Pitpass IHRA Souvenir Programs & Our Involvement With Drag Racing

by Lynnette

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Who would have guessed that one thing that would become engrained into our daily life as a married couple would be… drag racing?!

I’m the first to admit: I’m not the world’s biggest drag racing fan. Why not? Because there’s so darn much “sitting around” time and not enough “doing fun things” time. I’m a doer. Not much of a sitter… and waiter… and chit-chatter.

At home, I’m a round-the-clock multi-tasker, so it’s really hard for me to be idle. I have to be doing something at all times — even if it’s just knocking out some work on my computer.

At the races I’ve been to, there’s always been a whole lot of “doing nothing” while you’re waiting for the highlight of the day: a 3-second race. (“I waited all day for this!”)

So if you happen to see me at a race, it’s probably because we planned something really fun before or after the race to make the trip worthwhile for me. (Thanks, hun.)

Of course, Jim’s quite the opposite. The smell of nitro and the sound of rumbling engines are enough to make his day. It’s in his blood at this point.

I share the following photos partly to illustrate one of our early entrepreneurial adventures together (I know I’m always interested in hearing about others’ unique business adventures), and partly to document the official beginning of Jim’s involvement with drag racing… where he remains involved to this day.



Lynnette’s First IHRA Drag Racing Event
This was the first IHRA Drag Racing event Lynnette ever attended.
My first drag-racing event was the last race of the 2002 season in Epping, New Hampshire. (Notice the orange earplugs?… Drag racing events are very loud!) Jim and I flew there for the weekend, just so I could get a feel for the type of events we were going to be working over the next season. We created and sold PitPass — a souvenir event program (a 56-page 4-color magazine) — at all IHRA drag racing events in 2003.



Watching The Drag Races Up Close
Jim enjoying the IHRA drag racing events in Epping, New Hampshire.
Jim’s all fired up to start working with IHRA motorsports by publishing their very first souvenir program, PitPass. We couldn’t believe they didn’t already sell event programs themselves — so we decided to try it ourselves! Ever since attending his first IHRA drag racing event a couple months before this, Jim has craved the the nitrous oxide vapors in his lungs and the loud roar in his ears. He’s actually been a fan of drag racing since the late 80’s.



Mike And Jim Devising A Business Plan
Jim and Mike ironing out the details of our business plan for PitPass.
Mike is a guy Jim met while playing on the men’s softball league where we live in Franklin, Tennessee. (He’s also the one who introduced us to Bellevue Community Church — a great place to socialize and have fun.) Work wise, Mike and Jim have a very similar entrepreneurial spirit — the same neverending drive to succeed, in addition to their extremely professional work ethic. Here the two are finalizing details of the PitPass business plan. There were many long nights and many creative sessions where we explored a wide range of ideas with the aim of creating the best event souvenir program ever… and making a lot of money in the process. Plus, we had to work out all the little details — everything from the name of the souvenir program to the travel details.



Okay… NOW We Can Go!
Jim lugging two guitars and a cooler to our vehicle.
We stopped to pick up Mike — our partner in crime — before heading to San Antonio for our first IHRA event selling souvenir programs. Jim’s carrying some of the necessities that we forgot to pack, but Mike remembered: 2 guitars (one for Mike, one for Jim) and a cooler (for some after-hours adult beverages)! These items were standard essentials that helped pass the time between races each weekend.



Reliable Transportation… Yeah, Right!
The van and trailer we drove from Nashville to San Antonio.
Our personal SUV (an Isuzu Rodeo) wasn’t big enough to haul all the souvenir programs (5,000), 6 workers (to sell the magazines at the race), and all the set-up gear required (tables, chairs, bright green t-shirts, door prizes, etc). So Mike had a friend of a friend who had a big white van and a trailer we could borrow. Perfect! That is, until the wheels started falling off! I knew it was a bad sign when the guys chose to drive the whole way with no license plates on the trailer. They assured me it wouldn’t be a problem.



