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IHRA: Rector Doesn't Let This Alcohol Funny Car Title Slip Away

15 January 1998

BRISTOL, Tenn. -- Most auto racing champions admit that in order to win a world championship, you must first lose one. Jimmy Rector, the 1997 IHRA Snap- on Tools Alcohol Funny Car World Champion, knows that all too well.

In 1996 Rector could've put away his first IHRA title with three races remaining on the schedule. However, missed opportunities and bad luck in the final three events destroyed his championship hopes. After advancing to final rounds in the first seven races, Rector's last three events turned out to be his worst nightmare. He couldn't hold on, and Von Smith swiped the championship trophy from his grasp at the last possible moment.

Not this time around.

Rector displayed confidence and consistency throughout the 1997 season and posted a runner-up finish at Darlington's Snap-on Finals to earn his first championship.

"I should have won the title last year at Norwalk," said the Vernon, Ala. resident. "It shouldn't have even came down to the last race. But that's history. I don't regret anything that happened. It probably made me a better racer."

Rector's 1997 scorecard shows only one victory, down from his career-high four in '96. The thing his card doesn't show, however, is a lot of early round losses. That was his nemesis in the final three races last season.

"You have to produce if you're going to win the championship these days," said Rector, who works full-time as a diesel mechanic when he's not racing. "Last year I got caught up in trying to figure out what point totals I needed, and stuff like that. I was trying to make it harder than it actually was. It's simple. Try to win races. That's the objective. If you do that, then the championship will come. That's the biggest thing I learned from 1996."

Rector and partner Frank Morrison's 1997 Dodge Avenger receives sponsorship help from Columbus Diesel Service, Hughes Mega Center, Shelton Cleaners and Holbrook Performance. Rector's wife Karen, serves as crew chief and his number one fan.

"I couldn't do this without my crew, they're very important," Rector said. "What we've accomplished in the last two years, going to 11 final rounds, that's pretty impressive."

With new sponsorship support and a strong desire to get back on the track against arch-rivals Smith, Mark Thomas and Jim Lape, the 1998 season won't come too soon for Rector.

"Heck, I wish we still had eight races to go," Rector said with a grin after the Snap-on Finals. "I've got a really fast hot rod right now. I'm ready to go."

Rector will officially accept his 1997 IHRA Snap-on Tools Alcohol Funny Car World Championship at the IHRA Championship Awards Banquet, to be held Jan. 17 at the historic Grove Park Inn, Asheville, N.C.