The Wild World of Stevie “Fast” Jackson
STEVIE “FAST” JACKSON ADMITS HE HAS A BIT OF AN IDENTITY CRISIS. Jackson’s face and physique clearly identify him as one of the best doorslammer drag racers on the planet, whether he’s racing an NHRA J&A Services Pro Mod or treading the treacherous waters of Drag Radial competition. But his spirit says a whole ’nother thing, as the locals would say around his hometown of Evans, Georgia.
Jackson is a throwback to the days when Funny Car drivers were manly men, and the cars they drove actually looked like what they were supposed to: real passenger cars. Jackson, born in 1980, is an incarnation combining three of Funny Car’s greatest, even though he races within the confines of working doors and a suspended chassis. He possesses the showmanship of “Jungle” Jim Liberman combined with the fast-talking bravado of John Force and the marketing appeal of Raymond Beadle.
“I tell people all the time, and have fans tell me, that I was born in the wrong generation,” Jackson admitted. “If I came up in the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, when Funny Car nitro racing was exploding, there’s no telling what I could have been. I can’t compare myself to any of the icons from that day because A: I don’t know a lot of them, and B: They’re my heroes. You never really compare yourself to your heroes.” Jackson describes the heresy of likening himself to the legends of drag racing as along the lines of a major league baseball player comparing himself to Mickey Mantle, Babe Ruth or Henry Aaron.
“I would have been an explosive personality in that world, and I think I would have been very successful,” Jackson added. “If you look at my personality and what makes my fan base like me, it’s very similar to our heroes from that day—some of the more outspoken people. Some of the greatest icons in drag racing weren’t the most successful at winning. They allowed fans to be part of their world, so I try to do that.”
Making those who buy the race tickets happy ranks as high as driving his way to low elapsed time. “Our boss is the race fan. Any way you slice it,” Jackson proclaimed. “Our boss is the people sitting in the stands. I kind of let the fans into my world, as chaotic as it is and as hard as it is sometimes. I try to make sure that I can do as much to include them in the chaos that is my day-to-day life as I can.”
Case in point, during the Lights Out 8 Drag Radial event in Valdosta, Georgia, Jackson spun his car out in the second round and grazed the wall but won the race. Security had to be called to his pits to clear a pathway through the boisterous crowd so his team could prepare for the next round. Such is the life Jackson has proudly created for himself.
“If I weren't doing this,
I’d probably be working at Walmart making $4 an hour or whatever minimum wage is right now,” Jackson said with a smile. “I’ve never wanted to do anything but race, so I don’t know what
I’d do if I couldn’t do this. I mean, it’d be something horribly boring. I don’t know what I’d do. Maybe be a rodeo clown or something. I’d have to do something to get a heavy dose of adrenaline.”
Jackson earned his way onto the big stage of drag racing much like those legends of days gone by, effectively working his way up the ladder by driving cars that were often preceded by the phrase, “Hold my beer.”
“I credit all the success that I have in racing to me starting out grudge racing and running small tires,” Jackson explained. “Being able to manage that and tune and drive one of those things, it’s a good little experience to get you into this. For anybody that wants to start out and go Pro Mod
Jackson earned his way onto the big stage of drag racing much like those legends of days gone by, effectively working his way up the ladder by driving cars that were often preceded by the phrase, 'Hold my beer.'
racing, go out there to Jackson on Thursday night, Darlington Dragway on Wednesday night, and go do some grudge racing on little tires for 15 years, and you’ll be ready to go when it’s time to go Pro Mod racing.”
In other words, find a car that has more engine than it should, a sturdy roll cage and the best safety equipment available, bolt on a set of 10.5-inch tires and hold on. Jackson understands it’s not a matter of if these cars will wreck, it’s when they’ll wreck.
“It just teaches you to be really selfreliant,” Jackson said. “I started driving really slow junk even though I thought it was fast. So when you drive junk, and then you drive stuff later that has the high horsepower-totire ratio, you require much more knowing when to quit. You learn that because if you don’t quit there, bad things happen.
“I’ve been down the race track, I don’t know, five, six, seven thousand times on little tires. It gives me an advantage on some other guys when the car is doing something it’s not supposed to do; you have a better feel for it I think. It kind of proves you in the race car a lot better. Anybody can drive these things when they make a good run. It’s when bad stuff happens; you separate the good drivers from the others."
One thing which separates Jackson from the herd, outside of his ability to drive better than Cole Trickle in four-wide traffic, is the ability to craft words aimed to intimidate and incite a reaction, which can be just as useful in a race as driving ability.
“I don’t know if I could have got under their skin back in the day, but I would have damn sure made a good go of it,” Jackson said. “I would have probably got under a lot of people’s skin. Prudhomme, Bazemore, there would have been a heap of folks that didn’t like me back then. I’m hoping that a heap of the folks don’t like me coming up in the future.”
If you don't like Jackson, you'd best keep it to yourself. He might be a Liberman, Force and Beadle incarnation, but if a movie were made of his life, you might see another lethal combination.
“It’s a mix between a Rodney Dangerfield in
‘Caddy Shack’ and Happy Gilmore coming into NHRA,” Jackson said. “And you put those two together and you’ve got Stevie Jackson. There’s a lot of people that are not ready for what’s upon us, but they’re going to get it whether they’re ready for it or not. As long as I can drive these things, I’m going to ram it down their throat. I’m not polished. I tell my people all the time, my sponsors and my team could pick a far more polished individual to represent them, someone that said the right stuff, talked the right stuff.”
Yet the sponsors keep lining up, and those already onboard keep coming back even if he does refer to his turbocharged Pro Modified and Drag Radial competitors as “turbo queers.”
NHRA management would be wise to prepare themselves, Jackson has visions of nitro racing one day. “All they need to do is focus on getting me in a fuel car, and I will fix NHRA or tear it to pieces,” Jackson said. “Pro Mod is the first step.
You watch. You can quote me on that.”
Jackson’s “outlaw” ride: The Shadow 2.0 ’15 Chevy Camaro from RJ Race Cars is built for Drag Radial competition, or whatever motorized brawl in which he decides to race.
Jackson’s “legal” ride: The Bahrain Racing J&A Services NHRA Pro Mod
Jackson shook off an earlier round shunt at the Lights Out 8 Drag Radial in Valdosta, GA, then taped up his injured ride and was once again ready for battle.
Getting ready to rumble, Jackson (standing behind engine) and crew prepare for their next match.