I made it to my first professional final!
We came back home to California after a tough race weekend in Bristol, Tenn., but luckily my spirits were lifted with a family celebration for my birthday! My family, a couple of my friends and I took a limo down to Newport Beach and got dinner together. This is our typical family birthday tradition. My mom, of course, baked me a birthday cake and brought it with us to the restaurant and I opened my presents on the car ride there. We had an amazing dinner on the water and finished it off with chocolate cake. We even used the Disney Princess plates and cups that my mom bought and insisted we use! My mom thinks it’s funny to do stuff like that, and yes, my parents like to try and embarrass me any way they can, even at 24 years old.
We had an off weekend between races so I decided to catch up on my California tan by going with some friends to Palm Desert. We had an amazing time relaxing by the pool and swimming in the desert's 100-degree weather. I even took my Traxxas RC cars along for the festivities. At night we grabbed dinner and went out dancing. It was just what I needed to relax and to get my head straight for the upcoming race in Chicago, Ill.
My teammate, and brother-in-law, Robert Hight and I flew out to Chicago a few days before the race for the NHRA press conference and even had time to head over to the famous Wrigley Field to catch a Cubs game! Robert, Alex (NHRA Public Relations), Sarah (John Force Racing Public Relations) and I took the subway to the field, which was entirely foreign to us, but we managed to get on the right one. Halfway to the game, the subway broke down and we were stuck underground in a dark tunnel for about 10 minutes until they fixed the mechanical problem, then we were off to the game again. It was so cool to go to a field that has so much history. And even though the Mets took home the win, we still had a good time cheering on the Cubs.
The following day was packed full of media appearances, so Sarah, Alex and I got going bright and early on a two-hour road trip to Rockford, Ill., to begin the day, Starbucks in hand, of course. I had an interview with the Rockford Register Star newspaper, and then set off to three separate television stations for one-on-one interviews. This was a great way to kick-start the race weekend out at Route 66 Raceway and let the fans know where all the action would be!
In the first two days of qualifying our car had some problems with the fuel system and struggled to make it down the race track. We were qualified, then got bumped out and had one last chance to get our car qualified on Sunday. I was so nervous pulling up to the starting line, but luckily my car went straight down the race track making a quick pass to get us into the 12th spot. The morning of raceday I was thankful to even be putting on my firesuit. I never expected my day to go the way it did.
In eliminations, I made it to my first ever professional final! With the help of my team and crew chiefs, I was able to get past fellow Ford driver and friend, Bob Tasca III, my teammate and brother-in-law Robert Hight and fellow rookie in the running for Auto Club's Road to the Future award for Rookie of the Year, Alexis Dejoria and go up against Jeff Arend in the final. It was such an amazing weekend for our team and we even topped it off by earning the Full Throttle Hard Working Crew Award. It was well worth the thunderstorm delays we had that morning.
I'm staying on the road for the next week and road tripping over to Indiana with my dad, which should be interesting, before heading to the next race in Norwalk, Ohio. I can't wait to get back out there in my race car, but a little more nervous about the long drive over with just me and my dad. I'm sure it will be full of father-daughter conversations, dating talks (since he knows all about my personal dating life -- not), and the typical race hype from him including how I need to get pumped up and ready to "kill 'em" in Norwalk.
Wish me luck!