MARSTONS MILLS, Massachusetts (March 7, 2017) – Expectations are high and all systems are go as Jay Blake and the Follow A Dream/Permatex NHRA Top Alcohol Funny Car team kick off their 2017 racing schedule this week.
The team, which finished No. 2 in the NHRA Northeast Division and No. 14 in the NHRA national TA/FC standings in 2016, is ready to pick up where it left off and have an even better 2017 campaign.
“We’re building on what we had last year and the crew, the core group is returning and we’re in good shape,” team founder and owner Jay Blake said. “We want to build on last year, we want to win the division and we want to be in the top 10 nationally.”
Things kick off this week for the Follow A Dream group with testing Wednesday and Thursday at Gainesville Raceway in north central Florida. In fact, Gainesville will be home to Blake and his team for nearly the next two weeks.
“We haven’t raced since October, so you want to get all the dust out and the cobwebs off,” Blake said. “We also want to get Phil (driver Phil Burkart) comfortable in the car again and check out some of the things Anthony (crew chief Anthony Terenzio) has in mind.
“Basically, you want to get the car going up and down the racetrack so you’re confident in it and that everything’s right from the winter and you have a solid starting spot for the season.”
After the two days of testing, they’ll take part in this weekend’s NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series “Prelude to the Gators” regional event on Friday and Saturday.
Then, next weekend, the Follow A Dream/Permatex squad will take part in its first national event of the season, one of the biggest races of the year on the NHRA schedule, the Amalie Motor Oil Gatornationals.
The motivation for both the regional race and the national event are the same, Blake said.
“We approach everything the same – both the Lucas Oil race and the Gatornationals – because all the points count towards the national points,” Blake said.
With so much track time at Gainesville over the next two weeks, the Follow A Dream team will develop a good baseline going forward over the next few races of the season.
But the key is to be patient, Blake said. While being aggressive has its place, Blake would rather be sure and steady this early in the season to make sure the car is ready for bigger and better things to come later down the road.
“You definitely want to start slow and just make sure that everything’s in where it’s supposed to be,” Blake said. “We put a new race pack in the car this winter and you want to make sure all that’s right and build on that.
“I don’t believe you want to go rotate the earth to start with. You want to get the car to go up and down the track, and get the driver, crew chief and everyone else comfortable.”
As has been the case for several years, Blake welcomes back a number of key sponsors to the fold in 2017, because their support is instrumental in both the car’s performance on-track, as well as the social message Follow A Dream imparts off the track.
“We’re very proud to have Permatex, Clevite, Automotive Racing Products, Mechanix Wear and all of our long-time partners back with us,” Blake said. “It’s a great privilege to have all of our partners back and to have the team back from last year and just building on the chemistry and things we learned last year and feeling good about this year.”
This will be the 15th consecutive season of NHRA national and regional competition for Blake and the Follow A Dream program. It was established to use drag racing as a tool to inspire and motivate individuals – particularly those with physical and visual challenges – to pursue their interests and not let anything stand in their way to success.
In addition to several hundred races logged along the way, Blake has spoken to dozens of groups and thousands of individuals with a powerful message of motivation and serving as an inspiration after losing his sight in an industrial accident in 1997.
“I’ve been incredibly fortunate with a great team of people,” Blake said. “It’s mostly a volunteer team, but it’s awesome to realize what we’ve done and how it’s been able to keep going.
“But it’s really to the crew of people that have volunteered their time to keep us moving, growing, winning races and being competitive. They’re the ones that have gotten us here.
“I can’t believe that it’s been 15 years already. I still remember when I bought my first Funny Car from Frank Manzo and thinking how somebody builds a new one of these. This is now my third Funny Car. It’s been awesome and amazing.”