JACKIE FRICKE'S PASSION FOR RACING FUELS HER TOP ALCOHOL DRIVE
Top Alcohol Dragster driver Jackie Fricke fell in love with the category at a young age. After seeing Top Alcohol Dragster on TV, she was hooked.
It also helped that her father Rich exposed her to the sport at a young age. He competes in the NHRA Summit ET Series.
“My father [Rich Rogge] still drag races to this day,” she said. “There’s four girls in my family. He was a dirt track motorcycle racer then moved to motorcycle drag racing when I was about 5. All four of us girls followed him to the race track. I know from a very early age that I wanted to race. I decided about when I was seven years old that I wanted to race Top Alcohol Dragster. On the bigger TV shows, they would show Top Alcohol Dragster at the events -- and that was always the class I said I was going to run. Mike Lewis -- whose family still owns Maple Grove Raceway -- he was like a second father to all of us girls growing up. Maple Grove was our home track.
“His daughters, along with all of my sisters, were all friends. He wouldn’t let us drive the golf cart when it rained at Maple Grove. I always knew I wanted to race. There was no question about it -- I was going to be a racer. My father allowed me to get my license when I was 17. He had a ’23 T-Bucket altered -- and he told me racing was expensive -- and find a good job. I opened up my business (Accelerated Travel) at the age of 19 and saved enough money to buy a bracket dragster because I’m also very into bracket racing. And I’ve been racing ever since.”
She met her husband Shawn Fricke through drag racing. However, at first, he was not fond of her dreams of driving Top Alcohol Dragster.
“I got the opportunity with Tom Jones in 2008 in his blown car, and I raced on and off,” she said. “It was more sporadic, and then I met my husband [Shawn] at the race track. He wasn’t fond of Alcohol Dragster in the beginning. We were both bracket racers at the time -- we would do Super Comp and Super Street races -- here and there. Fast forward to today, he’s one of my biggest supporters. He also helps us on the Alcohol car now. He’s very into it now. John Finke has been a friend of mine for a long time. He used to be a customer of mine at Accelerated Travel.
“I do a lot of rooms for a lot of teams -- both sportsman and professional -- in the NHRA. I pretty much have customers in every category of the NHRA. I had some success in bracket racing, as I won a couple of $10,000 races, a couple of $5,000 races, but Alcohol Dragster was something I always wanted to do. In 2007, I won an IHRA Super Comp national event -- and my husband said, ‘You’re having all this success in bracket racing. Why would you want to go pay to run an Alcohol car?’ I told him it was a childhood dream, and it was something I always wanted to do.”
She thought the Top Alcohol Dragsters were cool growing up. She remembers watching Jeff Rapp, Ken Winward, John Rose Jr. compete and liked the high RPMs that the cars got.
Most of the time, when Fricke is racing, she has her nieces as her backup girls for her Top Alcohol Dragster.
“Taylor and her sister Tori take turns because Tori is old enough,” Fricke said. “Both Taylor and Tori travel to about 90% of the races with me. And my sister Amy is part of our crew. I’m fortunate enough to be able to race with my family. My older sister is married to Lee Reem, who runs Super Comp and they have two kids that run Jr. Dragster. My next oldest sister is married to a stock racer. They live in Columbus, Ohio, and he works for JEGS. I’m third, and my sister Amy is the youngest. Her and her girls travel with me. John [Finke, car owner] is part of our family after being friends all of these years. I’m lucky to be able to race with my family.
“It’s really a family and close friends atmosphere at Finke Racing. Our crew guy, Al Blake, has been with John since he began starting running Alcohol. We’ve known him forever. At the end of the day, we all hang out together, and it’s a lot of fun.”
When Fricke is competing at national events, she looks forward to seeing one person. That’s Lewis, who is the Vice President of Don Schumacher Racing.
“At every national event, I look forward to seeing him, and he’s always keeping up with what we’re doing,” she said. “He’s one of my favorite people to run into at the track. It’s really neat. The first national event that we won at Maple Grove, he was qualified No. 1, and I was qualified No. 2. We were parked next to each other, and he said we have a date on Sunday. I said, ‘I can’t wait!’ We were on opposite sides of the ladder, and we thought we might meet in the final round on Sunday.
“We were hoping it played out that way. I got to the final, and it was held over until Monday due to rain -- and Mike was the one, who handed me my time slip. He waited around and told me he wasn’t going to miss this. That’s something I’ll never forget.”
Besides competing in Top Alcohol Dragster, Fricke is juggling her Accelerated Travel business regularly. She even admitted to getting text messages during events that she has to handle.
“There’s a lot of late nights during the week,” Fricke said. “I’m fortunate that a lot of my customers are at the race track. Sometimes, people will text me and say, ‘I know you’re racing, but when you get back, can you do this for me?’ 70% of my customer base are racers. I’m constantly intermixed with the racing world. There’s a lot of late nights working from home, which makes it so that I can go racing and have a flexible schedule. When I go racing, I can bring my computer with me and work from wherever I am.
