I had really envisioned my "role" being something like when the car came back, I'd help them take the hood and doors off, stuff like that. Then when they were ready to go I'd help roll the car out. I really didn't expect to be doing grunt work like dropping the driveshaft and crawling under the car, but I ended up doing that and more.
I think all of the stuff they had me doing they knew was foolproof. They wouldn't have had me do something if there was a possibility of me screwing it up.
They let me drop the driveshaft out of the car, but I wasn't too intimidated about pulling it, because I was confident in the guy who was showing me how to do it. And I knew that if he was letting me do it, then it was pretty much idiot-proof. The other stuff, like packing the parachute, was fun. I was real surprised they had me do that.
I'm sure that as the spectators watched, they figured out pretty quickly that I didn't really belong there. The rest of the team is used to working with an audience, and they didn't seem to notice them. I didn't feel too pressured, but it was strange working outside under the microscope of on-lookers.
One thing that surprised me was the lack of engine work and maintenance required, as compared to a Top Fuel or Funny Car team. They worked on the clutch between every round, but other than that, they only pulled the valve covers and checked the valve train. They did have to replace one spring and some push rods, but that's all I saw. I thought there would be more wear and that they would have to do more with the engine between rounds for as much power as they make.
Another surprise was that absolutely everything is computerized. They have a readout after every run on dozens of different characteristics on the car, and they use that information to make changes to the car.
I think it was really great of them to allow me to do this at this time-it's an historic moment for Mopar with the new Pro Stock Hemi, and for them to give me this chance, now, was really great. Even though it wasn't a trip to Victory Lane, it's the first time a Hemi has been run, and qualified, in a long time. I'm thankful to David Nickens and the rest of the Nickens Brothers team members for giving me the opportunity to be a part of that.
The broken valve spring currently resides on Scott's desk. It's not for sale.