Dario De Francesco, his dad Ruben and friends Raul and Jorge made the trip to Dallas, TX after the SEMA (Specialty Equipment Manufacturers Association) trade show in Las Vegas. As with many other Fast N’ Loud fans from other countries, they needed to see Gas Monkey Garage in person. Thank goodness for Google Translate, because Dario and friends spoke very little English.
They’re all big fans of Richard Rawlings and they love how he wheels and deals in each show. Dario said that American Muscle Cars, like Mustangs and Camaros, have huge followings in Argentina. His friends and family, in their hometown of Mar del Plata in the Buenos Aires Province, also love Fast N’ Loud and they’re appreciative of how much they all learn as Aaron and the Monkeys execute complex builds.
We’re so happy to host fans from South America and continue to see how far Gas Monkey Garage fans are willing to travel to come see us.
Muchas Gracias to Mario and all of our fans in Argentina.
Names: Dario De Francesco, Ruben De Francesco, Raul Beniro, Jorge Abelleina
Hometown: Mar del Plata, Argentina
Favorite Monkeys: Richard Rawlings + Aaron Kaufman
We caught up with Gas Monkey EnergyNHRA Pro Stock driver, Alex Laughlin, on how his 2016 season went, what it was like to win his 1st NHRA Pro Stock event and obtaining his Top A/Fuel License.
GMG:This year was your 1st full season in NHRA – how did the season go and what were some of the highs and lows during any points of the season?
ALEX: The season started off a lot better than we finished last year since we had a more competitive car. We consistently qualified in the top half of the field from the beginning of the season, something we never did at all last year. I only had about 40 passes in the car combined in 2015, so I still needed to dial in at the start of this season.
We really started picking up momentum about halfway through the season and picked up our first win in St Louis. My idea of a perfect season is to win a round, qualify number one, make the countdown to the championship, and win a race. We did all of those things in 2016 with the exception of making the countdown, so all in all, it was a solid season.
ALEX: It was an unbelievable feeling. The whole day passed by so fast, from one round to the next. When I coasted to the end of the track and realized I had won; it was something that words can’t describe. Honestly, I’m relieved to get my 1st win under my belt.
GMG:When was the exact moment it hit you that you earned your 1st NHRA Pro Stock win?
ALEX: The point when it really hit me was after I pulled the parachutes and saw my win light come on as the car coasted silently down the top end of the racetrack. It was a feeling of calm relief.
GMG:Is it common for drivers to win in their 1st full season?
ALEX: Many of the of other drivers have raced for 5+ years and never won a race. Doing it in my first full season is a huge accomplishment, a defining moment for my team and a relief from the weight of not winning lifting off my shoulders. It energized me and I, of course, want to do it again.
GMG:Was it your 1st final?
ALEX: Yes, St. Louis was my first ever final-round appearance which lead up from the race prior in Charlotte where we made it to the semi-finals a week before. I was breaking new ground, but I felt confident.
GMG:Did your pre-race preparation change before your 1st final or did you keep it the same as any other round?
ALEX: Before the final, there wasn’t much time to think since we didn’t have long to get the car turned around and back to the starting line. It was kind of a blur really. It finally hit me when we pulled the car out of the pit and my competitive instincts started to kick in.
GMG:Were you nervous at all or were you able to focus easily?
ALEX: You know, I wasn’t nervous. There was something about that day – I was more focused and intense than I’ve ever been. Since then, I’ve tried to find that same mindset and recreate it by remembering that day’s routine, I even tried to remember my diet that day and week leading up to St Louis.
GMG:What was your mindset going? Did you feel like getting to the final round was kind of a win already or was it all or nothing for you?
ALEX: I felt that going to the final was a win no matter the outcome. My opponent, Bo Butner, and I both had never won and it was just cool to me that there was going to be a 1st time NHRA Pro Stock winner that day. Of course, I was elated to get my first win, but I would have been happy for Bo if he ended up winning.
GMG:What was it like sharing the moment with your Dad, Kenny (Laughlin)?
ALEX: Seeing the look of excitement and relief on my dad’s face was something that I’ve always wanted to give him since it’s not something that’s easy to do. That day was just as special to him as it was for me.
GMG:What’s it like having your Wally around after the weekend and did he ride on the plane with you?
ALEX: Yes! I took the Wally straight to the airport with me, ran it through the TSA X-Rays and everything. Now it’s at home proudly displayed on my mantle.
GMG:This year you obtained your license so you can race a Nitro Dragster. How did the foray into that class go for you? Is getting your Top A/Fuel License an entrée to Top Fuel?
ALEX: It went well.Having a Top Alcohol license is definitely the step before Top Fuel. The car will run over 275mph while a Top Fuel car hits speeds up to 330 mph. That’s appealing.
