Michelle's Blog
The 'Back Story' - Nitro, Hemi's and Funny Cars - Oh My !
I have been asked many times how I came to be working in the pits on a nitro car. My dream started in helping to fulfill another's dream. So - here is my journey.

I was introduced to drag racing by a former boyfriend when, early in our relationship, he confided that he dreamed of building/restoring a 1967 Pontiac GTO to drag race. Knowing nothing about drag racing, I said, "Why not?" He took me to my first drag race ever - the California Hot Rod Reunion in 1993. The hook was set, so the two of us campaigned a '67 Pontiac GTO called 'Rubber Check' on the bracket race and nostalgia circuit. I became pit crew, media/sponsor relations, logistics and photographer. I came to love the sport and the people I would come to call my 'race family' so much that when the relationship ended, I realized I couldn't walk away from all of this...or them.

In my attempt to find a new place for myself in the racing world, in late 2003, I became aware of a contest proffered by Bob Gilbertson's Trick Tank Nitro Funny Car team. They were looking for interns for the 2004 NHRA racing season. Not really thinking that I could actually be picked, but totally game to give it a shot, I submitted my entry to Berserko Bob Doerrer, their PR guy.

Berserko got back to me pretty quickly asking if I could be their intern for the 2004 NHRA Winternationals in Pomona. Although I was caught completely off guard, I quickly accepted. This is where MY dream began. With my pass behind the ropes, I attended that race and stuck my nose into what every crew member was doing and asking a million questions. I was mesmerized as I watched the the ballet of a nitro funny car pit crew service the car between rounds. As many rookies often report, the first job a person is usually given is cleaning stuff. I was in the parts washer all weekend and also worked polishing their hauler.

As luck would have it, I was spotted behind the ropes in that pit by then crew chief 'Big Ray' Gandy and 'Diesel' Mike McDonald from the Lil Nate nostalgia funny car team. They recognized me from the nostalgia races and inquired as to how I was in a pro pit in a team uniform. After explaining how I got there and that I was wanting to learn, they offered me an opportunity to work with them on the nostalgia circuit starting just a few weeks later at March Meet in Bakersfield, CA. In that moment, my dream grew wings !

I went to March Meet and my personality meshed with those of the crew, driver and owner and the Lil Nate team agreed to teach me about nitro and hemi's. Oh My ! I don't know if they put me on the dirtiest job(clutch) on the car as a joke or not, but I think they were surprised when I took right to it without issue. These guys - my band of brothers - gave me my first real shot at crewing on a funny car and remain my closest racing family still.

The rest of my journey will be detailed below and is far from over. Each pit, each car, each team offers a fresh opportunity to learn and expand my knowledge base. That remains the allure of drag racing for me.
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