NHRA: Career-best season thus far has driver and blind crew chief/team owner dreaming of championship

The Permatex/Follow-A-Dream Top Alcohol Funny Car driven by Todd Veney and owned by Jay Blake in action earlier this season. (Photo courtesy Follow-A-Dream Racing)

When Jay Blake said prior to the season that 2015 could be the best season ever for his Follow-A-Dream team, it was a prediction based upon hope and optimism.

But following this past weekend’s Lucas Oil Route 66 Nationals in Joliet, Il., Blake’s prediction is coming true in reality and performance.

Driver Todd Veney (Photo Courtesy of Follow-A-Dream Racing)

Blake and driver Todd Veney are on the team’s biggest roll ever. They’ve won three of their last five Top Alcohol Funny Car races – at Richmond (Va.), Lebanon Valley (Pa.) and a week ago at Norwalk (Ohio) – along with semi-final finishes at Maple Grove (Pa.) and this past Sunday at Route 66.

“We are definitely on a roll,” said Blake, whose team is based out of Marston Mills, Mass. “Things have really come together, the team has never given up and has worked really hard and it’s finally showing us promise and happiness.

“We’re very excited to be No. 1 in regional points and No. 2 in national points and it’s July, so things are good. We’ve made some changes and adjustments, and all the little things we did just all came together at the right time and it’s happened.”

Veney, of Indianapolis, is ranked a career-best second in the national TAFC standings, just 10 points out of first place.

“I’ve never been part of a team where we’ve had top speed at half the races we’ve been to this year,” Veney said. “Doing 264 mph consistently is really getting with the program.

“This car can make a lot of power. … There’s a lot of really good cars (in TAFC) that have never gone that fast, so it’s nice to be part of it.”

Compared to where the team was after the first few races of the season, its overall fortunes have done a complete 180-degree turnaround.

Crew chief and team owner of the Follow-A-Dream race team, Jay Blake (Photo courtesy of Follow-A-Dream Racing)

“I never really thought of it as a slow start, things happen,” Veney said. “We had breaks in some of the races we’ve won that we couldn’t have counted on. If just one of those wouldn’t have happened, then we wouldn’t have won.

“We lost in the first race to a guy who, after he got out of his car, and he said, ‘I can’t believe I beat you. I don’t know what to say.’ I just shook his hand and said congratulations.

“Then, we broke something at Charlotte, so we never even came and ran in the first round – so it’s not like we got beat there. Something that should never break broke; we couldn’t fix it in time. And there’s been five races since then and we’ve won three of them.

“So, I don’t look at it as a slow start. Things happen to everybody. … The last five races have been real good. If we get some breaks in the next (national event), we could be No. 1 (nationally).”

The team has six races left and is hoping its good luck of late will continue all the way to its first-ever NHRA TAFC championship, something Blake has been chasing for well over a decade.

“This is a very, very humbling sport,” said Blake, who is the only blind crew chief and team owner in a major motorsports series in the U.S. “You can win one weekend and not qualify the next. One of the great things right now is Todd is doing a great job and has a lot of confidence in himself and in the race car.

“When he’s up there, that gives him peace of mind to relax and do his job. That’s a big part of it, plus the team is feeling great. We always felt we had all the pieces and just have to hope the breaks go your way and you have to be prepared. We’re prepared and we’re just going for it.”

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Jett Lawrence wins Hangtown Pro Motocross, remains perfect in 450s

Lawrence Hangtown Motocross
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Jett Lawrence remains perfect in the Pro Motocross series after recording another perfect round at Hangtown in Rancho Cordova, California. In his second start on a 450, Lawrence won his second National with his fourth consecutive moto win. It is getting increasingly difficult to find the right superlatives to describe the exploits on the reigning 250 West Supercross champion.

“The track was so brutal out there,” Lawrence told NBC Sports Jason Thomas. “The bike handles amazing even when it’s not too friendly. You had to be really patient; you couldn’t take too much. I didn’t eat enough before that second moto. I kind of lost energy halfway through, but luckily I could use technique and balance and just keep that flow going.”

Lawrence leaves Hangtown with an 18-point advantage over Ferrandis in the 450 Motocross standings, but perhaps more importantly, he climbed to 19th in the SuperMotocross standings and should he stay there, he has an automatic invitation to the Main events in the SMX Championship.

“On this track, you just have to manage,” Lawrence continued. “If you try to take too much and not respect the track, it will bite you very quickly. It was humbling on the first few laps. I got kicked on the cutout at the start of the third section, the tabletop going to the left. I had to get my focus because the boys were coming.”

Still in his first few races since returning from a concussion suffered at Houston in the Supercross series, Dylan Ferrandis finished second with results of third in Moto 1 and second in Moto 2. While Ferrandis was happy with the result, he remains hopeful that he will contend for victory shortly.

“The first moto was very hard for my physically, Ferrandis said. “I got arm pump and when you get arm pump your body gets tired. But I’m very happy because we made a big change for the second moto. We tried stuff every session today and in the last moto the bike was much better, but unfortunately I wasn’t sure what I could do with this bike because the track was very hard and difficult to pass.”

RESULTS: How they finished in the 450 Overall at Hangtown

With the rash of injuries at the end of the Supercross season, the podium was filled with heartwarming stories. Cooper Webb returned to action last week in Pala and failed to make the podium. He is steadily improving with a third-place finish in Hangtown. after finishing with a 4-2.