“When people reach out to me, I can’t neglect them because that’s what pays the bills. I have ADD, but when I strap in the race car, nothing else in the world matters. That’s basically the only time I don’t answer my phone. A customer texted me after we won first round [at National Trail Raceway], and said, ‘Hey, I need five rooms for this race.’ I answered back right away. They never knew I won first round. I have the flexibility to work anywhere. That race car means everything in the world to me. All I ever wanted to do was be a racer. I still bracket race every once in a while. And my job allows me to race. There’s a lot of preparation before I get to the race track.”
She joined Finke Racing five years after working for Jones and Joe Cantrell, beginning in 2008. Since joining Finke Racing, she has four NHRA national event wins, along with a regional championship in 2014 and six regional event wins.
Her latest win came at the DENSO Spark Plugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in Las Vegas, Nevada in April. When she won her fourth national event at The Strip, it was Finke Racing’s 24th race win.
When she is not racing on off weekends, she spends it in Selkirk, New York working with the race team. She said it’s three hours away from where she lives in Flemington, New Jersey.
“The guys are so behind me,” she added. “When we won Vegas, they were so happy, and we won on a holeshot against Joey [Severance]. Two weeks later, we lost on a holeshot in Houston. The best part is, they treat me the same way win, lose, or draw. We win as a family. John gets all of the guys on the team Wally’s when we win, so it’s not just me getting a Wally. I shouldn’t say guys, because my sister is on the team, and she helps us out quite a bit.
“Every time we won over the past few years, John has ordered replicas [Wallys] for the team. Everything is together here, and they’re so supportive of me. Winning in Vegas was awesome, and John took us all to a really nice restaurant. I got to win in Vegas with Anthony Bertozzi -- he’s been a lifelong friend of mine. That was awesome.”
Fricke said she would love an opportunity to run Top Fuel one day. However, she said she would not do it unless her Top Alcohol Dragster crew comes with her.
“I would never leave my team unless John Finke -- or Finke Racing as a whole -- decides he’s going to Top Fuel, I’m not going,” she said. “I would love to get my license more so lately, but unless they decide to make the move to Top Fuel -- really with Alcohol, it could still be fun -- I never thought I would get to race for a team, like this that I’m racing with. I’m pretty fortunate to be a part of this team. They [Top Fuel] are the fastest cars on the planet. It would be awesome. But in reality, I don’t see John moving up. I would absolutely love to drive one, but the Alcohol car is amazing. Every time I step into that car, I feel like the luckiest person alive. I get so excited for every run whether it’s a test run or I’m driving the car for qualifying or eliminations.
“That excitement hasn’t gone away since the first time I ran Tom Jones’ blower car. Honestly, if a tricycle is all I had to race, I love the competition of racing whether it would be Alcohol Dragster or bracket racing, whatever it is, I just love to compete. It’s funny because Erica Enders did an interview when we were in Houston, and she said, ‘I don’t want to be the best female racer. I want to be the best racer.’ That’s how I’ve always looked at it. I’m not proud of the female card. I just want to be the best racer I can be. A lot of people get hung up on the aspect that I’m a girl that drives, but when you put a helmet on, to me, you’re just another racer. I really respected that article and I shared it. I thought it was a really great article. And it related to how I feel.”
Presently, Fricke is one of three females in the current Top 5 standings in Top Alcohol Dragster. While she admits it’s neat, she doesn’t like the female drag racer card.
Fricke is third in the standings with 264 points. Julie Nataas is presently tied with Shawn Cowie for second with 307 points. Nataas’ Randy Meyer Racing teammate Megan Meyer leads the category with 372 points.
“It would be amazing to compete in Top Fuel. I would love to compete against Steve Torrence, Brittany -- everyone in Top Fuel. I respect all of their abilities to drive. I look at the class as a class or the driver as a driver -- not a gender-based driver. To me, there’s no advantage or disadvantage to being a girl. It just happens to be that I’m a woman in a male-dominated sport that has always wanted to race. It’s funny because I’ve been asked a lot of questions, like ‘Do you race against other girls?’ The people who don’t know would ask. And I say, ‘No, I race in the Top Alcohol Dragster class.’
“Right now, in the Top 5 of our class in the world, it’s three females in Megan, Julie, and myself. My niece pointed that out to me. She said, ‘I know you don’t like the woman thing, but this is pretty cool.’ My favorite part is when little girls come up to the trailer and if you can make an impression on them -- and little boys, too -- I love the little kid aspect of the fans. That’s pretty neat to me. I was that kid at one time that went to the trailers and got their autographs. My sister Amy and I have people’s autographs from when we were kids. I think it’s really important to make a good impression to get them involved in the sport. We also give parts to these kids, and that also helps.”