Sunday, December 02, 2007

Team California's Best is Honored & Ford Takes the Day

What a great weekend at Thunderhill we had. Let me begin by saying, I just got home and it's been a long day but even though it has only been a weekend it was packed with adventure, fun, drama, excitement and more. But then again, what's new about that when talking about Team CBR?

Mention the 25 Hours of Thunderhill and everyone on Team CBR will tell you it's special. It may be hard to understand but because we have worked so hard in so many of the big endurance races at Thunderhill especially the 25, and because of our success there, it has a very special place in out hearts. And even though we didn't run this year's 25 Hours of Thunderhill those same emotions and feelings coursed thru our veins when Lucky hit the track.

Team California's Best Racing and Lucky were invited to fill a very prestigious role in this years 25 Hours of Thunderhill as the honorary pace car of the event. Being asked to fill such a role considering it is sponsored by the United States Air Force is more than humbling and what a great honor it is for each of us. Team California's Best Racing would like to express our sincere thank you to NASA and the United States Air Force for allowing us to take part in one of racing's most prestigious events and a special thank you to national director, Jerry Kunzman.

Saturday morning began with Lucky taking numerous VIPs for some laps around the track. I was having so much fun I almost got a spanking but hey, what are race cars made for? Then Lucky was parked before a very large field of very fast cars on what could possibly have been the most beautiful first day of any 25 Hours of Thunderhill. As we led the field two times around the track I was extremely happy that my son in law Anthony was riding with me. Anthony had spent days, weeks and months helping get Lucky ready before the La Carrera adventure and yet didn't get to come along so this was a small token of appreciation to say job well done. My son Will was acting race director therefore he had other responsibilities to attend to.

One of the big highlights for everyone when attending the 25 Hours of Thunderhill is getting to watch the United States Air Force Honor Guard while the bagpipes are played as they march the full length of the hot pits and this year we were also honored with the presence of the Boy Scouts of America Honor Guard as well. When these men and women march there is a lot of lumps in people's throats being swallowed and rightfully so. What an honor it truly is to be part of such an awesome event.

After the race began we were asked to put Lucky on display in front of the main building where he was supposed to stay until the end of the race where the winning car would be brought for victory circle and photos yet another great photo op. There were several magazines like Car & Driver, Road & Track and others not to mention several Auto TV shows such as SPEED TV and others. One of the highlights was when the Air Force man and women came to get their photos taken with Lucky and the crew. They are amazing people and I just can't imagine the 25 without them and without them who knows... there may not even be racing. California's Best Racing wishes to say Thank You to the United States Air Force and all other men and women of the United States service branches.

Typically the 25 Hours of Thunderhill is not a place where I can go to unwind or relax as it is so easy to get caught up in the never-ending excitement of endurance racing at it's best. The tension is high as cars begin the first lap and it never lets up until each car takes the checkered flag 25 hours later. Strategies begin to take place, drama begins to unfold, and just when things look like there all OK... $#*! begins to happen! There was a LOT of carnage which is to be expected with this length of race considering the different classes and speeds of cars not to mention the weather and so on. If there is ever anything good to say about about carnage it can be said this year it was mostly because of cars breaking and not because of contact. Of course there was some "rubbing" but that too is something that requires patience, an attribute some didn't seem to have and if they didn't.... their cars didn't last 25 hours.

Speaking of unwinding... this was the very first time I was able to attend the 25 Hours of Thunderhill and truly relax. One of the best things about NASA is that NASA has always been a family thing. Whole families come to these events to take part in all that goes on and there is so much more than just racing and I was more than happy to enjoy that part of NASA racing as well. I found lots of time to walk around the hot pits, observe teams, shake hands, talk about our recent escape to Mexico, meet up with old friends some from all over the U.S. and I got to observe some seriously awesome hardware being raced as well. The 25 Hours of Thunderhill is not some small get together for some local guys... this is as serious as it gets and it just keeps getting better every year.

