Tag Archives: Courtney Force

MEDIA MATTERS: What Happens in Vegas: ESPN2 Broadcasts

31 Mar

No secrets allowed; ESPN2 is here. Broadcasting the SummitRacing.com Nationals from the luxurious The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the ever-seeing camera eye snatched losers’ pained looks, too-close-to-call finishes and general drag racing mayhem. When David Grubnic two-stepped his Bounty Hunter Special dragster in the fourth pass of second round qualifying attempts, the camera caught the legendary Conrad Kalitta’s pained grimace looking every bit like one of his hoard of 747s had crashed.

How Conrad Kalitta looks when he is happy; celebrating a Top Fuel win with Doug Kalitta

How Conrad Kalitta looks when he is happy; celebrating a Top Fuel win with Doug Kalitta

Instead, what the grimaced expression signaled was misery; misery and despair that could only be solved by replacing Grubnic. What that look also revealed . . . this wasn’t just a hot-collared call. The pot appears to have been boiling prior to this mistake; much like a coach telling a player not to do something, and then the player immediately goes out and does it anyway, Grubnic got the bench. The pot boiling beneath the lid finally blew the lid off. Then the team released a quick press release indicating “. . . a change of direction . . . ” for the Kalitta team. A hurried call made to young up-and-comer, J.R. Todd, gaming it at home on an off weekend, worked a deal that had him in the cockpit Saturday. Nothing revealed on the travel front, but if a flight couldn’t be found in time, Kalitta Air could certainly come to service.

Color commentator, Mike Dunn, called the start-line problem a racing deal: “These things happen.” Lead announcer, David Rieff, added that Kalitta, the patriarch of the sport is “one successful man.” Starting in the year 2000 with three 747s, he now owns more than 22 of those beasts along with other aircraft. His air freight company exceed $400 million in revenue becoming one of the world’s largest 25 airline companies. He owns it 100 percent, a self-made success story extraordinaire. When driving for a racer like Kalitta, on the drag strip since the late 1950s,  a mistake is not likely to set well at all.

GEICO Top Fuel driver, Richie Crampton, to test after new Kalitta driver, JR Todd, left on him big time (photo by Mark J. Rebilas)

GEICO Top Fuel driver, Richie Crampton, to test after new Kalitta driver, JR Todd, left on him big time (photo by Mark J. Rebilas)

Grubnic’s side of the story? “This has been going on a while,” he said to Dunn, referring to talks about him sitting out of the racecar perhaps becoming a crew chief. The odds favor the remark could also refer to Kalitta’s displeasure in the friendly Aussie’s ability on the track.

The first round matchup of Todd vs. the GEICO/Lucas Oil Dragster piloted by newcomer, Richie Crampton became the Upset Alert, a gutsy call by Dunn as Todd had little experience in that racer and the outfitting of the seats and pedals all had to be done very quickly. Crampton had a miserable light. “I was dead late on the Tree,” Crampton said. “He ran an .82, which was a decent run. I’ve got a feeling we could’ve run a little better.”

Todd’s day ended in the second round though he had a decent run; benefiting was Steve Torrence in his Capco Contractors Dragster.

ESPN Sports Center carried the new national MPH trophy snatched by Courtney Force at 325; a one mph better record than dad, John Force, and a new track ET Record to go along with it. Unfortunately, Cruz Pedregon sent her home in the second round of eliminations without getting a backup time to secure the big speed trophy. The 16-time champion retains the record.

Alexis DeJoria's crew and other Kalitta Motorsport team members hit the jackpot in Vegas.

Alexis DeJoria’s crew and other Kalitta Motorsport team members hit the jackpot in Vegas.

For the second time this year, Robert Hight wheeled his Auto Club Mustang into the final round of Funny Cars but lost again to Alexis DeJoria’s Patron XO Cafe Camry in her second win of the year. She now has three Funny Car trophies. Earlier comments hinted at the good results when she said, “I feel really good about today.” She has been in the 2014 finals twice in four races thus far, sealing any questions if she is the real deal. The summer heat makes these beasts behave even more weirdly than normal, so her championship run won’t be easy as the season progresses. However, it is tough for all drivers. The Patron XO Cafe Camry has a decent shot to win the championship. Rieff summed it up with the two women starring in the weekend’s positive events: “The ladies are getting it done.” And DeJoria is a Kalitta Motorsports team member.

A championship burnout for Alexis DeJoria

A championship burnout for Alexis DeJoria

After only winning two rounds all year, Tony Shumacher’s U.S. Army entry passed Doug Kalitta’s Mac Tools Dragster in the track’s second half to take the win by a margin of victory that would just about equal Grubnic’s height: a little more than six feet. Kalitta Motorsports enjoyed a great day: one win, one final round and one new driver;  maybe a new crew chief with Grubnic, too.

