JOEY SEV­ER­ANCE, TAD'S POWER HIT­TER

JOEY SEV­ER­ANCE, TAD’S RIS­ING STAR

Drag Racer - - Front Page - Text and Pho­tos by Terry Knicker­bocker

DRAG RAC­ING IS ABOUT FAM­ILY, ES­PE­CIALLY AT THE SPORTS­MAN LEVEL. In few places is this more ev­i­dent than at Sev­er­ance Rac­ing, where fam­ily in­volve­ment runs deep. It started when par­ents Joe and Sandy took their son Joey to Madras Drag Strip as an in­fant in 1970. There they be­came good friends with Jim Liv­ingston, who just a year later pur­chased Wood­burn Dragstrip in Ore­gon.

Fast for­ward to the present day and the fam­ily is stronger than ever. Joey, 47, has won the NHRA Top Al­co­hol Drag­ster Na­tional Cham­pi­onship three con­sec­u­tive years. Dad Joe (re­tired from Had­man Chas­sis) and Sandy are in­te­gral parts of Joey’s rac­ing op­er­a­tion.

Jim Liv­ingston and his wife Lynn are re­tired after own­ing and op­er­at­ing Wood­burn Dragstrip for 40 years.

In 2002, while li­cens­ing his first drag car at Wood­burn, Joey made a visit to the tim­ing tower where Liv­ingston in­tro­duced Joey to his daugh­ter Cherie. The two started dat­ing, fell in love and mar­ried in 2006. As of 2010, the track has thrived un­der the own­er­ship of part­ners Jay Liv­ingston (Jim’s son) and Joey and Cherie Sev­er­ance.

I have known Joey for nearly 15 years and en­joyed watch­ing him progress to NHRA World Cham­pion sta­tus. The day I called him to set up an in­ter­view, the three-time champ was on the roof of the Wood­burn Dragstrip con­ces­sion stand rac­ing our Ore­gon weather to make re­pairs be­fore the rains came. On race day morn­ings you’ll find him on a trac­tor, prep­ping the all­con­crete sur­face, or spray­ing trac­tion com­pound the full quar­ter-mile. Ac­cord­ing to Joey, “I do ev­ery­thing from track prep to un­plug­ging toi­lets.” If there is smoke from a car at the top end, it’s not un­com­mon for him to jump on a quad and head down track with his trade­mark plaid flan­nel shirt flap­ping in the wind. I have heard rac­ers com­ment they are glad to race on a track pre­pared by rac­ers be­cause they know it will be done to na­tional event stan­dards.

Joey is soft-spo­ken, quiet, unas­sum­ing, has a good sense of hu­mor and is ob­vi­ously not afraid to get his hands dirty. He is al­ways ready to help where needed or an­swer ques­tions and talk with fans. Above all he loves his fam­ily: wife Cherie and daugh­ters Pres­lie, age 10, and Kin­z­ley, 8. Both girls pi­lot Jr. Drag­sters, time per­mit­ting.

Most are un­aware that dur­ing his rac­ing ca­reer, Joey has driven only Top Al­co­hol cars. In 2002, he li­censed in an Al­co­hol Funny Car and raced that same week­end

at Seat­tle. In his first race he lost to Randy Parker on a holeshot and vowed to im­prove his re­ac­tion times. The re­sults are clear, be­cause now he’s one of the quick­est leavers in the class. At Ve­gas last fall his re­ac­tion times in the fi­nal three rounds were .027, .028 and .023.

While build­ing his first car, Joey con­fessed he would go to the shop after hours and sit in it, vi­su­al­iz­ing mak­ing pass after pass. Be­cause the mo­tor had not yet ar­rived, he sup­plied his own mo­tor sounds. Soon he was so com­fort­able in the car, he some­times fell asleep in the cock­pit.

Be­ing that com­fort­able in his rides has helped Joey cre­ate some mem­o­rable track days. One in par­tic­u­lar is the 2016 U.S. Na­tion­als where he drove for Norm Grimes. Al­though he had not qual­i­fied go­ing into the fi­nal ses­sion, he not only made it into the field, but he also won the race his first time there. In the Indy win­ner’s cir­cle, Joey char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally talked about Team Wood­burn back home in Ore­gon win­ning the Division Six ET Fi­nals, in­stead of how he had just won NHRA’s big­gest race.

The 2012 and 2013 sea­sons saw Joey com­pete against then-cham­pion Jim White­ley. The two be­came friends, and when White­ley re­tired from the class after the 2013 sea­son, he con­tin­ued to help Joey with ad­vice and parts. That re­la­tion­ship has grown into spon­sor­ship from White­ley’s busi­ness, J&A Ser­vice. Joey and An­nie White­ley, who races a Top Al­co­hol Funny Car, of­ten pit to­gether so the teams can share in­for­ma­tion, power and cook­ing du­ties.

The ap­proach that Joey takes to chas­ing a cham­pi­onship is by main­tain­ing a “wait and see” at­ti­tude. The first hand­ful of western races is rel­a­tively close to home, and after he’s com­peted at a few, he has a bet­ter idea how the year might go. If the points look good, the team de­cides how many more races to at­tend and where.

Joey stressed to me sev­eral times the im­por­tance of the peo­ple with whom you sur­round your­self, both in life and rac­ing.

His dad has been the big­gest in­flu­ence on his life, and cur­rently is his crew chief, tuner and he’s re­spon­si­ble for main­tain­ing the car be­tween races. He and Sandy also han­dle trans­porta­tion. Cherie does it all in­clud­ing man­ag­ing the ticket booth and pro shop dur­ing events and tak­ing care of the of­fice dur­ing the week. Co-owner Jay Liv­ingston runs the track in their ab­sence and is a man who wears many hats.

Joey, who spent his first 20 work­ing years at a Ta­coma, Wash­ing­ton, rock quarry, does not en­vi­sion do­ing any­thing but rac­ing, watch­ing his fam­ily grow, and help­ing op­er­ate the fam­ily busi­ness. He cur­rently owns his third TAD world ti­tle and con­tin­ues to chase his dream of be­ing able to go to all of the races he can with his fam­ily.

Joey is soft-spo­ken, quiet, unas­sum­ing, has a good sense of hu­mor and is ob­vi­ously not afraid to get his hands dirty.

 Joey jumped into the deep end of the pool from the start de­but­ing in a Top Al­co­hol Drag­ster.

 Joey and dad Joe thrash on the TAD in their cozy race shop.

 Joey races his sec­ond car at the fam­ily’s track, Wood­burn Dragstrip.

 Team Sev­er­ance cel­e­brates Joey’s third con­sec­u­tive TAD World Cham­pi­onship.

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