TAFC – ST. LOUIS
Admittedly unnerved at having a Funny Car body lowered over him for the first time in his already legendary driving career and well aware that he’d have to crank the wheel harder than ever before to maintain control, door-car superstar Stevie “Fast” Jackson just missed winning in his Alcohol Funny Car debut. At the Summer Speed Spectacular in St. Louis, Jackson narrowly red-lighted in the rain-delayed final against another reigning NHRA world champion, 2018-19 Top Alcohol Funny Car champ Sean Bellemeur.
At the wheel of series sponsor Jim & Annie Whiteley’s Yenko-blue YNot/J&A Service Camaro, “Stevie Fast” refined the team’s torque-converter combination while simultaneously familiarizing himself with the unfamiliar confines and sometimes confounding characteristics of a dragster-style center-steer chassis. All he did was set top speed of the entire event (214.11 mph) and nearly win the first time he ever raced a Funny Car. Jackson put away 2017 champion Shane Westerfield in the first round with a 3.68 and vastly improved second-generation driver Kyle Smith in the semifinals with a lethal 3.62 before red-lighting by a fraction of a second in the final.
As expected, it took Jackson, who said he’d win the NHRA Pro Mod world championship last year and actually did, little time to adapt to a Funny Car. The versatile, talented old-school pro’s 3.64 in the final was just a tick slower than Bellemeur’s 3.63, and he’d have been a hero holeshot winner had his finger come off the button just .002-second later. “They’re hard to drive,” he said of his first Funny Car race. “They’re nothing like a Pro Mod. You have to line up in a different spot – it’s kinda weird being right in the middle of the lane like that – and nothing that works for one kind of car means anything with the other. A Funny Car doesn’t pull as hard early in the run as I thought it would, but you really have to get aggressive steering it downtrack. It’s gonna take a little time to be good, but if it’s got wheels on it, I can drive it.”
While Bellemeur, who also scored last month at the Xtreme Texas Nationals, kept his lifetime record in Keith Haney’s Mid-West Drag Racing Series unblemished – two starts, two wins – Jackson padded his extensive, varied résumé with another massive success in a completely different kind of race car. “This was awesome,” concluded “Stevie Fast,” who, unbeknownst to most, has actually held a Top Alcohol Funny Car license for 12 years – he just hadn’t raced one until now. “I just can’t thank Jim and Annie enough for letting me drive her car this weekend.”