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September 7, 2021
Piatti's Lunch Meeting
 
Week #10 - President Patrick O’Neil
(Revving things up)
 
President Patrick O’Neil hit the bell with the normal sized gavel to open the meeting at 12:02 p.m.  He then welcomed everyone to the “Best Damn Rotary Club in all of Arden Arcade.”  He asked Danny Curtola to lead the pledge, which he did. Michael Caplan was tapped to give the invocation.  He asked everyone to join him in a silent prayer for the firefighters, law enforcement and other public servants that are working to not only extinguish the fire but provides services and sympathy to the fire victims.    
 
Guests and Visiting Rotarians – None
 
Prez O’Neil confessed that he screwed up when he sent out the meeting announcement this last week.  While he did send it out, it only went to himself and he had to rectify the situation quickly on Monday.  For this he fined himself $20.
 
Bell Ringers
Rob Ford for sending his youngest child, Molly, to the University of Wisconsin.  It was a very fun trip but also a sorrowful trip when the baby moves out to college at a very far distance.  She attended the Penn State football game and enjoyed being one of 90,000 people not socially distancing themselves or wearing masks.
 
Happy/Sad Bucks
George Prather - $10 because last month marked his 42nd year in Arden Arcade Rotary.
 
News, Announcements and Stuff Like That
 
Golf Tournament
John Gabriel said we are doing really well. Our club has really stepped up.  We brought Granite Bay Rotary on as a partner and they are just not doing it.  Without the help of the people in this room and those that the newsletter reaches it would have been a real struggle.  We still need raffle and silent auction prizes, gift cards, wine, vacation rentals, etc.  Bring them next week and he will pick them up.  We are looking good on golfers if the people have said they will come do so.   We have about twelve holes covered with setups.  There will be adult beverages.  It is looking good.  Thank you for your support we really appreciate it.
 
Prez O’Neil reminded the club that everyone, except Lisa Asperger, who has an official, bona fide, great reason for not being able to attend (the birth of her second grandchild), will be at the tournament either as a golfer or as a volunteer.
 
Great American River Cleanup
Prez O’Neil stood in for Bill Hambrick and reminded the club about the Great American River Cleanup on Saturday, September 18th from 9:00 am to 12:00 pm on the American River at the Northgate and Highway 160, mile marker 2.  This is an X-rated event, no children allowed. If Al is not back in town by this time, we may have to forgo the BBQ and settle for a Bar and not worry about the BQ.  The secret word is flexible. 
 
Darkness Darkness My Old Friend
Prez O’Neil reminded the club we will be dark on September 21, the day after the golf tournament.  You can still come and eat at Piatti’s but you will not see your fellow club members, that is unless they forget and come too.
 
Rotarian of the Month
Prez O’Neil called Mike Grace to come to the front of the room and receive the Rotarian of the Month award for August, for his untiring work and devotion to the newsletter and keeping the secret word going.
Secret Word
Prez O’Neil asked if anyone knew the secret word and before he could finish the sentence Lisa Asperger announce “Rehab,” beating out at least one other reader of the newsletter.  The winners of the secret word now get to spin the wheel which could be good or bad as they may not get any tickets.  Just as the Prez finished saying this, the wheel came to a stop on 1, a click away from 0.
 
The club socialized while waiting for lunch to be served.
 
Prez O’Neil introduced George Prather to talk about his passion, Drag Racing, not his former career. 
 
George acknowledged the fact that most of the club’s members know that he drag races not races in drag.  That is the race in Amsterdam where men put on women’s clothing and run. 
 
The drag racing rule book explains the sport this way:
The sport of drag racing is an acceleration contest between two vehicles, racing from a standing start, over a straight race course.  A drag racing event is made up of a series of individual two vehicle races called eliminations with competing machines divided into a variety of classes.  Class eligibility is governed by criteria that limits engine size, type of fuel, vehicle weight, allowable modifications, and aero dynamics.  A set of lights, commonly called a Christmas tree, is used at the starting line.  There is 4 tenths of a second difference between the flash of all amber lights and the flash of the green light in a pro start system.  In handicap racing, (the type of racing George does,) the amber lights illuminate for 5 tenths of a second between the last amber and the green.  Upon leaving the starting line each contestant activates a timer which is stopped when the vehicle reaches the finish line.  The start to finish clocking is the vehicle’s elapsed time which measure performance and often to determine handicaps varied competition.
 