The Loyal, Hard-Working PitPass Team For This Weekend
All the guys we recruited to help sell PitPass programs.
These are all the guys we had recruited to help us sell PitPass Programs at the first IHRA drag racing event of the 2003 season: John, Currie, Mike, Jim, and Dave.



Bill Bader: IHRA President
Bill Bader is the president of IHRA motorsports.
Fortunately, Jim had established a very good relationship with the president of the IHRA – Bill Bader. He was very helpful in getting PitPass started.



You Must Be…
Bill Bader and Jim at the San Antonio race 2003.
… Jim’s wife! (says IHRA president, Bill Bader, as he points to me while I’m taking his picture)



Hanging Banners
Jim and John hanging the PitPass banners.

Everything associated with the Pitpass souvenir programs was DIY. From the transportation and roadside repairs required along the way, to setting up our booth and hanging our banners advertising the Programs for sale, and actually selling them on-site.  It was a lot of hard work, but it was FuN!



We’re Ready To Roll!
John, Jim and Mike eager to get started selling PitPass.
John, Jim and Mike are ready and eager to start selling PitPass souvenir programs at the San Antonio IHRA drag racing event. The guys all walked through the stands peddling the magazines, while I sold them from a booth.



Ready For Business
Lynnette selling PitPass programs at the racetrack.
We managed to score a free motorhome for the weekend — a makeshift “booth” to sell our programs from. Thanks to Ancira of San Antonio, we were selling in style! At our fingertips we had: a fridge, shelter from the elements, a bathroom, and a place to get away from it all and relax on a comfy couch. This was my “home base” the entire time. I sold programs and handed out prizes to all the winners who won our hourly drawings.



Peddling PitPass Programs
Jim and Mike selling PitPass souvenir programs at IHRA motorsports events.
We did all of the legwork ourselves — from writing all the copy for the 56-page magazine, to selling all the advertising inside, and peddling them on-site at all 12 IHRA weekend-long events from February through October.



We Were Situated Right On The Staging Lane
Our booth was situated right on the staging lane!
Even though we sold most of the souvenir programs in the stands where the fans sat, we sold a few more than planned since our booth was situated in a prime location: the Staging Lane! It’s where all the cars line up prior to entering the racetrack. Spectators try to get as close as possible to the cars and the drivers in the Staging Lane. Plus, we got to see all the drivers before they went on the track for their individual races — and many of them were excited to see what was in the programs and if they were featured in it.



We Had A Great View
Race car in the Staging Lane in front of our booth.
The PitPass booth (or RV) was situated in such a way that we were centrally located between the Staging Lane (where drivers were often making last-minute adjustments to their cars) and the Stands (where the guys spent most of their time selling programs.



Clay Millican of the Werner Racing Team
Jim chatting with Clay Millican about PitPass souvenir programs.
Jim is talking to the Werner Enterprises top fuel dragster pilot, Clay Millican at the 2003 San Antonio races.



Clay Millican Gives PitPass The Thumbs Up
The PitPass team talking to Clay Millican of the Lehman Racing team.
Clay Millican is looking over the premiere issue of PitPass magazine — the souvenir program for IHRA drag racing that we created.



Terry McMillen – Hoosier Thunder Motorsports
Terry McMillen drives the Amalie Oil Funny Car.
Terry McMillen of Hoosier Thunder Motorsports drives the Amalie Oil Funny Car in the IHRA drag racing series. He was happy to see that the IHRA was going to finally have a souvenir program.



Josh Starcher Is Thrilled To See The PitPass Program
Jim showing PitPass magazine to Josh Starcher before the races in San Antonio, 2003.
As the youngest Top Fuel racer in IHRA, Josh Starcher — and the entire Colhart Motorsports racing team — thought the PitPass souvenir programs would be good for the sport.



Jim’s Temporary Tattoo
Jim put a temporary tattoo on the back of his neck.
We gave away thousands of these IHRA temporary tattoos for free. In the spirit of IHRA motorsports, Jim decided to put his temporary tattoo in an obvious place: on the back of his bald head!



