King of the Wing Star Sierra Jackson Hopes Five Flags Faithful Have Long Memory on Friday

Jackson+webBy Chuck Corder

At around the tender age of 5, Sierra Jackson already had a daredevil itch to scratch.

The youngster pleaded with her father, Mike, who raced motorcycles along with Sierra’s uncle, to put her on a bike.

“He wasn’t gonna go for that,” Sierra said of Mike. “But he got me a car. I practiced a few times. And that was that. He didn’t have to think twice about it once he saw how much I loved it.”

Her first car was a go-kart. That came when Sierra Jackson was 6.

She has few vivid memories of her first career wins, but the plethora of trophies and Victory Lane photographs that adorn her family’s Idaho home don’t allow her to forget her grassroots beginnings easily.

Now 22, and a senior studying health sciences at Boise State, these days Sierra Jackson drives a winged pavement sprint car.

And on Friday night at Five Flags Speedway, she hopes to add another checkered flag celebration when Davey Hamilton’s King of the Wing series makes its first trip to Pensacola.

“I just hope we can gauge (Five Flags’) half-mile track to any other half-mile tracks we’ve raced recently,” said Jackson, who finished second in points last year in the King of the Wing’s western portion. “It’s not super banked. Hopefully, that’ll play in my favor. I’ll be happy with a top-five (finish), but we’re definitely going for that win.”

As will more than 20 additional sprint drivers, who were all revved up to race the famed half-mile oval last week until Mother Nature postponed the event to Friday night.

Three local classes also had to wait out the rain to get their seasons started. Super Stocks, Sportsmen and Bombers will join the winged sprints when the gates open at 4 p.m. Friday.

Racing is slated for 8 p.m. following qualifying sessions for the sprints and Super Stocks.

Admissions is as follows: $20 for adults; $15 for seniors, students and military; $5 for children ages 6 to 11; free for kids 5 and under.

Beyond their gender and obvious affinity for racing, there’s an easy parallel to make between Jackson and Johanna Long, arguably, the most popular driver in Five Flags’ recent history.

Both are 22. Both create a buzz wherever they race. Both have adoring and loyal fan bases at their home tracks — Jackson’s is Meridian Speedway, nearby her Middleton, Idaho, home.

Both have a history with late models — Jackson’s was brief, only a year when she was 13, after initially being “thrown to the wolves a little bit” down at Speedweeks in New Smyrna.

“It was a whole new beast for my dad and me,” Jackson admitted. “It didn’t last long, but we did all right. It was a learning experience.”

And both Jackson and Long have won their sport’s preeminent race.

Long, of course, drove into Snowball Derby history in 2010, capturing short-track racing’s most prestigious race. Her Pensacola neighbors were hysterical, roaring from the grandstands deep into the cold, December night.

Jackson was 12 hours from home, and a country away, when she won the 52nd annual Daffodil Cup in 2012. But that didn’t stop Jackson and her crew from enjoying a similar blowout to Long’s, as the win came on Jackson’s 20th birthday.

Taking place in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, the Daffodil Cup is a two-day culmination for the Canadian-American Western Winged Sprints Series. It is considered Canada’s most prestigious motorsports trophy.

“It’s always a good time,” Jackson said. “It’s above Seattle and sits on an island, so you have to take a ferry to it.”

She’ll take a plane to Pensacola, a week later than originally expected thanks to the weather. Mike Jackson began the long drive down Monday to get everything in place for Friday.

Her No. 25 already arrived last week thanks to a friend who hauled it down from Idaho.

While Sierra calls Mike her “biggest supporter” and “main guy the whole time” during her racing career, her mother still is a ball of nerves each time Sierra climbs into her sprint car.

“She’s definitely a worrier,” Sierra teases.

Knock on wood, but to this date the only injury Jackson has sustained came a few years back while she and her father worked on the car at the shop.

The mechanical hoist fell down on her foot a day before the season was set to begin.

“The doctor didn’t advise I drive, but I did,” Sierra Jackson said. “I wasn’t about ready to quit.”

Once a daredevil, always a daredevil.