In a nutshell, two cars, with adrenalin junkie drivers, meet at a starting line and attempt to start as quickly as the light turns green and drive as fast as their class allows to see who can get to the end of the ¼ mile course faster than the other without killing themselves or any spectators in hopes that their parachute opens and keeps them from running into anything at the end of the race course.  This usually takes about 6 seconds.
 
George got into racing during his youth while running moonshine and evading the revenuers in Vallejo, California.  He was caught and the judge sentenced him to working at the local Chevy dealership cleaning the floors with confiscated moonshine.  He confessed the fumes had a long-term effect on his memory.  Little did the judge know that George would work on his cars after the dealership closed down making them even faster and harder for the revenuers to catch.  Everything changed for George once he got married and the little lady put her foot down on running moonshine.  He was forced to stop and get a respectable job but he settled on being a mortician.  Many years later, George, remembering the glory days of old when he was young and virile, decided he missed the thrill of evading the revenuers and found a legal way to get his adrenalin fix and started drag racing. 
 
George then, started showing pictures of all things drag racing, a Christmas tree that starts the race and the drivers utilize to time the best start they can get without jumping the gun and getting disqualified (This of course is a paraphrase as George enthusiastically used a lot more words to say about the same thing).  George started sharing pictures of his babies like any proud father.  He shared a picture of one of his early race cars, a 1972 Vega.  He then moved on to showing pictures of his first drag racing vehicle, identifying the different parts of the vehicle and explaining in fine detail the need for each of the features. 
 
George shared that changes in his life presented an opportunity to have a vacation by himself doing what he wanted to do.  He decided to go to Florida to the Frank Hawley Drag Racing School.  This is where George learned, over three days, how to be a drag racer.  Not everyone that went to the course survived to day three to actually drive a drag car.  George was one out of two students, in a class of seven, that made it to the third day. George attributes his success to his misspent youth.
 
George then showed pictures of his second car and explained that the appearance of the car is very important and needs to be just right or the driver will not be happy and will always be thinking about the appearance and possibly forget to start the car when the light turns green.  This necessitated a modification of the appearance of his second car.  The cars are not painted, they are wrapped with space age film designed to make the car glide through wind and look good while doing it.  The club enjoyed seeing all the pictures of different locations he raced at and the friends that made the racing memorable.
George developed the need for more speed.  He went and took a course to allow him to race top alcohol dragsters.  George, remembering his days evading the revenuers, thought that top alcohol drag racing was just up his alley.  He took the course and was very disappointed.  Not only was in nothing like evading revenuers but it cost a lot more than regular drag racing, so he never used his license.   
 
George proceeded to show pictures of his car with a new and improved look designed to impress George with the thoughts of going faster and looking good while doing it, for a at least 6 seconds. George explained how the car lifts its front wheels and the bar behind the vehicle limits the lift to keep the vehicle from doing a back flip.  He asp shared the need for good quality brakes and backup parachutes.  A car that goes over 150 mph needs one parachute, over 200 mph two parachutes and one pair of Depends. The secret word is Depends.
 
George shared a picture of his car after the brakes and parachutes were less than adequate to bring the car to a safe stop at the Fontana raceway, one of the shortest he races. His brakes were not slowing him down and he was heading for a series of three cable nets suspended over a gravel road.  George managed to take out two of the nets but not the third.  The construction of the vehicle kept the steel cables from decapitating him.  The race track medical team raced out to his car to check on George’s condition.  The paramedics told him not to move and then began asking him questions.  “What is your name?” they asked. “George Prather” he responded.  “How old are you?” the continued.  “Too #^@$%&* old to be doing this” George responded.   They laughed and said “You are OK, get out of the car.”
 
George ended up buying a new frame from a friend and showed, in great detail, what goes into making a drag car. One of the interesting, little known bits of information is that these cars do not have clutches.  They have buttons that control the vehicle moving forward from the starting line.  Another point of interest is that they have little computer cards that can be removed from the vehicle that gives all of the technical data necessary to now how the vehicle is performing as well as the performance of the nut behind the wheel.  His vehicles use 116 octane racing gasoline and allows him to use nitrous oxide to be injected to add about an additional 300 HP.  The nitrous oxide is only used briefly as a boost.  Extended use could melt the engine and that would not be a laughing matter. 
 
