Jason Meyers, the 2010 World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series champion, earned the first victory of his World of Outlaws career at Knoxville Raceway in 2001. Now, he’s aiming at his first Goodyear Knoxville Nationals crown.
Meyers has agreed to share his thoughts during Sprint Car racing’s biggest week at WorldofOutlaws.com:
Looking Back at Knoxville, Monday, Aug. 15
SCHATZ AGAIN….REALLY…..THAT’S SO 2009! What can I say? I have to give Donny Props. I just read his stats today of his past 12 years at Knoxville…WOW. He certainly has that place down. Congratulations to Donny Schatz and the TSR team on another Knoxville Nationals victory.
So the bad thing about the Knoxville Nationals is that it only comes around once a year. Only once a year is there a chance for $150,000 to the winner and over $1 Million in total prize money in a single weekend. Only once a year is there an opportunity to put your sponsors in front of over 75,000 fans over 4 nights of racing. And only once a year is there an opportunity to add your name to the list of Knoxville Nationals Champions.
So how can something so bad be so good at the same time? I think it’s because only one time a year does 12 months of preparation have such a chance of ending in disappointment. Let’s face it; there are nearly 100 competitors from across the country showing up to battle for one thing, to be the champion. Sure we all think we have a shot. That is why we compete. All throughout the year we plan, prepare, and practice for this one weekend. The reality of the situation though is that there is only one winner at the end of the weekend.
Please don’t think I am being negative because I am not at all. I thought I had a great weekend. Sure I am disappointed that a part failure ended our night and our chances of winning the biggest race of the year, or even placing on the podium, but in the end we had a good weekend. We were in contention all throughout the week despite multiple unforeseen obstacles that we were challenged with and we learned things that will help us better our chances for 2012.
I am simply trying to demonstrate the size of the challenge that winning the Knoxville Nationals presents. It is by far one of the most difficult feats to accomplish in sprint car racing second to only the World of Outlaws championship. The ironic thing is that if you can accomplish this goal in one weekend, you can earn the same amount of money that over 50,000 miles of travel and 9 months of racing earns you when you win the World of Outlaws championship. I even got myself thinking on that one…..
For now we will return back to our quest for a second World of Outlaws title, while at the same time beginning to plan, prepare, and practice for the 2012 Knoxville Nationals. We are back at the shop for a few days making repairs and getting ready to head west. This is always our favorite time of the season. The stress of the Nationals is over, the weather begins to cool off, and we are headed west, which means home for my family and I. We are very excited this year, too, for our mini vacation to Coeur D’Alene, Idaho, coming up in 2 weeks. Most years if the schedule allows, we try to spend 3-4 days in Coeur D’Alene between Edmonton and Skagit for a little R&R. It is one of the most beautiful places in America and we always have a great time.
We are also headed for some of my favorite tracks that are close to home and our California fans that have supported us for years. Our fans are very important to not only us personally, but also to the sport of sprint car racing. I was asked once in an interview, “What will you miss most when you are no longer traveling with the World of Outlaws?” My answer was the fans, and all of the friends that we have made and will make in the coming years. We have met so many people from all over the country and it has truly made our life special.
I want to thank you all for keeping up on my blog this year and I hope that we can do this again next year or maybe sooner. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing to you. Thank you for being sprint car racing fans and for making this sport as special as it is. Make sure you bring a friend to your next World of Outlaws race and don’t forget to stop by and say hi. I would love to meet you personally.
Looking Back at Friday, Aug. 12
“Some people want it to happen, some wish it would happen, others make it happen.” – Michael Jordan
Tonight I plan on making it happen, I plan on the winning the 51st running of the Knoxville Nationals. Those who have won the race often say that in order to win the Knoxville Nationals, you have to first lose the race, and I feel that I did that in 2008 when we came so close. We have prepared for this night all year, we have put in the work, and the opportunity is in front of us tonight.
As I write this blog, the team in rolling the #14 Allstar, GLR, DDNi car into the pit area and final preparations are being made. We had two opportunities last night to get some laps on the track and make final adjustments during the Race of Champions and Premiere Chevy Dealers World Challenge. In both races, we had a good car and were able to pass a lot of cars. We learned a few things that should be very beneficial for tonight.
