Nadine’s grandfather’s funeral was last week. It was the most touching funeral I’ve ever been to. Not because of how the ceremony went… but because I understood how much of a loss the entire world had suffered because of his passing. He was easily one of the best men I’ve ever met… and I think it’s because of my age that I can fully realize and appreciate that now. My grandparents passed away when I was young… my grandmother passed away when I was in elementary school… my grandfather passed away when I was a senior in high school. My great grandmother passed away a few years ago. I guess when I talk about age, I mean in a sense of maturity and awareness. I’m hoping that the medical bills didn’t end up being too high… I’d be willing to give my RS-R prize event winnings to Nadine’s grandmother to help pay it off. Nadine was soooo strong throughout the whole ordeal. I’m so proud of her and I’m glad to know that when times are tough and the people around her are weak, she will be the crutch that everybody can lean on.

Anyway. RS-R Chicago!
As you might remember, the KAAZ car was sitting around with a blown engine… I couldn’t compete in that. So Ron, offered me his car… you might have seen the car before… it has a lot of history. Anyway, Ron did me a HUGE favor and put in a lot of work and money so that I could drive the car. He installed a cage… installed some cams… did some tuning, etc… all at the last minute. Ron is such a cool guy… he’s done so much for me this year. I haven’t even known him for very long yet he’s come through for me like I’m an old friend, and I really appreciate that.

Nadine was at home taking care of her grandfather who was in the critical care unit at the hospital. We decided it was best for her to stay home because I wouldn’t forgive myself if something happened while she was half way across the country. So I flew in early early Saturday morning by myself. It was a really strange experience flying into an unfamiliar city/state all by myself… renting a car… and then finding my way to the track so that I can wrench on the car by myself. I was lucky that I have a friend Rob in Chicago… he is a very nice guy, and I was glad that I was able to call him to get directions on how to get to the track, and what to order from White Castle. Haha! If you’ve ever wondered what White Castle sliders taste like… you don’t have to travel far far away to taste it. Just go to your local grocery store and buy a box from the freezer section. They taste EXACTLY the same… except the bread doesn’t get hard when it gets cold.

ANYWAY… after finding grabbing a bite to eat and finding a Walmart to buy some supplies, I headed over to the track… The reason why I flew in a day before the event was because I had to work on Ron’s car and make some changes before it was ready for competition. We forgot to put the rocker arm stoppers in, so that was one thing… the other thing was changing the B&M short shifter that was in there… that thing was so hard to shift, I was constantly mis-shifting. That’s not a good thing when you are coming into a corner really fast and you need to downshift to keep from going too wide. When I pulled up, I met some of the local guys, who were awesome, by the way. Really friendly people… I had so many people offer me their help and even people who kept me company while I was working on the car. Rob was super generous and offered to change my shifter for me while I was installing the rocker arm stoppers. Which was a HUMONGOUS help, since changing that shifter is rediculous, and it would have taken me another hour or so to finish working on my car in the dark. Thanks Rob! To my surprise, RS-R was there… with FOUR cars!!! They were busy working on the cars too… can you imagine? That’s A LOT of cars to get into good running condition when they all just came from Japan. The sun began to set as we finished up. Jerry, Dai, and I were in the same hotel, so we drove over to the hotel to check in and clean up. Ron flew in late that night also.

So the next day was pretty cool… there weren’t many people at the competition, and it seemed a lot more like we were there just having fun and hanging out in a new place. I was AMAZED at the talent I saw in Chicago… I was thinking that it would probably be like our first drift day competition in LA, being that this was one of the few drift events that they’ve ever had. I was wrong!! They were all very good and maybe a year, they can be as good as the guys in LA… it was awesome seeing that… and it was awesome seeing how closely knit they were… it pretty much reminded me of how things were for me a couple years ago. It was nice. I was able to sit with some of the drivers and go for a ride… which is always fun. The part I loved best was that most of those guys never had instruction from people who have been doing it longer… so I was totally honored to introduce them to proper line and help them to get better. I sat with Rob and was impressed… he did really well in such a difficult car – a Miata. After I rode with him, I told Ken and Dai “see the black turbo miata? He’s going to the finals!” and he did. He got 1st place! Congrats Rob!

As for our competition, I was driving the car pretty much for the first time. Since the last time I drove it, it had a new engine, a new turbo, new tuning, a cage, new shifter, cams… but the interesting part was that the pilot bearing decided to take a crap on us. It didn’t seem to bother me while I was kicking the clutch, but it was horrible trying to shift in a straight line and mid-drift. The powerband always dropped off when I missed the shift, and it really affected my entry speed. We went out for our introduction runs… Ken went out and played with the wall… oops. He hit pretty hard and wrecked his front tie rod, wheel, fender, and bumper. I went out and did my introduction run really quick and then came back to help Ken out with his car… he was frantic and went out looking for tie rods and stuff. Turns out that the generous guys at Tiger Racing crashed too… and donated their parts to Ken. Gushi san and I went to work and swapped all of Ken’s bad parts in a really short time. Then we went out for qualifying round!

I qualified 4th, and I found out that in the first round of tandem… it was me and Taka. Oh great. Somehow, I pulled through and won the round. For some reason, although I wasn’t making awesome runs, I was super consistent. Maybe that got it for me. In the next round, it was me and Hiroo. Oh great! Hiroo is always super super good at tandem… very consistent and very aggressive (no matter what kind of car he is driving against). In our first two runs, we both made mistakes, and we had to go into sudden death. The next round, for some reason Hiroo wasn’t able to initiate into the first corner, and I won the round.

As I was running, I was watching to see who I would be paired up with for the final round… Ken went out against Dai… and beat him, and put him into 3rd place. Holy crap! I realized that it would be Ken, Dai, and me on the podium together! It’s been ages since I was last on the podium, and I didn’t even care about that… it was the fact that we were all good friends. I was so excited to run in the finals against Ken… in the past 4 years of me drifting, I’ve never had that chance, and it made me not care how it ended up. I just realized… a year or so ago, Ken, Dai, and I would always be drifting together on Gran Turismo 3 at my house. How geeky is that! Haha! ANYWAYS… Ken and I went out and had even runs… sudden death. The next time I went out, I went out way too wide and missed the clipping point… my line ended up to be really bad, and Ken got a lot of distance on me. Ken was right on my ass when I was leading… that didn’t help either.

I ended up placing 2nd with Ken and Dai beside me. It was a lot of fun, but in the back of my mind was always Nadine and her grandfather. I wished I could fly out that night
but I was way too tired and it was a long flight. I went to dinner with Ken and his family to celebrate, then hung out with Dai and Ron for a little bit and went to bed early so that I could catch my early flight in the morning. He ended up passing away while I was in the air flying back… Nadine was with him.