One Day at RCR


To start the day I was sent to speak with Oconomowoc, Wisconsin native, Paul Swan. He gave me a tour of the pit crew practice area and showed me video of the new pit stops. Speaking candidly I was told that all were a little afraid of the new 4 +1 crew roster. It wasn’t because it would be hard, these men are ready for the challenge. They all knew that some friends would soon be departing and that, that made this change hard.

I had to ask about the new pit guns, to get the real scoop. While the guys miss their old guns, which were faster, they are embracing the new. Ray Wright has told the guys not to worry about it or complain about it. They don’t have a choice so be the best with what you have. If you watch them practice, it is easy to see they have embraced this and are tackling it, head on. Day after day, hour after hour, they practice and aim to be the best.

It was a busy day in the Richard Childress Racing cup shop. I was able to see the primary car for Las Vegas Motor Speedway start to take shape. From high atop the catwalk you could see all of the shop crewmen working to get cars ready for load up, trucks are rolling tonight. So, let me share a little of the glamour I was able to see.

Getting the cars turned around and ready to race this week is no easy feat. The guys talked of 12 and 14 hour days. There will be some busted knuckles and kinks in the back to work out. No matter what anyone thinks, this is something you have to love to do. It’s a tough job and these guys are getting it done.

I was lucky enough to see the Atlanta “tear down” where they scaled and checked over the car, fresh from the hauler. This will give them a starting point for the next race in Atlanta but also give them information for next weekend. She had a little dust and dirt on her and probably a few hundred pounds of rubber under her from race build up.



Car Chief, Greg Ebert, invited me to stop in. Undercar Tech, Kevin Gladman went a step further and invited me to cook for this fine group. I brought down brats and cheese curds, with plenty of sauerkraut to go around. At lunch the shop came out to eat and every single man was happy and kind and appreciative. Truth be known, I appreciate them more than they know. They make Sunday’s happen. I’ve spent many Sundays watching the 3 car turn laps and I was honored to spend time with all the guys that make it happen.


After lunch I was given the opportunity of a lifetime, to go on the shop floor and get up close and personal. After a set of safety glasses I was able to talk my way into doing some work. Folding shop rags. Hey, it has to be done! I enjoyed every second of it. Talking with SJ Golembeski, tire specialist, who meticulously maintains the pit box and supplies. He makes sure that the team has everything at their disposal. Goes through his check list and then helps everywhere else needed. It’s a big job, on Sunday if something they need isn’t there, that could be the difference in winning and fighting for twentieth.

It was truly a state of awe for me. To be here, there… On the floor.

I left the shop around 3pm local time, not because I had to, but I knew they were busy. They were in the middle of a long day and an extra body wasn’t going to make life easier for them. I hope the food helped make their long day a little better.

The Las Vegas back-up, who should stay in the hauler.

I left Appleton, Wi on Saturday, February 25 to come to North Carolina. There are some goals. I look to move down here. I look to get on a race team. Eventually I will make it to the RCR shop floor. Failing that, I will be the best damn writer there is and I will provide the best social media I can. It’s what I do. It’s why I am here. It’s my dream.


In the end I can only say, “Thank you.” The good Lord gave me something special today. Also, big thanks to the Wisconsin boys, Paul Swan and Greg Ebert, for taking a little extra time with me. Thanks also to Kevin Gladman and Adam Brown, Josh Sisco and Clay Alexander, SJ and Freddy. Thank you to the entire team at RCR. As Andy Houston said before I left, “See you down the road.”

Love Wins Daytona

February 15, 1998 I woke up in Army Basic Training barracks. I went to chow, church, and came back to clean the room. Nothing more would happen that day. No television, no radio, there wasn’t even email allowed back then. It would take two weeks before one of my roommates would tell me that in a letter from his wife, he was told that Dale Earnhardt Sr. won THE Daytona 500. When first I heard I thought, “No way, Dale doesn’t win the 500. EVER!” It would be months before I even saw a picture and years before I would see that race.

February 18, 2018 I woke up and readied myself for this year’s Daytona 500. Through a morning of coffee and complaints, laughs, and ribbing my friend via text, we got excited for the race. I watched so much pre-race I thought the race might not live up to the hype, to all the hoopla that surrounded it. Interview after interview and prediction after prediction I waited for something that would make me cheer.

