CHIL­DREN OF THE CORN

Ja­son Ham­stra Adds to the Legacy of In­di­ana’s Hustlin’ Hoosiers

Drag Racer - - Contents - Text and Pho­tos by Rod Short

WHEN JA­SON HAM­STRA, HIS WIFE PATSY AND PAR­ENTS KEVIN AND KAREN SHOW UP AT A RACE, THOSE WALK­ING THE PITS MAY NOT NO­TICE. That all changes, how­ever, dur­ing qual­i­fy­ing when Ja­son launches his car to­wards the fin­ish line. That’s when the fans learn what many of his fel­low rac­ers already know: The Ham­stra fam­ily is in da house.

Nick­named “Racin’ Ja­son” when he was just a kid, it was clear he’d in­her­ited a com­pet­i­tive streak from his dad. Ja­son was the first to break into the eight-sec­ond zone and won his lo­cal track’s Ju­nior Drag­ster cham­pi­onship at U.S. 41 Drag­way when he was just 12. Two years later, he re­peated that feat as track cham­pion in the face of stronger com­pe­ti­tion at Indy.

The Ham­stra clan con­tin­ued to carve their legacy slowly with Ja­son be­hind the wheel. At 16, he was pi­lot­ing a full-sized rail, then cap­tured the IHRA Pro Top Out­law Cham­pi­onship two years later. In 2005, he started the sea­son shoe­ing a blown ’63 Pro Mod

’Vette, be­com­ing the first in the class to use a torque con­verter rather than a clutch. Ja­son learned his lessons well and, in 2007, cap­tured his first IHRA event win. He con­tin­ued in IHRA for an­other year then switched to ADRL in 2009 where he put his ex­pe­ri­ence to use, cap­tur­ing rookie of the year honors at a mere 22 years of age. Two years later, he was the ADRL Pro Ex­treme Cham­pion in a ’70 Ply­mouth Duster. All in all, it was a pretty rapid rise into the ranks of the Pro Mod­i­fied elite.

As their on-track rep­u­ta­tion so­lid­i­fied, the fam­ily rac­ing op­er­a­tion evolved into Ham­stra Rac­ing Ser­vices, which of­fers on-track tun­ing, chas­sis set-up ad­vice and wiring/plumb­ing to a num­ber of teams na­tion­ally.

Ja­son also used this time to grad­u­ate from Pur­due Univer­sity, Calumet with a de­gree in en­gi­neer­ing. Even so, the com­pet­i­tive fires still burned. When an exAlan Pittman ’69 Ca­maro be­came avail­able, the fam­ily pur­chased it with the in­ten­tion of rac­ing within the NMCA and Mid­west Pro Mod se­ries.

“I think tun­ing for other peo­ple and work­ing on dif­fer­ent com­bi­na­tions has made me a bet­ter racer,” Ja­son said. “Some­times peo­ple lis­ten to too many dif­fer­ent voices. You have to spend time fig­ur­ing out one com­bi­na­tion in­stead of mak­ing lots of changes if you’re ever go­ing to make it work right.”

The fam­ily spent the win­ter of 2016 up­dat­ing the car to their specs prior to the 2017 NMCA opener. They proved they’d done their home­work by qual­i­fy­ing first, set­ting Low ET with a 3.775 and win­ning the race. He fin­ished the sea­son with two wins in three fi­nal round ap­pear­ances out of five events at­tended. That earned him a sec­ond in cham­pi­onship points in VP Rac­ing Fu­els’ Xtreme Pro Mod. Post sea­son honors in­cluded mak­ing the 30 Un­der 30 Who Made a Dif­fer­ence list for 2016.

Power for their Ca­maro comes from a fam­ily­built 521-ci combo. The re­cip­ro­cat­ing assem­bly is com­prised of a Sonny Bryant crank, R&R bil­let alu­minum rods and Di­a­mond pis­tons. Noonan cylin­der heads cap the short-block assem­bly, with a Ja­nis roller cam op­er­at­ing the valve train.

The in­duc­tion sys­tem in­cludes a Ko­belco 1471 blower atop a Ho­gan man­i­fold. A Water­man pump feeds the me­chan­i­cal fu­elin­jec­tion sys­tem.

Be­hind the en­gine sits a Coan Turbo 400 and PST car­bon-fiber drive­shaft con­nect­ing to a Mark Wil­liams third mem­ber. Hoosiers mounted on Weld wheels sup­ply the rub­ber.

While Ja­son is still a young man of 30, rac­ing from the age of 8 has brought about con­sid­er­able wear and tear. Yet he still has a com­pet­i­tive drive.

“It’s ex­haust­ing some­times, but if I didn’t do it, then I don’t know what I’d do,” Ja­son said when asked if he was ready to slow down. “For right now, though, six to eight races a year with the NMCA and Mid­west Pro Mod se­ries is enough, but I cer­tainly would en­ter­tain a deal to drive in PDRA or the NHRA Pro Mod se­ries if an of­fer ap­peared.”

As a young farm boy born into a rac­ing fam­ily, Ja­son has been on the fast track to be­com­ing a suc­cess­ful racer, cham­pion and busi­ness owner. Maybe there re­ally is some­thing in that corn.

We’re talking a size­able investment here: Only the best parts, in­clud­ing a Sonny B. crank and a CN bil­let block and bil­let heads from the Aussies at Noonan, were in­stalled on Ja­son’s ride.

The cock­pit is a good ex­am­ple of Alan Pittman’s fab skills. Note the Coan Turbo 400 trans; the Ham­stras were early pro­po­nents of us­ing a torque con­verter over a clutch.

The Mark Wil­liams third mem­ber han­dles the co­pi­ous amounts of power the Ham­stra fam­ily­built Hemi pro­duces.

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