Today I am struggling to write this because I am only focused on one thing right now and yesterday’s events and things that may normally be of concern or of some important seem distant and unimportant today. I do know my wife is feeling better which is great and I am back to 100% as well.
Tonight we will run 50 laps to determine the 2011 Knoxville Nationals champion, and it will be the 50th laps that counts. We have full focus on “making it happen” tonight. We are here to win, to let nothing stand in our way.
I have to get over to the drivers meeting for tonight’s A main, so that is all until tomorrow.
Looking Back at Thursday, Aug 11
I’m back….and I apologize for the interruption, but some things are just out of my control. As I mentioned earlier in the week, Knoxville is full of challenges and this year it has been the stomach flu. I will spare you the details because they are fairly unpleasant. Let’s just say I wouldn’t wish that on anybody. I owe a big thank you to the emergency staff at the Knoxville hospital for keeping me hydrated and getting me back to 100% as quick as possible.
Wednesday was completely lost due to illness, so there is not much to say. I just made it back from the hospital in time to watch the A main where Davey Heskin made a great run. It would have been neat to see him win. One thing I have learned this week is that if you blow a tire leading the Knoxville Nationals, everybody cheers for you the next year. It is unbelievable how many people are going for Sammy. Especially the ladies….big sympathy vote. It’s great to see though, everybody getting behind someone.
Thursday was our qualifying day and I was still a bit under the weather. I tried to get a good night’s sleep, but the party raged outside our motor home until past 5am. I am all for having a good time, but 5am on Wednesday night..man, nobody is going to have any gas left to celebrate after Saturday. Some moron was right outside my motor home for 2 hours it seemed like sweet talking some chick, and if you are reading this pal, YOU DIDN’T HAVE A CHANCE. I finally got to sleep at just after 5am and then back up at 10am and down to the hauler to fire the car and prepare my gear for the night. We had the press luncheon at noon and I was already getting run down. Following the luncheon, I headed back to the hospital for another round of fluids prior to the race. It is amazing what an IV drip of saline can do for the body.
The night started off great with a pill draw of 10, but the field seemed awfully stout compared to Wednesday. It always seems that way though, everyone always thinks their night is tougher. We were early out to qualify and surprisingly the bottom was not the place to be. You always qualify at Knoxville on the bottom, but not last night. It was the top that was the fastest and that was odd. I ran one lap on the top and one on the bottom just to cover my bases and we wound up 10th overall which lined us up 7th in the 5th heat. We had a pretty tough heat with some great cars and starting on the bottom was not the lane of choice. I was nervous about it going into the race, but told myself that “Champions always find a way and we are champions, so go make it happen.” And that is just what we did. I did not have a good turns 1 and 2 which is very important and I was panicked down the back shoot, but then I stuck the bottom in turns 3 and 4 and went from 8th to 4th in a single corner. I then went to work on 3rd in 1 and 2 this time sticking the bottom and again on the next lap to pass for second. Our car was great on the bottom which was very tough to hit. I tracked down the leader but did not get close enough to make the pass.
We were lined up to start 5th in the A main, but a warm up lap crash by Wayne Johnson moved us up into the 3rd spot. On the start we immediately went after the leader and took the lead on lap 2. The car was really good at the start of the race, but as the fuel load disappeared I started getting rolled up causing me to slow down a little bit. We had a couple of restarts and we seemed to get away again but a little passed halfway Mark Dobmeier put a slide on me going into turns 3 and 4. I turned back underneath him and got him back in turn 1, but the caution flag came out ….#@#$! … unbelievable. A split yellow is enforced and we are now in second. That is about the 6
Following the race, I got to eat my first meal in 2 days, and it actually stayed down! I also got some good sleep. The bad news is my wife is now sick. It’s hard to be sick in a motor home and not infect everyone else. I just hope my kids don’t get it. Its Friday now and we are lined up to run the Champions race tonight as well as the World Challenge. It will be a great opportunity to tune up for Saturday and get our Allstar car on the track again.
That’s all I’ve got until tonight. Thanks for reading.
