Hackett and wife

HOLT, FL - Lebanon's Mark Hackett and wife Rhonda enjoy a championship celebration at the Emerald Coast Dragway.

HOLT, FL - Lebanon drag racer Mark Hackett captured the Southeast Gassers Association championship by winning the season finale Nov. 21 at Emerald Coast Dragway.

“It’s a fantastic feeling, and very humbling,” says Hackett, who claimed the Superstock title with his fifth victory in nine races this season.

“I raced against some very talented and very dedicated drivers.”

Hackett, 54, drives a souped-up ’65 Comet that can go from zero to 100 in one-eighth mile. At those speeds, he didn’t have much time to pause and reflect during the season. Now he does.

“When you’re racing, you’re so busy getting the car ready, traveling, and doing all the things you have to do that you don’t have time to think about much except the next race,” he says.

“When its finally over, then you can look back and let it sink in.”

Hackett, a salesman with La Vergne's Kight Home Center, became intrigued with drag racing as a kid when his dad Wayne took him to the famous drag strip at Beech Bend, Ky.

Three years ago Hackett came across some internet videos of the Southeast Gassers Association and was intrigued. He decided to give a try.

Now he’s a champion.

“It’s a tribute to my dad, who got me interested in the sport,” Hackett says, “and also to the members of my team who helped make it possible.”

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

Rhonda organizes the team’s travel to races in Knoxville, North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama, Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana and Florida.

Rhonda also assists with some of the lighter race-day duties such as adjusting the clutch on the car, and videoing the races.

“She’s handy around the track,” Hackett says.

All the travel amounts to considerable expense, on top of maintaining the race car. Hackett 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. It’s a good feeling when you put in all the work and effort, and everything comes together.”

With his first championship in the bag, what does he do for an encore next season?

“I’d like to set the record for ET (elapsed time) and also become the first driver to win back-to-back championships,” he says. “Other drivers have won two, but nobody has won two in a row.”

There is a possibility professional drag racing could eventually come to Hackett’s backyard.

A drag strip was included in Dover Motorsports’ initial plans for the Nashville Superspeedway complex in Gladeville. With the track re-opening, there’s a chance those plans could be revived.

“I was excited when I heard about it,” Hackett says. “It would be great to have drag racing at the facility, as long as it doesn’t hurt the area’s older tracks.”

But all that’s in the future. Meanwhile, Hackett has a championship to defend.

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