Interview and photos by Mary Lendzion
Having grown up just outside of Detroit, Jackie Slone was surrounded by a myriad of muscle cars made by General Motors, Ford and Chrysler.
He was fascinated by the way they looked, the way they sounded and the way they performed on the street and on the strip. He also was fixated on driving one.
As it turned out, he went on to race several at tracks near his home before diving into NMCA VP Racing Fuels Xtreme Pro Mod competition in a David Janes-built 1969 Camaro in 2016. He was flying and finished in the sixth, tenth and third spots in 2016, 2017 and 2018 points respectively, and then, to the surprise of many, he sold that car and bought a Jerry Bickel-built 1969 Camaro this year.
He’s only a couple races in with the new-to-him car, but he is close to dialing it in to be deadly.
Slone, who lives in Milan, Michigan and is a team leader at the General Motors Transmission Plant in Toledo, Ohio, recently welcomed us to his shop to take pictures and to talk about how he plans to earn a second trip to the Aerospace Components Winner’s Circle.
WOULD YOU SAY THAT GROWING UP JUST OUTSIDE OF THE MOTOR CITY AND BEING AROUND THE BIG THREE AUTOMAKERS INFLUENCED YOUR EARLY INTEREST IN CARS?
Yes, it definitely did. My father, Jack, started racing an old Camaro in the 1970s, and my brothers, Tim and Rodney, and I all drag-raced at Milan Dragway and Detroit Dragway in Michigan, and Norwalk Raceway Park which is now Summit Motorsports Park, in Ohio. My father bought a Camaro Z28 in 1983, and that was the car I started racing in the Street categories, and I earned Rookie of the Year in 1985 at Milan Dragway. My uncle Larry has always been on our crew, and my mother, Jeannette, who passed away in 2016, is the one who named our team the Slone Boys.
HOW DID YOUR RACING PROGRESS FROM THE DAYS OF DRIVING THE CAMARO Z28 IN STREET CATEGORIES?
I went on to race a Monza in IHRA Super Rod, and then a dragster in IHRA Top Dragster, a Beretta in Top Sportsman, a Cutlass in Top Sportsman and a 1963 Corvette in Top Sportsman, Quick 8 and Run What Ya Brung at Milan Dragway. I won the championship in Run What Ya Brung at Milan Dragway in 2006. I sold that Corvette in 2007 and started driving a Cobalt for a guy, and my first race in it was in Pro Street at an NMCA event in 2010 at Milan Dragway. Then I bought my red Grand Am in 2013 and I ran a little Top Sportsman in it and I won a championship in 2015 in Run What Ya Brung at Milan Dragway in it. Then I bought the David Janes-built 1969 Camaro from Michael Bankston in 2016 and raced it in NMCA VP Racing Fuels Xtreme Pro Mod and also Run What Ya Brung at Milan Dragway. We did fairly well with it. It had a Buck Racing Engines 855 cubic-inch engine and nitrous, but then I switched to a 959 cubic-inch engine from Pat Musi and I decided I really like this Pat guy and the way he builds engines. I had gone as fast as 3.78 at 200 mph. I won at the NMCA event in Bowling Green last year and finished third in points last year.
YOU SURPRISED FANS WHEN YOU SOLD THAT BLACK 1969 CAMARO IN MAY OF THIS YEAR. WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO DO THAT?
We started thinking about getting a new car at the end of last year. We had noticed that Jerry Bickel had a good program with these cars, and we had started telling people we were looking for a chassis, including Pat Musi. He recommended I purchase the Jerry Bickel-built 1969 Camaro from Richard Freeman right after the NMCA race in Atlanta, where we had run 3.78. Two days after the race in Atlanta, I sold my car back to David Janes. The day after I sold my car, I paid for the new car.
HAD YOU SEEN IT IN PERSON OR ONLY IN PICTURES BEFORE YOU PURCHASED IT?