Doug Kalitta at his Gator Nationals win (photo courtesy AP photo, LA Times "Sports Now")

Doug Kalitta at his Gator Nationals win (photo courtesy AP photo, LA Times “Sports Now”)

Veteran reporter Gary Gerould summed up the race in a comment he made at the broadcast’s opening: it’s a “. . . wacky weekend.” And a take-a-way lesson: don’t screw up a billionaire’s dragster dreams, or your jet will be parked.

 

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Snakes on a Drag Strip! Get “Snake and Mongoo$e” New DVD

24 Feb
A young Snake (Jesse Williams) gets the best award for winning; Ashley Hinshaw as Lynn Prudhomme

A Young Snake (Jesse Williams) Gets the Best Award for Winning: Ashley Hinshaw as Lynn Prudhomme

Fast friends yet arch rivals uncover the coming-of-age in the world of drag racing as seen through the eyes of two of the most famous drivers ever, Don “The Snake” Prudhomme and Tom “Mongoo$e” McEwen—yes, with a dollar sign. Their lives twist dramatically with a story that tears at the heart, unleashing feelings that go way deeper than an ultra quick lap down a drag strip.

The coolest college to snatch a degree in drag racing without ever covering a single lap . . . watch “Snake and Mongoo$e” over and over.  Study it, embrace it, drive it; the film is an archive treasure trove.

The full-size racing Funny Cars of the Hot Wheels era

The full-size racing Funny Cars of the Hot Wheels era

Each trip through this new DVD unveils dramatic action and historic film seamlessly woven into the plot revealing the inside of the world’s most popular professional motor sport.

The Snake pairing on the track against Mongoo$e pioneered modern racing sponsorship; this is their story. Wrapped around each nostalgia-laced scene coils thrill-a-minute flash-history lessons in how it happened, the personalities involved, plus the work and strife in the pits and their lives.

Patron Tequila Funny Car star, Alexia DeJoria, zaps a cameo, one of many best lines in this history-comes-to-the-big-screen. Strolling with a young Wally Parks (John Heard) founder of the professional sport of drag racing, she sultrily coos, “Watch out for snakes . . . .”

Don Prudhomme's Collection of Real Toys; Notice a Life Size Figurine of Him

Don Prudhomme’s Collection of Real Toys; Notice Snake Sitting on the ARMY Funny Car

They’re everywhere in this movie, those snakes and mongeese, both old and young. Interspersed with historic racing film clips, Snake and Mongoo$e drag racers Jesse Williams and Richard Blake, offer a realistic depiction how it had to be to live and race those roles. As a viewer one will be hard-pressed to distinguish the actors from the originals.

Alexia DeJoria Gives a Warning While Wally Parks (John Heard) Looks On.

Alexia DeJoria Gives a Warning While Wally Parks (John Heard) Looks On.

The character’s personalities come across just as they are in life: Prudhomme, the cool, collected but intense competitor. McEwen plays the playboy, loving every squeeze while creating a brilliant marketing strategy. His single idea led to a remarkable deal with Hot Wheels developing a Barbie-type franchise for racing. Today the novel idea still lives through tricked-out Traxxas remote-controlled models splashed on Courtney Force’s popular NHRA Funny Car.

How these two drivers ever managed to get along without killing one another racks fodder for a sequel. Mongoo$e, just like his namesake in the desert or on the track, seems to get the jump on the start. His prankish ways drove his partner nuts.

Snake's English Leather Hot Rod

Snake’s English Leather Hot Rod

Meanwhile, Snake’s mechanical acumen became his competitive tool, twisted like a Dairy Queen with his cool breeze. Cameos spice this movie such as the movie star character Prudhomme meeting the real Snake playing the role of a car owner, which he was after retiring from active driving. They shake hands while not breaking character; it’s great stuff to witness.

No other film including the ground-breaking “Heart Like a Wheel,” a survey of drag racing 40-years ago revealing how Shirley Muldowney colored it pink, has this incredible depth of detail. 50 million can’t be wrong; drag racing is the most fan-friendly motorsport on the globe. One experiences it frame-by-frame with “Snake and Mongoo$e.”

An Inside Lesson on How Those Racing Close-ups Occur

An Inside Lesson on How Those Racing Close-ups Occur

Illustrating the historical significance of this story, make sure to check the special thanks and archival footage credits trailing the movie. It reads like a Who’s Who in the history of drag racing: Legendary “Big Daddy” Don Garlits; Prudhomme crew chief and drag racer Bob Brandt along with “Jungle” Jim Liberman.

Caught walking through the pits in the movie, Roland Leong, who was there when the Hot Wheels deal came together, recounts “McEwen was the smartest of the bunch . . . I hate to admit it but McEwen and Prudhomme showed us the way to the future.” (1) When Leong and Prudhomme formed a team, the Snake describes it as driving for another rich kid; in that line is a truism that escapes most of the public. Great wealth roams those pits—some are billionaires—who are as addicted to the thrill of the intense seconds on a pro drag strip as the sportsman in the Super Gas class.

