Follow A Dream/Permatex TA/FC team 2017 season wrap/2018 season look-ahead
MARSTONS MILLS, Massachusetts (February 7, 2018) – The Follow A Dream/Permatex Top Alcohol Funny Car had an outstanding 2017 season.
The team won two races, had several more runner-up and semi-final finishes, won the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series Top Alcohol Funny Car East Regional championship and finished sixth in the national series’ standings.
It was the second full season of team owner/crew chief Jay Blake, driver Phil Burkart and tuner Anthony Terenzio being together, forming a strong nucleus that worked well off each other and with each other.
It was a true team effort, one that got stronger and more cohesive with each passing race of the 2017 campaign. If there was one unfortunate part, it’s that the season ended in late September just as the team was really hitting its stride.
The Follow A Dream/Permatex team has already waited four-plus months for the 2018 season. And while it will still have to wait one more month until early March in Gainesville, Florida, to put the Funny Car on-track, the team is already working towards what it hopes will be an even greater season in 2018.
The new year also comes with the promise of another productive and promising 12 months for Blake and his noted outreach efforts of speaking to several dozen groups and thousands of individuals each year, giving positive and inspirational speeches not so much about drag racing, but more so importantly about life and it’s lessons, challenges and overcoming adversity.
Blake knows all about life’s lessons and challenges and adversity. More than 20 years ago, he lost his eyesight in an industrial accident.
"Instead of feeling sorry for myself, I went out and did something I always wanted to do, and that was to start my own race team,” Blake said. “People told me I was crazy, that I wouldn’t succeed.”
“But we did succeed. I didn’t let blindness define me or stop me. I still had all my other senses, my love of drag racing and a positive attitude that nothing was going to stop me.”
"That’s how Follow A Dream began, to show people how you can overcome often bad times and bad things, and we’ve done that and have kept going forward ever since.”
Even though it’s now in the team’s rearview mirror, the 2017 season still remains important to the team, not only for all the achievements but also for the baseline it set for what promises to be an even better and more successful season in 2018.
To that end, we sat down with Blake, Burkart and Terenzio to get their thoughts about how last season played out, as well as their respective outlooks for 2018.
Here are some excerpts from those conversations:
TEAM OWNER/CREW CHIEF JAY BLAKE: “2016 was such a dramatic change from the year prior, with Phil and Anthony both coming on board and the loss of Tommy (long-time tuner Tommy Howell). What we learned that year, we were able to carry into 2017."
“In their second year of working together last season, Phil and Anthony worked real well together and the team gelled real well. This past year, the car settled down, it was much more tune-able and drive-able and just kept getting better and better. Phil’s driving has improved, he was more comfortable with more laps in the car and it really came together really, really nicely."
"As for 2018, we’re going to take everything we learned last year and we’re not going to change anything. We’re coming in with a fresh motor and nothing else different and hope to pick up where we left off. We have a few crew changes, but hopefully that doesn’t really cause us any troubles."
"I really think 2018 holds a lot of potential. I know it will not be easy, but we have the opportunity to win the regional championship again and hopefully better our national points standings."
“The likelihood of winning the national championship is slim because we don’t have the kind of budget to run all the races as the other guys. Still, we have 13 races this season and you never know, a national championship could happen if we do everything right, win a number of races and luck goes our way. I wouldn’t say we’re totally out of it because that’s not even close. It all starts in March in Gainesville with our regional race there, and the following week right back there for the national event and we go from there."
“We have Permatex back for their 14th season with us and we’re very happy and proud to have them be with us for such a long time. They’re a family-oriented company and they’re definitely part of our family. I’m very honored to carry their name, we work very hard to promote them and do good for them, they’re a great company, make great products and they’re great people. That’s one of the things that’s always been special, is the people in the organization are so great. We’re hoping to carry the relationship even farther."
“As for repeating as regional champions, it’s going to be harder and there are going to be more cars and a bunch of fast cars. The competition is going to be steep but we’re up for the task and challenge. I feel confident we have a car that should go to the semi-finals of every race we go to – and we should go to many finals this season."
“Off the track, we’re going to continue our very successful speaking program, talking to groups, companies, organizations, youth groups and so many more. We’re excited to speak to more people, it’s a very humbling and awesome opportunity and it’s just really cool.”
DRIVER PHIL BURKART: “I think 2017 was the season that we all came together as a team and really started to gel. The end of the season was very good, that’s where it really started to come together tune-up wise and we made a lot of progress, so much that it was almost disheartening that the season was over. "
“As for this coming season, the key is to get everybody on the same page quickly. We’re going to have a couple of new guys so if we can get the guys up to speed quickly like the guys last season, we should be okay."
“This will be our third year together, Jay, Anthony and myself. Anthony has a huge background and an awful lot of experience and has done really well in his career. I think we’re on the verge of doing the same."
“We need to be even more aggressive than we’ve ever been because the competition will be just as aggressive, as well."
“As for the first two races of the upcoming season at Gainesville, we just have to get there and get our head in the game right away after the long off season. We have to get up to speed and knock the dust off as quickly as possible."
“Even though that points meet (national event) is very important, we’ll kind of use the regional race as kind of a test session for the Gatornationals and whatever we do there is a bonus."
“We’d love to win the national championship. It would mean the world to Jay, it would be the top of his whole career as a team owner. And of course, that’s what we’re all striving for. Skill, luck and preparation all have to be on your side.”
TUNER ANTHONY TERENZIO: “The first year (2016), we got together and I was new to the team and the car was new to me and we had some issues with the car. That season was kind of up and down. The team started gelling better toward the end of that season."
“Going into 2017, we got to Gainesville for the regional and national races. At the national event we ran a career best 5.42 (seconds) at 269, almost 270 mph. So that’s really when things started coming around and the team began to gel and we got to know each other better. We went on to do pretty good in the year, started winning some races and later in the season won the regional and everything just really came together the best since we’ve all been together."
"As for 2018, I believe that this could be the best season the team has ever had. I’m getting a better handle on the car, I’ve changed the tune-up a little bit about three-quarters of the way through last season and the car responded. Basically, I could get more aggressive when we switched to Hoosier tires. I definitely have a lot more confidence going into 2018 because I can make changes with these tires and the car responds or it doesn’t. The car lets me know what I can and can’t do."
“The Thursday before the points race in Gainesville (next month), we’ll make some shakedown runs just to try and get the car back to where it was in the last race of the season at Reading (Pennsylvania). Then we’ll run Friday and Saturday and then the national event is the following weekend, also at Gainesville. If we start off where we ended last season, I think we’re going to have a good season."
“Even going back to the early 70s when I started driving, I go into every season being very optimistic. I don’t go to the races to lose or just to qualify. That’s not what I go there for. I go there to win. I’m very optimistic every year. I’ve been going to the track since I was 9 years old, and I’m now 64 years old. I got my racing license at 18, but every year I go there, I go to win. I’m not there to fool around."
“A national championship would mean the same to all of us, and that’s the ultimate goal here. I believe we have a championship car, I really do. Like everything else, everything has to fall into place, we have to run good at every race we go to. It’s a challenge and I don’t take it lightly. We’re going to try our best. That’s what we’re here for.”