Looking back at Wednesday, Aug. 10
Jason was hit by the flu bug on Wednesday and took the day off from blogging about his Nationals experience. He will qualify Thursday night.
Looking back at Tuesday, Aug. 9
Today an angel was born. Brian Bloomfield and wife Lindsey welcomed Londyn Renae Bloomfield into the world today. We are all very excited for Brian and also very anxious to get him out to Knoxville for Thursday’s qualifying night. It is funny how the world works, yesterday we woke to the news of a dear friend of ours losing a loved one, and then today we wake to the birth of a new baby girl to our crew chief. I certainly don’t know all of the answers, but it definitely makes you wonder in amazement of how God works.
Today was actually probably the easiest day of the whole week. It was great to be able to sleep in a little this morning and wake up with my wife and our two girls. We got have breakfast together and spend a little time before I had to shower and head to the Queens contest in which I was asked to be a judge this year. What a neat event. I am embarrassed to say that I have never paid much attention to this competition in the past, other than the fact that I hoped I was the one standing on the podium with the queen at the end of the weekend. It was very interesting to learn the girls’ backgrounds and find out that most of them have been attending the Nationals since before they were born or just after. The Knoxville Nationals is truly an annual family event that has captured the attention of families for decades.
Being a judge in the contest was a little tougher than I thought and it came with a sense of responsibility of not only picking a queen that will represent the sport well, but also in making someone’s dream come true. Congratulations to Jennifer Nissen on being crowned as the 2011 Knoxville Nationals queen and to all the girls that competed in this year’s contest.
Between the luncheon interviews and the nighttime program, I was able to catch up on some phone calls and emails and help my wife Robyn out with the girls while she ran errands and shipped some of our Internet orders. I also took delivery of some of our new shirts for the Allstar paint scheme that R&R Enterprise did for us and they are awesome! In my opinion the baddest shirt I have ever had in my career.
For dinner we headed over to the team house where the girls went for a swim before we sat down for a dinner that Chris and Rene prepared tonight and before I had to head over to the evening portion of the contest. For the evening program, over 300 people were in attendance and I joined my fellow judges Craig Ford of Pella Motors, Davey Heskin, Natalie Sather, Heather Brown, and Sheila Ross at the front table. It was a great event and the girls all did very well with the judges’ questions. I hope this event is still around when my girls are old enough to participate.
Following the contest I headed back to the house to pick up the girls with my new friend Craig Ford in a new 2011 Dodge Charger. This is a bad car and now I really want one! We spent some time with the guys and then headed back to the track to the motor home. It was 8:30 now, so you would think bed time, but I just can’t lay down that easy. I have spent the evening filling the sink holes on our campsite with base rock and then getting things laid out for tomorrow. Today was laid back, but tomorrow will be a day of interviews, autograph sessions and other obligations. I also agreed to shoot shirts into the crowd tomorrow night from the pace truck for Pella Motors which should be fun.
Tomorrow is our final day of preparation and I am anxious to get going. I am prepared, focused, and have the best team behind me that a guy could possibly ask for. We are ready and God willing, we plan on getting it done this year!
Looking back at Monday, Aug. 8
Day 1: It is officially Knoxville Nationals week and Day 1 started off with heavy hearts for all at Elite Racing. Our good friend and teammate Joe Gaerte lost his father this morning, the legendary Earl Gaerte. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the entire Gaerte family as they mourn the loss of a very special man.
The morning started at 8:00am today with a quick shower, muscle milk and a cereal bar and then off to the race car. Upon hearing the news from Joe, I took thirty minutes to communicate with our PR manager Kelly Brown to prepare a press release for Joe’s dad. Then it was back to racing. My crew chief Brian Bloomfield is absent this week due to the birth of his and wife Lindsey’s baby girl scheduled for Tuesday morning. That’s how we do it in racing, we call the shots…..lol. Last year my wife Robyn held on two more days after going into the hospital on Friday night so that I could fly home from Edmonton after Saturday night and be there for the birth of our second baby girl. Brian will be back in the lineup early Thursday morning, but for now everyone on the team is picking up a couple of his responsibilities. That was until Sam went down on us today. I think the excessive heat from Pevely the other night has caught up with him a little bit. He seems to be doing a little better tonight and after a good night’s rest should be back in full swing tomorrow.
