The Driver Suit Blog-My Annual Summer Tradition

scan - CopyBy David G. Firestone

To say our country has had a dark week would be an understatement. Between the senseless deaths of Philando Castile in Falcon Heights Minnesota, and Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and the Dallas Police Officers who were senselessly gunned down by a madman, our country has had a dark cloud hanging over it for a week. Sadly, not even motorsports could escape from this dark cloud, as long time Champ Car owner Carl Haas, of Newman/Haas Racing, and long time funny car driver Chuck Etchells also passed away this week.

These dark clouds were all around myself and the rest of the country, but for Chicago area motorsports fans, the dark clouds lifted over Route 66 Raceway, where the K&N Filters Route 66 Nationals took place this last weekend. I went on Saturday to the event, and I had a great time as I always do. It’s become my annual summer tradition.

I praise the NHRA for being about the fans, and though I disagree with some of their recent decisions, the fan experience at the track is great! Fans can meet the drivers, get autographs, get pictures, for no extra cost, other than ticket price. No other form of racing that I’m aware of allows this, at least not on the national level, for free. It’s a great value, and a fun way to spend the day! I spent most of my time getting autographs and meeting drivers.

2016 marks the 50th Anniversary of the Funny Car class in the NHRA, and there were four beautiful vintage funny cars on display. The first of which is the “43 Jr.,” a 1965 Plymouth Barracuda which Richard Petty raced in 1965 and early 1966, after NASCAR banned Plymouth for their successful Hemi engine, 2016 Route 66 Nationals-4One of the first flip-top Funny Cars, Pete Gates 1966 Mercury Comet “Gate Job,” 2016 Route 66 Nationals-5The legendary “Chi-Town Hustler,” a 1969 Dodge Charger 2016 Route 66 Nationals-6and Arnie “The Farmer” Bestwick’s 1966 Pontiac GTO.2016 Route 66 Nationals-7 These are four very beautiful cars, in the perfect setting imaginable.

As I’ve discussed on The Driver Suit Blog in months past, I’m against taking selfies, unless there is a reason to take them. I consider meeting race car drivers a very valid reason to take selfies. There are drivers I like who I didn’t get the chance in years past, and I decided to get those selfies, and while I didn’t get every one I wanted to, I did get: John Hale, 2016 Route 66 Nationals-42 2016 Route 66 Nationals-43Antron Brown, 2016 Route 66 Nationals-44Terry McMillen, 2016 Route 66 Nationals-45Hector Arana Sr. and Hector Arana Jr.,2016 Route 66 Nationals-46 Clay Millican, 2016 Route 66 Nationals-51Angelle Sampey, 2016 Route 66 Nationals-47Robert Hight, 2016 Route 66 Nationals-48Leah Pritchett, 2016 Route 66 Nationals-49and perennial Driver Suit Blog favorites TJ Zizzo,2016 Route 66 Nationals-41 and “Fast” Jack Beckman.2016 Route 66 Nationals-50

As is the case with these events, I brought items to get autographs on. I brought my TJ Zizzo pilot chute, and got Hector Arana Sr., Hector Arana Jr., Clay Millican, Terry McMillen, Leah Pritchett, and Jack Beckman.  zizzopilotchute-1 zizzopilotchute-2 zizzopilotchute-3 zizzopilotchute-4 zizzopilotchute-5 zizzopilotchute-6 zizzopilotchute-7 zizzopilotchute-8I brought a pair of John Hale Gloves, and got them signed by him.halegloves-1 halegloves-2 halegloves-3 halegloves-6 halegloves-9 halegloves-12 Finally, I brought my Bristol #1 Qualifyer hat, and got it signed by John Hale, Antron Brown, Terry McMillen, Hector Arana Sr. and Clay Millican, Hector Arana Jr., Angelle Sampey, Robert Hight, Leah Pritchett, and perennial Driver Suit Blog favorites TJ Zizzo, and “Fast” Jack Beckman.nhrahat1-1 nhrahat1-2 nhrahat1-3 nhrahat1-5 nhrahat1-6 nhrahat1-7

As the professional categories started their third qualifying round, I made my way to the stands to test out my new camera. I upgraded from a Nikon COOLPIX S100 to a Nikon COOLPIX L840. The L840 is a great camera, which I quickly discovered. I snapped this pic of the Sunoco Vision from my seat zoomed in, 2016 Route 66 Nationals-9and then I snapped one from my seat zoomed out. 2016 Route 66 Nationals-10Can’t see the screen, here it is.2016 Route 66 Nationals-10 - CopyI then snapped a series of pictures of the racing action using the zoom, and ALL of them look good! 2016 Route 66 Nationals-11 2016 Route 66 Nationals-33 2016 Route 66 Nationals-32 2016 Route 66 Nationals-31 2016 Route 66 Nationals-30 2016 Route 66 Nationals-29 2016 Route 66 Nationals-28 2016 Route 66 Nationals-27 2016 Route 66 Nationals-26 2016 Route 66 Nationals-25 2016 Route 66 Nationals-24 2016 Route 66 Nationals-23 2016 Route 66 Nationals-22 2016 Route 66 Nationals-21 2016 Route 66 Nationals-20 2016 Route 66 Nationals-019 2016 Route 66 Nationals-17 2016 Route 66 Nationals-14 2016 Route 66 Nationals-13 2016 Route 66 Nationals-12Bob Bode wished his wife/backup girl a happy birthday on his car.2016 Route 66 Nationals-34 2016 Route 66 Nationals-39 Oh to be a fly on the wall of this conversation!2016 Route 66 Nationals-40I also did a few videos of the action,

and I tried to use the slo-mo feature on my iPhone. It didn’t work as well as I would have hoped…

If you have a chance to make it to an NHRA National event, I suggest you go, it’s worth the trip, and worth the tickets! One last thing, I learned before I went to the track that my favorite Pro Stock driver V Gaines decided to retire from racing, because the fun has gone away for him. I’m sad, I liked Gaines a lot, and he will be missed dearly. On behalf of the NHRA fans…YABBA DABBA DOO, old friend, YABBA DABBA DOO!2015-7-12-NHRA-gaines

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