Photos Ron Lewis
We know the title of this sounds a little facetious for a man who has won national events in Super Stock, Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series divisional events in both Super Stock and Stock. But winning Stock Eliminator at last week’s JEGS Route 66 Nationals was his first with his ’69 Camaro, an item he can surely now check off his bucket list.
“I’ve won divisional events with that car and been runner-up five times at national events,” says Jeff Adkinson, “but I just never have been able to turn on the win light in a final round at a national. Jeff Taylor has even driven the car and he hadn’t been able to do so either. I’m glad to put that behind me now.”
Growing up in a racing family, Jeff’s father was a big Stock/Super Stock proponent. “That was all he ever cared about was performance,” said Adkinson. “Some of the biggest battles he and I ever had was about how to bracket race.
“I had always wanted to drive and had just turned 16,” he said. “I had always gone with him to the races and we had gone to a little track in Alabama, Phenix City Drag Strip, and he asked me if I wanted to drive. Sure. I remember the first guy I raced, I left on him so bad and then let off at the finish line ‘cause I didn’t want to break out and the guy went right around me. I caught hell about that.
“Two weeks later we went to an IHRA national event and he entered the car in his name. But he said he didn’t feel like driving, so he let me drive. I made it all the way to the semifinals and I had to run Woodro Josey. Dad got in the car at that point and finished from there. You could do those things back then.
“From that point I gave up driving,” Adkinson adds. “All I wanted to do was play sports, mostly baseball. A guy 5’ 5”, 127 pounds back then didn’t have much of a chance in football. That was what I was when I graduated high school.
Attending Troy University in Alabama, Adkinson was hurt playing baseball and with only a couple of credits short of graduating, he left to join the family business. That “family business” today involves the farming of peanuts, cotton and corn. “Fifty-percent of all the peanuts grown in the United States are grown in the state of Georgia. “he said. Fifty-percent of all the peanuts grown in the state of Georgia, are grown within 50-miles of my home. We just have the perfect conditions as far as growing season, climate and soil conditions to grow peanuts. We plant around the middle of April and harvest around September or so. Most of the peanuts we grow are sold and used in M&M candies.”
Back to the racing… Slowly Adkinson, wife Amy and daughter Kaitlyn at this point got back into the sport with a Super Stocker. “In 1991,” he says, “my wife and I had driven to the national event in Houston. We came out of the hotel the next morning and the entire rig was gone, stolen. Renting a car, we drove home and it was eventually found seven days later. I flew back and it was pretty much destroyed but I drove back with the truck and an empty trailer. Never did get the race car. From that point until about 1998, we just bracket raced locally. We had always had cars sitting around so there was something to race. In ’99, Dad took one of them to the track in Reynolds. I didn’t want to go up right away and told him to take it and I’d meet up with him later. On the first test pass he made, he suffered a fatal heart attack and went off the end of the track.”
Still wanting to bracket race, Adkinson had previously purchased a dragster, the first dragster the family ever had. “The salvation to his accident, if there is one,” Adkinson said, “is that I knew it wasn’t racing that killed him, but it took me a long time to forgive myself for not being there. I had always gone with him but we were in the middle of planting, so I couldn’t go right up, but it hurt.”
Continuing to bracket race until 2006 when it was becoming harder, Adkinson decided to go back NHRA racing in Stock, trading the dragster for the ’69 Camaro Stocker he has. A Super Stocker was eventually added to the team, a car he has won NHRA national events with, but never the Stocker… until now.
As is normal, a lot of people have helped Adkinson to get to the point he’s at. With obvious thanks to his family, wife Amy and daughter Kaitlyn, there’s also Willie Evans. Evans has been around the sport for a long time. Now working full-time for Adkinson, he says, “Wille and I are of the same mind set. We have the same values. He knows what to do and can do just about anything. It’s really a match made in Heaven.”
Adkinson also thanked the Georgia Peanut Commission which supports the industry along with research and working on the farmer’s behalf in Washington, D.C. through the various legislative processes. “There’s also an immense thank you to Jeff Taylor, Mickey Thompson Tires and COMP Cams.
Now at 57-years old, Adkinson realizes much like the Toby Keith song, “I ain’t as good as I once was, But I’m as good once as I ever was.” Continuing on, Keith sings, “I ain't as good as I once was, I got a few years on me now, But there was a time, Back in my prime, When I could really lay it down.”
Something tells us, Jeff Adkinson can still “lay it down.”