Stevie “Fast” Jackson could relate to the plight of Pro Modified racers Kris Thorne and Steve Matusek, two unfortunate drivers who suffered crashes in Sunday’s opening round at the Denso NHRA U.S. Nationals.
Jackson captured his first win of 2020, a season admittedly tough on the psyche and the wallet of the seemingly unshakeable champion. He beat championship rival Todd Tutterow in the final round.
What hasn’t been publicized is Jackson crashed his Bahrain 1-sponsored Camaro just days before the U.S. Nationals during a test session at Lucas Oil Raceway.
“Well, I’m kind of embarrassed,” Jackson said. “I’ve crashed this thing like two times out of the last ten runs that I’ve run to the finish line. We came and tested here last Tuesday and Wednesday. On the last run of the test session, Billy tells me to blow it out the back. I run out the back. The parachute came out, hooked the wheelie bar and piled the thing into the wall at 250 miles, an hour, slid it around, knocked the front end off of it, pancaked the side of the car.”
Jackson says the issue stems from a decreasing amount of downforce on the Pro Modified cars as racers seek to go faster and faster. Less downforce on these cars enables them to slide down the track quicker and fast. Unfortunately for Jackson and others, it also helps them to slide into the wall quicker.
“You talk about taking the wind out of your sails and being deflated a week before the U.S. Nationals, you have to be back here in five days, and your car is crashed for the second time this year. It was a big obstacle, man. I was like, “Why are we even going to go?”
Jackson had already crashed a car back in March, just days before the NHRA Gatornationals while racing at the Drag Illustrated World Doorslammer Nationals in Orlando, Fla.
The Indy incident was no different in that Jackson had a major event coming up, will little time to spare, and a support group all willing to ensure he beat the odds.
“Our boss man, Sheikh Abdullah, never one time blinked or batted an eye,” Jackson explained. “He’s always behind us when we fail. Everybody pats you on the back when you run good. The way you know the people that have your back in real life is when you run bad for a couple of races, and you’re expected to run good, and they’re still there saying they got your back.
“And David Reese from Reese Brothers Race Cars flew from California and rebuilt this car in four days. I mean, literally in four days. This thing looks like a showpiece. We dropped it out of the trailer. The first run from crashing it was in Q1. So we overcame.”
This is not the first time Reese has pulled Jackson out of a mess.
“The way I’ve been driving lately, I need to just hire them or start a shop and get David to come over here,” Jackson admitted. “There’s nobody that I know that works on race cars that can do repair work as fast as David. That man, he is a machine. And one thing I like about David is when he tells you it’s going to be done, it’s going to be done. He literally fixed this car from crashed to ready to go to back in the trailer in four days. I don’t know anybody else that could do that. It’s pretty remarkable.”
What could be remarkable is Jackson’s first run on the repaired car was in Friday’s Q-1 session when he made a half-track pass and coasted through for the 15th quickest lap of the opening session. The next run, a 5.764, 248.93, was enough to put him seventh quickest.
I want to be honest with you; I was absolutely scared to death to line this thing up the first time we ran it to the finish line,” Jackson explained. “I radioed Billy and the guys. I told Jack, Robert, Drew and Robbie, Billy, I’m getting ready to start the car. And I said, ‘Everybody wants to be a race car driver except for times like this.”
“I had just piled it up as soon as the ‘chutes came out the week before. And the first thing I get to do is run this thing 250 miles an hour into the ‘chutes again. Not me, not them, no one seems to know from one run to the next what will happen when those ‘chutes come out. That’s a big pucker factor. And nobody keyed up on the radio and said that they wanted to be a race car driver that run.
“I was nervous. Everything performed flawlessly, just as it should. I feel better in the car than I ever have. Stops good. It’s not as fast as we want it to be yet, but when you got Billy Stocklln banging on the keyboard, it will be fast.”
Did a seasoned veteran just say he didn’t know what will happen once the parachutes deploy? Yes.
“The issue is, is that these cars have no downforce in the back,” Jackson said. “Everybody is doing everything that they can to pick up ET. We’re getting the wings smaller and smaller. The downforce is less and less. And what you’re seeing is the negative pressure effect of having an overly aerodynamic car with no drag in a situation that’s got a tailwind. We had a tailwind this weekend, and when you have a tailwind in one of these cars, you will see stuff like this happen.
“Nobody wants to see it happen, but everybody’s getting smarter and better about it. You just got to be careful out there. The scariest part of driving this car is not going 250 miles an hour; it’s stopping it. Anybody can hold to the floor when it’s going straight and blaze it down through there. They’re always a handful in the shutdown. It’s part of the reason that it’s exciting to drive. A suspended door car at 250 is a show.”
For Jackson, crashing in Indy and then turning around and winning is just par for the course.
“The U.S. Nationals, I have a love-hate relationship with this place,” Jackson said of Lucas Oil Raceway. “It seems like we’ve done well here, but man, I have battled some demons here to get those wins, but it’s special. My team needed this. This is a really good get-healthy weekend for our team. My guys coming in here, you can tell when their confidence was getting low. We needed a win. I feel like the universe is now back as it should be.”
And for Jackson, a trip-zip (.000) reaction to start the day put his world back on the axis while pushing the competition off of theirs.
“When you start out running the U.S. Nationals in Indy with a trip zip, it’s really hard to kind of take the wind out of your sails there. I told Billy and [Khalid al] Balooshi came over. Now I had my teammate Balooshi in the second round. I turned off the track right behind him. After he won, he came over and slapped the roof of the car. He said, ‘You are unstoppable today. This is your day.”
“There is no way to take competition lightly out here. If you cannot go up there and blow their head off on a tree, you will not win. I felt like our car has been not running well, as good as it should be lately. I told Billy, ‘If you give me a hot rod, I’ll give you a starting line package and we’ll go win this thing.”
Truer words were never spoken on Sunday.
— Competition Plus (@competitionplus) September 7, 2020