‘Chance’ Jewels goes from zero to NASCAR – ap­proved in one year

Manila Times - - Nascar -

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.


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