Standing at the starting line at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Michael Cherniack was screaming at the top of his lungs, fists flying in the air, early Sunday evening. At the other end of the track, his daughter, Jessica, knew she'd made a really good pass in the family's Top Alcohol Funny Car. Dad knew how good, Jessica did not.
When she found out “the tears flowed.”
Jessica's first ever pass into the 5-second territory, 5.985 at 240.18 mph, was the reason behind the celebration. Not bad for a rookie driver and a rookie chassis and engine tuner.
“It felt so amazing,” Jessica imparted when asked about the run. “I cried. I was doing good until the guys came, but once they came the tears started flowing.”
Cherniack had a feeling the run was a good one and had a chance of being sub six seconds.
“As soon as I hit the second shift, it kinda took off really good, I had a feeling it was under six. I was hoping that it was and we were really relieved when it happened.”
The driver was relieved, as so was the chassis and engine tuner.
“That was eight months worth of worrying off my shoulders,” said Michael Cherniack. “I really have to say that none of this would be possible without the support of Mick Snyder and all the guys in this shop. We spent two weeks living in Mick's cornfield, (next to Mick's house) last year and he has flown down to help us, on his own dime, because he cares.”
When M. Cherniack says “guys in the shop” he's talking about his employees at TUNEX, which he co-owns with his daughter. “These guys hold down the fort when we go racing and they are here helping with this car whenever they can. I can't say enough about Alex, my service manager, and all the rest of the guys.”
Both father and daughter emphasized on more than one occasion they owed a deep debt of gratitude to the Snyder's, Mick and Larry.
“Without their support, none of this would be possible.”
For Cherniack, or any fledgling Top Alcohol driver, getting into the five second territory is a major milestone. The best Top Alcohol drivers in the country run in the mid five-second range.
Now that she has arrived, the next goal is consistency. With consistency will come round wins and a coveted win.
“Now that we know we can do it, we can start perfecting it,” said Cherniack.
As proud as she was with the run, Cherniack was equally proud, if not more so, of her father.
“Absolutely,” said Cherniack, her chest swelling with pride. “He is the hardest working person I know. They don't know anything about tuning. They are as new to this as I am. The whole crew is learning along with me.”
Prior to driving the Top Alcohol Funny Car, one purchased from Mick and Larry Snyder and at one time driven by Von Smith, Cherniack drove an 11-second Camaro her father built but no one would drive.
“It sat in the shop for two years and finally Jessica said, 'I'll drive it' and she did,” explained her father. “Then when the opportunity came up with this car she spend everything she had to buy it. This is her money. Her deal. She invested everything in this car.”
As expected, Cherniack insists her father has as much invested in the car as she does. The bond between the two is amazing. They work side by side at the repair shop. They race the same way.
Cherniack has dreams of moving up the ladder in drag racing. You can see it her expressions. It's there when she answers questions. She is poised and direct with her answers. She has taken the time to reach out to her peers. She exudes confidence. Talking to her one can feel she has what it takes to make it, with just a little bit more experience.
She was entered to race at Pomona in the 50th Winternationals but withdrew because she and her father knew the team wasn't yet ready. She hopes to compete in the next divisional event in Phoenix at Firebird International Raceway in a month.