We went through everything today on the race car. We had already prepared this week’s car during our time at the shop in Brownsburg last week, but today was our time to double check everything and get our setup where plan to start on Thursday. Every shock is dyno tested and some rebuilt and adjusted to fit our valve codes for Knoxville. Fuel pumps were tested and I spent a good hour on the phone with our Engine builder Charlie Garrett discussing our fuel system for this week. Every track has its own characteristics and each day the weather is different. The air is not typically very good at Knoxville and engine tune up is very important. Shane and I briefed our notes from the June race in Knoxville as well as our notes from a test session we did here last month. With the schedule we keep, it is very important to go back through your notes when preparing for a race so that the information is fresh in your mind. It is like watching films in preparing for a football game. We replay every adjustment made and every pass that was made throughout the last race.
We did it all today, from studying notes, to rebuilding shocks, to cleaning the trailer floor. Cross every “T” and dot every “I.” We wrapped up the day with a trip to the Hyvee and a team barbecue at the house that we have rented for the week. The Hyvee is Knoxville has some of the best fillet tenderloin I have every bought in the entire country. My partner Chris Luck and our CFO Rene North also arrived tonight and joined us for dinner. It was a great evening with the team and our families. The weather is unbelievable here right now and certainly does not feel like Knoxville in August. It is supposed to get even cooler over the next couple of days!
As I close this entry up, I will wrap up about 25 emails from today that need attention and go over tomorrow’s schedule to make sure I am aware of tomorrow’s obligations. I am judging the queens contest tomorrow, so I need to read the letter they sent me a month ago about what is required of me..lol…I hope I wasn’t supposed to do anything that I can’t get done in the morning.
Looking back at Sunday, Aug. 7
When I was first asked to do a blog for the Knoxville national week I got really excited because I have always thought that one of the most interesting things a fan could experience would be a behind the scenes tour of the chaos and drama that exists behind the glamour of the Knoxville Nationals. You see the Knoxville Nationals is one of two pinnacles of the sport along with the World of Outlaws Championship that every driver wants on their resume. That brings me to my next point….I WANT IT BAD!
At the beginning of each season I sit down with the team and lay out my vision for the coming year, establishing goals, setting priorities, and ultimately designing a plan on how to achieve those goals. After winning the World of Outlaw Championship in 2010 following runner up finishes in 2008 and 2009, this year became the year of the Knoxville Nationals for the Elite Racing team. They say you have to lose the Nationals before you can win it, and we all remember 2008 when we came so close only to have it taken away by an unnecessary yellow flag. But after the agony of defeat and a good hard look at why we lost that race I came back the next year ready to go for it again, only to be taken out early in the race. Then again in 2010 I was defeated by the scale mistake which still lingers in interviews today. I hope to change that over the next couple of days.
The 2011 season for me has been another trying year, with numerous obstacles that have stood in our way, threatening to break us down and keep us from where we want to be. I could not be more proud however, of my team’s resilience through it all and their drive to turn each negative into a positive leading us to where we stand today. As of today we stand above the top of the World of Outlaws championship and we are in the middle of the most successful “Month of Money” campaign in my career to date. This could not come at a better time, as we wheel into the Marion County fairgrounds in search of our first Knoxville Nationals title.
Those who follow our team and listen to my interviews know that I always give the credit to my team, so much so that some have mentioned before that I am too modest and should take more of the credit. As much as I appreciate the compliment, I cannot accept more of the credit because it is our team that provides me with the tools that I need to win races and ultimately championships. Our entire organization from our ownership group and sponsors, our amazing crew, the finest engine shop in the business, our chassis shop, the team in the office that keep it all together, and our families that make the ultimate sacrifice to support our careers; that is what wins races! I am blessed to be involved with great people that come together to form a phenomenal team capable of accomplishing extraordinary feats.
For the next seven days I aim to give you an inside look of what it takes to put a week at the Knoxville Nationals together at the top level. The week will include everything from race car maintenance to judging the Queen contest and everything in between. So stay tuned for a week in fast lane, a week that has been formulated to accomplish one thing….to WIN the KNOXVILLE NATIONALS!