Finally, the ceremony began. The prayer, the national anthem, the command to start engines. Crews, wives, girlfriends put their drivers in their cars. Belts were tightened and the pace car began to roll. The starting lineup would be shuffled from incidents in the Twin 150’s and this would find Austin Dillon starting from the rear of the pack.

“Austin, have a good day out there. Guys have a good day in the pits. Let’s be there at the end and we can win.” The familiar voice of Richard Childress came across the radio. Every race Richard says something similar and this signals the start of the race.

“First stage here is 60 laps, total of 200. Gonna be a good day here and I’ll see you in Victory Lane.” Andy Houston always breaks the race down to segments and always tells Austin he will see him after. Sometimes he will just say see you, but today it was Victory Lane.

All of Speedweeks the 3 team had shown speed in the new Dow livery. Austin charged from the back up through the field before being hung out. Austin could see the competition getting wild and backed out, content to let others fight for stage points. Dealing with a tight race car, the team waited for pit stops to put tires on, fuel in, and get some adjustments made to help. Throughout the middle of the race, Austin hung back, dodging wrecks, avoiding debris, and keeping the car clean.

“I have t even really pushed to be totally honest.” Austin told Justin well into the final segment. Nobody had really taken tires throughout the day. Austin saved his tires for when he needed them. With the new 4+1 pit crew roster and slower air guns, teams couldn’t afford to give up time, so it was left to the driver to take care of his equipment.

“The Fords are all coming, the Fords are coming, we will come too.” Late in the final stage the 3 team would be snookered by the #17 team into pitting at the wrong time. When the 3 car steamed out of the pits with only 4 injured cars with, the race looked like it could be over. Falling into the clutches of the leaders, Austin awaited a caution to get back on cycle. The leaders would pit and allow Austin to cycle around, 7 seconds behind first place. “We need a caution.” Andy Houston knew if they wanted a shot, they had to have help.


Andy called out, “Yeah man, that’s what we needed.”

“Are we gonna get four here?” Austin knew what he needed to keep the car charging forward.

“Hell yeah we are getting four!” The excitement in Andy’s voice could be felt through the radio, he was energized.

This, was not the last caution. With each new accident the 3 car cut through the field.

“He’s gonna have to go top/bottom/top like the rest of them. He’s not gonna be able to ride one lane, Andy.” Richard is one of the most observant men in the garage. As a former driver, he can see the lanes move and the cars change position. You can hear his desire to get in the pack, to compete, to race.

Finally Austin saw himself in P4, outside of the second row coming to restart. I am trying to balance watching the race and update in-car radio on Twitter. I’m not part of the team but people surely want to know what’s happening inside the car. Twitter is slow and I can’t update fast enough. The radio is 40 seconds ahead of TV and Andy calls him to green. The entire time I am looking at the black and red nose of this car and it is covered in speedy-dry. White dust. This will look amazing in the museum if he can pull it off.

This overtime restart, if we make it to the white flag, the next flag ends it. Andy calls Austin through the field.

“43 on your bumper. Stay with this 10 for now. Big push coming from the 43. 43 two back, one back, bumper.”


I look up to the TV. Twitter isn’t fast enough for me to update, I have to watch. A lap is 45 seconds, radio is 40 seconds ahead.

*heart beats faster and faster*

“Keep coming, keep coming, all the way to the line… Daytona 500 WINNER!”

I am glued to the TV, over half a lap left and Andy just told Austin on the radio he is the winner.


“Way to go guys!”

The TV shows Austin get into the back of the 10. The 10 turns and collects the wall. The 3 car streaks off of turn 4, through the dogleg, across the finish line.

I’ve been pulling on my hair, eyes as big as silver dollars. Austin won the Daytona 500. We won the Daytona 500!

I sit back, lost for words. Emotions welling up but this time, I am left speechless. After almost 30 years of cheering on RCR, I get to see the 3 enter Daytona 500 Victory Lane.

Austin pitches the 3 sideways in the grass and proceeds to burn it down. The biggest victory of any stock car driver has become a reality. The smoke rolls and pours out of every part of the 3 car.

And then the dab.

The belly flop slide in the infield.