I’d love to race Top Fuel. The speed is so intriguing, and it’s a bit more marketable than Pro Stock. Casual NHRA fans don’t understand Pro Stock as much as hardcore fans do and what it takes to make the cars perform the way they do. In Top Fuel, the cars are faster, blow fire, and sometimes blow up – that’s what the spectators like to see.
GMG:Will you continue in Pro Stock or is Top Fuel where you want to be eventually?
ALEX: While Top Fuel is appealing, Pro Stock is my favorite. It’s a driver’s class and the driver’s job is just as important as anyone else’s. I love going down the race track with one hand on the steering wheel and the other shifting through five gears.
GMG: How did you like the NHRA post season awards dinner in LA?
ALEX: The banquet was fun. It was hard to sit there in my seat while the Top 10 drivers were up on the stage. The MC said to the entire ballroom that I missed it by 2 points and I would have been the one to give the world champ a run for their money. Tough, but at the same time – nice to get the recognition.
GMG:What are some of the learnings you took away from this season that you’ll take into next?
ALEX: I learned a ton as far as what works for me and my own driving style. I decided I like to let the clutch out with my heel instead of the ball of my foot. I learned how to focus on the tree differently so I can react to the light faster.
I’m so appreciative of the fans and support we received – sometimes more than any other team across the various classes. Everyone has been so receptive and supportive of our efforts and I look forward to feeding off our many fans heading into the 2017 season.
The Fall 2016 Leake Auction hit Dallas last weekend and it kicked off with a VIP party at Gas Monkey Garage. A lot of auction regulars were in attendance and the party was not only a great time for them to connect with Richard, but also to connect with one another to see what cars everyone had their eyes on. Gas Monkey Garage had three cars in the auction, including the 1957 Ford Thunderbird Custom Roadster, a 1980 Chevy El Camino and the 1977 Trans Am Bandit Edition. An absolute highlight of the evening for guests was a surprise appearance from our VIP, Christie Brimberry, whose recovery is going very well.
Many of Richard’s friends, who he likes to hang with at auctions like Leake, Barrett-Jackson, and Mecum were present. Friends like JD Pass, Scott Brandt, Mark Karpinski and of course Dennis Collins. I’ve had the opportunity to spend lots of time with these guys and I believe they are the closest thing to the “Rat Pack” of the classic car auction scene. They’re always having fun when buying, selling or partying really hard at each auction.
You may remember JD Pass from the Holy Grail Firebirds episodes, when he purchased the 1st two Firebirds ever built by Pontiac after Gas Monkey Garage restored them. For this auction, JD had his eye on the 1969 Boss 429 Mustang with the KK NASCAR identification code. Richard, Dennis and JD had this car’s worth at around $150,000, which was about right because the car didn’t get past that mark and didn’t reach the seller’s reserve which was closer to $200,000.
Scott Brandt and Mark Karpinski operate a high end classic car dealership, Motoexotica, in St. Louis, MO. Both are high level VIPs at each auction and almost always on the block or “walking the line.” “Walking the line” is essentially taking a look at the upcoming cars before they hit the block to see if there are any telltale signs of whether or not the car is worth bidding on or other clues that could unlock a sale afterwards if the car doesn’t reach its reserve price. Mark is particularly good at walking the line and the info he gathers is carefully considered before him and Scott bid on any car. I saw the whole process go down when they inspected, bid and won a 1974 Porsche 911S (RS clone) in Mexico Blue.
Check out the photo gallery below and be on the look-out for more articles on the “Classic Car Auction Rat Pack” as Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale approaches in January 2017.
To all of our fans on Thanksgiving Day – we at Gas Monkey Garage are very thankful for you and all the support you give us. Thank you for visiting our site, engaging with us on social media, buying our merchandise and watching our shows + videos.
A special Happy Thanksgiving to all of the men and women in the armed forces protecting freedom and giving us, and many like us, the opportunity to do what we do.
Every once in a while you’re faced with two choices and you’re forced to choose the lesser of two very bad options (or maybe that happens to you all the time, I don’t know your life.) But that’s exactly what happened to the Bearded Wonder late one night while he was adjusting the timing on the ’49 Chevy 3100.
He was in the shop, all alone, timing light in hand while he advanced and retarded the spark to get it to run just right when he lost his footing. Normally that wouldn’t be that big of a deal, but when your hands are full and you’re vaulted head-first into the engine compartment the stakes get a little higher. And then they get a lot higher when the two places your free hand can fall are the serpentine belt or the distributor cap. Aaron chose the option that wouldn’t shear the skin off his hand and chose the distributor. What happened next was a short in the cap that sent more voltage than you might want coursing through your body arcing from the cap to his hand, up his arm and eventually out of his back to the underside of the hood.
