It has been a long time since I've made a blog entry, but I had such a nice, interesting weekend (the weekend before last), that I thought I'd blog about it.
First of all, Jack Roush Jr. had a great day in his Grand Am Cup race at Barber Motorsports Park yesterday. (Jack is one of my closest friends, a business partner, and like a brother to me). Jack races in the Grand Am Cup GS (Grand Sport Class), and started the July 19, 2008 race with his #59 ROUSH / Valvoline Mustang in 12th place. I've karted with Jack on plenty of occasions, and one of his driving strengths is his insane skill through traffic (passing), and that day was no exception, as he passed his way into second place, before handing the reins over to his teammate (Dean Martin) halfway through the race for the mandatory driver change.
At the checkered flag, Jack and Dean finished third, in what was an intense race (I wasn't there, but it was televised a couple of days ago), earning Jack's first-ever podium finish in his very young Grand Am Cup career. Congratulations to Jack and Dean, Rehagen Racing, and ROUSH / Valvoline on their podium finish!
The other great part of that weekend was an interesting Saturday trip I took. One of my other best friends is the head of an overseas investment banking firm. He conducts his businesses internationally, and so has occasion to come into town from time to time. For this stop in Michigan, he asked if I wanted to come with him on a business trip to the southern part of the country. Two gentlemen he's doing business with were flying up in a Lear that belongs to one of them to pick him up, and he got the okay to bring a few guests--so he invited his young son, his brother, and me. I've flown in small private jets before, and I've always enjoyed the experience (it's certainly not something I get to do regularly), so I agreed, and had no idea any of the other details of the trip or the people--I was just happy to spend the time with my friend (for his privacy's sake, I'll call him DA for short), his brother (who's also a very good friend of mine), and his son (who, though not by blood, is very much a nephew to me), all three of whom I don't get to spend much quality time with.
(If you're wondering where I'm going with this, it does get a bit more interesting, especially if you're a car and motorsports enthusiast.)
At some point, one of the gentleman who was picking us up (I'll call him "J") contacted a car service to pick us up upon landing in Mississippi. He told them there were six of us, so something like a Chevy Suburban would be great. What came to pick us up was apparently the closest thing this car service had to a Suburban: a stretch Lincoln Navigator that was hilariously gaudy. We had a good laugh about it, and headed off to other places related to their business discussions. Once done with that, one of the business partners (I’ll call him "G") treated us to lunch at a beautiful restaurant called Mary Mahoney’s Old French House Restaurant. The food was exceptional.
After lunch, we boarded the plane again, and headed to another southern state that served as the home base of the two gentlemen’s businesses (Biloxi was not where these gentlemen are based, which is why we needed the car service). (To maintain the privacy and anonymity of the gentlemen involved, I’m going to refrain from mentioning their home state, as they’re both rather high profile, and seemed to me to be rather private types, too--I’m also going to blur everyone’s faces in the photos.)
We landed at a municipal airport where I believe G has two hangars. Parking the plane aside one of those hangars, we went inside. What greeted me was one of the nicest private vehicle collections I’ve personally seen, belonging to G. The first car to greet me, just past the hangar doors, was a Rolls-Royce Phantom, on one side of which was a Ford GT, and the other side a covered car that was later revealed to us to be a Shelby Series 1. Looking to the other half of the hangar, I spotted a helicopter (which I believe was one of two belonging to G), a small propeller plane, a bunch of trucks, including a Chevrolet Silverado, a Range Rover, a Land Rover Defender 90, an AMG G55, a Hummer H1, and maybe one or two more I missed. There were at least a few motorcycles in there, including a custom chopper, a Honda Valkyrie, and a Confederate, and four-wheelers. In one corner was an old Indy Car (I’m guessing early 90’s vintage) that I believe had a pole position in its history. Further on in the hangar was an Aston Martin Vanquish, a Porsche 911 Turbo, and a Porsche Carrera GT. If I recall what J said correctly, this building represented about one-third of G's vehicle collection. I didn't get a chance to raid the other hangar before we drove off to go do other things; our group divided four into the AMG G55, and two in the 911 Turbo. There will soon be an addition to the vehicle fleet, when G acquires a jet that can fly transcontinental, as their business interests are quickly expanding.
The pilots were tired (G includes two full-time pilots on staff), as they’d been up since very early in the morning, and so needed time to rest, giving us time to tool around town, and time for the three gentlemen to further discuss their businesses.
After stopping at one of G’s offices, he took us to his farm. On his farm, G had a 1.2-mile road racing course (I am not kidding) on which to play with his many horsepower-aplenty toys (parts of it also served as driveways to other parts of the farm). In the garage that sits on what was the start of the course were even more motorized marvels, including a Richard-Petty-raced NASCAR Cup car, a Davey-Allison-raced NASCAR Cup car, some four-wheeler ATVs, four 125-cc shifter karts, and what looked to me like a single 100cc TaG kart. G let my nephew hop into the Petty car and start it up and rev the engine (which my nephew had some difficulty feathering, resulting in bomb-loud explosions out of that garage, so I snapped just a few quick photos and made a hasty exit from that little building, before hearing damage was suffered). Even more graciously, he handed over the keys to any of us willing to take his 911 Turbo out on the track, with no instructions to drive it softly, but only mischievous grinning. It was not a Tiptronic, and I’m not very good at driving a manual, so I let DA drive with me in the passenger seat. With several laps under his belt on that track before I got in, DA turned in some pretty impressive laps with me riding shotgun. DA’s brother also took his turn in the 911 on the track, and came back grinning ear-to-ear. Thanks, G, for letting us open that 911 up completely around your track.
To me, just as impressive as all of the toys was something G built in the middle of his farm property--a beautifully constructed, small Japanese tea house. The views of the property and surrounding mountains were 360 degrees around, and gorgeous. The tea house serves as a relaxing getaway for G, and I think I may have loved that little setup more than any of G’s other toys. It was simply gorgeous, with outlandish attention to detail, in terms of the construction, the hand-painted/lacquered art, and even just the location on the property. Stunning.
We then took a short drive away from the farm to take a tour of G’s new house (currently under construction, but almost complete), which was still another jaw-dropping experience; stopped for a quick dinner at a place called Chick-fil-A (thanks again, G, I wish we had Chick-fil-A's in Michigan), and then headed back to Michigan. Due to a previous engagement, G couldn’t join us on the flight back to Detroit. He did, however, call J while we were taxiing on the runway. After J hung up, he told the pilots that G called to say that he was going to wait on the tarmac to make sure they did what he called a "performance takeoff" for us. The pilots smiled and obliged, the takeoff was fast and steep enough that I can say I felt a positive-G sensation on that plane upon takeoff that I’d only felt something similar to before on a helicopter ride a client gave Jack and me some time ago (although the helicopter ride was rather more extreme). About two hours later, close to midnight, we were back in Michigan. What a day.
Thank you, DA, for letting me tag along on your business trip--one of the best things about it was spending some quality time with you and the family, brother. Thanks, G and J, for your tremendous generosity throughout.
To see more photos from this trip, click here.