Victory Lane ceremony is done in a heartbeat. The confetti has been dropped. Champagne corks popped. Pop-Pop has been sprayed the team and he’s praised the team.

This is Daytona.

And in Daytona, the winner always takes home the girl. Mrs. Whitney Dillon called this win. Tonight, she will help Austin take that trophy home. A new home made together. If love conquers all, it conquered this track today.

The competition better be ready to see a lot more of the 3.

Conquering at the Clash

Welcome back NASCAR fans!

Today we got our racing back and boy, was it interesting. Some of the new things you saw, no mandatory ride heights, no NASCAR issue springs. This is something I’ve wanted to see for awhile. By adding a half inch to the spoiler to keep the speeds under 200mph, this is a big win. This means teams have control over their car. They can do some research and development. You can squat the rear end down, increases speeds but makes the driver actually drive the car. This little change puts control back in a team’s hands and allows them to set things up a little different than others. This allow allows for better drafting by reducing turbulent air that comes from under the car ahead. Now you’ll see cars “suck up” better in a draft and will reduce the dreaded “aero-push.” The slingshot, is back.

The Camaro ZL1 made its stock car debut and looked strong. With a body reminiscent of the car on the street, not only does this car look good, it drives good. The Camaro looks to have more front downforce, which will allow better turning, but it also appears to have improved side force which will increase stability in the turns.

Something else you may have heard about is standard issue splitters. Why is this important? Simple, it’s one of the few things teams would manipulate for a higher downforce advantage. Angles, edges, curves, and even bending corners up all played a factor. By standardizing this, it will reduce teams from spending thousands of dollars on this one piece. I am all for getting rid of the splitter, to me this is the next best thing.

There are more subtle changes, but we will get into those later, today, these three things made for a better race.

What did we see today? A race where the drivers really mattered. The cars could move and pick up the draft easily. Higher closing rates that allowed drivers to get a real run. Plus a saw cars that appeared more stable.

Austin Dillon started on the pole, he was shuffled back but was able to change lanes and move at will. Pitting just as the caution flag came out for the competition caution, the 3 team executed a solid stop. Back on track Austin held position and moved forward. In just a few laps he was able to move up before getting shuffled back again.

The field strung out into a single file on top and when someone would try to pull down they would get hung out. This is a product of the drivers, not the cars or rules. The drivers were afraid to lose a position, all day long. For a non-points event, I’ve never seen drivers so worried about a “good finish.”

It was Austin that wanted to go, lap after lap. Austin asked Andy Houston to find someone to go with him. In the final lap when Austin pulled out, he made up ground, drivers eventually went with him. He was closing on the leaders when the wreck happened which would end the race. After the race, Dillon told Houston & crew chief, Justin Alexander, “I want to be the one leading the charge at the end, I think we could have made it.” In deed they could have made it. Had they gone a lap earlier, I believe the 3 car would’ve challenged for the lead.

Thursday I think you can expect to see more from the 3 team, if they can find someone in their Duel, I believe the 3 car will return to Thursday’s victory lane. The hardest part will be finding other drivers who want to win and are willing to risk a few positions to move forward, rather than playing it safe for the “good finish.”

A “good finish” will never be great. If these drivers want to win, if they want to be great, they will have to “Get Like 3” as Mrs. Whitney Dillon puts it. Austin wants to be great and it’s his time to shine. Now, who else wants to be great?


Fairytale in Racing: Not Just Another Princess

When Caitlin Siem set out for Michigan Speedway that June morning, she only knew that she was going to go meet Nathalie Bijeau with BJ McLeod Motorsports. Riding a tornado for the next two months was not on her list of “to dos” for the summer. As with all great adventures, the main character never knows what is in store.

Her next race would come at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the most historic of tracks in this great nation. A complicated weekend with XFINITY and Cup series competition challenges the most seasoned of all NASCAR veterans. Through the hustle and bustle Caitlin found calm and serenity that enabled her to do her job, to put her nose to the grindstone and learn all she could.

