JOEY SEVERANCE, TAD'S POWER HITTER
JOEY SEVERANCE, TAD’S RISING STAR
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.