Besides spending time with the crew of California's Best Racing team and their families, I was able to enjoy my own family which as any racer can tell you is easier said than done during the 25. Besides my wife and my own children I got to spend plenty of time with my very special grandson Tyler whom is 18 months young. We got to color, play on the swings and a lot more. Like I said NASA is all about family and NASA goes above and beyond to make sure it stays that way by making sure there is something to be enjoyed by everyone of all ages. Speaking of race cars and kids, Tyler found out what he really loves to do is drive Grandpa's truck around the paddock, albeit with grandpa holding the wheel. The downside is that now every time we get into a car he reaches over and grabs the shifter. Oh well, they gotta start sometime, right?

There was another first for Team California's Best Racing this weekend... We all went to dinner and spent the night in nice warm hotel beds while Lucky stayed on display for the night. As a matter of fact I probably would have slept another 3 hours but Will called me out of a deep sleep with some alarming news. Keep in mind that Saturday's weather was the best ever with clear blue skies and I thought Will was pulling a gag on me when he said, "Dad, we had to move Lucky under the awning with the picnic tables because it beginning to snow last night!" As it turns out he wasn't kidding. While my crew and I were asleep in our warm beds in the middle of the night it got so cold that at the first hint of rain it began to snow. I jumped out of bed and headed back to the track but luckily the snow didn't last long.

I always seem to find some irony where ever I go and this weekend was no different. When I got ready to come home today there was a pickup parked next to my truck and it had several bicycles in the back. Since we always bring a bike with us normally they wouldn't have even caught my attention but these were Sting-Rays like the ones I had as a young boy with the ape hanger handle bars, banana seats, the really cool custom rear fender and even the racing slick. It was those very bikes that satisfied my "racing" needs until I had a go-cart. It seems that no matter how old we get, we never lose sight of what cool is all about and I just stood there for a few minutes remembering how bad I wanted one of those back when my buddies and I used to stare and dream at them in the store windows. Now after all these years I find myself standing at the track still looking. The only difference is it's no longer bicycles.

Hey, speaking of toys and Fords both of which are often used in the same sentence at race tracks, there were several VERY cool Fords at this event. The cars I am speaking of are the all new Mustang FR500S which is the cornerstone vehicle of the Ford Racing Mustang Challenge for the Miller Cup racing series, which debuts on race tracks across North America in 2008. And here is some awesome trivia for you... The limited-edition FR500S are the first race car in Ford Motor Company’s history to be built at a production facility and then made available for racers to purchase through the Ford Racing Performance Parts catalog and at authorized Ford Racing dealers. I got to spend some time with the two teams and was able to watch them run an awesome race and considering they were unfamiliar with the track they had a very respectable showing winning first and second in their perspective class and taking 4th and 5th overall. We will be seeing a lot more of Ford's new toy and they paid a lot of very nice compliments to Lucky as well but then again Lucky was the star this weekend. I had to smile when I noticed their new driving suits were exactly like the ones Jon and I have not to mention the similarities of their new quater windows that look to be very much like the ones I designed before their car even came out. Hmmmm.

It seems Ford and Lucky were synonymous with winning this weekend considering the Ford name ended up being in the lime-light for much of the awards ceremony. When all was said and done it was a Ford Daytona Prototype that took the highest honors. After the checkered flag Paralax Racing's Ford Daytona Prototype was taken to be parked next to Lucky in front of the lobby where the awards ceremony was held. Not only was I very impressed with Team Paralax's clean driving but they were extremely considerate sportsman and they even asked if they could have Lucky parked closer to their car while on display for photos and TV.

The 25 Hours of Thunderhill typically ends California's Best Racing season for the year and so with Lucky back home it will be time to perform maintenance checks and get Lucky prepped for the upcoming endurance series. There are some changes that I will be making since there are some La Carrera rules that no longer apply.


ortizgarage said...

Congratulations to the California best team!

Jeff said...

was great too see it drive Gary. Glad we could help on the brakes. Will be nice to see it race more next year.