Drag Illustrated Issue 179, November / December 2022 - Page 122

JAYMES RAWLINGS

■ JAYMES RAWLINGS was first introduced to drag racing through his dad , James . Rawlings ’ father would take him to U . S . 36 Raceway in Osborn , Missouri , where he remembers watching the Ozark Mountain Super Shifters make passes down the track .
At 12 years old , Rawlings and his father started building a ‘ 72 Chevy Vega so that when he turned 16 , he could start drag racing . Rawlings did race , but he also felt the calling from another force . Rawlings ’ stepfather , Joel Mitchell , was a U . S . Army Special Forces Green Beret , and he took a particular interest in the field . “ That was kind of my role model for that ,” Rawlings says .
He ended up joining the Army when he was 17 and was deployed at 18 . Rawlings spent 11 years in the military , including several deployments in Afghanistan as an Airborne Infantryman . However , combat-related injuries brought Rawlings home and ended his active status . But during his time in the Army , Rawlings found himself returning to his first passion – drag racing , and it ’ s his drag racing roots that Rawlings found his place today .
After a horrific crash in his childhood race car at Nahunta Dragway , he built a ‘ 98 Trans Am with his dad , winning several footbrake races , including a 2019 championship . But once again , Rawlings found himself faced with adversity . At the Bracket Finals that same year , a track employee crashed into Rawlings ’ Trans Am . He thought he was out of the event , but two fellow racers offered Rawlings their help .
“ Jason Rollins and Derek Putnam immediately came to me and said , ‘ Hey , we have a car at the shop – it ’ s a 740 Trans Am . We ’ ll go get it right now , and you ’ re more than happy to race it ,’” Rawlings explains . “ It was because of guys like that , that I had an opportunity to race . They didn ’ t know me from anything but did that for me .” Rawlings secured a semifinal finish in Rollins ’ car and gained a new racing family .
After the accident , he decided to jump in a dragster and won a local Top Dragster race . Then , Rawlings ’ sold the car for his ‘ 63 Corvette roadster . “ The roadster was kind of the best of both worlds , so I could have that chassis car for the big-money stuff and run with door cars and then have something that was legal to foot brake ,” he says .
Additionally , Rawlings is making a career out of his love for cars and the ability to work with his hands . “ When I was getting out [ of the Army ], I knew I was going to have a hard time transitioning to the civilian world ,” Rawlings explains . He was once again inspired by his dad ’ s ability to build race cars and started a welding business this year , Hippie Fabrication . The name is an ode to his Army callsign .
“ The only reason I ever started doing dragster headers was for the simple fact that I didn ’ t think there was any possible way I could stay busy doing custom door car stuff ,” he says . Now , Rawlings ’ schedule is booked , and he ’ s closing in on 50 sets of headers .
“ Because of PTSD and anxiety and everything else that a lot of guys suffer from , it ’ s helped me with the transition because I get to work by myself , I get to meet new people , and for me , it ’ s a coping mechanism ,” Rawlings explains . “ I ’ d like to thank God because he ’ s blessed me with the opportunity to have a somewhat healthy body still and continue what I ’ m doing . Then definitely my father . Without him , I wouldn ’ t be involved in racing . I never would ’ ve had those early skills from watching him in the shop . I ’ ve learned everything from him .” – KAYLA ZADEL DI
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