I was born in July of 1980 in Augusta, Ga. Most boys have at some point in their childhood wanted to be a fireman, or a doctor, or President. I wanted none of that. The only thing I can ever remember wanting to be was a race car driver. I was introduced to drag racing at an early age. My dad had a 1967 Camaro street car with a big block Chevy. Back then nitrous on street cars was taboo, so he hid the bottle in the trunk and had the activation button on the shifter. It’s funny how things change. Back then nitrous oxide was expensive, and R-12 refrigerant was cheap. So my dad rigged up a purge system on the car using R-12 so that we wouldn’t waste any nitrous. It was there just intimidate the competition. We would race the car at our local drag strip in Jackson, Sc on Thursday nights, and then street race it for money on Saturday and Sunday’s in Hephzibah and Augusta, Ga. I remember it like it was yesterday the exact moment I was hooked on drag racing. I was 6 years old and dad had just changed the intake manifold and camshaft in the car. We were in the front yard ( no shops or garages back then) and he started it up and that thing sat there with open headers chopping and loping with that new cam. Dad pointed me to the arm on the side of the carburetor and told me to rap the motor a couple times. To this day I don’t think Ive ever heard something sound so good. We took it out on the highway and got it up to cruising speed. I was in the passenger seat when he dropped it down in second gear and let me push the nitrous button. Everything around me turned to a blur, yet my path in life became crystal clear. We were poor, and I had no idea how I was going to do it. But I was going to race cars of my own someday.
Fast forward to my early teenage years. My dad had quit racing for several years, but my passion and dreams had not. Most kids my age were playing ball and thinking about girls and college. I spent every waking moment looking through Summit magazines jotting down part numbers and dreaming that I could afford to buy the stuff on those pages. More than once I was kicked out of class for sketching drag cars and not paying attention during school. I had a full time job at age 14 making about 180 bucks a week. I saved every cent towards building a car and was working two jobs by 16 and going to school. I built my first vehicle at 17. I found an S-10 truck body and built a small block Chevy and stuffed it between the frame rails. That thing was a death trap. Im lucky to be alive. No seat belts, carpet, radio, or any of the normal car stuff. If it didn’t make it fast, I didn’t care. I would sneak over to Jackson, Sc on Thursday nights and take all the exhaust out from under it, put slicks on it and tear it to hell. Stay at the track all night fixing it so that I could drive to school the next morning. Those were the days.
In my early 20’s I was a master technician at a local car dealership. Making decent money for the first time allowed me to start building bigger and better engines. I continued to spend every penny I had on racing with little to no regard for the future. Not much has changed. I got faster and earned a reputation locally for not taking shit from anyone, as well as being faster than I was supposed to be. I would grudge race at Darlington, Sc on Wednesday nights, Jackson, Sc Thursday nights, Orangeburg, Sc on Friday, fix the truck on Saturday and race at Dorchester, Sc on Sunday nights. I did very well at racing. It wasn’t that I was smarter back then. I just worked harder at it than everyone else. I can’t count the nights that I would work all day, then work on motors till 4 am. Sleep three hours and go back to work. Before long I needed more money for parts , so I started a Tool business. It was a huge risk for me, but like everything else in my life, I was all in. I remember my last day at the car dealership. My service manager, and several of my co workers told me that I would be back begging for my job in less than six months. This fueled me to never take no for an answer. All my race cars since then have been numbered 949. That was my employee number at the car dealership. I use it to remind myself to never forget where I came from, and never let anyone stop me from chasing my dreams.
By the mid 2000’s I was racing all over the southeast. I got my first enclosed trailer and began contemplating class racing for the first time. I had won enough at grudge racing that It was starting to get hard to find races. I had retired the S-10 and built the first orange car. It was a 1993 Ford Mustang with a big block chevy and three stages of nitrous, stock suspension, power windows and it would cover the 1/8th mile in the high four second range. I eventually graduated to a Procharged big chevy in 2007 and thats when I decided to run ORSCA. It was a pivotal moment in my racing career, but I was so naive and under prepared at the first race of the 2008 season. We fired the car for the first time the day before the race, and it was leaking everywhere and ran like crap, and wouldn’t idle etc etc. But me and a couple buddies loaded it in the trailer and drove all night to Huntsville, Alabama for the season opener. I was blown away when we pulled in the gate at the sight of so many people and equipment in one spot.
I had been promised by a friend, that a crew chief at the race was going to help me get the car and new combination sorted out. I had no EFI experience, no class racing experience, and for all intensive purposes, I was way way over my head. Well it turns out that I was blown off by the person that was supposed to help me. I remember sitting in staging lanes during the drivers meeting with people laughing at me because my car would hardly idle. I got crushed in the first round, but I vowed to never ever have a race car that I couldn’t tune and run myself. It was a lesson that has helped me every step of the way and I cherish failing the way I did at that first race. I left that racetrack with a chip on my shoulder and Ive never lost it. I tested 5 days a week for a month until the next ORSCA race. I won it, as well as the remaining 5 races of the season and the World Championship in 2008. Revenge is sweet!
