Wed, 06 Nov 2013, 20:33 PM
Youth Will Be Served
By Bob Frey
Photo copyright 2013 Bob Johnson Photography
I think it was William Shakespeare, now wait, it was Warren Johnson who once said that "old age and
treachery will beat youth and enthusiasm every time." Now if you know anything about me it's that I
really like Warren. I have watched him race from the very early days of his career. I mean, not the
purple '57 Chevy early part of his career, but shortly thereafter, and I have always appreciated
and respected what he has done on the track and said off the track. His comment about a driver just
being "necessary ballast" was particularly interesting, and in some cases true, but I may have to
take issue with his "old age vs. youth" comments. Now don't get me wrong, there are a lot of great
drivers in the sport who are over sixty years old, John Force and Frank Manzo come to mind, but
there are also hundreds, maybe thousands of younger drivers who are and will continue to make their
mark in the sport. At every local track, Summit Series event, divisional race or national event the
parade of youthful drivers is impressive and shows no signs of letting up, and at the recent
Division 7 race at Las Vegas many of them displayed their talents by running in two different
classes. One of those drivers is a young man who has been around the sport for a while despite the
fact that he is only thirty-two years old.
Jesse Adams, like so many other young racers, was introduced to the sport by his father. "My dad
raced for a long time and he was very good at it, "Jesse said. "He had a 64 Nova named "AWESOME"
that he ran in Super Street and he did a lot of racing all over the west coast. He was good enough
to go to the All Star program when they had it back in Bowling Green." That was in 1985 and '86
when the elder Adams travelled across country in the formative years of the All Star event, and in
Chuck Adams in his'64 Nova.
1986 he made it to the final round. "He taught me a lot about racing and now we get to do it
together and I really enjoy that." There is another family member who also joins in the action.
"Yeah, my son is four years old and he comes with us when I'm racing near home. He and my dad are
best friends and it's great to see them together." For the record the youngest Adams family member
is named Cade Maverick Adams. "I always loved the 'Top Gun' movie, it's my favorite, and that's
where the name came from." Perfect choice for a youngster whose father is turning into one of the
top guns in drag racing.
There are a lot of drivers who have driven a variety of cars in their career but not many who have
the résumé that Jesse does. "Right now I have ten different numbers on my NHRA
license," he said. "I have driven everything from sportsman bracket cars to Top Dragsters and 7.0
Funny Cars." And when asked which one is his favorite Jesse thought for a while and said, "Good
question. I like going fast so the Top Dragster and the Funny Car are really neat, but it's all
about the competition and as long as I am racing I'm happy regardless of what class I'm in." Lately
Jesse has been in a class of his own with wins at the prestigious Bakersfield March Meet in 2012 as
well as a 2013 Super Pro E.T. Division 7 championship, and the 2013 Nostalgia Pro Comp
championship. "I have to admit that it's been a pretty good ride lately," he said.
The 1966 Comet Cyclone
The litany of cars that he has driven and the classes in which he has competed would make anyone's
head spin and it all started out with a 1966 Comet Cyclone that his father had. "It was supposed to
be my first car, but after dad got it and fixed it up it was actually too nice of a car for dad to
let me drive to high school on a daily basis, so instead, it became my full time bracket car as
soon as I acquired my learner's permit at 15 years old." From there he went to a Stock Eliminator
car, a classic H/SA Chevrolet Chevelle that he still has. A 1969 Camaro, a Super Comp dragster, a
Top Sportsman Mustang, the 'Machine Gun Keli' Funny Car, and a Top Dragster are also among the cars
that Jesse has driven in recent years, and even though the cars are about as diverse as you could
get there is one constant, he won with almost all of them. Just this past week at the Division 7
Lucas Oil event in Las Vegas he made it to the final round in the competitive Top Dragster class.
"That's a great car, it's fast, consistent, and I love to drive it." The car is owned by Phil and
Betty Horton and has a 509 cubic inch Brad Anderson motor. "We actually made it to the final round
at Vegas but weren't able to make the call. On 'DragRaceCentral' they said I blew the burst panel
in the semi-finals but we actually broke the crankshaft and threw the rods out. That was tough on
Phil, especially since we weren't able to run in the final round."
Jesse Adams was runner-up
in Top Dragster last weekend
the division 7 race.
