Hackett

Lebanon's Mark Hackett is closing in on a drag racing championship.

Lebanon’s Mark Hackett is a man in a hurry.

He goes from zero to 100 in one-eighth mile.

Hackett is a drag racer, competing in the Superstock division of the Southeast Gassers Association. He is on pace to capture the championship later this month in Florida.

“I’m having a good season,” says Hackett, 54, a salesman with Kight Home Center. “I’ve won three of seven races, have the points lead, and now I need a couple more good finishes.”

The championship will be decided in the season’s final race at Holt, Fla., the week before Thanksgiving.

“If I win it, it’ll be a tribute to my late dad,” Hackett says.

Hackett became intrigued with drag racing as a kid when his father Wayne took him to the famous drag strip at Beech Bend, Ky. Years later dad gave him a ’65 Comet, and he was off to the races.

From 2000-2003 Hackett worked with Bobby Hamilton Racing, based in Mt. Juliet, tuning engines, doing fabrication and serving as jack-man during races.

Three years ago Hackett came across some internet videos of the Southeast Gassers Association, based in Columbus, S.C., and decided to give it try. He started competing in 2018, won six races in each of his first two seasons, and finished second in championship points last year.

“I actually finished tied with the guy who won it, but he got the championship on a complicated tie-breaker,” Hackett says. “Hopefully I’ll get it this year.”

In most races, Hackett competes against 16-17 other drivers in his division.

Hackett’s race team consists of wife Rhonda and friends Chris Amos and Kevin Shaw.

Chasing the championship this year has taken Hackett to drag strips in Knoxville, North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama, Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana and Florida.

All that travel amounts to considerable expense, on top of maintaining his race car. He figures he has around $18,000 invested in his hot-rod Comet, “but that’s with me doing all the work on it. If you went out and bought one, it would cost between $30,000 and $60,000.”

The race purses are modest, compared to the cost of competing.

“A good race weekend is when I break even,” Hackett says with a laugh. “I don’t do it for the money, I do it for the competitive challenge.

“I’ve always been competitive. I used to tournament-fish. In drag racing there’s the challenge of getting your car ready to go faster than the other cars you’re competing against. Then there’s the challenge of driving it faster than the other drivers drive theirs.”

A tremendous amount of time and effort are invested into those few seconds of adrenaline rush, when the “Go” light flashes, tires shriek and smoke belches.

“People are always asking me what it’s like, and it’s hard to describe the sensation,” Hackett says. “It’s kinda like a golfer who hits dozens or even hundreds of so-so shots, and suddenly everything connects and comes together, and he hits a perfect shot. It’s a good feeling.”

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