Jim and Mike loading up with more programs.
Jim and Mike are re-loading their supply of souvenir programs before they walk back into the stands to sell more programs.



John Selling Programs
John selling programs at the San Antonio IHRA race.
John is a good friend of Mike’s. He lives in Mississippi, so we picked him up on our way between Nashville and San Antonio. He was one of the hardest workers we ever had.



Taking A Well-Deserved Break
Mike and Jim taking a break from peddling programs.
It was really hot, and the guys needed frequent breaks from being the scorching hot sun all day. Notice the ring around Jim’s head from where his hat was???



Mike And Jim Discussing Business Tactics
Jim and Mike after selling programs.
Well, it looks like they sold all their programs — since they came back empty-handed. That’s a good sign. What’s not a good sign is Mike being so expressive… he’s the most laid-back guy you’ll ever meet. So he was feeling pretty passionate about something at this very moment.  Jim said they were discussing the plan of attack for Day Two at the San Antonio racing event.



The Comfy Couch
Mike and Jim talking business on the sofa inside the RV.
Mike and Jim were “all business” all weekend. Here, they took their biz talk inside the RV to analyze the first day’s sales.



The Breakfast Club
Meeting for breakfast in the hotel lobby.
This was a familiar scene: we met the PitPass crew in the hotel lobby for breakfast each morning before we all headed back to the track for another day of selling programs.



Ready To Work… Again
Selling programs from the RV.
At the start of Day Two (of our 3-day race weekend), the guys were all sore from their multi-mile trek through the stands selling programs the day before. Add to that a wild night out on the town in San Antonio, and we were all moving pretty slow this morning.



Working The PitPass Booth At IHRA Events
Lynnette selling PitPass souvenir programs at IHRA drag racing events.
I actually had a great time selling PitPass souvenir programs from our booth at IHRA drag racing events. It reminded me of the days when I worked the drive-thru at Arby’s while in high school. It was a fun way to temporarily connect with “fans.” For that brief period of time, you and a stranger were 100% engaged in the same thing: either burgers & fries or fun magazines & prizes!



Will Work For Food
Our 'volunteers' were paid minimally -- mostly in food and similar perks.
Even though our friends “volunteered” to help, they went completely out of their way and worked really hard for us during these race weekends. We happily paid them and all of their expenses. One thing’s for sure, this entrepreneurial venture was filled with a lot of unknowns:

  • Would we make enough money to pay the volunteers?
  • Would we be able to make enough of a profit to make this a feasible venture in the long run?
  • Would we be able to get enough advertisers to support the project — enough to print PitPass programs for every IHRA race?
  • Would we be able to get enough spectators to actually buy the programs?

…and so on. And so on.



Jim Peddling PitPass Programs
Jim walked all day long selling programs to people in the stands.
Jim spent each day adding mileage to his already uncomfortable shoes. These lime t-shirts were our trademark. So many of the racing fans wanted to buy our t-shirts!



Trying To Talk Over The Noise Of The Race Cars
Jim trying to talk to Mike over the roar of the cars.
There is no louder form of racing than Top Fuel drag racing. Here, Jim is attempting to talk business with Mike as the night came to a close at the race track.



You Have To Wear Ear Plugs

Lynnette wearing earplugs while selling programs at the IHRA race track.
Anyone within a mile of the track would be crazy not to wear earplugs! I invested in this fancy orange set of ear plugs.



Reporting The Day’s Sales Totals
Jim calling the big boss to report our sales numbers for the day.
Jim is chillaxin’ in the motorhome while discussing our total sales for the weekend. We maxxed out our sales team’s abilities — having sold every souvenir program that we carried into the stands to sell. But we really needed more people to help us sell even more, if we really want to make a profit from this. Not to mention the fact that everyone was literally beat at the end of each day!



Reaping Our Rewards
Mike counting the money.
The road to riches has a lot of ups and downs… especially when you’re venturing out on your own with the hopes of turning passion into cash. And, especially when the event gets rained out on the last day! We still did great for our first time selling souvenir programs at IHRA drag racing events.



