Drag Racing Saved My Life………by Jeremy Ott – April 2012
Were you ever a person to not take your high school education seriously? Did you ever get in trouble while in high school? I know you probably do not believe it, but I was never so embarrassed as I was on the day when I heard a voice at the door behind me. I turned and there stood the high school Principal observing me with my hands full of water balloons at the open window two stories above where the cars were driving below me.
Sometimes we get the opportunity to “turn the page”, “open a new chapter”, or “turn things around” in our lives. Such is the case of Jeremy Ott. We are privileged to hear his own remarkable story as he relates the following episode. I believe you will enjoy reading his own personal experience.
“Drag Racing Saved My Live ……………. by Jeremy Ott
In 1990, I enrolled in Newport High School’s Auto Tech program while attending Toledo High School. At noon, I would carpool the 10 miles with other Toledo students who elected to group all the elective credits to the afternoon so we could take the Auto Tech program. I have to admit, I started the course with no expectation that it would change my life, but for the hopes of an easy passing grade. However the instructor, Mel Peterson, soon shattered my hopes by explaining how the grade system worked. To earn a ‘D’ grade, a student had to complete a list of jobs that would take up all of the lab time we were given. To get an ‘A’ grade, you were required to double the list. You could screw around and pass or work your ass off and get an ‘A’.
After not more than a couple weeks, Mel caught me screwing around and took me outside for a little chat. I can’t remember exactly what he said, but I remember several key points to that conversation. He told me I was gifted with ‘gears in my head’ and that I had potential if I’d apply myself. If I was there for just a hiding spot, to go back to Toledo and quit wasting his time!
Two weeks went by and after I’d proven to him I’d applied myself, he introduced me to the fruits of application…Black Fly Drag Racing. If a student applied himself, there was the race car club, and overnight, I became 100% applied. At this point in my life, I can look back and truly say that the path I chose at that point was 180 degrees from the path I was on. From drifting downward trying drugs and alcohol to straight A’s and you guessed it, I earned the rights to drive “Class Acts” drag car, a car worked on and driven solely by the students.
I think we were at Woodburn every single race during 1991 and 1992. In 1992 I did well enough to earn a spot on the Woodburn Team and go to Nationals at Seattle that year. I ended up red lighting with a .498 but caught the NHRA’s attention and got a $1400 scholarship from Sears/Craftsman and NHRA.
Fast forward…Linn Benton Community College Auto, Diesel, Welding programs and now self employed mechanic specializing in preventative maintenance on grass seed harvest equipment out of Shedd, Oregon. Looking back at Mel’s advice, I can imagine where I’d be if I hadn’t pulled my head out to accept his challenge that day.
September 30, 2011, I raced again and I can’t tell you how good it felt to be back… “
If you should have a story you would consider sharing, send it to Elvon Kauffman (email@example.com) for his consideration. Elvon Kauffman has been drag racing since 1975. He has been a NHRA Northwest Division Bracket Champion twice – first in 1978 when he defeated fellow Woodburn racer, Joe DiFillipi at Seattle International Raceway and secondly, in 1980 when he again defeated a Woodburn racer, Ron Burch at Woodburn Dragstrip. He was the first and only World Champion in Heavy Bracket, winning with his 1970 Plymouth Road Runner 4-speed at the now defunct Ontario Motor Speedway in October, 1980.
Elvon’s variety of life experiences become the basis for the stories he shares in Straight Talk, a monthly column produced by Woodburn Dragstrip. Hopefully, you will enjoy reading them.