This summer was a little different than usual for me. In years past, my son Jeggie has accompanied me to as many races as possible while he's on break from school. It's always a great time for me and him to travel together, do some fun side trips in between the national events, and just spend a lot of quality time with each other. We've certainly made a bunch of great memories over the years.
This year, Jeggie asked me if it would be OK if he stayed home in Ohio so he could work on his golf game. He's always enjoyed golfing and has played quite a bit, and as he's gotten older he's really ramped up his interest in the sport.
My initial feelings of sadness over the thought of not having my little man with me during those special summer months were soon soothed by an intense pride I felt in his desire to get better. At first, I really didn't know if he just wanted to goof off with his friends or if it was no longer “cool” to hang out with his dad. I soon found out that the he genuinely wanted to step up his game and the result of his hard work has been phenomenal.
A while back, at his request, we signed him up with a local golf instructor. It's been neat to hear him speak about the subtle little things they were working on day today and I could tell whenever we talked that he was dead serious about what he was doing. As the summer went along I came to realize he was pushing himself very hard to improve. He was up early every day, soaking in time with his instructor, and then hitting the course for as many holes as he could get in before it was too dark to continue.
When we finally had enough of a break from the races and I was able to get caught up with my regular job at JEGS Mail Order, Jeggie and I were able to sneak out for a few rounds together. I was awed by how well he was playing.
Before the summer started, I nearly took him every round. I'm afraid those days seem to be over. In the half dozen rounds we've played since he started his deeper commitment to the sport, he's beaten me every time. And trust me, I'm not sand-bagging. Where once he was a 90s player, he's now a high 70s, low 80s player – pretty darn remarkable for one summer of work.
We've never once pushed Jeggie to play golf, or drag race, or do anything other than make good grades at school. We've always let him make up his own mind about things, so to see him put so much effort into golf with the sole intention of making himself better and then watching it all come to fruition is something that makes my heart swell with pride.
In many ways, his passion for golf and the way he's constantly working at his game is exactly the way I approach drag racing, even to this day. Like golf, I don't think you can ever rest on your past accomplishments in drag racing. You need to always push yourself to get better.
I've been fortunate to have won five world championships and a lot of races in several different classes and, from time to time, people ask me how I do it. As simple as it sounds, I truly believe most of my success on the drag strip has come from hard work. Of course, in racing that includes the incredible effort put forth by an entire race team.
At Victor Cagnazzi Racing, we have several people working their tails off every day to help us win races. I'm the one doing the interviews at the end of the track, but the reality is I wouldn't be there without the folks in our chassis shop, the guys in the engine room, the front office people who take care of all the administration and sponsorship issues, our PR group, the crew that travels to the races and prepares the car, everyone at JEGS, and Victor and Brita Cagnazzi themselves. We win because every single person on our team pushes themselves every day to be the absolute best they can be, just like Jeggie did this summer.
I think my three brothers and I learned our work ethic from our father, Jeg Sr., who started JEGS 50 years ago in a little shop in downtown Columbus. He was just a kid with a hot rod back then in the early days of organized drag
racing and he wanted to be the best he could be. He found out all the components he needed to make his car go faster could only be found on the East or West Coasts, so he ordered them, waited for days at a time to get them in the mail, and then installed them. Once his car started going faster than all the others, his friends from the racetrack started asking him if he could make their cars faster. Before long, he realized he could help a lot more people in a more efficient manner if he had his own stockpile of parts and his business was born.
I know from hearing the stories and talking to the older guys who were around back then that my dad worked extremely hard to make JEGS prosper. My brothers and I picked up the ball and are running with it, using the example set by our pop to take JEGS into the future. I'm thrilled to say that, even in these economic times, the company is doing great. I know it's all because of the 350-plus associates we have who also push themselves to work hard every day.
Now, my son and all my nieces and nephews are getting in on the action and it's great to see them push themselves and excel in the things they enjoy, be it drag racing, golf, circle track racing, riding horses, acting, dancing and all the other things they like.
In closing, I'd like to say thanks to another hard-working group of people – the editors and writers at RACER magazine, who have invited me into their family with this blog. I've enjoyed RACER for as far back as I can remember and it's a top-notch publication.
Thanks for reading,Jeg Jr.