He’s gone from a kid in Evans, Georgia, with eyes bigger than his wallet to a big-talking small-tire king to an internationally proven Pro Modified rebel without a pause.
With a trail of specially delivered “hurt feelings” from the Midwest to the Middle East, Jackson has barged this year into the NHRA-sanctioned J&A Service Pro Modified Series, badass-certified and only slightly less sassy after four races.
His roller-coaster blast onto the NHRA scene – after a trail of victims in the ADRL, PDRA, Radial versus The World, Bahrain Drag Racing World Championship, Arabian Pro Series Championship, and grudge racing – hadn’t been exactly the experience he would have ordered … until he won recently at Topeka.
Photo courtesy NHRA/National Dragster
Jackson was the No. 1 qualifier with a round one loss in his debut at Gainesville, Florida. He had a DNQ at H-O-U, then a first-round defeat from the No. 14 slot at Charlotte in his first four-wide experience. He rebounded with a runner-up finish to points leader Mike Castellana at Atlanta. So he was there – but he wasn’t. Then he got another crack at Castellana at Heartland Park Topeka and took advantage of it.
I won’t settle for mediocrity, and I’m going to keep pushing until we get wins. I won’t stop until we get there.
His Topeka victory didn’t match Castellana’s holeshot from the Atlanta final, but with it he broke into the winners circle and leaped from 10th place in the standings to fourth, just seven points out of third place.
Even as he clenched his Wally trophy, Jackson said, “We stunk up the joint for a couple of races.”
The 2013 ADRL Pro Nitrous Champion, who’s campaigning the Jerry Bickel-built supercharged Bahrain 1 Racing 2016 Camaro, simply has high expectations that his perpetual grin sometimes hides.
After four races he had said, “Even though we’re just breaking into this, we’re not doing as well as I wanted, because my expectation is to win. I knew it was going to be bumpy and I had never run quarter-mile before, but I won’t be happy until we’re winning. We have really good people onboard, and the guys assembled know how to win. I won’t settle for mediocrity, and I’m going to keep pushing until we get wins. I won’t stop until we get there.
Photo by Ron Lewis
“It’s way harder than what I thought it was going to be,” Jackson said. “It’s more challenging, and it’s going to be more rewarding when we start running good. There’s definitely a learning curve, but we’re getting there. I’m having the most fun racing I’ve ever had in my life.”
Before he rolled through the gates at Topeka, he said he knew he was close to winning: “We’ve been making good runs down the track the entire season. We’ve just been plagued by some silly things,” he said. “The strides we’ve made are 100 percent the team chemistry coming together. These guys out here are really good at what they do. The learning curve is steep, but we’ll get there. I think we work harder than anybody out there.”
There’s definitely a learning curve, but we’re getting there. I’m having the most fun racing I’ve ever had in my life.
It paid off Sunday in Kansas, a place Jackson said he couldn’t locate on a map before he left his race shop.
“It’s just as special as I thought it’d be,” Jackson said of his first J&A Service Series triumph. “I honestly didn’t think it’d come this quickly. The guys we were racing were an awesome team. Everybody that’s over there in Bahrain, I told you we were going to get ’em.”
In a class overflowing with self-made men, highly successful businessmen, Jackson has ample funding from Bahrain’s Sheikh Abdullah bin Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa. So he wasn’t exaggerating when he said, “We’ve got good funding and really good support behind me. Sheik Abdullah is an absolute dream boss to race for. In the good times and bad times he’s with us.”
For his competitors, racing against Jackson had been like walking through a Halloween Fun House. At some point, around some corner, they all knew the boogeyman would jump out and yell, “Boo!” but no one knew just when that would happen.
Now that it has, now that Jackson is starting to hit on all cylinders, the J&A Service Series Fun House will be an even bigger attraction. Jackson is the new media darling and fan favorite in a fiefdom that, at least for now, has forgotten the equally charismatic “Big Chief” Justin Shearer.
Photo by Ron Lewis
Now Jackson will be yakking about “gapping” somebody or “hossin’ the gas” against some poor sap. He’ll drag out his famous “donkey-stomp” threat and call somebody or something “raggedy.” They’re his go-to insults.
Vowing that it’s not personal, just “bidness,” he has taunted his rivals:
“See if he wants some more – I’ll do it to him again.”
I want to race where the baddest people are. It’s the Super Bowl of drag racing. What drew me to the NHRA Pro Mod is they have the best talent of any series I’ve seen out there.
“He can save the environment and shut off.”
“It’s not my fault you can’t run [any faster].”
“I have a bazooka and anybody that gets in my way, I’m going to blast him.”
Once he thanked his opponent for “helping me pay my mortgage next month” and said, tongue-in-cheek, that he worried “they may quit – I want to give them a donation … we keep beating ‘em and beating ‘em and beating ‘em – we beat ‘em 200 times.” He said he wanted to make sure they stay in the hunt, “so the fans have something to watch and we have somebody to slap around.”
And Jackson is perfectly capable of slapping everyone around, whether it’s in his Camaro that’s funded by Bahrain royalty or in Top Fuel crew chief Phil Shuler’s Rick Jones-built Shadow 2.0. He drove the latter during Wooostock at Darlington, South Carolina April 16 and set the Radial versus The World elapsed-time record at 3.717 seconds (eclipsing his own 3.73 from Lights Out 8 in February at Valdosta, Georgia).
He hasn’t done much slapping yet. He has earned just one victory. But he hasn’t been slapped much, either.
Photo courtesy NHRA/National Dragster
And that’s the challenge for Jackson.
“I want to race where the baddest people are. It’s the Super Bowl of drag racing. What drew me to the NHRA Pro Mod is they have the best talent of any series I’ve seen out there. The guys in this are good. It’s not an entry-level deal. But the tougher it is, the more I like it,” he said.
That even tops driving naked. He did that once … sort of, shedding all of his clothing sans his firesuit to get down to weight to produce the E.T.s he wanted. That did the trick, and Qatar’s Sheikh Khalid bin Hamad Al Thani, of Al-Anabi notoriety, was impressed enough to fund a deal – one that led to his ADRL championship.
Jackson long has had a desire to race in the NHRA Top Fuel class. He hasn’t announced any sort of timetable for such a Troy Coughlin Jr.-style move. He needs to master the Pro Modified class first. Stevie Fast Jackson still is cranking up his act, spinning yarns and writing chapters. So the storybook ending will have to wait.