch him race for the very first time in their lives. Let me tell you, these two boys are great young men…straight “A” students, well behaved, courteous, and just plain nice boys. I played Frisbee with them, and even let them drive the RFC golf cart while their dad was playing with Bob’s TAH. Joel shut off on the first run when it headed for the center buoys, and ran a shut off 6.17 at 145.06 mph on the second run. It was great to see Joel at the races, and it looks like he may drive for Bob this summer.
Fred and Mary Hart had their “Justice” TAF out for a couple of test runs over the weekend. On Saturday, they broke the blower snout at half track and on Sunday they made it to about nine hundred feet after a pretty good launch. It’s always nice to see our neighbors at the racetrack. Queen Creek, AZ is fortunate to have these two.
Vic Esposito “Freak Show” Pro Mod (a good friend of Bob Pizza) broke a transmission on Friday and Vic sneaked into Bob Pizza’s trailer and grabbed another tranny to keep his hopes alive for the weekend.
Stan and Juanita Tweedy have two new additions to their team. A nice new trailer with living quarters and a new German shepherd guard dog (puppy) named Kurtis…apply named after Stan’s Kurtis Kraft hull. Stop by and check out both newbie’s when you can?
Tom Wedic, from Tucson, AZ (who crashed his old boat at the 2007 IHBA Finals) also had some new iron out for this race; his new jet boat “The Real Deal” runs in ME class. The new hull ran really well all weekend and Tom was pleased (it’s a keeper for sure), as I could see a big smile on his face after four shake down runs on Friday. Tom was just a little apprehensive at first, but his confidence was soon back, and he went two rounds too. Tom brought along his Great Dane Goldie who is big enough to ride…no kidding!
Pro Mod had four good boats and they were close in qualifying with Vic Esposito number one at 7.01, then Shawn Reed at 7.11, Scott Sawinski and Tim Kelly both at 7.12. Vic went red in the first round, Shawn’s boat wouldn’t start and that left Tim and Scott to battle it out for the title. Tim Kelly and his “Alter Ego” getting his first ever career win and it came in only his third race in Pro Mod. Tim had a .003 light and ran a 7.09 for the final.
The PE class was the biggest for the weekend with ten boats and all of them were contenders. Allen Forsyth qualified number one with an 8.03 followed by eventual winner Gary Davis at 8.051 and Tom Roberts with an 8.053. Gary took the win even though Allen Forsyth had a big startling line advantage in the final, but the kill switch came off at half track and Allen could not make up the ground to catch Gary. By the way, Gary’s son Brandon gave him a great father’s day present by taking runner-up in the gambler to BP in Gary’s “Centsless” PE.
The PE class was shocked Sunday morning to hear the sad news that Jim Tucker “Say When” was fatally injured at a race in St. Louis on Saturday afternoon. Jim was the 2008 IHBA World Finals winner in the always tough PE class. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Jim’s wife Yvonne and their family…and our drag boat family as well.
TE had some close qualifying with Jeff Vail ending up first with a 9.01 followed by Bill McGuinn at 9.045 and Stan Tweedy at 9.048. Stan is back for sure, as he took the win over Jeff Vail.
BP was number one qualifier in ME at 10.05 with Ron Baker second (and runner-up) at 10.08, as BP won this one too.
SE found Jay Johnston first with an 11.07 and Bobby Laster second with an 11.16 and then Jay beat Bobby in the final. Jeremy Denny got by Roger Sayles in RR. And the only incident of the weekend was when Joe McLemore rolled his RR outboard “Water Bird” into the Firebird water in the shutdown area as he was heading for the out ramp. Elizabeth Sayles won for the second straight race in PWC beating Mary Silva.
It’s always great to have a home town race for us (we’re twenty minutes from Firebird), but unfortunately, the Jack’s Bed & Breakfast was without any borders this time. Its first come, first served at our Gilbert, AZ “B & B.” All you need is a reservation.
I can tell you one interesting fact that stood out in my mind for this event. This was literally the smallest race I’ve ever been to in over fifty years of racing, but it was fun and we enjoyed it, and it gave me a chance to visit (and do some training) with two new chaplains and a couple of prospective chaplains as well. On Sunday morning, we had twice as many people at chapel as there were boats. Pretty cool huh?
Tune in for Smooth Water part II of this event. “A Burning Heart…in the heat of the day,” because a heart hot for God is helpful for heaven’s human helpers. God bless ya’ll.