Stevie "Fast" Jackson needs a lot to go his way to clinch his first National Hot Rod Association world championship in St. Louis. First -- he has to win the race.
That part won't intimidate the Georgian, who enters the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals with two wins under his belt. He leads the E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Series standings by 122 points. Defending world champion Mike Janis is his closest competitor by points but has not always looked like Jackson's toughest competition; such is the unpredictable nature of Pro Mod.
Jackson faces a three-pronged pursuit in St. Louis, and over the final three races of the season. Janis, Todd Tutterow and Jose Gonzalez all pose threats to Jackson, who has become one of the loudest voices in a class where the noise often spills outside the auditorium.
No one drives a quicker car than Jackson. He averages an elapsed time of 5.772-seconds at a speed of 250.54-miles per hour. The latter is not as impressive as the former, but matters significantly less. No car has been as consistent as Tutterow's, perhaps making him the greatest threat to Jackson with three races remaining (St. Louis, Charlotte, Las Vegas).
The problem for anyone hoping to catch Jackson was the greatest argument against the existence of his enormous lead: Pro Mod's parity. How did Jackson do this will be the topic of discussion if the season ends with a spark-plug-bedecked trophy in the hands of the visor-wearing racer.
A lot of things go into a championship season, and Jackson's great season (so far) is no exception. He has a terrific car, the best reaction-time average of any championship contender (Brandon Snider has been excellent but has not had the car to complement him) and has had race-day luck when needed.
Jackson can become the 2019 champion on Sunday if Tutterow and Janis fail to qualify. He will still need to win the race and get additional help in the form of Gonzalez losing in the first round. It's likely fans at zMAX Dragway will get a chance to see the Pro Mod championship decided in front of them; and it's possible the title race will officially go all the way to Las Vegas (again).
But for Jackson to falter at this point in the season would take a minor miracle -- not just because of the Georgian's ability, but because of the swarm of talent chasing him. Tutterow doesn't just need to run down Jackson; he needs to fight off the swarm of bees surrounding him. The parity that promised a close title fight at the beginning of the season could turn Jackson's first title into a rout.