WEB hackett3 (1)

Lebanon's Mark Hackett screeches off the starting line, front tires in the air.

Lebanon's Mark Hackett -

They say time flies when you’re having fun, and Lebanon drag racer Mark Hackett – who travels the length of a football field in a hiccup – is having a blast.

Hackett drives a dragster in the Southeast Gassers Association, has won two of eight races this season, and is leading the standings with three to go. He is the league’s Superstock Division defending champion, and if he can hold on, he will become the first driver to win back-to-back titles.

“Setting the record was our goal going into the season,” says Hackett, 54, who is in his fifth season of drag racing and third in the SGA.

“Other drivers have won two championships, but never two in a row,” he says. “It’s something I’d be proud of. It’s not about bragging, it’s about being successful in something you love to do. And of course I don’t do it alone – I’ve got a lot of help, and they are a big part of every win.”

The team consists of Hackett’s wife Rhonda, who organizes the travel schedule, films races and assists with some of the lighter work on race day, and friends Chris Amos and Kevin Shaw.

Hackett, a salesman with Kight Home Center, travels about 3,500 mile every season to run eleven races in Tennessee, Indiana, Ohio, Alabama, Florida, Kentucky and North Carolina.

This season he has collected wins at Shady Side Dragway in North Carolina and Lassister Mountain, Ala.

The championship could come down to the final race of the season at Shady Side in early November.

“The last three races are all on tracks I really like,” says Hackett, whose next race is in Knoxville, followed by one Huntsville, Ala., and then the finale.

Despite his overall success this season, Hackett has slipped a bit in his last two races, and a 25-point lead had dwindled to 10. In one race he had a mechanical problem and in the other he was eliminated in the semifinals.

“In the past we’ve won in spurts,” he says, “and hopefully we’ll finish strong. This is how I’m approaching it: it’s a three-race season and I have a 10-point lead. I feel good about our chances, but I’m not taking anything for granted. Each remaining race will be crucial.”

Hackett was introduced to the sport as a youngster when he accompanied his father Wayne to races at the famous dragway at Beech Bend, Ky.

He became interested in driving, and three years ago came across some internet videos of the Southeast Gassers Association in action. The SGA is based in Columbus, N.C., and features drag racing in vintage cars.

“That aspect really appeals to me,” says Hackett, who drives a ‘65 Comet given to him by his late father.

“Every time I win, it’s a tribute to my dad. He was my inspiration. Hopefully we can bring home another championship.”