Rocket Hockett – Better Start at the Bowl!
(Bill W) March 23, 2010 – Devil’s Bowl Speedway has not been kind over the years to “The Rocket” Jesse Hockett. In particular, the opener for the Lucas Oil ASCS National Series in 2009 saw him miss the feature event on both nights. Last Friday was different, as the Warsaw, Missouri driver took the VKCC Motorsports #75 to a seventh place finish.
The ASCS opener came with 63 cars in the pits. It was deemed a one-night affair on Friday, with forecasts for the Dallas area showing rain for Saturday. Jesse drew towards the middle of the pack, and started fifth in a heat race in which he would run third. “It was just really hard to pass on,” he says of the heavy surface on the famous ½ mile oval. “We were o.k. in the heat. I should have had one more spot there. That would have put us in the redraw. The yellow just came out at the wrong time.”
Sometimes cautions are well timed, but this one was not. “On the restart, it was just a one-lane track,” says Jesse. “We were just one spot out of the redraw again. That killed us.”
The finish may have knocked him out of the redraw, but at least he wasn’t one of the 47 cars headed to a B main. His start would be outside of row six. “The feature was pretty tough,” says Jesse. “We weren’t catching any breaks in traffic which made it hard to move forward.”
Jesse struggled a bit at times, but ended up in the seventh spot, though he felt he was faster than that position. “We were really tight to start out, and the car started getting better,” he says. “By the end, we were just as fast as the top five, but we’d already lost a few spots.”
It was a far cry from last year’s failure to even run a main event, and a much better start to his quest for a Lucas Oil ASCS National championship. “It was definitely a better start to our season than last year,” says Jesse. “The Devil’s Bowl seems to be one of my worst tracks, especially with that many cars. It could have been a lot worse.”
Back in Warsaw, the team is planning their next move. “We’ll go to Eldora for sure on April 2 and 3 to run with USAC,” says Jesse. “We may take the Jesse Hockett Racing #77 out this weekend and run. We’ll just have to see.”
Rocket Hockett – Back in the U.S.A.!
(Bill W) January 20, 2010 – Jesse “The Rocket” Hockett returned to the States from his Australian tour last week to compete in the Chili Bowl at the Tulsa Expo Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma. A run in the top ten in the prelim put him in Saturday’s B main where he failed to advance. The Warsaw, Missouri will take a bit of a break now before his next action in Florida. He hopes to defend his crown in the Ronald Laney Memorial “King of the 360’s” held February 25, 26 and 27.
Jesse spent a week and a half racing in five events in Australia at the Titan Garages Brisbane International Speedway in Brisbane, Queensland. He won the first race there, but struggled a bit from there on out. It turned out to be a mechanical issue. “Overall, the trip was really good,” he says. “After the first night when we won, we just couldn’t get the car set up. It was bicycling like a non-wing car. I think we found the problem after the last race. There was a part by the radiator that was busted. The car was flexing so much in the front end, so that was a bad deal. I hope to be back in Australia next year, and I want to thank John and Vicki Weatherall, the Motorguard team and the folks at Brisbane International Speedway.”
The trip back to Tulsa was a long one, and Jesse qualified on Thursday night. His runs in the heat (2nd) and the Qualifier (4th) were enough to start outside of row six in the feature. “We couldn’t buy a break,” he says of his quest to finish in the top three that night and lock himself into the finale. “Sometimes you get them at the Chili Bowl, and sometimes you don’t. We never had any ‘easy passes’ or stack-ups in front of us in the heat or qualifier. It seemed every race we ran went green to checker with no problems.”
In the feature, he would run in the top ten most of the way, but settle for a ninth place run in the Loyet Motorsports #o5H. “Every pass we made had to be legit, and it was just tough to pass,” says Jesse. “The track was mostly good on the top, but the bottom was kind of blown off. It seemed whenever I tried to make a move forward on the bottom, the top would come in. Nothing was easy.”
The finish put him in row six for Saturday night, where he needed a top six finish to make the finale. “We were o.k., just kind of maintaining,” he says. “Then we really got shuffled back during the yellow. You run the bottom and the top comes in and then the other way around. The way things went down; we were just in the wrong spot at the wrong time.”
The end result would see him drop out after a late caution. It wasn’t for a lack of good equipment though. “The Loyet family gave me a great car and I have to thank them,” says Jesse. “We just didn’t get the breaks that we needed to get up front. We’ll try it again next year.”
Jesse plans to hit Florida for the “King of the 360’s”. That will follow his wedding on the second Saturday in February.
Rocket Hockett – Looking Back, Looking Ahead!
(Bill W) December 1, 2009 – Jesse “The Rocket” Hockett has had some sensational years, but none quite like the one he just completed in 2009. The Warsaw, Missouri sprint car ace racked up 21 wins, including two of the most prestigious events in the sport. Throw in a Speedweek championship, a USAC double, and a win on the last day of competition at the historic Manzanita Speedway while you’re at it. As he looks forward to 2010, Jesse is both thankful for the opportunities this season, and hopeful that a partner can come along to continue to advance his talented career.
The 2009 sprint car season started at East Bay Raceway Park in Florida in January. Jesse teamed with Pennsylvanian Tom Buch to form the #13 team, and things couldn’t have started better as he copped the Ronald Laney King of the 360’s worth $13,000. “We were pumped up and ready to go there,” he says. “We had a new team assembled, and our expectations were high. We were pretty fast all week, but had some issues the first night. The second night went great, because of all the prestige that goes with it. To win a race in Ronald Laney’s honor was awesome.”