He’s In The Money
John counting the day's totals.
John is using the money as a fan — it was so hot. He’s also the mathematician of the group, so he’s happy to tally up the day’s sales totals.



Mike Strumming Songs About PitPass
Mike playing the guitar after the races in San Antonio.
According to Mike (and Jim), music is a sport. They take their guitars to each and every race, and they write some interesting songs during the “down time”. These two are in frequent collaboration — working hard… and hardly working. You should hear some of their funny songs about life on the road and auto racing!



Dueling Guitars
Mike and Jim playing guitars in the van.
The guys got some more guitar playing in. Here, they’re in the van making up songs about auto racing.



You Crack Me Up!

Mike composing more songs about cars, girls, and beer.
Some day, Mike’s gonna be famous for one of his million-dollar ideas and catchy jingles! Here, he’s composing a song about cars, girls, and beer. If I recall correctly, it had something to do with “2 sticks of butter” and ended with, “How’s your mama & ’em?”



Enjoying Life’s Little Luxuries
Jim's loading up the cooler with ice prior to our drive home after the races.
Since it rained the last day of the race in San Antonio, the race continued the following weekend — but we were out of souvenir programs, so we had to drive all the way back home to get more. Here, Jim’s loading up the cooler with ice prior to hitting the road to go back to San Antonio. We had all sorts of munchies and beverages for this 12-hour road trip with 6 of us in one van. Notice the TV which also came with our van? It had a DVD player too, so we could watch movies on the road as well.



Can You Believe We’re Goin BACK?
Mike in the van on the way to San Antonio - for the 2nd time!
Just our luck that our very first IHRA event in San Antonio would get partially rained out. Since they rescheduled some make-up races there the following week, we packed all our gear and headed back to San Antone… in the same van that we initially drove out there. That is, after we replaced the wheel bearings! It seemed nothing was going right for us vehicle-wise last time. First, the trailer that we initially lugged all our stuff to San Antonio in had a busted spring. We had it fixed on the way to the San Antonio racetrack the last time, but the repair didn’t quite hold up. We ended up leaving the trailer at the track since we’d be back the next weekend. But then, just as we arrived in Nashville, the van itself became completely undriveable! Fortunately, we had a few days to get the van in working order before our return trip to San Antonio the following weekend.



Looks Like We Sprung A Spring… Again!
This is now the 3rd time the trailer needed repaired.
Here we are, stopped for gas, when I hear a “strangely familiar noise” coming from the trailer we were towing. Turns out… it was the other spring! Now it, too, was broke. We’d already had the front spring repaired (twice). Now we were all but stranded on the outskirts of Shreveport, Louisiana with one semi-repaired front spring, and now a broken rear spring. AND… it was Sunday and nothing was open. AND we couldn’t drive very far even if there was a repair shop nearby.



What Are We Gonna Do Now?
Stranded along the road in Louisiana.
We were about to ditch the trailer at this point, but it had some valuable equipment in it that we needed to get back to Nashville.



Time For A Little Roadside Repair
A guy offered to fix our trailer on the spot.
Since it was Sunday, AND it was late afternoon, AND there was nothing open… we started asking around at the gas station for suggestions on repairing our broken down trailer. One guy overheard us and offered to fix it for us — for free! He simply asked us to run to the nearby auto parts store (…in da ‘hood!) to get the necessary part while he ran a couple of errands first. He asked us to meet him a few blocks away, at an old abandoned building in this tiny Louisiana town. Despite all of the oddities, this roadside repairman turned out to be an angel in disguise. He was a trailer repair specialist! You wouldn’t know it by looking at him, but while he was working he told us some very far-fetched stories about his lucrative business deals and heroic personal life. These just added to the whole ambiance of the moment and the unusual scenario we had found ourselves in. What a long, strange trip it was! P.S. We paid the guy generously for his time. P.S.S. The trailer broke again as we entered Nashville — which put an end to our trailer-and-van road trips to IHRA events.



