■ CORD COLLINS has a baby photo of himself perched atop an engine with a paper plate “ steering wheel ” in his hands . Now 29 , he ’ s living out his childhood dreams of working in racing on a professional level as the engine guy on Stevie “ Fast ” Jackson ’ s championship-winning NHRA Pro Mod team . It ’ s taken a journey of twists and turns , but Collins finally ended up where he was meant to be , and he ’ s not stopping now .
Collins ’ father , Gary , had an Outlaw 10.5 car
when he was younger , but go-karts and roundtrack racing interested Collins at first . He even enrolled at NASCAR Technical Institute in Mooresville , North Carolina , before quickly realizing it wasn ’ t for him . He then worked at Goodridge Racing , where he put together fluid lines and hoses for many of the Pro Mod teams located in the Carolinas .
That turned out to be a networking opportunity more than anything , as it led to working on a couple different teams , including eight or nine months doing the clutch on Steven Whiteley ’ s Pro Mod before Collins had to return home to Florida to help his dad through some health issues . Once that was handled – and the COVID weirdness of 2020 passed – Collins got back into racing . He landed a position on Jackson ’ s team with some help from Robert Jonsson , who worked with Collins on Whiteley ’ s team before joining Jackson . Collins started with Jackson ’ s team in January of 2021 and immediately went to work learning the ins and outs of the car .
“ I had very good leadership along the way being around Phil Shuler every day and Stevie every day , and Billy Stocklin would answer any question I had ,” Collins says . “ Billy would do it in a way of if I thought I had a stupid question , no question was stupid . Phil was probably my favorite to learn from because if I messed something up , he wouldn ’ t make you feel stupid about it , but he would joke with you about being stupid for doing that . Then he would turn it into a learning experience . He would make it a lesson .”
Collins has proven to be a quick learner , handling the engine maintenance as his primary role . But he also drives the race rig , sets up and tears down the pit area , builds rear ends , helps Jackson with transmissions , and anything else that needs to be done . He also works with Jackson in the shop full-time , which can be a 40-hour workweek during quiet parts of the season and upwards of 100 hours when they ’ re in thrash mode . The team has been shorthanded since longtime crew member Jack Barbee retired in the spring of this year , so it ’ s usually just Jackson and Collins in the shop .
All the hard work – and tough breaks earlier in the season – paid off in September when Jackson won the Betway NHRA Carolina Nationals at zMAX Dragway .
“ It made me pretty emotional ,” Collins says . “ It was hard . That was my first event win kind of running the show , running the starting line , lining him up , all that stuff . Before that , that was Jack ’ s deal . It wasn ’ t a day where we got lucky . Stevie left on everyone that day , and we outran everyone that day . We burned an engine up in Q2 , I think . We were building engines , thrashing . That was my biggest weekend I ’ ve had in racing so far , for sure .”
Collins intends to continue learning everything there is to know about high-level doorslammer racing , with the goal of someday tuning a car . Beyond that , he wants to create a platform for other mechanically minded young people to find their path into drag racing , drawing from his own experience .
“ You can make a good living doing whatever it is you know want to do ,” Collins says . “ If racing ’ s that for you , then you can make a very , very good living racing . You can make a good life , and you get to experience a lot . I would like to create a resource for younger kids to be able to get into racing , and help them find trade schools and find the right route for them . First and foremost , I have to make something of myself and make a name for myself to have a platform to use .” – NATE VAN WAGNEN DI
136 | Drag Illustrated | DragIllustrated . com Issue 179