Stevie “Fast” Jackson was five seconds away from being sent to the showers for the day. Kris Thorne was too.
Together, the two sat on the starting line idle nearly two minutes during the second round of Pro Modified eliminations at the Dodge NHRA Indy Nationals. There were three warnings from NHRA Chief Starter Brad Hardy to stage.
Thorne, who races a turbocharged entry, was ready for Jackson. It’s a well known-fact in racing circles the disdain the defending series champion Jackson has for the turbocharged combination.
“We were very prepared,” Thorne said. “We were extra gassed up.”
Thorne was right to be prepared because when it comes to the turbo cars, Jackson says there’s no love lost on his end.
“That’s because they’re all a bunch of pieces of junk that belong on tow trucks and not on a racetrack,” Jackson said. “A lot of those guys that race those things just feel like they have this right to stage last or something, and I have just as much right to stage last as they do. I don’t ever traditionally hang those guys out, but I race them clean. We race clean.
“At the end of the day, it’s no secret that I think turbos are pieces of junk and almost have eradicated them from the planet of drag racing. And before I’m done, there will not be a single turbo left drag racing. I’ve almost got them eradicated. I’m taking sole credibility and responsibility for eradicating the turbo cars.” Jackson ended up staging first, at about 1 minute and 50 seconds into the battle and left first by .003. Thorne knew he couldn’t allow Jackson to grab too much on the starting line or his goose was cooked.
“They [NHRA] got the boost cut back so bad on the turbo cars; If you don’t have somebody reeled in by 700 or 800 foot, there’s not enough boost there to get you around them on the other end,” Thorne said. “So you best have a good light, and hopefully no tire shake and everything goes smooth.
Thorne took the stripe, winning by a 5.806, 255.15 to 5.854, 243.77 margin.
Jackson said it was a fuel issue which prompted him to end the battle of stubbornness.
“It had come down to fuel,” Jackson admitted. “When I stage that thing, I don’t ever plan on that. I never decide. As a driver, I want to make the other guy doesn’t he don’t want to do. So, for me, I like to go in there, I get set, and I’m ready to roll in. Four or five seconds go by, and I’m like, ‘Okay.”
“I was like, ‘It’s going to be one of these deals.”
While Jackson’s Bahrain1-sponsored supercharged Camaro doesn’t have a fuel gauge, it does have one for engine temperature.
“The engine wasn’t very hot and we had topped the fuel tank off pretty high, so in my mind I’m calculating that thing is burning X amount of fuel a minute,” Jackson explained. “I kind of know in the back of my head how much fuel it’s got in it. When we got to about two and a half minutes, not only was the engine really hot but [crew chief] Billy [Stocklin] had already been telling me. He already was hollering at me to stage. I had unplugged [radio] him about a minute in. Because from a crew chief standpoint, all I’m doing to the race car is pissing it off. I’m getting the engine hot, which makes it meaner, and the tires were getting cooler. Billy wanted me to stage.
“Once we’re up there, that’s my office. But I’m calculating fuel. I had already gone 20 seconds past what I had figured in my head that I needed for fuel to get to the finish line. And if you noticed, the thing didn’t run very good on the top end just because it ran out of fuel. But what made me go into stage is not me bending to anybody’s will. It’s I was running out of gas.”
Contrary to what some might think, Thorne and Jackson didn’t get out at the top end and exchange unpleasantries.
“Stevie was very good about it,” Thorne revealed. “He hopes to do it again. He had a good time, and it was all smooth and all good on the other end.”
While Jackson agreed he and Thorne were just fine with what had transpired, he said race officials clearly weren’t as appreciative.
“I was told I was about five seconds from being disqualified,” Jackson admitted. “I had gotten out of the car on the top end, and they’re hollering at me about how I was about to get DQ’d and all this crap. I told them, ‘I guess you guys don’t want to be excited for the fans.”
“It is what is it.”
A Fox Sports video showed on three occasions, the starter instructed the drivers, who sat in the pre-stage beams idling, to stage their cars.
“I saw the starter give us the signal to come in the first time,” Jackson explained. “I didn’t see the second and third. I’ve watched the video, and I can see that he did that, but when you’re in that thing and it’s running, and you’re staring a hole in that Christmas tree, are you supposed to take your focus off? I wish everybody that makes the policy could just take a ride in one – one time and see what it’s like in there. Yeah.
“But at the end of the day, it was a good deal for the fans. Fans love that kind of stuff. We, as drivers, love that kind of stuff. The first thing I did on the top end after I got my butt kicked was go grab my man and give him a hug and tell him, ‘Good job, and that was fun.”
“He was all smiles, and I was smiles, and that’s just being a competitor. So, that was a good deal. It was a good deal. It was fun for the fans.”