Which Way From Here?
Mike and Jim looking at the map at a gas station.
Just a few short weeks after the whole San Antonio fiasco, we headed to Rockingham, North Carolina for the next IHRA drag racing event. This time, we rented a full-size Budget truck to haul all the gear, and we took our own Isuzu Rodeo to haul all the people.



Head Out On The Highway
Lynnette's Isuzu Rodeo packed and loaded for the drive from Nashville to Rockingham, North Carolina.
The 2nd race in the IHRA series was at Rockingham, North Carolina. This time we took 2 vehicles. In addition to the same guys who went to San Antonio with us, we also took a friend from Jim’s softball team, Jerry. All the guys rode in the SUV, while Jim and I rode in the Budget truck.



Talk To Me…
Jim on the walkie talkie.
We ended up driving more than 39,000 miles going to and from IHRA events in rental vehicles during this one year! We had purchased some walkie talkies for use while driving and at the races as well. They were helpful in contacting each other at the track — since everyone was selling programs at different locations. En route from Nashville to Rockingham, we figured out that we could use those same walkie talkies to communicate between our 2 vehicles. Jim could never get the hang of “talking when the button is depressed” and “letting up on the button to listen to what’s coming in”. Mike (driving in the SUV in front of us) would come back with: “I know you’re sayin something to me big guy, cuz I can see your lips moving in my rearview mirror. But I’m gettin nothin!”  It was too funny!



The Truck Carried All Our Gear
Loading items into the back of the Budget rental truck.
This was the smallest truck we could rent, so there was plenty of room for all our “stuff”, including all the PitPass souvenir programs we had to sell. At least it would get us there in one piece… Or would it???



Oh No, Not Again!…
The Budget truck we were driving sprung an oil leak.
In a strange twist of events, this became the third consecutive road trip from Nashville to an IHRA event that our vehicle broke down on us! This time, the Budget truck we had rented started spewing oil all over the truck and anyone driving behind us (which was our own Isuzu Rodeo at times). Fortunately, Budget has its own FREE roadside repair service. After one phone call, a quick visit and visual analysis from a guy in a Jaguar (who works from home repairing Budget trucks that break down in his town), a 2-hour lunch break (while the Jag guy ran to buy parts), and a wipe-down with a rag (to remove the spewed oil)… we were finally back on our way.



Dark Dreams At The Racetrack
Sitting trackside at dark prior to erecting the canopy tent.
Due to the unanticipated roadside truck repairs, we didn’t arrive at the racetrack in Rockingham, North Carolina until after dark — which makes putting up a multi-piece canopy tent quite a task! Here, Jim, Dave, and Jerry contemplate our next plan of attack. We decided it would be best to return to the track at the crack of dawn to set up the tent in time for the early bird race fans.



The Set-Up And Take-Down Team
Setting up the tent for our booth from scratch.
It took 5 guys about an hour to set up this huge canopy tent for the first time.



We’re Open For Business
The tent that we used to sell PitPass programs from.
It worked! We had the tent up and ready for business by the time the early bird race fans began to arrive. We were also fortunate to have such a prime location for our booth. We were right next to the track and directly in front of the overpass stairway that fans use to get from one side of the track to the other.



Jim… Working For Fun And Profit
Jim selling PitPass programs at the Rockingham IHRA event.
Jim’s kicking it into high gear — selling PitPass souvenir programs in the stands at Rockingham.



Selling The Hooters Girls On PitPass
Jim and Mike explaining the concept of PitPass magazine to the Hooters Girls.
Hooters was the official sponsor of the IHRA drag racing series, so the Hooters girls were everywhere! There was an autograph session each day, where the fans could get autographs from the race car drivers. But you scored BIG points from all your friends if you managed to get the autograph of a Hooters Girl! Here, Jim and Mike are trying to sell the Hooters Girls on the idea of PitPass — what it’s all about, how they’re pictured inside, how they should autograph the magazine when they’re handing out autographs at the racetrack.



