MIDLOTHIAN, Texas — In the premier open-wheel Modified division across North Texas, the level of talent and state-of-the-art equipment several drivers unload every week makes it tough to win races. That mix of seasoned veterans and eager young rising stars can make it a challenge to hit the podium.
Yet for 34-year-old former SportMod standout Jacob Pirkle, running up front has become somewhat of a habit. Pirkle claimed a special $1,000-to-win show at Heart O' Texas Speedway on April 15, then backed that up with a thrilling victory last Saturday night at Kennedale Speedway Park.
In just seven races this year, he's earned two wins, five top-five and six top-10 finishes in a solid start.
“We started out this year with a few second-place finishes, but just couldn't quite seal the deal,” Pirkle said. “We've been working hard in the shop at nights, fine-tuning and trying to find some more speed. The last few races, the tracks played in our favor, a few things went our way and we got it done.”
Now in his 19th year of racing around the Lone Star State, Pirkle's racing resume is pretty impressive.
“I've raced a SportMod for most of my career,” Pirkle explained. “I started racing when I was 15, it was kind of on and off for a while. I raced a Modified for a few years, and I drove a friend's Stock car for a few years, as well. He's actually the man I drive for now, and I still had my SportMod at the time.
“Eventually he sold the Stock car and got the Modified. So, this is year number three of my second tour in the big Mods. We've had plenty of time to learn the car. Last year, we won the All-Star tour points championship. That was huge for us. I also won two big-money shows, so it was quite a season.”
As mentioned above, that fine mix of veterans and rising stars in Mods makes the competition intense.
“We have a lot of talent in this division, both young newcomers and older veterans,” Pirkle said. “I may fly a little under the radar, but we have a lot of guys who are on the rise. Young racers like Matthew Day, Casey Brunson, Jake Upchurch, those guys are all working hard to get their names out there.
“At Kennedale, we've been averaging over 20 cars. Ardmore isn't too far from us, we like to go up there and see how we stack up sometimes. The division suffered there for a few years, but I really feel like it's on the rebound. As car counts go up, that level of competition just gets more intense.”
You may think with his recent hot streak, Pirkle must drive a brandy-new, fresh-off-the-jig machine.
“I actually have a 2017 GRT chassis,” he said with an obvious sense of pride. “It's the same car I've had the last three years. It's powered by a GM 604 Crate from Friesen that has around 35 nights on it, but it's still running strong. I love the low maintenance costs on the Crate, and it has plenty of power.”
Along with his driving skills and that trusty GRT, Pirkle also has some great folks behind his program.
“I really need to give a special thanks to my wife, Kristin, for all her support; and to my Mom, Dad, and Dalton Pike. I couldn't do this without the help and support they provide.
“I also want to thank our great partners, including Bob Rumbaugh Racing, Dirt Defender, C&P Pump Services, INC.; Ellis County BBQ of Midlothian; Manifest Tattoo, IM Racing Fuels LLC; Raider Graphix, Rush RaceGear; Speaks Automotive and Neuline by 915. I appreciate what they do for me.”
With temperatures heating up and summer just around the corner, Pirkle will strive to keep on rolling.
“We don't do a whole lot of traveling,” he concluded. “I'm a Firefighter by trade, I have a demanding schedule that requires me to work a lot of weekends. We do plan on running the All-Star Shootout in a month or so, we'll run all five nights of that.
“We're expecting a child in early June, so that will affect our plans, for sure. I'm hoping to make it out to one of the big shows later in the year; maybe Vegas or Batesville, I'm not sure. We'll spend most of our season in Waco and Kennedale, but we're headed up to Ardmore this weekend. We love it there.”
By Phil Whipple, RaceOnTexas.com Staff Writer
Photo by Stacy Kolar/Southern Sass