ADRL first timer Stevie Jackson stole headlines with his number-one qualifying performance in Pro Nitrous at the ADRL season opener. However, another driver also making his career-first ADRL start at North Carolina's historic Rockingham Dragway this weekend may have been even more impressive in his debut.
Jackson is an acknowledged "small tire" racing master and previously drove the '68 Camaro he has at Dragpalooza IX in the Arabian Drag Racing League earlier this year, while TJ Tindle, the 18-year-old son of ADRL Pro Extreme driver Tim Tindle, actually earned his racing license in qualifying fifth for the Pro Mod field.
Prior to arriving at "The Rock" on Thursday, young Tindle had made only a few 330-foot launches last September at Montgomery Motorsports Park in Alabama. He spent Friday's test session again making launches and shutting off early in his dad's supercharged '67 Shelby Mustang before his first-ever eighth-mile pass yielded a 4.016 pass at 184.93 mph to place third in Saturday's opening round of Pro Mod qualifying.
He improved to 3.950 at 190.32 in the next session and jumped up to second, ahead of such veterans as Rickie Smith, Shannon Jenkins, Pete Farber and David Hance. After no gain in the third and final qualifying round, the freshman engineering student from Northwest Florida State College was bumped down to fifth with his first professional race looming against Kenny Lang
Regardless, those performances were more than enough to convince his father, as well as the rookie's crew chief Quain Stott, to sign off on his professional racing license.
"Yeah, I'm surrounded by good guys, good drivers," said Tindle, who also received advice and encouragement from former Pro Extreme World Champion Frankie Taylor, who helps tune the screw-blown '05 Corvette his father steers. "I've got dad, of course he's been there with me from the very start, and Frankie has been a big help, too. But Quain, he's the real teacher, he's patient and good at explaining things--and at telling you when to not do something."
Stott, who also pilots a Pro Extreme '63 Corvette, said he's been particularly impressed by his protégé's "natural-born feel" and decision-making skills in the cockpit. "I've worked with veteran drivers whose signal for tire shake was when the doors fell off, but TJ has been really good at recognizing it and getting out of it right away," Stott said.
This year's plan calls for TJ to run both ADRL and XDRL events, at least for the first few races. "We'll see where we are in the points and then we'll probably focus on where we're doing better. But right now, I just want to concentrate on getting some more experience," he stressed.
After saying he was "very proud" of his son, Tim Tindle admitted he feels a lot more nervous watching TJ make a pass than he ever feels when strapped into his own car. "I'm not worried, though. He just acts like he's got a knack for it. He does the burnouts good, he's driving good, I believe he's gonna' be alright."
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