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Evans resident making his mark on NHRA circuit

Posted: January 10, 2018 - 1:17am
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Stevie “Fast” Jackson, an Evans High School graduate, was named the National Hot Rod Association’s Rookie of the Year in 2017. He is looking for an even better 2018 season.

Steve Jackson, aka "Stevie Fast," carries his blue-collar mentality with him when he competes on the National Hot Rod Association circuit. It's something that carried him in his first season last year.

After posting a successful campaign - and winning Pro Mod Rookie of the Year honors - Jackson is back with an eye on an even bigger 2018 season.

"We're positioned to chase the (points) championship in 2018," he said. "That's what I'm going to do."

A long-time Columbia County resident, Jackson has been drag racing all over the world in recent years. He started last year in the Kingdom of Bahrain. In the Middle East, he won four of out five races, including a pair of championships on the pro mod level. He then made his NHRA debut in March in Gainesville, Fla. He qualified first and proceeded to break a transmission in a first-round loss. Then, he failed to qualify at the next competition. After making a few changes, he advanced to four final rounds, winning two races and finishing third in points.

It was his first victory at the Menards NHRA Heartlands Nationals in May in Topeka, Kan., that gave him the confidence he needed.

"That solidified that I belonged over there," he said. "Up until then, I didn't know if I did."

The 37-year-old Jackson, who is married to Cheri and has a 6-year-old daughter (Sophie), has been around sports cars his entire life. When Jackson was a child, his father, Tommy, would drive him to the Carolina Dragway in Jackson, S.C., in his 1967 Camaro with a 454 big block engine. Young Stevie was hooked.

"The motorsports bug bit me immediately," he said. "At 5, that's all I ever wanted to do."

Jackson grew up in Columbia County, graduating from Evans High School. He attended Aiken Tech for one semester to become a nuclear engineer. He was making good grades, and he had plans to work on a submarine in the Navy. But there was a problem.

"I just couldn't make enough money to race and do that," he said. "So I elected to work on cars and make more money and buy more parts."

Jackson's first job in the automotive business came when he was 17. For two years, he worked at Smith Chevron on Walton Way Extension in Augusta for owner Tommy Smith and manager Tim Taylor, performing tasks like pumping gas, changing oil and fixing tires. There, he learned more than just how to work on cars.

"I learned more about business in those couple of years of my life, and how to deal with people, than I have in the years since," he said. "Tommy and Tim treat people right. They're honest and they do what they say they're going to do. If you can get that principle, that's what business is."

For two decades, he worked a full-time job and raced on the side. After Smith Chevron, Jackson worked at places like Tires Plus and later as a master technician at Master Pontiac and Augusta Lincoln Mercury. In 2006, he purchased a Matco Tools franchise. Jackson found success owning his own business, which allowed him to buy better car parts. With upgraded parts, he started posting faster times. With more speed, he started getting more recognition.

In 2012, he set the radial tire world record - he has broken this record many times since. Months later, the Middle East started drag radial racing with super street cars. The sheikh of Qatar wanted the fastest radial tire car in the world. The sheikh's people called Jackson, who reluctantly sold his car. Then, Jackson was flown to Qatar to show others how to drive it. He ended up racing on the drag radial circuit, dominating the series.

Jackson convinced the sheikh to fund him to run on the pro mod series. But there was a provision. Jackson had to put together an old car in an attempt to run at 3.79 seconds or faster. He and Billy Stocklin, his assistant crew chief and car tuner, worked for two weeks to modify the vehicle. In the final race of the season, Jackson won it with a time in the 3.70s. He received a contract to run pro mod in 2013 in the United States.

Since then, it hasn't been easy for Jackson. He said he's been "fired" every December for the past five years by his major sponsor. One year, he said he raced without a major sponsor, something that almost bankrupted him. But he's bounced back. Now, while he has a major sponsor, he's seeking additional sponsorship at a local level.

"I'd love to partner with some local brands and see if I can help them make some money," he said. "I can move them into the international markets. We race all over the world."

Jackson's racing team consists of him, Stocklin and four others. Jack Barbee is his team manager, car chief and works in his Evans shop full-time. Mark Savage of Saskatchewan, Canada, is the engine specialist. Robbie Lowry of Fayetteville, N.C., is general crew. Tracy Teasley of Augusta is also general crew. They are all gearing up for the 2018 season. Jackson will run his 2017 Camaro with the Brad Anderson-designed, 521-cubic inch Hemi engines in smaller races as well as the NHRA circuit, which begins for him in March.

"I like winning, but I love crushing the competition," he said. "Making guys who are well-funded throw their hat on the ground and jump up and down on it makes me tick."

The ultimate goal for Jackson is to compete on the highest level on the NHRA circuit, the top fuel class. He's brimming with confidence in his ability to run at the top fuel level. It's just a matter of getting the funding to do so.

On the pro mod circuit, Jackson said it costs about a half-million to run a season on the NHRA. He added a top fuel car budget would cost about $3 million.

Having a successful 2018 campaign on the pro mod level would help Jackson take that next step toward his dream.

"This will be out biggest challenge yet," he said. "I want the championship. We're going to win the championship."

 

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