“It’s incredible what seven days can do,” Webb said. “Last week I felt like I was going to get lapped in the second moto. This week, I could see the leader. It was nice. I fought hard, learned how to suffer again there and that felt nice.

Moto 2 wasn’t pretty for Lawrence. On several occasions in the opening laps, he nearly high sided as he rode the front wheel through the ruts. The reward was worth the risk. By the halfway point, Lawrence had 4.5-second lead over Webb, who was embroiled in a tight three-rider battle for second with his teammate Aaron Plessinger pressuring him and Ferrandis ready to take advantage if those made contact.

It took 20 minutes for Plessinger to get around Webb and once he did, he trailed Lawrence by four seconds. But then, with three minutes remaining, Plessinger crashed and had difficulty restarting the bike, handing second back to Webb who has seven seconds behind Lawrence. Plessinger fell to fourth with results of third and sixth.

Adam Cianciarulo rounded out the top five with a 5-4.

Last week Hunter Lawrence won the overall with a 3-1. He repeated that feat in Hangtown in an exact replica of his Fox Raceway results last week. In Moto 1, Lawrence got off to a slow start and lost 10 seconds in the opening laps. Forced to overcome a sixth-place position in the race at the end of Lap 1, he once again caught the riders ahead of him when the field hit heavy traffic. For the second week, scored another 3-1 for the Hangtown National win.

“The start was crucial’ I knew I had to go,” Lawrence told NBC Sports’ Jason Thomas. “They laid a lot of water down, so I didn’t want to be behind any longer than [I was]. First hot one of the year, was a bit of a wakeup call, so I’m happy to get out of here safe and healthy.”

Lawrence’s third-place finish in Moto 1 featured a fierce battle for final spot on the podium when he caught Spain’s Guillem Farres and France’s Tom Vialle. With Lawrence hailing from Australia, the international nature of the sport was highlighted.

Lawrence left Hangtown with a 10-point advantage over Haiden Deegan in the Pro Motocross championship battle.

Click here for 250 overall results

Justin Cooper finished second in both motos to finish second overall. Hangtown represented a huge improvement from Fox Raceway where he finished fifth overall with a 5-4 finish in the two motos. Cooper pressured Haiden Deegan in the second half of Moto 1 and he earned the holeshot in the second moto and stayed within three seconds of Lawrence in that race.

“He was following me a little bit, checking out my lines, seeing where he was better,” Cooper said. “It’s disappointing to give up the lead like that but it was way better than last weekend. I will definitely take two seconds. I want to be on the top of the step. I feel like I get close to the top step but I never get it done. That’s building up the frustration – the fire. I really want to get one of these wins, so it’s time to start digging.”

Haiden Deegan earned the first holeshot of his career in Moto 1 and rode away from the field, building a four-second lead in the opening laps. Cooper trimmed the lead at the halfway point and for a while it leveled off at two seconds. Then Cooper made another charge with three to go and closed to within a second. Deegan was biding his time, however.

“I was saving a little. I knew at the end Justin was going to try and put a charge on. I let him get up close and then sent it super hard at the end to break him a little at the end.”

Deegan’s first moto win comes in only his fourth National and he remains perfect in regard to podiums this year.

“This was a dream since I was a little kid, to win,” Deegan said. “And in my fourth race, it’s gnarly. I was just sending it. I was getting a little tired at the end becasue I left my mouth open the whole time. It’s unreal; I’m so hyped. I wanted to win bad and I proved it to you guys.”

Chaos erupted in turn 1 in Moto 2 Jeremy Martin went and another rider ran over his arm. Michael Mosiman crashed further down the track on that same lap. Both riders were helped off course by the Alpinestars Medical team.

2023 Motocross Race Recaps

Fox Raceway: Jett Lawrence wins in first 450 start

2023 Supercross Race Recaps

Salt Lake City: Chase Sexton ends the season with win
Denver: Chase Sexton wins, takes points’ lead with Eli Tomac injury
Nashville: Chase Sexton keeps hope alive; Cooper Webb out
New Jersey: Justin Barcia wins muddy race; first in two years
Atlanta: Chase Sexton is back in the championship picture
Glendale: Eli Tomac wins 51st, breaks tie with James Stewart
Seattle: Eli Tomac wins and ties Webb for first
Detroit: Chase Sexton inherits win after Aaron Plessinger falls
Indianapolis: Ken Roczen gets first win in more than a year
Daytona: Eli Tomac extends Daytona record with seventh win
Arlington: Cooper Webb wins for second time, closes to two of Tomac
Oakland: Eli Tomac ties Ricky Carmichael with 48 wins
Tampa: Cooper Webb gets first 2023 win
Houston: Eli Tomac bounces back from A2 crash to win third race of 2023
Anaheim 2: Triple Crown produces new winners Chase Sexton, Levi Kitchen
San Diego: Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence double down
Anaheim 1: Eli Tomac wins opener for the first time

More SuperMotocross coverage

Chase Sexton is out for Hangtown
Enzo Lopes re-signs with Club MX for 2024
Record Supercross attendance reported in 2023
SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Pala
Results and points after Pala
Jett Lawrence wins Pala in his first MX start
450 Champion Chase Sexton takes back what he gave away
250 West Supercross champion Jett Lawrence ends dream career
250 East Supercross champion Hunter Lawrence overcomes doubt and injury