‘Chance’ Jewels goes from zero to NASCAR – approved in one year
Up until 2017, Steven Jewels only success with cars was selling them at a local dealership.
All that changed when Jewels, who is known as “Chance” to friends and family, had the opportunity to run his Corvette over Daytona International Speedway’s 3.56-mile road course.
“It was a driving event and that was my breakthrough moment,” Jewels said. “I knew from that moment I wanted to race.”
Carlos Lira, who is well known in local racing circles, took Jewels under his wing and found a diamond in the rough.
Since January, Jewels has won more than 20 SCCA races at a variety of tracks and was approved for a NASCAR Xfinity Series roadcourse license.
For Lira it was like finding a player with Babe Ruth-like ability playing sandlot ball.
“It can take a good three to five years to get where he’s at now,” Lira said. “He’s done an amazing job. Everything we put Chance in, he has done really well.”
Jewels said from Day 1 of this journey, he has felt comfortable inside a race car.
“This is something I could naturally do,” said the 29-year-old driver. “I believe all of us are born with certain talents and abilities. Mine just happen to be the ability to drive a car.”
Jewels was born and spent his childhood in Jacksonville. His father worked at Brumos Porsche, where the showroom and race shop were situated side by side.
“My dad would take me to the Rolex 24 when I was growing up,” he said. “That’s when I really started to love cars.
“I can remember watching Dale Earnhardt and Dale Jr. race those Corvettes in the (2001) Rolex. It was a very memorable thing for me. I grew up loving Corvettes.”
Jewels’ family moved here in 2004 when he was 15, where he attended Matanzas High School, for a while.
“I was home schooled,” he said. “I went to Matanzas, then to the Florida Virtual School. School was never really my strong point. I just wanted to get through it.”
He had a series of odd jobs, everything from flipping hamburgers to landscaping before getting into the Criminal Justice Academy at St. Johns River State College in St. Augustine.
After receiving his certificate, he took a job as a deputy in Flagler County.
“I wasn’t happy there,” Jewels said. “I didn’t fit in. It wasn’t for me. I respect those guys because it’s not an easy job.”
He went from law enforcement to real estate and found his footing in the business world working for Arthur Simpson at Florida Pros Real Estate.
“That’s how I could afford to go racing,” Jewels said.
Lira, who is an accomplished road racer, has been there every step of the way during these lightning rounds of development.
“I trained him,” Lira said. “I tell him what to do. The thing about Chance, I need to tell him once. He follows what you tell him. He is very passionate about racing.”
After some tutoring from Lira at Palm Beach International Speedway, Jewels made his SCCA debut at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
“I had no idea what was going on,” he said with a laugh. “But I knew there is only one time to make a first impression and I knew I had to just go for it.
“I raced against the defending national champion of that class and we went at it the whole race. I won both races that weekend. This was the first time I had ever been in a sanctioned race.”
Racing is fickle. It will shine on you one moment and rain on your parade the next. Just a week after his debut, Jewels experienced the other side of racing at Sebring.
“I hit the wall, literally and figuratively,” he said. “I crashed three times. The thing I learned there was ‘Don’t give up. Keep going forward.’ It was the worst experience I’ve had in racing.”
After piling up his SCCA wins in the spring and summer, Jewels built up enough credentials to get NASCAR approval to run Xfinity Series road courses this season.
Getting that approval from NASCAR will carry over to 2019 and having that license looks good on a racing resume.
“I was ecstatic,” Jewels said. “Carlos has a stock car and it is similar to an Xfinity car. We have made some practice runs in it. You don’t have to use the clutch when you shift. I felt very comfortable in that car.”
Jewels hopes his rapid success continues into next season. He hopes to make his NASCAR debut in 2019. He bottom lined his expectations for next season.
“I just want to go fast,” he said. “I want to be a professional, factory-backed paid driver. There is so much opportunity. My plan is to go to the next level and let it take me where it takes me.”
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Mobil 1 Ford, leads a pack of cars during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on November 4, in Fort Worth, Texas.