Once the car was finished, he had a crew from Colorado adorn the vehicle with the state-of-the-art high-velocity vinyl wrap, developed by NASA and designed by the Kardashians.  He now had a very fast looking car and decided it needed an engine to match so he put a 598 cubic inch, 1,500 HP, racing motor, based on a chevy engine.  It only has one carburetor, but that is enough to get’er going.  He has two parachutes on his vehicle that he folds himself and he says it is a lot of work folding them.  He always uses the parachutes except when he one at the Sonoma Nationals and he didn’t pull the parachute to interfere with his getting his picture taken and only used the brake.  He loves the parachutes because they really to a good job of stopping you especially with two of them.
In handicapped racing you have to declare how fast you are going to do the race on a sign posted on the side of the car, back by the engine.  That time is compared with the competitors time and the difference is given to the slowest time care in the start time light.  This keeps things even and the difference is the reaction times of the drives and not going to quick which will eliminate the car.  This extends the life of the vehicle when you don’t run them as hard as they can go. 
 
George explained how they prepared the tires for the race, smoking them to warm them up to get the best traction possible. 
 
George showed a picture of his four Wally awards, named after Wally Parks, the person who started the NHRA (National Hot Rod Association, not to be confused with the NRA.)  He won at Sears point in 1998, (another location undistinguishable on the recording), Tucson AZ, Fallon NV, and Napa CA. The Wally’s are quite a bit smaller than his trophy for winning the National Event at Sonoma.
 
He ended his presentation with the car he has now.  He has had it less than a year.  It is a bit longer but that doesn’t help him get to the finish line quicker as they start the cars from the front wheels.  It has a one-piece, carbon fiber body. 272” wheel base versus his old car that had a 255”.  He bought it from a guy that put only the best into it.  The nuts and bolts are titanium.  George put in a 762-cu. in. motor.
 
George showed a video of his race at the Nationals in Sonoma.  It was something to see, words can’t convey the thrill of watching a fellow Rotarian travel over 123 mph and win a race.  He was fast and in control, and he did this several times in a row to be the fastest in his class at the Nationals.  George gave a very gracious interview thanking his crew for their efforts but he failed to mention he was a Rotarian… should have received a fine, just saying.  George noted that he was excited and that his mouth had a little twitch when he was talking, something akin to a 90-year-old with poor fitting dentures.  
 
His recently raced in Pomona.  It was to have been raced in February but was delayed because of Covid.  The car was fine but the seat did not fit George as well as it could and it contributed to his losing in the third of five rounds.  He ended up losing to the person who won the whole race.    George will be fitting the car with a poured-in seat to address the problem and keep him safe.  This car weighs 1,770 lbs. which is very light for a car this size, including the motor.
 
Next month he will be racing at Las Vegas and there will probably be 700 racers there.   It will take four days to get through eliminations and the final race. 
 
President O’Neil escorted George from the front of the room, thus brining his talk to an end, as it was 1:13 p.m.
 
Sheila Romero’s Memorial Service
Tom Goode reminded everyone that Sheila’s service will be held on Saturday, September 11th at 3:00 pm at St. Stephen’s Lutheran’s Church in El Dorado Hills.  The reception will be at Blackstone Clubhouse at 4:00 pm. In lieu of flowers please donate to the Arden Arcade Rotary Foundation. The daughter requested a club member who knew her well to come and say a few words.  George Prather noted that he probably knew her the best and would be attending and speaking at the service. 
 
President Patrick O’Neil pulled Mike Grace’s ticket and he pulled a card that was not even close.
 
President Patrick O’Neil rang the bell at 1:15 P.M. closing the meeting.
 
Editor's Note:  Some of the facts in this report may have been modified for the sole enjoyment of the editor.  George gave a thoroughly engaging talk which did not need embellishment in any way.  To the editor’s knowledge, George has never been arrested for any violation of the law.  He may have received a speeding ticket or two but no jail time or community service… at least that we know of and the editor has the highest regard for morticians.
 
Respectfully (more or less) submitted by,
 
Mike Grace
 
 
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