It’s been a spectacular run the last two seasons for Stevie “Fast” Jackson, as the fan-favorite driver has picked up back-to-back world titles in the highly competitive E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service.
The magnitude of that accomplishment isn’t lost on Jackson, who has won six races and advanced to 10 finals over the past two years. He’s excelled in his blown Bahrain 1 Racing Chevrolet Camaro, but Jackson isn’t taking that success for granted heading into this weekend’s season opener as part of the 52nd annual AMALIE Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals at historic Gainesville Raceway.
“It’s been very special, but the pressure is real to try and have a three-peat,” Jackson said. “We keep trying to go faster and there’s a lot of pressure. You don’t want to disappoint our fans, so it’s all hands on deck trying to win three in a row. Like always, we’re going to keep trying to come up with ways to make our program better.”
The race, which is presented by Jerry Bickel Race Cars and FTI Performance, is the first of 12 races of the 2021 E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series season and will be shown on Fox Sports 2 (FS2). Rickie Smith is the defending winner of the race, as Jackson is looking for his first career victory at the historic venue.
He came close two years ago, even setting the E.T. world record in the class, but lost on a holeshot in the final round. Facing off with the likes of multi-time champ Smith, Khalid Al-Balooshi, Brandon Snider, Justin Bond, Pro Stock star Alex Laughlin, Jose Gonzalez and many more, Jackson knows he will have his hands full against a loaded lineup.
“Gainesville has been the Achilles heel in our racing universe,” said Jackson, who has 11 career wins in the class. “For some reason, we come here and nothing seems to work. So we’re going to try to make good runs, take that data we have and see if we can get it done. Somehow, we’re going to figure out how to win this race.”
Jackson had a flair for the dramatic winning the title a year ago, beating Snider in a winner-take-all matchup at Las Vegas that determined the championship. Jackson won that by a narrow margin, ended with an event victory and took plenty of momentum into the off-season.
But there were adjustments to be made over the winner, as the class instituted a rule requiring manual shifting for all NHRA Pro Mod cars. Jackson was a major proponent of the rule change and is thrilled to see it incorporated starting in Gainesville.
“It creates a more exciting environment,” Jackson said. “There’s going to be rounds where you’re covered by a tenth (of a second) and you should get crushed, and you win the round. It still hasn’t become automatic for me yet, but I very much like it. It’s something new and I’m all for it. Now, you’ll need a good E.T., a good reaction time and the driver is going to have to do their job. I think it’s great and it’s going to be good for the fans as well.”
Jerry Bickel Race Cars and FTI Performance are the presenting sponsors for the E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series race in Gainesville to open the 2021 season. Jerry Bickel Race Cars has enjoyed tremendous success in the class, with a strong client list of top drivers. Boasting a state-of-the-art facility, Jerry Bickel Race Cars also offers a one-stop shop and an extensive variety of services, with its strong track record in the Pro Mod making it a trusted name for drivers all over the world.
FTI Performance produces some of the top racing transmissions and torque converters available in the sport. Those two areas are the speciality of FTI Performance, making it a top name for drivers in a number of categories when it comes to innovative torque converters and transmission design.
Featuring the world’s fastest doorslammer race cars, the E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service offers something for every kind of hot-rodding enthusiast. The class is highlighted by historic muscle cars, as well as a variety of late model American muscle cars.
The first of three qualifying sessions for the E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service takes place at 3:30 p.m. ET on Friday, March 12, with the final two rounds scheduled for 11:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 13. The first round of Pro Mod eliminations are slated for 9:00 a.m. on Sunday, March 14.
Tickets are on sale now for AMALIE Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals and may be purchased by visiting NHRA.com or calling 800-884-NHRA.