“I definitely bonded with some of my team members right away. They didn’t make me feel unwelcome in any way and I felt like a part of the team even though, at that point, I thought this was a temporary endeavor. In a way, I felt comfortable. The race weekend was so unbearably hot (Honestly, Indianapolis in July does not play well with others) and you have to walk what feels like hundreds of miles to get anywhere inside that speedway (I’m being a little dramatic). But none of that seemed to matter. I mean, it did on some scale because there was never a moment I wasn’t sweating, but I was with the team and it felt so right. When the team left after the race Saturday (I was sticking around for the Cup race Sunday), I felt like a piece of me was missing. I’m pretty good about not feeling lonely, but I did that night.”

As quickly as the IMS weekend ended, Iowa Speedway began. With just two days to do laundry, reload, and prepare she was tested. She let up from her home in Michigan to continue chasing her dream. Pinching pennies and working on borrowed time, determination pushed her forward through a great weekend at the stand alone event in Iowa.

“Time. My time was so limited. Between work starting back up in August and only being allowed to go to so many races on credentials, my time was running out and it’s all I could think about, it seemed. I’d known this was what I wanted to do for ages, but within one weekend working with the team, I knew they were the crew I wanted to be with. It was like love at first sight, but with a race team I wanted to work with. When I left Iowa, there was only one more race left for me if I wasn’t hired in. Imagine reaching your dream, something you’ve wanted since you were a kid, but knowing there was a deadline to it. It was like looking into a black hole where my future was.”

Caitlin had a clock ticking. August 21 was coming quick, the date meant she would have to return to her life in a school library. Though she is a writer and loves books and loves the library, it was far from her dream. A dream 15 years in the making was at grasp and she knew she had to make things happen.

“I loved working at the library, I loved the staff and the students there. Writing and books are a huge part of my life. But it wasn’t racing, it wasn’t NASCAR, it wasn’t my dream. It wasn’t so much my feelings toward going back to the library as it was the thought of losing my dream. I honestly think I would have been completely miserable. I would’ve bounced back at some point, I wouldn’t have given up on my dream if I had to walk away from BJMM after four races with them. The recovery time would have been a long one though. My dad half-joked that I would have been impossible to deal with if I had to go back to the library. And he was probably right. I think I wouldn’t have been all there come August 21.”

Her first objective was finding a caterer for Watkin’s Glen International. This combined with preparing sample paperwork and all while she had just 3 days to get home and back on the road.

Life on the road quickly became a series of stops to do work, make calls, visit friends. As the days ticked down she learned she had to get a “Yes” from two different people if she was to join a team, join the crew, and live the dream she had been chasing.

I was lucky enough to be on the phone when the first of the two “Yes” answers came. An explosion of happiness and excitement. Emotions raced and overwhelmed us both. While I am easily moved, I’ve not seen this from Caitlin, not like this. This was something special. Then came the realization, that was only the first answer needed.

“I mean, I technically knew I needed more than one yes to get in. But sometimes the mind plays tricks on you and that part slipped my mind briefly. I half blame you, Couch, for that one. It sucked for a minute but I eventually pulled back together and focused on the next yes. In racing, you always need to be looking forward. Then again, that works in most aspects of life.”

Watkin’s Glen came quickly and so did her second “Yes” that she needed. Friday afternoon she called. Hiding between tire stacks, fuel cans, and a truck those words she spoke will be forever memorable to me, “I made it!” Three simple words held the weight to move the world, change the stars.

As the weekend flew by, Caitlin would have just 3 days to prepare to move from Michigan to North Carolina. We talked through the night as she drove for home, making tracks and setting plans as she drove through the dark to a destiny she had been chasing.

It is only fitting that she chased the stars through the night to make it home Sunday morning. Having chased those stars of destiny, she now ran them down on the horizon to give herself the time it would take to prepare. The days clicked off as she visited with friends, with family, visited those places that meant the most before she said her final “good byes” to that which she’s known for her lifetime.

Wednesday came as quickly as the last weekend had left. With her family, friends, work, and former life in the rear view mirror, Caitlin turned her wheels to Mid Ohio. With one last deep breath and asking tears not to fall, she left Michigan for the last time of the summer. As darkness fell she once again chased her stars onto the next horizon.

Having hopes, having dreams, that is something we all possess. The willingness to chase those is what truly epic stories are made from. Caitlin’s story is just beginning and only a few weekends have passed. The sky is the limit for those who give it all for that which they want. I believe we all have the ability to chase our own stars, but sometimes you have to work to change those stars for yourself.

