Tom Manfred is on vacation this weekend, yet it’s not your typical vacation of boating or camping in the great outdoors or traveling overseas.
Manfred and his wife, Valerie, are in Chicago for the NHRA national event where the 61-year-old Liberty Lake resident will compete in the JEGS All-Star Showdown for Super Street Sportsman drivers.
Manfred left last Friday and has stopped along the way to take in Mt. Rushmore, the Badlands and other points of interest. Beginning this afternoon and running through Sunday, the driver of the Andy Kautzman/Les Schwab of Veradale Ford Mustang will be out to showcase his skills against seven of the finest sportsman drivers in the country.
The chance to travel to Illinois and represent NHRA’s Division 6 came from a win at Firebird International Raceway in Boise last month and from a consistent overall season. If things go according to plan, Manfred will also have the chance to compete for the Super Street division championship in the NHRA Full Throttle National Event, also this weekend in Chicago.
“I’ve fallen short so many times in JEGS All-Star (advancement) opportunities here in the region, and I have always wanted to win an NHRA national event and this weekend I’ll have to the chance to win both if things work out,” Manfred said while making a stop in Rapid City, S.D. “This is one of the most prestigious events a sportsman driver can race in and there are just eight total drivers invited to compete in three rounds of racing on Saturday, plus (today’s) qualifying for the national and if I make Sunday’s final (national) round.”
The hectic schedule and only three rounds of racing in one day in the JEGS event is nothing new for Manfred.
“I have been in this format before,” he said. “With that said, we know going in that we’ll be racing some of the baddest hombres in the country. It is a long ways to travel and I have never been past Billings, Mont., for a race, so this will be exciting.”
The retired locomotive driver for Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad is happy to have found time to run the JEGS All-Stars.
“Being retired from the railroad has given me the opportunity to do this, because if I was working I know that taking this trip would not have been possible,” Manfred said.
If things go well, Manfred will not have much time to enjoy the trip home. With the Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series set to hit Spokane County Raceway beginning next Friday and a travel time of approximately three to four days, Manfred will be hustling to get back home to run the first NHRA-sanctioned divisional event at the reopened facility.
Manfred admits to thinking about making runs on the revamped strip next week, but this weekend’s racing action comes first.
“I’m going to be so focused to win the JEGS All-Star race, and if we’re able to have a chance at a national event win that would be great,” he said. “We want to run the Lucas Oil Series race at home, but we’ll wait until the Chicago trip is over before seeing if we’ll have time to make it home for qualifying and the race.”
In many forms of racing, getting the car ready for an event takes help from all sources. With the impending JEGS All-Star’s race, a chance to run in the national event and then trying to turn around and head for home to race in the Lucas Oil show, Manfred will rely upon just one crew person – his wife.
“(Valerie) is the car owner and it’s always been just the two of us that go to the races,” he said. “She keeps excellent records and knows more then most men when it comes to drag racing. It’s an awesome feeling when we win and she loves it. For all of her hard work it is very gratifying to me (when a victory comes), because it’s so tough to win an event in drag racing.”
Fans can follow Manfred’s attempt to win the JEGS All-Star race by logging on to www.nhra.com