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The hero of the common man, silver-tongued grudge racer turned radial tire superstar Steve Jackson made quite the statement in his J&A Service NHRA Pro Modified Series debut this weekend in Gainesville, Florida, qualifying atop the quickest field in the 17-year history of the series with a 5.78 from his Bahrain 1 Racing Chevrolet Camaro.

Jackson, a seasoned Pro Modified veteran with an ADRL Pro Nitrous and Arabian Drag Racing League championship already to his credit, delighted his throngs of fans and supporters around the world when he charged to the top of the sheets in Friday’s second qualifier in just the first handful of runs on his brand new Jerry Bickel Race Cars-built machine.

“It’s awesome, I mean, we got here just hoping to qualify. And everybody always says that, but we picked the car up six or seven days ago,” Jackson said. “I told the guys before we took it and tested it we wanted to try and qualify 16th and get beat first round and we’d call it a success. We took it out. First round down the track in Bradenton two days ago, it ran good. So we got here, I told the boys, I don’t want to just qualify – I want to qualify in the top half. After the first run today I thought we were gonna go to the front. We had it real wicked up there. I wasn’t going up there to putt it up to the green, I was going to knock it in the hole from about 300 yards out.”

Unfortunately for Jackson, in what is arguably the most competitive eliminator in all of drag racing, qualifying number one merely means you get a chance to race, and veteran Eric Latino served up a crude initiation to the club by bettering the Bahrain 1 machine on the tree and unloading what was low elapsed time of the race to that point, a 5.77, from the number 16 qualifying position to end the Cinderella story in the opening stanza.