" type="text/css" media="print" /> ::: <?php echo $magname; ?> ::: <?php echo $currpage[1]." - ".$currpage[7]; ?>

Words by Susan Wade
Photos by Ron Lewis

Rickie Jones remembers the pizzas.

Parents Bonnie and Rick were too busy and, frankly, too exhausted at the end of a day at their industrious race-car fabrication shop on Emery Street in the blue-collar railroad town of Galesburg, Illinois, to get elbow-deep in dinner projects. Besides, they toiled away until nine or 10 o'clock most nights, preparing cars for premier NHRA and IHRA drivers.

"We ordered pizza every night," Rickie recalled.  Even as a grade-schooler he had his own jobs of cleaning the bathrooms and emptying trash.

No matter how one slices it, Rickie Jones has been around drag racing's upper crust, learning not only the cars but also driving techniques. And he is serving his taste for being behind the wheel with a deliciously successful start in the highly competitive Pro Stock class, qualifying his Quarter-Max/RJ Race Cars Dodge Stratus in all but one of his 10 races and even topping Mike Edwards and Warren Johnson in his first five starts.

The 21-year-old who never raced anything but a Junior Dragster on occasion has spiced up the competition. He was 16th in the standings after the Brainerd, Minnesota, race and won't catch Greg Stanfield, the No. 10 driver, for a Countdown to the Championship berth. But he has distinguished himself with a serious case for Rookie of the Year consideration, outperforming such veterans and class regulars as Max Naylor, Matt Hartford, John Nobile Kenny Koretsky, Tom Hammonds, Dave Northrop, Billy Glidden, and the earnest Ben Watson.

Considering, too, that Rickie Jones never attended a driving school and immersed himself into the Pro Stock class without any prior sportsman racing, his debut has been even more impressive.

"This is the first year Rickie has driven anything in competition, period," his dad said. "He didn't come from any other class. He started in Pro Stock at Gainesville. He did not drive in Super Gas or Comp or an alcohol class. He started right in from the beginning in arguably the toughest professional category for a driver.