Jimmy DeFrank Guest Editorial
First, as many that have written articles have stated, I am honored to be a part of this and thankful that Luke is doing something so great to support and expand sportsman drag racing. I first met Luke just a year ago but have heard his name and winning ways for many years. The first time I saw Luke race was at a Division 2 meet in Atlanta, GA in September of 2009. I was standing next to Jeff Taylor and as Luke rolled into the water box, Jeff told me that there is a bad dude right there. I thought wow if JT says he is a bad dude then he is a bad dude.
I wanted to take the time to write about one of my greatest racing memories which actually just happened in November of 2012. As we rolled into the last NHRA Division race of the year in Las Vegas we had the opportunity to win the division and national championships in Super Stock. We were very thankful for this opportunity and of course there were a few nights that were light on sleep and with stomach aches. As the season winds down with the opportunity for a championship it is always exciting and what most of us sportsman racers dream about. It is a time where we need to be more focused than ever and drive to accomplish the biggest goal. There is also a fine line of not putting too much pressure on yourself as you don’t want to change your game plan and the type of racing that got you to the point of where you are to challenge for a championship. For me it is about the great times with my dad, entire family and friends so the opportunity to win if they arise are just bonuses. I certainly appreciate even having the opportunity to be able to race yet alone win a race or a championship. These feelings give me peace even before we hit the track, so whatever happens we are happy.
The biggest start and process in getting ready for this final charge at the championship was to make sure that everything was prepared and prepared properly for this particular Las Vegas altitude track. To prepare for this race in Las Vegas, we used our past experiences and notes from this track on our Super Stock Chevy Cobalt (SS/BS) to get the car set-up as close as possible for the first qualifying run and what we thought would give us the most consistent package. We had the same transmission and rear-end ratio, same converter, same shock settings, same sized tires, rpm settings, and button settings. We felt that what worked in the past could definitely work again (especially as it netted us a win at the spring NHRA National Event). The decision to do this is a team effort which includes the leader of our team, my dad Jim; myself and our racing mentor Jeff Taylor. Looking back at these decisions and using what we learned in the past helped us to win this race as we had a good car for this Las Vegas race track. We had to add gear to the transmission and rear-end to help the car react quickly in the high altitude and it was therefore also more consistent to dial. We tried to get the leave of the car and rpm’s as close as we could to a sea-level track such as Pomona or Phoenix so that we had a better chance of the car working and being dialable. We had one piece of the puzzle in place with having a well prepared race car for this track. The second part was to have all of these car parts set-up so that hopefully my reaction times could be in a good spot and in my spot. They felt good from the first qualifier and we went from there. The reaction times were sitting in the high teens and low twenties and that is where I felt comfortable at this time; just didn’t want to push it too close and give anything away. We were one round ahead in the division so we had to outlast number 2 by one round. We had to make it to the final round (win the sixth round) to win the national championship.
We started qualifying on Thursday and finished up on Friday and then first round was on Saturday of this event. I just kept telling myself as we started the race and started going rounds, “that this was everything and could make a difference in one of our best racing and family memories of all time; be focused, calm and do the very best that you can possibly do”. Not only do each of us racers have to do the best that we can each and every round, we have to hope and pray that we can do just a little better than our opponent each round. We fortunately got by the round Saturday and had the chance to get going again on Sunday and what a huge day it was. We were able to get by the morning round and then started again after noon and rolled through a few more rounds. I tried not to look at the ladder because there would be no heads-up runs and everyone is tough. We were making it through the rounds with consistent reaction times (high teens and low 20’s) and the car was very consistent. I felt comfortable with the reaction times and left them right at the same place, or what I hoped would be the same place throughout the day. We just made a few slight shock adjustments and tire pressure adjustments to the car as temperatures rose and track conditions changed. When we won the fourth round we were able to lock up the division title (as second place opponent Kent Etter lost). After we won the 5th round I realized at the top end of the track that there would be only 3 cars left in the eliminator. My dad, mom and friends greeted me at the fuel check just a moment later to all hug me and tell me that we had the bye run next round and when we staged for the next round we would win the championship. We celebrated but then quickly moved back to the pits. Me being the worry wart that I am, we came back and charged the batteries for as long as we could and we checked the starter and starter bolts just to make sure everything was cool and engaged properly. The last thing we needed was a simple problem that would keep us from breaking the beam. Off we went for the semi-final round bye; I drove around the water and staged and there we locked up the national championship. Then we went to the final and were able to win that as well when Tom Gaynor Sr. fouled. Certainly one of our best racing memories; winning the division, the national championship and a race all in one day. I was very thankful to have my parents there and some of our greatest friends.
When losing or winning we all have the opportunity to learn during a round, race or racing moment such as a championship chase. I learned here that the preparation of the car using our past notes/knowledge for this particular track was very helpful and gave us a better start and slightly more confidence that we had the best car to race that weekend. I believe that racing is important to all of us that read Luke’s columns and that we need to remind ourselves to give it our all when we have the chance to do something great and make a lifetime memory. Many of us have regular jobs or businesses but racing give us the opportunity to dream of driving race cars and win championships. It is also a fine line as you wind down a championship to placing all of your focus on every single run and then also realizing what got you there and to remind yourself to do those very same things and not to do anything out of the ordinary. Being is this position in the past also helped as I felt appreciative to be here and did not put any extra pressure on myself from what we may already be feeling. I also believe that a lot of pray power helps out and when The Man Upstairs says it is our time then it will be our time.
Thanks for reading and I hope to have some more racing experiences and memories to share with you in the future.
The DeFrank family: Jimmy (holding trophy) is surrounded by his parents, Jim & Lorraine, and his brother Tony.