Lex Joon and wife Gerda Joon-Dijkstra each raised an arm to show off their "Proud To Be American" bracelets.
But they aren't Americans. They're Dutch, residents of Zaandam, just north of Amsterdam.
They love America, though, so much so that they are in the process of leaving behind all of their property, family, friends, and their comfort zone and relocating, probably to Indianapolis, to pursue a fulltime Top Fuel racing career.
"We decided early this year to quit racing in Europe and put all our arrows on racing in the U.S. It means permanently moving to the U.S.," Gerda Joon said.
"It's our longtime dream," Lex Joon said. We said, 'Let's go for it!' We've done everything in Europe we want. We've seen everything. We wanted to be professional racers in Europe, but it is not possible to do that. Bottom line: here is where it's at. If you can win here and be good here, then you are good in your sport.
"We hired a marketing agency to find a sponsorship," he said, and she added that their European accomplishments and connections "could be added value to the sport of NHRA drag racing."
Lex Joon, the 2005 FIA European Top Fuel champion and runner-up in '07 and '08, became in 2009 the first Dutchman ever to run a Top Fuel dragster in the U.S.
Gerda Joon has served as crew chief Kevin Poynter's assistant for the past three years, and her husband said he certainly is considering naming her his crew chief when their new team takes to the racetrack here in the U.S. That would make her one of the NHRA's few female crew chiefs, in a class with Kim La Haie Richards and Ashley Frye.
They plan to buy a new dragster to kick off their first fulltime NHRA tour. The one they have right now belonged to David Baca, but they said they figured by the time their team was ready to debut the equipment would be outdated.
"If you want to run with the big dogs," Lex said, "you have to have good equipment."
The logistics of such a project can be overwhelming, but he said, "You need to be patient, and at the same time, you need to have everything in place." He said he envisions it "like climbing a ladder. As long as you make the next step, everything is OK. "
And Gerda said, "If they move the ladder, we are going to step on it again. We have talked to friends in Europe, and they all say, 'At least you're trying.' Sometimes you regret everything that you didn’t do, instead of regretting the things that you did do.
"We have said to each other that we'll go for it. We'll put 150 percent of our efforts into it and if it doesn't work, at least we tried. It's not that easy over here. But if you don’t try it, you will never succeed," she said. "So we're trying everything we can. We had to hire a lawyer to get our green crads and everything, because all the legal stuff needs to be done. We're doing everything the right way -- what we think is the right way."
While Lex chose the ladder analogy, his wife said the whole process is "like the chicken and the egg." An organized person, she said everything is moving along well. "I have the gut feeling that every day we are getting one step closer. We're getting more positive signs from the U.S."
On the personnel side of things, she said, "We've got some things already organized. We're doing our homework." However, they are not sharing any hints about that.
Lex said, "This is a lot more complicated than 'Oh, let's ship a car and start racing.' You change your whole life. And if you want to make deals like we are looking for, Corporate America wants to now if we've got everything sorted. Otherwise you cannot do it. But with what we have achieved in the past, we are pretty sure we can make it here, as well."
The kind of deal they are looking for is an ambitious one.
"Our goal is to find a three-year deal with an option for the next three years," Gerda, who's officially the team owner, said. "It must make sense to move all the way from Europe and leave everything behind to go over here. When we have a deal, it will be a good deal."
Lex said his long-term goal is to build a multi-car operation. He said they'll start their program with one Top Fuel dragster but hope to add another one and eventually bring a Funny Car into the mix.
"We are not interested in hiring a seat. We want to put down our own team and go from there, hopefully get some more cars in there in time. We'll start with one car, but I really would like to see more cars. It's not only our dream to race a car over here but also to make more steps into it, really do the business. I think we can do it. I just want to try it and see how far we can go."
In a blog written in cooperation with the publication Eurodragster, Lex declared, "It's time to stop dreaming and immigrate to the land where our sport is strong and exciting, to the land where our team can have a chance to reach the ultimate goal, and become a professional drag racing team."
The United States always has been a magnet for Lex Joon, a beacon for those interested in racing excellence.
"When I was 12 years old, I already liked the big American cars, and they never let go of me," he said.
Gerda shares not only Lex's love for racing but also his love for the United States. She told Krista Wilkerson, wife of Funny Car driver Tim Wilkerson, "Every time we are here, we both have the feeling we are home."
Then, dabbing at her eyes, she said quietly, "Just talking about it makes me cry."
The Joons are Dutch, but they have the American spirit -- that entrepreneurial urge, that can-do attitude, that sense of cooperation, that passion for the pursuit of happiness. They love the sport that former Funny Car driver Dean Skuza described so colorfully: "We don't conserve fuel! We don't conserve tires! We don't conserve nothin'! What's more American than that?!"
It all adds up to a way of life these two Dutch drag-racing professionals want to adopt. And that alone trumpets that this move from Zaandam to Indianapolis certainly looks like the right move.
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