By Mike Calinoff – They gave me an option. At the beginning of 2011 Roush Fenway’s General Manager, Robbie Reiser, asked if I’d be willing to travel back and forth when the No. 6 Nationwide team was apart from the Cup series. I said, ‘Sure’. Then he said, “You’ll be flying with Jack.” I said, ‘That’s fine’. And he added, “Jack is flying the plane.” I stopped, thought for a brief moment and said, “I’ll go. What are the odds?”
** As a side note, the odds of dying in a plane crash are 1 in 11,000,000. The odds of losing your life in a car accident are 1 in 5,000. In essence, you’re at a higher risk driving to the airport.
So, this is my third year of traveling. Depending on where we’re going, they can be long days and nights. But, it’s what I love to do.
This past weekend I did the “double” from Pocono to Iowa and back. Here’s how it all went down:
THURSDAY, AUGUST 1
12:49 – Left the house and headed into town to run some errands on the way to the airport. Stopped in at one of our RFR sponsor partners, Fifth Third Bank, to get some cash. I also asked if they had any samples and politely heard, “Next in line, please.”
1:17 – Saw that I had three miles left until I was out of gas. However, there was a Starbucks that I had to get to which was probably 2.5 miles away. I immediately started saving fuel by driving in fourth gear and shutting it off as I’d coast to a stop light.
1:31 – Venti Iced Coffee in hand, I begin the cruise to the gas station. I barely made it.
1:48 – Off to the Charlotte airport for my 1:20 trip on Roush Air to Allentown, PA.
4:00 – Met up with friends for Sushi. Told a bunch of stories – most of them lies, of course – and went to the hotel. It was a relatively easy day.
FRIDAY, AUGUST 2
8:10 – I arrived at the track early (for me) because I had a little business to do in the garage before the 11:30 Sprint Cup Series practice with Stenhouse, Jr. Unfortunately, it had begun to rain. I don’t carry an umbrella. I never have. I think holding an umbrella makes you look like a wimp. However, I don’t like walking in the rain due to the fact that I’m a wimp – so, therein lays the dilemma. I stayed in the car.
9:22 – My friend and spotter for Jamie McMurray, Lorin Ranier, shows up for some professional rain-delay activities. We sit in the car and watch stupid YouTube videos and giggle like high school girls. What can I say?
12:41 – NASCAR cancels the activities for the day and I head for the hotel.
I had a great dinner with my friends at a seafood joint near where I was staying. Same folks, different lies.
I went to bed relatively early because tomorrow was going to be the day of days for me.
SATURDAY, AUGUST 3
6:00 – Let’s roll. I’ve got practice with Ricky from 9:00 – 9:50 and 11:30 to 12:30.
12:41 – I strap in to my Ford Escape and head for the private airport in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton to spot for Trevor Bayne. Jack opted out of the trip due to a prior commitment, so I was solo.
1:12 – Arrived at the airport. I grabbed my radios and head in. The truck race is on in the airport lobby and about to start. Keselowski walks in right behind me – he’s also headed to Iowa (to eventually win). “Hey Big Time, they sending you to Iowa?” he asks, “No”, I said, “I drove to Scranton to watch the truck race at an airport.” He looked up at the TV. “We’ve gotta watch the first lap – I wanna see how much this is gonna cost me.” First lap complete, BKR trucks intact, he headed to his plane and I headed to Jack’s.
Brad Womble, Jack’s personal pilot, had N6JR gassed up and ready to roll. I like Brad — he’s a smartass like me. “Get here when you can, Calinoff.” I started to explain watching lap one of the truck race, but he chose to ignore me. He asked, “You gonna sit right seat (up front with him) or in the back?” I said, ‘I’m going back there and take a nap.’ And he shot back, “Yeah, me too.”
Two hours and twenty minutes later, we arrived in Newton, IA – right behind the track.
The pilot thought this was funny
3:16 (local) — I could literally walk from the airport to the track — it’s on the same property — but I took a golf cart ride to the Iowa Speedway garage instead. I put my radios on charge in the hauler and hung out with the guys.
7:21 — Green Flag!
The race was the race — no sense in recapping it lap-by-lap. We had a strong car for most of the race and Trevor did a great job wheeling it. In the end, we ran out of laps and finished 10th.
10:33 — Wheels-up and headed back to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton airport.
We had a kick-ass tailwind. When you peer out the window at 37,000 ft. and are zooming past clouds, you know you’re making good time. We made it back to PA in a hour and twenty-six minutes. The ground speed was 700 MPH. Looks like Brad nailed the setup!
1:41 (local) — Back in my Ford and off to the hotel for a few hours of sleep. Tomorrow is already here and the race starts in few hours.
SUNDAY, AUGUST 4
6:44 — I pop out of bed, shower, dress and head for Pocono Raceway. I head into the garage for few meetings and general pass-the-time stuff. Stenhouse Jr. is starting 17th. We had a really good car all weekend and I was excited about the prospect of having a great day.
1:19 — Green Flag!
1:19:11 – In the wall. Contact to the left-rear essentially ends our day — we never made a corner. Getting into turn one, the No. 42 hit us in the left-rear quarter panel and we were toast. Going three-wide into turn one on the initial start was ridiculous. But then again… well, you know.
We were in the garage for 47 laps and came back out just to finish and score as many points as we can. For me, 47 laps doing nothing at Pocono is just outright painful. I didn’t even watch the race until we came back out. When the race was over, Juan Pablo went to Ricky and the guys. He took full responsibility and apologized. Yeah… great… thanks.
As soon as the race ended I went straight to the car, to the airport, onto the plane, into my car and headed home. I didn’t keep track of exact times anymore — I was living on a combination of exhaustion and aggravation. I just wanted to get home.
I dropped my bags in the foyer, went into the living room and plopped onto the sofa for the official greetings of my dogs. It’s funny, I’ll be gone four days and when I get home the dogs are thrilled to see you — gotta love that about dogs. Then again, I can be gone for 45-seconds to get the mail and come back to the same greetings.
I replayed the weekend in my mind. Leaving, going to Pocono, to and from Iowa, minimal sleep, the race and the trip home. They call that living the dream — I call it living the insanity. It’s a fast-paced, be-on-your-game life, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
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