By Bill Foley
Kingston, Ontario’s Jessica Power was all smiles as the prepped for the final night of the DIRTcar Nationals at Volusia Raceway Park.
Standing in her hauler she talked to Dirt Track Digest about her dream, quest and the reality of running a Big Block Modified.
How she got to Volusia is a fairy tale in itself.
She said, “I never in my wildest dreams thought I would actually be here. It really is a dream come true. We met with some sponsors over the winter and In January we had breakfast, talked about the upcoming season for the sportsmen and he says ‘whats your dream? What do you want to do?’ I said ‘I want to drive a Big Block. That’s my dream.’ NASCAR is great, but that is not where I want to go. I want a Big Block just once. A few hours they gave us a call and said ‘Let’s set up and do it’.”
When asked who sponsored the motor, she said, “They want to remain anonymous.”
So off to Volusia she went with here mom, dad, fiance and crew.
Some said that she was being set up for failure coming to such a high speed track against top notch Big Block competition.
However, Jessica didn’t look at it that way as she told DTD, “I don’t feel that way. Not at all. Quite a few people have said that to me and that was their concern that you are going to take me to one of the fastest places in a car with a motor I’ve never had before. I didn’t feel that pressure. We were here to have a good time and try something different. If I don’t qualify we still had a great time. I’ve learned alot of skills that I can transfer back to sportsmen and it’s seat time. People who are racing here have had years and years and thousands of laps. I’ve got 30 or 40 at this point. I take what I can get and I think we are doing a good job.”
Expectations were brought up and she explained, “I had none. I wanted to have fun and turn laps. I had no expectation that I would even get close to making the show. We are getting better every night.”
Looking back at the week she was quite honest about her experiences.
“Night one in hot laps was a little bit scary. It’s a fast place to begin with,” she said, “so to go to a Big Block to the fastest place we race anymore was pretty nerve wracking. I got more and more comfortable every lap I turned. When I started being able to race with some cars it gave me a gauge of where I needed to be. We are leaving the car alone so we are not confusing ourselves and just getting laps.”
Night two there was a possibility she might qualify in here heat.
Reflecting, she said, “The second night I was a lot more comfortable. The initial jitters were out of the way. I was okay and knew what to expect from the car and the horsepower. I just focused on hitting my marks and driving the car. I don’t know if I’ve been wide open yet. I want to stay on the throttle longer into the corners and be a little more gentle on the gas and on the brakes. It’s just working well so well.”
Continuing she said, “I missed qualifying in the heat by one spot. My team when I came in they were so happy that Felix Roy made it, but said if I just snuck a nose in there I might have gotten him. But just being in that position is incredible on our second night out.”
By virtue of being just one car shy from her heat of making the main, Power got to start on the outside of the front row for the consi surrounded by pole sitter Stewart Friesen, Penn-Jersey hotshoe Loudon Reimert and directly behind her was Larry Wight.
Her feelings of being in that scenario?
“Intimidation doesn’t touch what I felt. Not that any of them did anything wrong. They raced me clean and fairly, but to line up against someone who is going to line up at the big track on Friday and race trucks and in front of somebody who has won some amazing races in his career It was pretty nerve wracking. I was more concerned about being in the way. I just wanted to make my way, figure out my own car and get to the front as fast as I could.”
On the final night she said, “I’m not taking any chances. We are here for fun, but if I have an opportunity to make the show I’m going to go for it, but I’m not going to get in the way.”
It didn’t happen, but her thoughts about the possibility of qualifying for the feature were summed up quickly. She said, “That would be the most incredible thing ever. It would top most the wins I’ve ever had, every championship. That would be the epitome of my career.”
On Saturday night she lined up eighth in her heat and needed to pass just three cars, but the luck of the draw and resulting time trials put her in probably the toughest heat of the night with Rick Laubach, Max McLaughlin, “The Doctor” Danny Johnson, Adam Pierson, Larry Wight, Alex Payne and Danny Creeden. It was definitely a heavyweight bout.
Of the time trial that put Power in that position, she said, “I tIme trialed 16th..I’m gaining speed each night. I’m getting closer. The gap between me and the front 10 is shrinking, which is what I want. Starting 8th in the second heat we got some work to do, but having to pass three cars is better than five.
The Sportsmen will be where Jessica Power will be this year, but there are further limited Big Block fans as she said, “The plan is for Can-Am SDS show in April and Brockville in August. I hope to gain a little bit more money and a few more sponsors and get to Charlotte at the end of the year. That would be cool.”
Volusia is over and so is Jessica Power first Big Block experience.
She appreciated the help of her family, fiance and crew, but also thanked the long time sponsors that have been on the side of her race car, Greenshield Pest Control, Mobile 1, Bert Transmissions and The Man Shoppe.
Jessica was actually living a lifelong dream as she said, “I’ve been smiling all week. I’ve been very excited and this is a lot of fun.”