“It kind of feels like I was at sea, enjoying life but I knew I was missing something. Then the fog up ahead clears and right there was the land I was searching for. It’s still my life, I don’t feel like a different person, but I stepped off my ship and onto land and it feels right.”

We can all learn to live more in the moment, to fight for that which we want. Only by doing that, can one achieve greatness.

“You need to learn to be invaluable. Don’t put yourself in a box. The more you have to offer a team, the better off you are. You have to be passionate about this sport or it’ll eat you alive, but if you’re a fan, you have to contain it. When you’re at the track, you’re at work. You can’t be freaking out about seeing a driver if you’re there to work. Don’t bad mouth anyone. The sport might be big but it’s tightknit. And because of that, the key to getting in, is knowing someone. It’s all on who you know in this sport. At the end of the day, just don’t give up. It took me years to get in, but I never stopped reaching for my dream. And here I am living it. Pursuing your dreams takes persistence. Never forget that.”

By doing this, one day… maybe…

I’ll see you in the box.

Living With the Ghosts of Racing

Darlington Raceway (photo courtesy of Caitlin Siem)

The sun climbs high in the sky as the humidity creeps above the mercury, shadows shrink and grow again as teams work on their cars. Men and women gather around mighty machines, some have computers, some have tablets, and some have an old notebook with a pen. Hand tools are still pulled from the box and the same old cuss words are uttered a thousand times. This is Darlington; one of the last great citadels of racing that stands the test of time.

This 1.366 mile oval opened in 1950 and has been a legend since the start. The two ends are different in radius due to a farmer’s minnow pond, it’s banks were once used to pull onto when there was an issue because the cars raced on the flat surface. The old surface was once said to be so coarse that just pushing the car onto the grid took the “good” off the tires. Darlington is the only place that not touching the wall will have your car owner asking, “Why didn’t you try harder?” Yes, this is a place of legend.

Once again we return to the Southern 500, the end of summer classic, the true throwback weekend. Cars will take to the track with paint schemes and colors made famous 25+ years ago. Paint schemes that harken back to an era when there really was a chrome horn to use and it wasn’t just an old adage used by men moved by nostalgia. This was an era of legendary drivers. Earnhardt. Allison. Petty. Pearson. Gant. Wallace. The names go on forever.

As these history inspired cars take to the track you can feel the drivers of the past rise up to watch their battle wagons take to the banks one more time. The old men today stand up and remember being a child, dust on their cheeks, the smell of bias-ply rubber in their nose, fingers wrapped around the chicken wire fencing as the original cars drove by. Long before the corporations opened wallets, the blue collar workers traveled to this site to open their’s. This is the history of NASCAR. Family, friends, coworkers, racers. Everyone gathered to celebrate the last days of summer, together.

As the red, white, and blue flies high overhead and the national anthem plays again; drivers will prepare to do what so many have done before on this track. Each will sit in their cars alone, strapped in and they must make a choice… Race the competition or race the track? The track is the ultimate competitor and those who learn from the past will know that you don’t need to beat everyone, you just need to beat the ancient one, “The Lady in Black.”

As I watch Austin Dillon pull his 1987 Dale Earnhardt, Wrangler Chevrolet inspired SS onto the speedway I can’t help but think of the years I watched this race with my grandfather and my parents or listened to it on the AM radio. It is history, a history so recent and yet so long ago. It was a time before splitters, before wings, before universal bodies. That was when a manufacturer could make the difference between dominating a race season and merely watching from the sidelines.

I often wonder what those drivers back then would think of the sport today. A sport that has blown up and come back down. A sport that looks for heroes and still needs a villain. These ghosts of racing past surely still race down these historic straights, still slide through these ancient corners. These ghosts live on in every memory, every legend, every inch of this track.

The old saying is, “Those who forget the past are bound to repeat it.” While many call for those days past, I like to think that we are writing history of our own. Who will be the next legend to win here? Who will be the next driver people only remember winning? Who will be the next driver that people love to curse? I don’t know the answer to any of that, but I do know that Darlington will still be here when they take their place in myths and legend.

This is Darlington. This is where the ghosts of yesterday meet the drivers of today, who write tomorrow’s past. This is Labor Day weekend. This is where we remember days gone by.

Enjoy the show.