Well, here… Just watch, it’s more entertaining to see than to read about.
Jeremy ‘Freak’ Day is a talented artist, tattoo artist and owner of Freak’s Tattoo Emporium in Henderson, NV. He sent an awesome illustration of the Gas Monkey Garage Monster Jam Truck for us to hang in the Garage.
A second illustration was sent for Richard, BJ, Lindsey and the Monkey’s to sign and to be given to his 6-year-old nephew Ryder who’s a big fan of our Monster Jam truck and Fast N’ Loud.
Thank you, Jeremy, it would be great to also see some illustrations of the Gas Monkey Garage builds if you have the time.
FAN ART PROFILE
Names: Jeremy ‘Freak’ Day
Hometown: Henderson, NV
Gift: Gas Monkey Garage Monster Jam Truck Illustration
Gas Monkey Garage legend, Dewaine Phipps, comes by the Garage on fairly regular bases and when he does – he usually has someone interesting with him. A few weeks back, during NASCAR weekend at Texas Motor Speedway, Phipps brought Chuck Efaw and his team from Xcalibur Pit School for a tour around Gas Monkey Garage as he and his guys are big fans.
On big race weekends, when both Sprint Cup and Xfinity series are racing, teams are in need of pit crews. Either a crew member is injured on some of the bigger teams and they need a replacement or teams primarily use part time pit crews to fill their needs. Which is the case for many Xfinity and ARCA teams. When this happens and there’s need, they’re more than likely calling Chuck at Xcalibur Pit School to provide experienced crew members to get the job done – and fast.
Here’s a Q&A with Chuck after spending a Saturday with him at Texas Motor Speedway.
You’re the Owner/General Manager of Xcalibur Pit School – what kind of services does your company provide?
My father in-law, Jeff Rudd, and I own and manage Xcalibur Pit School. We offer coaching and teaching services for individuals that want to get into racing as a pit crew member. I teach a 3-day class that covers all the basics of pit stops, rules, regulations, expectations, and everything else that goes along with pitting a race car. After the 3rd day, we begin practicing real pit stops two days a week with experienced coaches that are or have been on pit road teams for several years.
How did you come to start your company and how did you know there was a need for these kinds of services?
There have been other companies who’ve tried to offer this type of service but not to the level we’re able to. We started Xcalibur Pit School in August of 2013 and we’ve grown each year since. We have all the same tools and equipment used in ARCA and NASCAR for pit road pit stops. We also have an indoor pit stop facility for rainy or cold winter days.
Have any of your students gone onto some of the bigger teams in NASCAR or ARCA?
Yes, we have some of our students working in the Sprint Cup, Xfinity Series and ARCA. There were two that were hired at Stewart Haas Racing, one at BK Racing, one at Richard Childress Racing, and two at Penske Racing. Not bad for an operation that’s only been open for three years.
In addition to being Co-Owner/General Manager of Xcalibur Pit School, you’re also a rear tire changer yourself – who are some of the teams you were a part of?
Wow, those are some really big teams. What are some of your responsibilities you have before a race for Xcalibur and the respective team you’re working with for that particular race weekend?
First, it’s very important to be on time and to show up looking & acting professional. Everyone needs to do their part in setting up the pit-box, cleaning wheels, gluing lug nuts on wheels, prepping gas cans and anything else that’s needed to get ready to race.
What’s the difference between a rear tire changer and a front tire changer? If you’re a good rear tire changer, does that mean you’d be a good front tire changer? Or is each position specialized in its own particular way?
A rear tire changer has to wait for the race car to come into the pit stall before they can approach the right side of the car to begin their sequence. Conversely, the front changer can jump off the wall as the race car enters the pit stall and has a slight advantage on the rear changer by beginning their sequence sooner.
Each position is specialized with its own job duties. Some changers can learn and be good at both positions, but not all changers can or may want to learn both spots. You can be one or the other and it’ll be fine.
Have you ever been hit by a car either coming in or out of a pit stall?
If you do this job long enough, you’ll have close calls on pit road but that’s also part of the rush, right? I’ve been brushed by a car and even hit. One year I got hit by a race car as I was transitioning from right side to the left side of the car. As I got up from the right side and took a couple steps, the race car in the stall behind us behind us was leaving and I got hit by his door side and then the left rear tire ran over my foot. It threw me up in the air and when I landed on my back which resulted in breaking my L3, L4, & L5 vertebrae. It took a solid 3 months to recover before getting back to changing tires again.
When you finally recovered – were you a little tentative or did your instincts click back in?
I was a little tentative regarding the healing process, not necessary the job at hand. But I, of course, have a different perspective and heightened awareness when there’s a race car pitting behind us and you know it will be leaving as you are getting up from the right side. You just have to be aware of your surroundings at all times. But my instincts came right back when I got back out there – as good as before the injury.