Young and Old Snake and Mongoo$e Meeting On The Set

Young and Old Snake and Mongoo$e: Meeting On The Set

“TV” Tommy Ivo, whose showmanship and dragster display innovation staged the way for the sport, contributed to the film along with a driving credit, too; note the credit for the ever-lovely Linda Vaughn originally creating the hot look modeling white boots as Miss Hurst Shifter; count in respected veteran reporters and voices of Dave McClelland, Steve Evans and Keith Jackson.

The remarkable racing artist Kenny Youngblood snares credit as he created the look and feel of those logo images pasted on the dragsters. Youngblood is the best known of any racing artist where the word “legendary” does not do him justice. Note he recently launched a new publication illustrating his work, “Fuel Coupe Magazine.”Snake Mongoose DVD wheel shot up close

Popular NHRA Funny Car Driver for NAPA, Ron Capps, with an uncharacteristic look

Popular NHRA Funny Car Driver for NAPA, Ron Capps, with an uncharacteristic look

Incredibly for this production, eight restored dragsters, trucks and funny cars provided by Snake Racing populate the screen along with 17 other dragsters from names such as Bruce Meyer, Frank Baney, the (must see) NHRA Museum, Mike Kuhl and a host of others.

Seven additional Funny Cars receive credits like Don Trasn’s 1978 English leather Corvette; 22 “period cars” such as Chopit Kustom’s 1932 Red Ford Hot Rod and a 1950 Merc, along with four Chevys by Randy Winkle including his cool 1964 El Camino.

Then there is the book . . . ahhhh, the book.

Author Tom Madigan published “Snake and Mongoose: the Rivalry that Changed Drag Racing Forever.” I wrote the following in a review December, 2009, for Radioactive Drag Racing News:

(L-R) Young Snake, The Real Snake, Young Mongoose

(L-R) Young Snake, The Real Snake, Young Mongoose

. . . elements that will amuse, confuse, and bemuse the reader absorbing this pictorial delight. Then, without warning, the whole tale comes together in a very poignant moment of the adventure, slamming the reader in their seat as though they’ve hit the accelerator on a Funny Car, leaving one exhausted and emotionally spent afterward, but warmly satisfied.

I am not giving away the nature of that moment, but it led to . . .

Snake and Mongoo$e were Front Page Material

Snake and Mongoo$e were Front Page Material

I was squished on an airplane at 35,000 feet . . . absorbed in the beautiful photography handsomely displayed . . . . Then, out of the blue, here comes this bombshell like nitro exploding in my gut . . . I was grabbed by a story that had the Snake losing a major drag race to McEwen, but afterwards uncharacteristically leaping out of his Funny Car, scrambling over to McEwen’s car and clutching him as they both broke down, crying in a very private way.

The Hauler: The Interim Step Between a Trailer and the Now Prevalent Tractor Trailers

The Hauler: The Interim Step Between Towing a Trailer and the Now-Prevalent Tractor Trailers

Snake Mongoose DVD

Notice in That Era the Engine Sat in Front of the Driver. Later, Don Garlits and T.C. Lemons Created the Rear-Engine Dragsters

I remember misty eyes and a clutched throat as the two hardened racers, as different in personalities as summer and winter, wept together over an unfathomable loss that exceeded anything either had experienced in their racing careers—and none of us ever wish to join. And now here it is, available on a DVD; their lives, their loves, their personal animosities morphing into respect, along with the entire racing experience brought together in redemption exceeding one’s imagination.

I am not going to spoil this account here, or give it away—it is too important for that. You need to discover it for yourself. I will tell you my eyes watered for those moments, stuck in a window seat, turning to glance at the expansive blue beyond while reading in shock as raw human emotion spilled out of these pages and now is embedded on the “Snake and Mongoo$e” DVD. You will know it when you see it. You NEED to know it.

Compare this photo of the Actors Snake and Mongoo$e with the Super Stock Magazine Photo of the Real Thing

Compare this photo of the Actors Snake and Mongoo$e with the Super Stock Magazine Photo of the Real Thing

Songs like Rare Earth’s “I Just Want to Celebrate” rock the soundtrack bringing Motown Records to racing.  ZZ Top’s “I’m Bad, I’m Nationwide” follows a Prudhomme national win early in the movie. The movie credits end with the hard rock riffs of “How You Like Me Now” written by Ken Goldstein, Jack Dempsey’s voice reverberating deep in the soul, leaving an awesome imprint that one just witnessed something special in this movie, confirmed by the song’s closing lyric: “Oh, mercy. Hello. Oh yeah.” Oh, mercy. Hello. Oh yeah, indeed.

Mongoose Wins; Snake Congratulates Him in This Poignant Moment

Mongoose Wins; Snake Congratulates Him in This Poignant Moment

Race to buy the new “Snake and Mongoo$e” DVD, an entertaining and exceptional era-racing movie. Then you will discover a secret: why Jamie smiles . . . forever.

(1) Tom McEwen (drag racer)

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iHarmonizing Competition

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