The first time I met Phil Shuler, I thought he was completely insane. He was grudge racing his car ( Frankenstang ) in Jackson, Sc and I had never seen anyone so confident about his race car. I would later understand why. Phil ending up crushing the guy he was racing for a very large sum of money, and I was introduced to big money grudge racing. Phil had watched me destroy the field in ORSCA and asked me to pilot his car. This thing was faster than anything I had ever driven by a lot, and I jumped at the chance. Phil’s approach to preparation, maintenance, and organization laid the foundation for my professional career that was coming. We won ALOT. Mostly because we were just more prepared than everyone else. When you race for big money, You have to have all your ducks in a row. I learned to approach every race like it was a final round, and it changed the way I viewed competition. Phil became my mentor and has guided me through nearly every step of my career.
By 2012, I had already won many championships, as well as set radial tire world records over and over. But it was a late season trip to Mississippi that would change the course of my racing career and life forever.
I had just been crushed the last race of the season due to a mechanical malfunction and I was taking it pretty hard. Everyone was done racing for the year and it was mid November and I was restless. I convinced a friend of mine (Mike) to go with me to test the car 8 hours away in Holly Springs, Mississippi. Mike told me that I was crazy, but agreed after hours of begging and conniving on my part. I couldn’t stand ending the season in failure and wanted to try some new things before the following year. The current world record was held by someone else at the time and I wanted it. We made a few runs in the 4.25 range and as the sun begin to set, We had time for one more lap. I loaded the kitchen sink in that thing and it blew me away when it ran a 4.19@186 MPH. The first to the teens, and the quickest radial car in the world. Two weeks later I got a call from a Sheikh in the Middle East who wanted to purchase the quickest radial car in the world. It turns out that I had it.
I arrived in Qatar in January 2013 and was blown away by the motorsports presence there. I had never been out of the country and it was an eye opening experience for me. I had never been around Pro mods, and the first time I saw one do a burnout, I was hooked. I walked in the Pro Mod shop and was introduced to Billy Stocklin. I had heard of Billy in the states and competed against some of the cars that he tuned, but this was the first time we spent any time together. It was a meeting that would once again alter the course of my racing career. I liked Billy from the start and begin nagging him about driving a Pro Mod. My orange car was dominating the Super Street class at the time and had earned a lot of attention from the Sheikh. In the winners circle after the third race, I got the opportunity of a lifetime when Sheikh approached me about driving a Pro Mod. He had a car that no one could get down the track, no one wanted, and that needed alot of work. He told me that If Billy and I could get it down the track and make a run in the 3.70’s then I had a full time ride in the states that year. Boy do I ever love a challenge. After 200 hours of work and and a week of testing, we went 3.799, won the last race in Qatar, and I was handed a contract, and a job at the top end of the track. It was a dream come true for me and I was a Professional Race Car Driver for the first time in my life. More than that, a bond was formed between me and Billy that continues to this day. We dominated ADRL Pro nitrous our first year, and won the World Championship. I was named Rookie of the year and I was on cloud nine. Me and Billy( Big Swig) were a perfect match. I set the cars up and drove them, he tuned them and we were unstoppable. Little did I know at the time, that Phil Shuler was behind the entire Pro Mod thing. He had orchestrated me and Big Swig meeting in Qatar and put the bug in Sheikhs ear about racing together in the states.
Nothing in Motorsports is ever secure. Two weeks before the start of the 2014 season, our funding was pulled, and I was unemployed. Talk about an eye opener. I was always under the impression that if you won , were honest, and worked hard, you would always have a job. I was sent scrambling. I spent most of 2014 working on obtaining a sponsor while grudge racing the Shadow whenever we could. It turns out that we were racing in Texas against about the only team who had the nerve to run against me and Phil at the time. A man named Jeff Sitton. Once again, fate, and Phil Shuler would steer me into an unexpected direction. I got a call from Jeff about tuning his car. Its ironic because Jeff and I were fierce competitors. I told him that the only way I would do it was if Billy came along, So just like that, we were off racing again. Competing in PDRA in 2015 and tuning Jeff’s cars as well as racing the Shadow. My plate was full and all was once again right with the world or so I thought.
When the oil market crashed in late 2015-early 2016 I was once again let go and found myself without a sponsor. Billy and I separated professionally in 2016 but remained close friends. I managed to scrape together enough money to run PDRA Pro Nitrous, finished third for the season and was flat broke. On top of that I had a horrific crash in the Shadow in the fall of 2016, completely destroying the car. Tough times were upon me. But as always I held my head up and kept digging. Little to my knowledge, I had gained the attention of Bahrain1 Racing. I got the call to come to Bahrain and meet with the team and boy were we a good fit. It is very hard in my business to find people and companies who will let me be myself and not try to change me. Sheikh Abdulla and I hit off right away. We raced the season in Bahrain in the winter of 2016-2017 and won 4 out of 5 races, the Arabian Pro Series World Championship, And the Bahrain Drag Racing World Championship. Me and Big swig were on fire again as my dream of racing NHRA Pro Mod was finally to become a reality. In 2017 we went to 4 finals, won two races, finished third in points, and I was named Rookie of the year. I also set the radial world record in Shadow 2.0 . It has been a dream season. Our team is stronger than ever, and I am surrounded by a group of guys that are second to none.
Looking backwards, I’m blown away by the path that I have traveled. Its astonishing to me how fortunate I am. I wake up every morning and chase my dream. I have my sights set on Top Fuel and sooner or later I’m going to get there. Life is a fantastic ride. Hang On!!!