WE HAVE LIFT OFF

GRUBNIC HAS FUN IN HOUSTON ON AND OFF THE TRACK.






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Publication: National Dragster
Author: Grubnic, David
Date published: May 18, 2012

Can you believe it? We are in a new season again. Wow, the years just seem to fly by these days.

I remember when I first started racing in Australia - street cars that is - and I couldn't wait for the years to go by. This was mainly because I didn't have a drive's license yet; I was still too young, but that didn't stop me from racing my GT Falcon on the weekends at our local racetrack.

I used to work for the local newspaper on the weekends, and when I was in high school, I managed to save up enough money to buy my first car just before my 16th birthday. You had to be 17 years old to get a driver's license in my hometown back then. The problem was I didn't have the time to wait for that, so I called on some of my older buddies to drive my car to the track so I could race it. Nowadays, I want the years to slow down because I enjoy what I do so much I want it to last as long as possible. There's just no pleasing some people, is there?

In current-day affairs, the good news for my team this year is that we are fully funded for all of the races. It's been a while since we haven't had to rely on our fearless leader, Conrad Kalitta, to help us along the way. We're really excited about our new primary sponsor, Optima Batteries, the largest battery supplier in the United States, and their batteries will start an engine even if it's under water - yes, I mean under the water.

Now how is that possible you may ask? Well, if you're at one of our national events, stop by the Optima Batteries display in the midway to see it for yourself. It's also the only battery that will take a ride with the President because they use it in the president's Cadillac, and they do so for that specific reason: The battery will still start the engine even with a bullet hole in it.

We're also very happy to have Candlewood Suites and Rocky Boots back as well. Both companies are great, and their people are also so enthusiastic about our program that it's a lot of fun working with them at the races.

We did some real cool stuff at NASA while we were in Houston. Each year, there's a bunch of us who stop by the Johnson Space Center the Thursday before the event, and we get a behindthe- scenes tour of the workings of the space agency. Over the years, we've seen all sorts of cool stuff and got to do some really cool things.

Like last year, I flew the space-shuttle simulator. The simulator is a real trip (pun intended). You get strapped into your seat horizontally, and then you're raised to a vertical position like you're on the pad ready for launch. Then the countdown starts, and you feel the vibration of the engine start, and at zero, you feel the simulation of launch. You even see the tower go by the window. You do that for about two minutes until you're in low-Earth orbit, rather simulated low-Earth orbit. After that, you descend back to Earth and enter the atmosphere, and that's where you have to have your wits about you. It comes down at a real steep angle, and at the last minute, you have to flare it three degrees and safely land it, dead stick! Like I said, pretty cool stuff, and having that opportunity was a real privilege.

This year, the folks at NASA gave us another really cool tour, including looking at some moon rocks in "bunny" (clean-room) suits and watching the test firing of the Morpheus Lander rocket, which was really cool! Earlier this year, I was approached by NASA officials to see if I would be interested in speaking at their Innovation Day, which happened to be the Wednesday after our NHRA event, so I asked myself, "How many people get the opportunity to speak at NASA?" I was all over it. Being a big fan of the Apollo era and the mighty Saturn V rocket, I couldn't resist the opportunity, and I accepted even if I didn't know what to say. What do you talk about to a room full of Ph.D.s?

Regardless, it was time to start figuring out how I was going to educate the NASA community on NHRA Drag Racing. It was definitely an intimidating experience. Those guys at NASA are, well, let's say, pretty smart people, so you better have your facts straight before you start rattling off to a bunch of them.

The big day finally arrived, and my favorite (and only) PR guy, Todd Myers, was there with me as I prepared to go on stage. We waited in the green room, and we were both marveled at all the history that was on the walls, including photos of Lyndon B. Johnson and Jack Kennedy and the actual decrees of Congress to allocate the funding for the moon shot. You should've seen some of those numbers - big even by today's standards.

After being introduced by Center Director Michael Coats, I got up on stage and promptly froze - nah, just kidding. I got up there and waffled on for about an hour about what it's like to be a Top Fuel racer. Afterwards, I got a plaque from Michael Coats and Jeff Fox with an American flag that flew on the last Space Shuttle Atlantis mission - way cool! Todd and I then continued to expose ourselves to all of the NASA marvels we could get our inquisitive minds into for the rest of the day. It was really a great day and truly an honor for us to be a part of it.

Many thanks to Michael Coats, Jeff Fox, Jon Olansen, and everyone else at the Johnson Space Center who made our day so enjoyable. Now back to the real world of drag racing and pushing for round-wins as we work our way closer to the Countdown to the Championship. ND

Author affiliation:

David Grubnic is the driver of the Optima Batteries Top Fuel dragster.

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