By Phil Whipple,
RaceOnTexas.com Staff Writer. Photo By: Scott Burson
TEXARKANA, Texas — In the world of short track racing, whether it's on asphalt or on a mix of clay and earth, there is one specific type of of car that draws more attention than the rest. The mighty Dirt Super Late Model is a unique beast; built to be light, turn left, and powered by 900 screaming horses.
For 40-year-old oval veteran and Texas native Jon Mitchell, wheeling one of these amazing machines is a piece of cake. He's a former Comp Cams Super Dirt Series champion (2012), and always one of the top contenders to win whenever he unloads his potent No. 5 Rocket XR1 machine in the pit area.
Mitchell has one win (Chatham Speedway, July 18) and seven top five finishes in 10 starts this year, and is building momentum this summer. It was a slow start, but he's finding speed now and on track for more wins. In 2019, he notched 15 top-10 finishes and nine top-fives, hard to match in any division.
“I think things are starting to come around for us now,” Mitchell said. “I've been working with Mark Richards, and he's been a lot of help. I think I'm finally getting my driving style converted over to what you need in this style of car. We're getting it figured out, it just takes a little while to get it right.”
Mitchell had quite a strong run in the “Dirt On The Rev” program on July 25 in Monroe, Louisiana. The high-banked 3/8-mile oval is paved, but owner Dylan Scott (and talented country music singer) brought in the dirt and it's very cool.
“I had a disconnect switch go bad on lap four of that one,” Mitchell said. “I've actually had that happen before, but it killed the car. I had the push truck get me rolling while I worked that switch, eventually the power came on so I could charge back up through the field. We made it up to the second spot.”
Mitchell competes in one of if not the most competitive regional series in the country. He battles some pretty stiff competition every time out, many with far bigger budgets. He knows how tough it is to win.
“The competition has really gotten a lot tougher this year,” Mitchell added. “Since there are only a handful of Late Model races around our area, the ones they do host draw a ton of good cars from all over. It's so tough, you can win a race one night and be lucky to run 10th the next night. It's amazing.”
When he unloads at any given track, Mitchell climbs into what is considered the finest dirt super late model chassis available in the industry. I'm referring to the famed Rocket XR1, the same chassis that carries national superstars like Brandon Sheppard (Rocket house car) and others to Victory Lane.
“You're seeing a lot more guys choosing Rocket chassis these days,” Mitchell said. “I really think because of all the testing and development they do, plus their technical support is very good, they are the best there is out there. They stay on the cutting edge of technology as it comes out. I'm very happy.
“Mark (Richards) has been good for my program, whenever I have a question I get a straight and fast answer from him. I can honestly say their customer service is second to none.”
Powering that incredible chassis that Mr. Richards and his staff at Rocket assembled is a Clements Racing Engine. Mitchell says it has the big power and reliability he needs to compete at that level.
“We use the same engines the guys on the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series and Morton Buildings World of Outlaws tour use,” Mitchell explained. “We have two standard-bore Clements engines, and we actually have a wide-bore Clements engine in my shop. I've had excellent results and luck with these engines; those guys are top-notch all the way and good to work with, as well. I love Clements.”
Mitchell is a very busy man during the season. He not only keeps busy with his race team, he also owns Team 5 Enterprise, selling race parts to teams in his region. He works hard to satisfy his customers while keeping his own team active.
As you can easily imagine, it takes dedicated people and adequate funding to be competitive in today's Super Late Model world. Mitchell has a handful of good folks working hard behind the scenes.
“It's always a big help when you can find guys who can help out at the tracks,” Mitchell said. “I've had a good group working with us this season and I appreciate their efforts. With our busy lives today and all that's happening right now, we're lucky to have anybody available. I really value good help.”
Along with those hard-working crew members, Mitchell also has several primary marketing partners and products sponsors he says are critical to his success on the oval.
“I'm blessed to have a fine group of partners on board this year,” Mitchell said. “I want to thank Billy White at W&W Timber, he's been with me for many years and I truly appreciate his support. I also need to thank Healthcare Express, Keyser Manufacturing, Tommy Dowden Logging, Rocket Chassis, Kustom Graphics, Texarkana Tire & Wheel, Integra Shocks, FK Rod Ends, MI Truck Center, Murphy and Son Timber, Dirt Defender and all those great product sponsors. I couldn't do this without them.”
As the summer months draw to a close and some racers start to think about those big-money Fall Specials, Mitchell has his eyes set on a few more wins.
“We kind of started off our season with a few runs of bad luck,” he concluded. “So right now, we're not really chasing points anywhere. We're just going to hit the bigger purse shows the rest of this year, and next year we'll probably run a full season in the Comp Cams series again. We'll see how it plays out.”