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So I said, "Heck, yeah, I want to!" I mean, who wouldn't? That was the chance of a lifetime, so my dad and I and Joel got together to make a deal, and my dad brought some sponsorship to the table, and that's basically how it happened. It all happened very quick; very, very quick.

DRO: What was your first experience in a Top Fuel car like? How does it feel to suddenly have 6,000 horsepower strapped to your back?

JS: The first thing we did was a warm-up on the Thursday night when we unloaded the car, and honestly, I was more concerned about messing something up than I was about the car, because this is high-dollar stuff and I didn't want to mess things up.
Richard Hartman

But Richard (Hartman), my crew chief, went over all the warm-up procedures and assured me that everything would go smooth. Then he told me, "I have total confidence in you," and as soon as he said that, I kinda' calmed down, but I was still nervous about it. Then, when they finally fired it up and I was bouncin' around in there, all I could think was, 'Wow, this is nuts, but it sure is fun!" And of course, everything went okay and nothing got messed up, so we just got ready for the next day.

I was still kinda' nervous, though, because the school was my only other time in a full-size dragster and it was just a half-day school and we were only running the 1/8-mile in the Top Dragster. The Top Fuel car is the only car I've driven beyond an eighth mile.

DRO: So, how did your first pass go?

JS: It went okay, but there was no seat pad in the car that day and in Top Fuel there's a clutch on the left, a bar in the middle and then the gas pedal on the right. You're supposed to put your foot on that bar in the middle when you let off the clutch and press yourself back in the seat when you hit the gas. Well, the first time I left in the Top Fuel dragster I took my foot off the clutch and started pressing myself in the seat, but I wasn't pushing very hard because I didn't think I'd need to; I had no clue.

When I hit the gas, the car hit me so hard it left a three-inch diameter bruise on the middle vertebrae of my back. The next pass I tried, there were three towels stuffed in the back of my racing suit.

But anyway, when I got stopped I turned everything off that I'm supposed to and I got out of the car and I'm still out of breath. I leaned over the rollcage and I'm breathing real hard and thinking to myself, 'What am I doing? This is insane, but I love it! This is awesome!' And that was pretty much what hooked me, right there.

DRO: How long did it take to get up to speed?

JS: We started out around noon that day with two 330-foot passes, two eighth mile passes, and two thousand-foot passes. The second thousand-foot pass was enough for me to get my license. On the first one Richard wanted me to pull the chutes immediately after I got off the gas, just to get a feel for them. The second time I pulled the chutes at the finish line and that was enough for me to get my license.


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