There’s something to be said for on the job training, especially when you’re the trainee under Jason Rupert.
Rupert entrusted his championship-winning ride to Heritage Series Sportsman standout Jerry Espeseth, while he prepared for his graduation to the NHRA Mell Yello Drag Racing Series.
Espeseth has been a quick study at the Good Vibrations March Meet, not only qualifying for the 16-car field but also in winning the first round in a weekend which has provided personal bests with each trip down the Auto Club Famoso Raceway quarter-mile.
“If you’re going to do this and go out and try and qualify and be in a safe car and a proven car, I mean this is a total dream come true,” Espeseth said. “There’s a lot of drivers not driving out here and to have this opportunity pretty much means everything.”
While the intimidation factor could have been huge, Espeseth’s goal was pretty simple – don’t embarrass those around him as well as himself.
” I didn’t go into this deal thinking I had shoes to fill by sitting in Jason’s seat, it was just to not embarrass these guys and qualify the car and at least get through maybe a couple rounds with it,” Espeseth said. “It’s a monster, that clutch man. If you just don’t pull it out a little too far, it pulls you through. Yesterday went really well. I just kind of got screwed up in my head today on the two qualifying passes, but I’ve just got to calm down.”
The pressure to perform, Espeseth admits, is not coming from Rupert and Company.
“These guys got a reputation out here and if it wasn’t them, it’d probably be a little bit less, but I knew that coming into this. I’ve had months to think about it and calm myself down,’ Espeseth said. “In my head I’ve driven this car 200-300 times. You just change one little procedure that you’re doing or staging and game over.”
Rupert rates high as a driver, but as a teacher, the results thus far prove his worth as a teacher.
“He’s an excellent teacher,” Espeseth said. “He’s got a lot of patience. After qualifying this morning, I rolled it through, I told him they’re being too nice to me. They maybe need to put me in a bag and start beating me with sticks or something. They’re very encouraging and that’s the whole thing. That’s the other part, you’re just getting a point that you’ve got these guys working their ass off and you can’t let them down.”
Espeseth understands AA/FC and Nostalgia Eliminator 1 are worlds apart.
“You’ve just got to be on the wheel ahead of it and I understand all that, looking down the track and not getting behind the car,” Espeseth said. “Hitting the parachutes and fuel shutoff, being aware of all that stuff. It goes back to I’m kind of hard on myself if I screw up at the tree then I’m in the middle of the track trying to figure out how to not do that next time.”
— Competition Plus (@competitionplus) January 4, 2019