After our kick-off in Auburn we headed to Indianapolis for the weekend at the NHRA US Nationals. The US Nationals in Indy is always one of the biggest and most anticipated events on the NHRA calendar. This year was extra special. They were celebrating the 60th running of the event and it was going to be a party. We were excited to be a part of the festivities.
We arrived at the track Saturday morning and drove to our parking spot and hospitality tent. Again this year we were located directly past the walk- in gates for the spectators. The Road Tour Impala and the other Road Tour participant's rides immediately were the center of attention as folks walked into the event. Just down the road from our location was the pro team pits or Nitro Alley as it is called. We soon made our way to Nitro Alley see the activities that were taking place.
Three weeks ago, during the Autopalooza.org Road Tour in Detroit we had visited the Kalitta Motorsport facilities in Ypsilanti, Michigan. During our tour Katilla Business Manager Bob Lawson had invited us to stop by their pits during our weekend at the US Nationals. That is an offer that you do not pass up. Bob greeted us at the Kalitta Motorsport hospitality area at noon on Saturday and we spent some time up close with the teams working on the DHL and Patron XO Café cars. Bob answered all of our questions and it was a real treat for all of us to get a taste of the VIP treatment. Many thanks to Bob and the folks at Kalitta Motorsports for making us again feel so welcome.
From Nitro Alley we walked across the bridge at the starting line and made our way to the other side of the track where many more teams were set up. Our destination was a visit with good friends Steve and Rose Novosel. Based in Detroit Steve and Rose are fixtures every year at the Detroit Autorama with Steve as the show general manager and Rose doing much of the detail and paperwork each March. A long time drag racer Steve is campaigning a 2013 Chevrolet COPO Camaro this season. As our Road Tour luck would have it, Steve had won the A/SA Class on Friday and Rose and Steve were waiting for us with the Wally Trophy in hand. It was great to spend some time with such down to earth folks who really have a passion for the sport. It shows that hard work and determination can put you in the winner's circle. It is not always just about how much money you spend.
Our next stop on out Saturday walk around the US Nationals was to visit Eileen Daniels and see all of the vintage cars that were on display in what everyone knows as "Eileen's Area". For many years Eileen has put together a display of classic rods and racers that were chosen at the NHRA Hot Rod Reunions around the country. With the celebration of the 60th US Nationals Eileen's area was busier than ever. There were panel discussions all weekend with icons such as Don Garlits, Shirley Muldowney , Don "The Snake" Prodhomme, Tom "Mongoose" McEwen and Kenny Bernstein to name just a few. When we arrived Eileen stopped what she was doing and gave us a personal tour of the cars on display and a little background on their owners and their history. We stopped for a moment in the Bob Daniels Garden area for a picture. Eileen's husband Bob had played an important part in organizing drag racing around the nation in the late 1950's as Division 3 Director. He also was the manager of track at Indianapolis for many years. Eileen was beside Bob for all those times and after Bob's passing seven years ago, Eileen has continued her work keeping the history of the sport alive.
The activities and the racing continued all weekend and many of the Road Tourians spent most of the weekend at the track. On Monday afternoon in the Funny Car Finals the winning car and driver had a special meaning for the Road Tourians. Alexis Dejoria in the Patron XO Café car won the final round. It was the same car that we stood next to during our visit to the Kalitta Motorsport pits on Saturday. It wrapped up a great weekend at the 60th US Nationals. The race was over but we were just getting started on the road to the Shades of the Past Hot Rod Round-up in Pigeon Forge, Tn.