Another one of his favorite rides in the 7.0 Funny Car that he drives. "It's the 'Machine Gun Keli'
car that runs in the 7.0 Pro class in the Heritage Series and in the 6.90 Nostalgia Pro Comp
Association. We've had an amazing two seasons, winning eight of the fifteen events we attended,
including the 2012 March Meet, both of the Famous Fox Hunt and Governor's Cup races in back-to-
back years at Sacramento Raceway." That made two wins at the famous "March Meet" for Jesse who
also won with his K&N sponsored Camaro there in the Hot Rod category in 2010. "Cecil Matthews owns
the Mustang Funny Car that I drive in the 7.0 class. Cecil has always had really fast cars, and
after an accident two years ago that has kept him out of the driver's seat for the time being, he
asked if I would like to drive for him. It took me about a second to say yes. He's a wonderful man
who has overcome a lot and he just loves drag racing." The success that Jesse has had with that car
should come as no surprise because it seems that he wins with any and all of his cars. A Division 7
Super Pro title this year, a Bakersfield win and the recent final round at Vegas are all
indications of how versatile and talented he is. "I have been very fortunate to be able to drive
for a lot of great people. I'm truly blessed and extremely grateful."
Jesse Adams in the
Hot Rod category in 2010.
Ironically one of the things that has eluded him so far is a national event win at an NHRA event.
The closest he came was in 2003 when he was runner-up at Pomona to one of his close friends, Brad
Plourd. "I really admire what guys like Brad, Dan Fletcher, David Rampy and guys like that do. I
mean they race for a living and that is my goal. Whether it's in a pro car, which would be
unbelievable, or a sportsman car, I just want to race." And in 2014 he may get to do even more
racing than this year. "I think the Hortons and I may chase the division points with the Top
Dragster, and Cecil is extremely tempted to campaign a Nostalgia Nitro Funny Car." He also intends
to travel to some of the big money bracket races back east. "Those guys are so good at what they do
and I'd like to race with them. I ran the race in Clay City this year and had a .012 reaction time,
ran dead-on my dial and still lost."
When he's not racing Jesse works for a revolutionary renewable energy company called CleanWorld,
and he also does some work in his shop at home. "I do some chassis work and I build custom headers
and I also help Scotty Richardson out with his drag racing school." That doesn't leave a lot of
spare time for him, and what time he does have he spends either racing or
thinking about racing. "I love every aspect of it and it's what I want to do," he said. With a
track record like he has and a license for just about any class in the sport, it seems like Jesse
Adams will be drag racing for a long time. Now that I think about it, maybe Warren Johnson is
looking for a nice, young driver, you know, one with youth and enthusiasm on his side. If he is I
know just the guy.
Adams won the Division 7
Super Pro title this year.
"More than anything, I need to thank the people who are always helping me. First starting with my
dad, Chuck Adams, who goes out of his way any time I need help keeping my cars prepared and
reliable. Secondly, I need to thank my long-time girlfriend, Heidi, for giving me such an amazing
little boy, Cade Maverick, and for putting up with me and my endless overnight thrashes, last
minute change of plans, and schedules. Without the help of my parents, Chuck and Karen, my sister
Chelsea, and Heidi's parents Joe and Sue, I could not spend so many weekends racing and chasing and
living the dream. A special thank you to Eathon Lanfri who has been pivotal in my bracket racing
success and in the construction of my new car. I also need to thank the great people at CleanWorld
who allow me a flexible work schedule to race as often as I do. In addition, I can't begin to
express my appreciation to my very dedicated car owners and crews. The Machine Gun Keli team of
Cecil Matthews, Randy Luchetti, Pat Bohannon, Steve Andeweg, Rik Whitfield, and Tim Matthews. And
the Performance Products Top Dragster of Phil and Betty Horton, and Dan Butterfield. These guys
spend countless dollars and unbelievable amounts of time keeping the amazing race cars I drive for
them safe, and always prepared to win. Of course I have to give thanks to my dedicated followers
and sponsors, K&N Filters, Performance Products, Schooled by Scotty, Hoosier Racing Tires, Fauset
Racing Engines and Infinite Graphix to name a few. All I want to do is drive race cars."
Adams in the
Machine Gun Keli car.
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