Make Your Last One Your Best One

This weekend my father and I returned to the beautiful Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. Every year since NASCAR has raced there, we have had made sure to go. It wasn’t just another weekend for us, it is possibly the last one we will share at this facility.

Every year when we go we bring a cribbage board, we have kept score through the years. We have always played to break ties when they have occurred, so we know who won the year. This year we started 3-3. This morning we ended it, 3-3-1.

Every year I would buy and event program and he would buy an event t-shirt. We each have our own collections. It makes for just an interesting novelty. This year, neither of us bought our keepsake.

This year was no ordinary year. In January I will move to North Carolina. The plan has been set in motion and it is just time for it to happen. If I want to get any further in the sport that I love, I have to make this change. This change that literally changes everything.

After a weekend of joy and fun, happiness and celebration, work and relaxation, my world has changed forever. Good people make the world move. At least they make my world move. Many of the best people I know are in NASCAR at some level, being around those good people is what life is all about to me.

I could go over all the great times that were had this year, but too many don’t belong written down, only remembered. Just as in years past, the best times are always treasured and remembered and shared face to face, the way great stories should be told. This year, was the best year. Wins are great on the track, but wins in life are even greater.

As I move forward with this journey in life I will always look back to this weekend and think to myself, “That is how I want every weekend to be.” Good times. Great people. Lots of fun. Living in the moment.

Thank you Road America for providing the soil for these roots to grow. I started the first year as just a fan, I leave this year knowing I will always be something more than that. I can truly say that Road America is a magical place, a place to learn, a place to live, a place to grow. As I pulled out today knowing there is a chance that I may never be again, I smiled away what could be tears.

As Chris LeDoux so wonderfully sang, “Make your last one your best one…” That is just what I did.

May we meet again, old friend.

Small Team, Big Family.

In life we are all blessed with certain things; friends, family, people you know and love. Sometimes we get lucky and we fall in love with something so much bigger, a sport. I speak of course about NASCAR, today. Something that has given me years of fun and laughter, friends aplenty, and great times.

My father and I have come to the NASCAR XFINITY Racing Series event at Road America every year. The past three years we have been welcomed by multiple teams. First, Derrike Cope Racing. Then Derrike Cope Racing and Richard Childress Racing both welcomed us in 2016 and we were fortunate enough to be with the 2 team when they won.

This weekend I have the good fortune to be attached to BJ McLeod Motorsports for the Road America weekend. This small team is bigger than most realize. Not just in heart or in passion or even work ethic. This small team treats everyone around them like you hope a big team would, with hospitality and grace, comfort and welcoming smiles.

When I first signed up with BJ McLeod Motorsports to assist with their social media, I didn’t know what I was in for. What I found was a family, welcoming and loving of all new members. A team that loves all people in their circle. This team doesn’t know negative, they look for positives, they take comfort in improvement and good runs.

Winning, it’s not just about trophies and money. No. That’s not always real winning. Real winning is going out there and knowing your purpose; to entertain fans and enjoy the moment. Have some fun and at the end of the day maybe you celebrate with a good finish. That’s winning on a small team. This team knows these things all too well.

This is a team that not only works together and lives together; they sacrifice together and they spend quality time together. BJ McLeod Motorsports is a team that forms a bond with their members, bonds forged in the heat of battle, at the height of stress and fatigue. It is a family that I can only compare to the family I shared in the Army; a family that is so close and tight but still welcoming of all who enter.

As I lay here in the infield of Road America, I realize one thing, one fact that actually kind of makes me sad. After the race is over, the Beast is put away, the truck is loaded, and the engine started… I will have to say goodbye to this team, this family who has welcomed us with open arms. You hear other fans talk about the team and the experience and how great it is, then you experience it and realize that when they head home and you head home, you will feel as though a part of you has gone missing.

There will be other races for me this year and I will still talk to them during the week, every week, but it is a sense of loss. How can one team make everyone feel like such a part of the family? The answer is simple, all of us who wrap our arms around this team, receive the same in return. It is a true family. One that I will love and remember for all my days. I still have some time left, though it is fleeting, I will enjoy every last minute of it.

And when they turn those wheels south and head back to Mooresville, only one song will play in my head.

“Oh won’t you stay… just a little bit longer…”
-Jackson Browne-