A fifth place run in the sprint car, and a second place finish in the Champ Car at the Copper Dirt Classic at Manzanita were up next. “We were able to win the Qualifier for the Copper on Dirt out there at Manzanita in the Carl Edwards/R.E. Technologies car,” says Jesse. “We ended up running second to Bud Kaeding in the finale and that was a good way to start the season. I want to thank Chris Santucci and Robert Hubbard and R.E. Technologies for all their help at different times over the season.”
No one knew the fate of Manzanita Speedway during the Copper on Dirt, but it soon surfaced that the speedway would hold its last event on April 12. Jesse won on the 1/3 mile there, copping the Lealand Legacy in the Massey #2. A twist of fate and a rainout there in April, allowed him to travel from Eldora (OH) on Saturday night to Manzy for a Sunday afternoon victory in the Don Davis Memorial on the last day of racing at the historic oval. “Luck really fell our way, and Mother Nature really helped us out down in Arizona,” he remembers. “I had never won a race on the ½ mile at Manzy (he won four with Massey on the 1/3 mile), so that would have been a blank spot in my career if we weren’t able to make it that day. Parker Store of Phoenix and Bob Ream (#8) made it possible for me to be there, and they had the racecar ready to go. It was the last night there, so that will go down in history.”
With Jesse in contention in the USAC National point standings but down on equipment, a pair of men stepped up to help. In May, Ted Finkenbinder supplied a pavement car to keep things going there, and Gary Stanton supplied the power. “We were basically out of 410 motors, and I have to thank Gary Stanton for that,” says Jesse. “He stepped up and provided us with some awesome motors when we really needed it. We ended up getting our big wins with those motors, and it’s because of Gary. He’s one of those guys that I’ve always read about, and it was really cool building a relationship with him this year. Ted really helped us too, and I have to thank him as well.”
The power paid off, and on USAC’s Pennsylvania swing, Jesse won two features in one night at the Grandview Speedway, and in turn a $6,000 reward. “Tom Buch really stepped it up and helped us this year,” he says. “A lot of Tom’s friends were there, as well as Bernie Stuebgen and Gary Eastwood, who are two guys that have helped me a lot. Those wins were special because that is home for Tom. I had struggled in Pennsylvania for a long time. To go there and race well was pretty awesome. Grandview is a tough track to master, and to win two there was unbelievable.”
Jesse picked off several wins close to home in Missouri, and decided to concentrate on the Lucas Oil ASCS National Series which had a layoff of several months. He went to the Northwest, and promptly won at three tracks he had never seen in Oregon during ASCS-Northwest Speedweek. “We had been struggling for awhile with our ASCS stuff,” he says of the trip in mid-July. “We went up there, and we had never seen those tracks, and I hadn’t raced against the majority of the drivers out there. I compared the tracks to some of them that we run back home, and tried some of the same stuff. Everything just clicked and it was a good stretch where we won three in a row up there. To do that with the locals like Roger Crockett up there made it a fun trip.”
Jesse was crowned as the Speedweek champ. When August rolled around, the concentration was on Southern Iowa Speedweek. Though he struggled with a wing on, he finally grabbed the elusive $15,000 Ultimate Challenge in Oskaloosa. “It was more special because I had been awake so many nights thinking about the race that I felt we gave away in 2004 (Dickie Gaines won late),” he says. “It came down to the same situation with Dave Darland, and I wasn’t going to let it happen again. I was going to do whatever it took to get that win. There was a lapped car at the end, and I had to go between him and the wall. I didn’t care if I had to climb him to win it or get upside down doing it. I was going to get it done.”
The win was made special with the memory of Jesse’s late cousin and former crew chief, Daniel McMillin. “When we ran second in 2004, we were really starting to branch out with our racing,” he says. “We had talked a lot about what we could have done differently. I thought of him a lot when we finally won it.”
The strong runs continued with ASCS, and Jesse ended up tenth in their point’s race. His 21 wins came at ten different tracks in six different states. He also drove for Scott and Duke McMillen and Bruce Douglas and Victor Davis in California, as well as Harold Main, who he narrowly missed a win with. “I appreciate them giving me opportunities out West,” he says. “We should have won the Louie Vermeil Classic there at Calistoga, but we got upside down. I’d like to win it for those guys in the future.”
The success in the #13 will be coming to an end, as Jesse and car owner, Tom Buch are parting amicably. “We have a bit of a conflict of interest in the races we want to run, and Tom wanted to do something different for next year,” says Jesse. “We may still run for him a few times, and we’re leaving on good terms. We’re looking at our options right now with the Tom Van Kiersbilck/VKCC Motorsports #75. We need some sponsorship to do what we want to do with our schedule, and it’s pretty tough out there right now. If something comes along that will further my career, we’ll definitely take a look at that.”
It looks like the Chili Bowl will be next up on the agenda, and Jesse will again team with Loyet Motorsports. He put it in the show in 2009, and hopes to climb the ladder to the podium on Saturday in January. “Loyet Motorsports gave me a great opportunity last year, and they always have some great equipment,” he says. “Joe Loyet and his group is always one of the higher quality teams you’ll see at the Chili Bowl. I’m excited about it.”