Winning this dance contest, a particularly difficult twist of drag racing known as the Western Swing, is no cakewalk.
Three events in three weeks, away from home base for the duration, haulers packed to the brim with parts, and thousands of miles of Interstate highways to glide makes for a challenging fandango.
Just ask one of the seven to have spun the right moves once before: Antron Brown with his Matco Tools Top Fuel dragster. ESPN television did just that.
"It's an incredible challenge ... everything has to be in your corner," Brown said of drag racing's two-step that is more of a boxing match than a love fest.
The broom is a motif for the sweep's award — I get it — but doesn't this race-series-within-a-race-series' degree of difficulty to win merit a sponsor with a significant award and trophy? Perhaps winning three successive races is payday enough, but this short set has acquired its own mystique over the years. There is intrinsic value in that.
As reporter Dave Rieff pointed out, in any choreography there is a team involved.
"Just like television where we (the on-air personalities and reporters) are the face," there is a ballroom-sized production filled with those grinding out the particulars. Brown agreed, adding that spending the time on the road with the troupe "helps keep focus."
With an exhilarating toe-to-toe final win over Brandon Bernstein's MAVTV entry, Brown is now high-stepping to Sonoma with a second shot at a sweep in this triple-crown.
Robert Hight's Western Swing attitude is "as a driver is like getting in a groove and going three in a row." Teammate Courtney Force spirited away his shot for a sweep by winning a give-and-take battle with her Traxxis Ford like it was radio controlled, but not before he uttered the best line of the day.
Before pairing earlier against Jeff Diehl's sharp Redline Monte Carlo, Hight acutely observed the troubles that can befall a driver.
"Racing Jeff Diehl, that is a tough one," Hight said. "If I have any trouble at all then you have to pedal it. It is not just his (wife, Leeza, staging the car with bright high-heeled boots) out front there that is the only distraction."
Early in qualifying, senior reporter Gary Gerould set the stage for Jack Beckman's Valvoline Charger: "Todd Smith, crew chief, and Beckman are confident" after the Topeka win and a surprise fourth in points. Dominating Funny Car qualifying set his stage for a sashay past Force in her second finals in three races, another incredible grind on the Mopar Mile-High Nationals concrete dance floor.
Beckman relishes his return to the spotlight as he jested with Gerould, "Now you want to talk to me."
The Pro Stock Motorcycle semifinal with Hector Arana Jr.'s Lucas Oil Buell and Eddie Krawiec's Screamin' Eagle Harley-Davidson was a boogie of mythical proportions, at least in the views of eventual event winner Krawiec.
He explained: Greek mythology's Hector, speared by Achilles, lost the key battle. So, Krawiec proposes naming the team's bad-boy Harleys "Achilles" after winning over young Arana.
Viewers will be able to note in the upcoming two broadcasts whether Krawiec's dance partner, the Muse, Terpsichore, will waltz him to a sweep-jubilee.
Some drivers had wild animals as dance partners. Tap It Brewing's Todd Lesenko rocked his Impala to the bump in the final qualifying round, but it wasn't pretty.
"I never signed-up for bull riding," he said. Maybe not, but you bring hoodoo to the track, hoodoo follows you around. "I was trying to put a hex on Diehl (to not knock him off the bump), some voodoo."
Were you surprised to learn Tim Wilkerson's Levi Ray Shoup Mustang has "Love Me Tender" feelings?" In answering a question, he offered this Wilkism: "I don't want to talk too loud; the old car can hear."
The best shindig of the weekend, though, belonged to the Rocky Mountain man, Allen Johnson. For the fourth year he piloted the Mopar Dodge to a win at these Mopar Nationals. Announcer Paul Page noted, he "runs a track record ET on this hot track," while color commentator, Mike Dunn, exclaimed, "Talk about having a handle on the mountain!"
This at the event where the broadcast featured the youth movement sweeping Pro Stock, particularly noting Erica Enders and Vincent Nobile; Johnson proved seniority swaggers like the cancan.
Then there was Paul Pittman headlining ESPN's Weekend Wow Factor when he flipped, slid like a figure skater, then hit the wall hard twice with his Aerofab Pontiac.
It was a scene straight out of racing's version Dancing with the Stars.
"I (was trying) not to hit the cones. Man, this is going to be a big (financial) hit." He added, "All the safety equipment we complain about ... is why I'm OK."
Pittman explained he would by necessity move up plans to build a new car. He may want to restore an old name he used on a dragster in the past: "Twist and Shout."
Johnson's victory in this 700th Pro Stock race over hometown favorite V Gaines was particularly a notable moment for the event sponsor; it was the first all-Mopar final.
The Tennessean dances to his own drum as an ESPN feature demonstrated: he uses a handbrake, the only driver in Pro Stock doing so.
Additionally, he fulfilled his biggest wish. "I really want to give (Mopar) that Wally."
How did Johnson living in the eastern hills of his home state show his excitement? In the shutdown area after numerous fist-jabbing the air in excitement, he laid out his leather jacket, flopped prone . . . and imagined a hoedown.
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