"The overwhelming reception we got from the troops was something I will never forget," Burkart said. "They're so happy to see someone from home and to just talk about everyday stuff. They all watch racing when they can and they had a million questions for us. The main thing was they wanted to break out of the routine they're in and be normal for a little while.
"It changes the way you look at everything. It's just incredible what it takes to sustain a deal like this. You never think about the day-to-day things that 100,000 people need to live. Where they bunk, what they eat, where they clean up, the jobs they have to do, it's an unbelievable amount of work.
"We visited installations in Baghdad where 15,000 people are stationed, but we also visited little outposts where maybe 30-50 soldiers are keeping guard over some little town or area. It's wild."
"Blackhawks have these flares that automatically shoot out of the bottom of the aircraft whenever the onboard computer system detects incoming fire," Burkart said. "They confuse the incoming fire and cause it to go off away from the helicopter so you don't get hit. Our flares went off three different times.
"One of the bases we visited was so small we had to land out in a field and run to the main gate. The local Iraqi people saw us coming and they all came running over to see us, especially the kids. They were just being friendly or curious but it makes your heart stop for a minute when you see a bunch of people that aren't U.S. soldiers running at you. But it all worked out. We were well protected.
"I know we all thank the troops whenever we can but I'm sure going to redouble my efforts. They need our support and they need to be reminded how much we care about them and appreciate what they're doing for our country."
I spoke with Kenny Bernstein this afternoon in Bristol and he emphatically denied the rumor that crew chief Jimmy Walsh is leaving his Monster Energy Drink Dodge Charger R/T race team.
"I don't know where this stuff comes from but I've been hearing this all weekend and it's absolutely not true," Bernstein said. "In fact, we were just working on our gameplan for next week and what we need to do to run better in Topeka. Obviously, we're not running as well as we'd like to at the moment but Jimmy's staying here. Everything is fine in our pit."
Welcome to go2geiger.com! To say we're all excited would be an understatement. I believe we've put together a very talented team completely dedicated to bringing drag racing news coverage to a new level. It all starts here. This is Ground Zero.
As many of you know, I've spent the last several years at NHRA.com. I thoroughly enjoyed my time there and my friendship with my editor, Phil Burgess, who taught me everything I know about covering the sport. Phil remains a close friend and someone I admire very much.
The simple goal for go2geiger.com is to give readers an alternative voice that won't be influenced by the sanctioning body, any advertisers or sponsors, or race officials. We're also going to stray outside of the NHRA world on occasion, whenever we find compelling drag racing stories out there, and bring them to our readers.
Another thing we hope people enjoy is expanded Sportsman coverage. I've met so many cool people in the various Sportsman ranks and I firmly believe some of their stories need to be told right alongside the ones on our beloved professionals.
I promise to run this Web site like a newspaper with breaking news being the top priority. It's important to note that we won't be playing the rumor game or have any sort of bulletin board where people can post whatever they want. I just don't see the journalistic value in that stuff. All of our stories will be researched and backed up by facts.
We're starting off strong. My first phone call was to Craig Wack. Craig covers motorsports for The Commercial Appeal in Memphis and his talent will be immediately obvious to anyone that reads his prose. I'm thrilled he's on my team. I've also contracted the services of Amanda Brahler, an up-and-coming motorsports writer who will be joining the straight-line set after starting her writing career covering stock cars. She's sure to bring a fresh perspective to our coverage.
Additional team members -- ones drag racing fans are sure to know -- will be announced in the days and weeks ahead.
We have a flattering commitment from John Force to write a weekly blog for our readers. He promises that his three daughters and various teammates will join in the fun. We also have two-time Top Fuel champ Larry Dixon signed on, along with his wife Ali and her sister Andrea, who is married to Tony Pedregon. The former Lukovich sisters are sure to entertain us with their perspective.
Keeping true to our commitment to Sportsman fans, we've enlisted Super Comp world champ Shawn Langdon to add his thoughts. I'm sure more will pile on in the future. We even have John Force car chief Rob Wendland offering a crewman's perspective.
I'll never forget my first interview in the sport. It was with Gary Scelzi, who was on his way to his first Top Fuel championship back in 1997. It was a memorable media luncheon for me because it sold me on the sport. Gary spent two hours with me, filling in all the blanks long after everyone else had left. By the end of that meeting I had a notepad full of notes, a new friend, and a new calling.
Coming from my years covering the Dallas Cowboys, I was unaccustomed to athletes taking such a genuine interest in educating a newbie reporter on their sport. I could tell very quickly that drag racers were different.
Eleven years later, I'm still having fun, and I'm fired up about this latest endeavor. Please join us for the ride. I hope it's exhilarating as we expect it to be.