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Harris featured at season opener

Norwalk Reflector Staff • Oct 28, 2015 at 3:52 PM

Jessie Harris is a 25-year-old woman with a wholesome personality and contagious smile that conceals her obsession.

She likes to go fast. Very fast.

So fast, in fact, she climbs into a special dragster powered by a military jet engine that produces 6,000 pounds of thrust. Although it's the same jet engine used in the first F-117 stealth fighter prototype, and can take a two-passenger jet to 30,000 feet in one minute, Jessie's challenge is just to stay on the ground.

And that's only one part of the exhibition you'll see as the Donald Graham & Associates presents the Ohio Lottery/Norwalk Reflector Season Opener at Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park, formerly known as Norwalk Raceway Park.

The Opener is 7 p.m. Saturday and along with racing action, fans will see a new name on the facility and the results of a $6 million expansion project.

Coupons for free tickets will be available in the Thursday and Friday editions of the Norwalk Reflector.

"These plans are a continuation of our mission to provide a top-notch track for fans and racers," said Bill Bader Jr., president of Summit Motorsports Park "As the only motorsports stadium in Ohio, we're committed to providing race fans with the best professional and sportsman drag racing show in the world."

A special ribbon-cutting ceremony is planned at 7 p.m. to officially open the season.

Harris returns to Summit Motorsports Park for the opener to defend her perfect record. She won her debut race in May, 2003 at then-named Norwalk Raceway Park, becoming the IHRA World Champion at the tender age of 20. She has since set numerous records for low elapsed time and for top speed while making her mark as the nation's most winning jet dragster driver in the predominantly male sport.

"Without question, I have always been competitive and athletic, and I'm driven to be the best at what I do," an enthusiastic Harris said.

When Harris pulls up to the starting line and ignites the jet engine mounted behind her "Queen of Diamonds" dragster, it propels her from a standing start to more than 300 mph in less time than most people take to connect and adjust their seat belt.

In Saturday's event, Harris will be defending her title against the European Jet Car Champion Lou Pereira.

Other attractions are planned:

More jets: Making a return to Summit Motorsports Park is a familiar name: Bob Motz.

Motz also straps on a jet engine, although in his case it's on the back of a Kenworth semi truck complete with sleeper cab. Motz doesn't have time for napping, though, as his truck reaches 230 mph in mere seconds in fact if he was hauling a load to New York City behind his Kenworth it would only take him about two hours unless he stopped for lunch along the way.

The secret to Motz' speed, despite his truck having the aerodynamics of a giant brick, is in using the same jet engine that powered an Air Force F-104 Starfighter to a speed record of more than 1,400 mph. His truck boasts nearly 18,000 pounds of thrust.

Motz is well-known to local racing fans and has the habit of occasionally burning down the giant backwall at Summit Motorsports Park.

Generations reunited: A special ribbon cutting ceremony is planned with the surviving family members of the first pair of race car drivers to ever run down the racetrack back in 1963 at what was then called Norwalk Dragway.

Back then, Jim Edwards, Sr. and Neil Archambeau, both childhood friends, were the first two drivers to ever race in side-by-side eliminations. Edward's son, Jim Edwards, Jr., and Archambeau's son, Mark, keep the tradition of racing alive and both are still drag racing.

As part of the special opening ceremony, both sons will race side-by-side in the first official competition at the newly-named Summit Motorsports Park.

According to the younger Edwards, "My dad and Mark's dad, Neil, grew up together on the east side of Lorain. When they got a little older, they worked on cars and would go to the race tracks together. Mark's parents met at my parents' wedding. Neil was a groomsman and met my mom's sister Virginia who was the maid of honor," and were later married.

"Tradition is incredibly important to us," Bader said. "When these two head down the track Saturday night, it lets us remember where we came from, and also passes the torch to our future as Summit Motorsports Park."

Other attractions include a wheelstanding school bus.

Admission is $15 for an adult and $7 for children 6 to 12 years old. Children under 6 are admitted free. Special seating in "Club Norwalk" is $25. Gates open at 9 a.m., with time trials beginning at 10.

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