What are some of the things you teach these aspiring pit crew members when they’re with you?
We teach professionalism, respect, good attitudes, race day responsibilities, and how to, of course, pit race cars in the ARCA & NASCAR series.
Are there any particular traits in these folks that indicate whether or not they’d have success at the highest levels of racing?
Yes, there are many traits that contribute to success in our sport. Dedication and the willingness to work hard at your position to get better day after day, season after season. Students/crew members have to be willing to travel across country to as many races as possible to get as much track experience as possible. Students/crew members also need to have good attitudes and be willing to listen and learn from experienced coaches to ultimately make them better.
Do you have any advice for young men and women who have interest in becoming members of a Pit Crew?
Well I always say “Follow your Dreams and Believe”. If this is something that you have always wanted to do – then why not give it a try. It’s a lot of fun and you can make a good living following your dreams in racing.
If any of our Gas Monkey Garage fans have aspirations to becoming at pit crew member in ARCA or NASCAR, please visit Xcalibur’s website and tell Chuck we sent you.
Leake Auction Company’s Fall auction is happening this weekend in Dallas, TX. One of the featured cars Richard Rawlings and Gas Monkey Garage are taking is a 1957 Ford Thunderbird custom roadster nicknamed “Roxanne”.
This car is said to be built in the same vein as cars built by Ed “Big Daddy” Roth and George Barris and it’s won some prestigious car shows such as The Oakland Roadster Show, Sacramento Roadster Show and Lead Sled East.
The car is powered by a 351 Ford V8 engine mated with a Ford C4 automatic transmission. Some other cool features include a retro rotary phone attached to the floorboard, a 1950’s Admiral television in the trunk for tailgate parties, and other accessories accented with 14-karat gold in the paint. My personal favorites are the gas, oil and water cans situated in the trunk.
We’re looking forward to seeing if Richard makes money on this car or if he ends up losing his ass. There is a reserve so there’s a little bit of insurance. It’s Lot #901 if you’re interested in bidding on it.
“People were asleep and I stole it!” That’s how Richard Rawlings describes how he bid and won the car that’s known at The “King T” at Barrett-Jackson Las Vegas 2016. The “King T” was designed and built by Don Tognotti and Gene Winfield over a two-year period from 1962 to 1964. If you’re unfamiliar with Tognotti and Winfield, they’re absolute legends in the custom hot rod world and to have this car at Gas Monkey Garage is an absolute honor.
The “King T” was a 1964 America’s Most Beautiful Roadster (AMBR) trophy winner and became the inspiration for a Hot Wheels Redline edition car called the “Hot Heap Roadster”. The car was restored in 2007 and repainted to match its original Wild Lavender Pearl color by Gene Winfield himself and features a 327 Chevy mated with a Hydramatic transmission. Unfortunately, the car’s original Hilborn fuel injection system was replaced by a simple carburetor system during the 2007 restoration.
REVOLUTIONARY REAR SUSPENSION
One of the coolest features on this car is the independent rear suspension. John from TBucketPlans.com wrote a fantastic piece on the chrome-plated rear suspension and how revolutionary it was at the time for hot rod builders from California. According to the article, it was in 1961 that Jaguar introduced the first car to employ an independent rear suspension, and 99% of these suspensions were under Jaguars at the time the “King T” was built in 1964.
As many of you have seen on social media, Richard brought the car to the Celebrity Car Show at Gas Monkey Live this past Saturday, and not many people, if any, knew what a special car the “King T” is. We’re looking forward to seeing what Richard’s plans are for the car, but I’m hoping it stays around for a while.
Yoav Kahati and Yifat Machluv are massive fans of Gas Monkey Garage and Fast N’ Loud. They’ve never missed an episode on Friday nights on Discovery Channel Israel. Dallas became a must-stop during their cross-country trip from New York to Los Angeles.
They love both Richard and Aaron and Yoav wanted us to know that “kauf” means monkey in Hebrew so according to him, Kaufman literally means “monkey man” – very cool. They think the current Monkeys do amazing work, but they admitted that they miss Scot McMillan and KC Mathieu at times. avorite builds, for them, include the Frankenstein Ford F100 from Season1 and the Big, Bad C10 from Season 5.
It was very nice having them at at the shop and we thank them for their dedication to Gas Monkey Garage and Fast N’ Loud.
Names: Yoav Kahati + Yifat Wachluv
Hometown: Tel Aviv
Favorite Monkeys: Richard Rawlings + Aaron Kaufman
Favorite Builds: All the pick-up truck builds especially Frankenstein Ford F100 and the Big, Bad C10