I had never seen it in person, but we had seen pictures and Pat Musi had recommended it. It was located in Mooresville, North Carolina, and I drove with my father to pick it up. We went to Modern Racing to pick it up, and it was a very nice place and a very nice-looking car. I thought I had hit a home run. It was funny how it all played out. It was a blessing. Dad loved it, too. We were both tickled to death. We looked it over and I sat in it, and everything was exactly what they told us it would be. We loaded it up within an hour and went to Pat Musi’s shop so he could program the electronics. It did not have an engine or transmission. Girl, we were happy. We were making plans with what we were going to do and how we were going to win races.
WHAT WENT INTO SETTING IT UP EXACTLY HOW YOU WANTED IT TO BE SET UP?
The motor that I had been running in my other Camaro, a 959 cubic-inch engine that Pat Musi had built, fit right in it, along with my SpeedTech nitrous system and a Turbo 400 from Mark Micke from M&M Transmission, and then we took the car to Skinny Kid Race Cars to have him fabricate a transmission mount and a few other things. He only had the car a couple days. We were waiting on some parts, like a new driveshaft, and we didn’t get them in time for the NMCA race in Memphis, so we made plans to go to the Cavalcade of Stars at Summit Motorsports Park. We were pretty ready.
THAT’S ONE OF THE LARGEST EVENTS ON THE NHRA LUCAS OIL DRAG RACING SERIES TOUR. HOW DID IT GO FOR YOU IN THE R&R AUTO BODY, DECERBO CONSTRUCTION AND P2 CONTRACTING RUMBLE WARS EXTREME 8?
We didn’t know what to expect for the first run, so we set it up kind of soft. We rattled our Hoosier tires on the first run, and I had to shut it down, and then on the second run, we made a mistake and the engine backfired on the startling line and we got in as an alternate. Then in the first round of eliminations, we had very limited data. We ran the best that we could with the limited data we had and got out-run, but the car was comfortable and I was anxious to get back at it.
FROM THERE, YOU WENT TO THE PDRA NORTH/SOUTH SHOOTOUT IN LATE MAY, EARLY JUNE AT MARYLAND INTERNATIONAL RACEWAY. WERE YOU ABLE TO DIAL IN THE NEW CAR A LITTLE MORE?
We needed some test runs and I wanted to redeem myself. We went 3.97 in testing there, and it was so hot there. 91 degrees every day, to be exact, but we ran okay. We went two 3.79s, a 3.81 and a 3.86 and we got beat in the first round of eliminations after having a bottle go down to 720 pounds during the run. It was like the bottle was empty. It was strange. We were still excited and we still believed that we have some mojo and that the car will perform like we feel it will.
DID YOU MAKE ANY CHANGES TO THE COMBINATION UPON RETURNING HOME?
Pat Musi did some machine work on the engine and block and I’m reassembling it, and we will be ready soon. We plan to run the remainder of the NMCA races and some PDRA races. I really believe that I need to run to between 3.70 and 3.75 consistently to have a chance of winning and I also really believe the car and combination are capable of that. My fellow competitors are tough, but I think with a little tuning, we will be just as tough.
WHO HELPS AND SUPPORTS YOU ALONG THE WAY?
Justin Carey, who is my best friend as well as my crew chief, is the opposite of me, which is a good thing, because he’s calm when I’m high-strung when things don’t go well at the track. I also have so much help from my father, Jack, brother, Rodney, uncle Larry, my daughters, Ashley and Tori, David Fallon, who’s my Pro Hose Connections partner, and my girlfriend, Lindsey Taylor. Racing at this level takes a lot, and they all give something up for me every time they support me, and I’m grateful for that.
WHAT DO YOU HOPE TO ACCOMPLISH THIS YEAR?
Whatever it takes to run 3.70 to 3.75, we will do it, and we will not settle for anything less. We have a lot of good companies and people behind us, including GM Genuine Parts, Lafontaine Performance Parts, Chevrolet Performance Vehicle/Parts, Hands of Hope of Illinois, Mullins Auto Supply and Service, Fallon Construction, Pat Musi Racing Engines, Hoosier Racing Tires, Merillat Racing, Speedtech Nitrous Systems, Drzayich Inc., The Fence Company and my company, Pro Hose Connections. We are going to have a competitive car and combination, I’ll tell you that.
(Interview from the September issue of Fastest Street Car)