Smile And Say… Hooters!
Jim and Mike enjoying the compnay of the Hooters Girls in Rockingham.
…There were some “perks” to this job!



Programs… Get Your Programs
Jerry selling PitPass souvenir programs at the IHRA drag racing events in Rockingham, North Carolina.
Jerry was bummed that he missed out on the photo-op with the Hooters girls. But, by the looks of all those “I Love Hooters” stickers on his shirt, Jerry’s had his fair share of interaction with the Hooters girls already! Truth is, the girls walk around all day handing out those stickers to fans at the racetrack. By the 3rd day in a row at the track, they just start slapping them on anybody and everybody who walks past them. It’s seen as a “privilege” to have received a sticker from the Hooters girls. For the record, Jerry was our top salesperson… ever! He even used such sales tactics as giving a handful of cute girls the shirt off his back in exchange for buying a program. They saw it as a 2-for-1 deal. He saw it as a chance to show off his muscles(?). We saw it as another good laugh every time Jerry returned to the tent shirtless!



Taking Refuge From The Hot Sun
Sitting under the tent, trackside in Rockhingham.
The guys would head to the tent any time they needed to come in from the scorching hot sun or fill up on ice cold water. Here, you can see how close to the track our tent was. The only downside: we couldn’t hear ourselves THINK… it was so incredibly loud!



Mike And Jim Chatting With Tim Bell
Mike and Jim are talking about PitPass with Tim Bell in Virginia.
Mike and Jim are talking about PitPass souvenir programs with IHRA driver, Tim Bell.



Sweating Over The Details
Jim setting up some door prize drawings with driver Tim Bell at the Virginia race in 2003.
Jim is attempting to coordinate some door prize drawings with Tim Bell, a Pro Stock driver in the IHRA who has supported the PitPass souvenir programs from Day One.



PitPass Program Relief
Jim and Jersey... and the cell phone.
Having just returned from an IHRA drag racing event selling PitPass souviner programs to fans in the stands, the dog is happy to see us. Well, Jersey enjoyed Jim’s good intentions, but the cell phone got the best of him (like usual). Here, Jim’s sharing the details of the weekend’s sales.



Get It Clean So It Can Get Dirty Again!
Jim washing the tent we used to sell PitPass Programs from at IHRA events.
Jim is washing the big display tent that we use for IHRA events. This is only the roof. The side walls were washed separately. This tent served as “our “booth” from which to sell PitPass Programs all year long. However, since it’s white, it tended to get filthy dirty after each race — especially with all that fuel and tar-like substance that gets kicked up when the cars spin their wheels during each burnout!



In the end, we sold PitPass souvenir programs at IHRA drag racing events for one full year in 8 different states.

It was a fun entrepreneurial adventure, but it didn’t make a lot of money and we didn’t quite have enough manpower to pull it off successfully. Aside from our paid volunteers, there were only 3 of us behind the nuts and bolts of this massive project: a 56-page 4-color magazine that was filled with photos, interviews, advertising, stats, and articles about drag racing. Not to mention the fact that each had full-time jobs that required most of our attention at the time.

So we decided we couldn’t realistically go forward a 2nd year with the means and resources that we had available to us at the time. Much to everyone’s dismay (ours, the IHRA, Ambrose Printing Company, drag racers, loyal advertisers, racing fans, and others), we pulled the plug on the PitPass project due to increased printing and travel costs. But we had a great time! We learned a lot. We got to travel to some great places. And drag racing has a new fan… his name is Jim Walczak!

The next year, Jim started doing PR and marketing for IHRA driver, Terry McMillen (pictured above) while still working full-time for a printing company in Nashville. Eventually, Jim left the printing business to work from home on TheFunTimesGuide.com and a few other small projects. This enabled him to start attending to all of the IHRA races again — only this time in a different capacity: as Terry McMillen’s official PR guy. It’s a position he still holds to this day, only now Terry participates in NHRA events rather than IHRA events.