1/8 Mile: Indiana State drivers deliver wins on local track

By: ISU Communications and Marketing Staff, ISU Communications and Marketing Staff
September 26, 2011

For the Team Sycamore Racing drivers, the summer weekends practically raced by - just as they did.

Drivers Megan Jackson and Derick Troxell, who are also Indiana State University students, each won multiple Super Pro division races at Terre Haute's Crossroads Dragway this summer. The bracket races are daylong competitions in which drivers race their dragsters on a 1/8 mile straightaway. The competitions are done in elimination format, with winners advancing until only the champion remains. Jackson and Troxell, drivers for Team Sycamore Racing representing Indiana State, regularly participated in the bracket races. Troxell won six competitions, while Jackson, who was new to driving this year, won three.

She didn't grow up around dragsters, "so I was nervous at first," Jackson said, "but just the level of support that I received from the team and fellow racers and the families of my fellow racers, they all just kept giving me little bits of advice and calming my nerves. Now I'm completely comfortable with it."

Jackson, a senior from West Terre Haute who is majoring in technology education with a minor in motorsports, wanted to attend ISU because of Team Sycamore Racing. She joined the group several years ago, and she works as one of the drivers and the team manager.

"I've done a little event planning and things of that nature, but every experience I've had has been good," Jackson said, before admitting that driving is "definitely by far the best, though."

Troxell, a junior business finance major from Seymour, started racing junior dragsters when he was 6 years old. He won a variety of awards and recognitions, and when he turned 18 he joined the Super Pro division, which is the top level of elapsed time, or ET, racing.

"I've always been a fan of drag racing...," Troxell said. "You just get addicted to it."

In elapsed time racing, drivers declare the time their cars are supposed to run, which is then used to program the starting lights, said ISU professor Randy Peters, the faculty adviser for Team Sycamore Racing and the owner of Crossroads Dragway. Drivers then race each other, with the first car to cross the finish line winning. However, if the car goes faster than what the time the driver declared, the car is disqualified.

"It's a great equalizer, if you will," Peters said of elapsed time racing. "That allows $20,000 cars to race up against $50,000 cars, and $30,000 cars to race up against $100,000 cars. So it's not always the one with the most money who wins."

Troxell raced the 2010 Super Pro season at a track in Kentucky. His father helped him during the year, just as he has in the past. The hobby has turned into bonding time for the father-son duo, who work on dragsters together.

"We were definitely always on the same page," Troxell said. "It's just weird how you do something together like that for so long, how you can know what the other's thinking without even having to ask."

Troxell's father also helped this year with Team Sycamore Racing, which had a successful season. Jackson won her first bracket race in early August, which came after she had advanced to the finals in a bracket race several weeks earlier. She discovered the car's brakes were broken just as she was preparing to start the final round.

"So that was a big letdown, and I just wanted to redeem myself...," Jackson said. "I had [advanced to] something like two semifinal rounds and two final rounds, and I finally got a win out of it."

Throughout the season, drivers receive points for each elimination round they win, and Jackson and Troxell both earned enough points to represent Crossroads Dragway at the National Hot Rod Association's North Central Division Three E.T. Finals in Indianapolis in mid-September.

"They've been improving quite a lot over time," Peters said of the drivers. "Derick has been doing very well, pretty consistently throughout, and Megan has ramped up."

Troxell also earned enough points to represent Crossroads Dragway in the NHRA Division Three E.T. Finals' Race of Champions, which featured the top Super Pro, Pro, Sportsman and Pro Bike drivers from each of the 21 tracks in the North Central division, which encompasses six states and has one track in Ontario, Canada. Troxell was eliminated in the semifinal round of the Super Pro Class Race of Champions, making it down to just three vehicles left in the competition. The E.T. Finals represent the very best bracket racers in the division, Peters said.

Though Jackson and Troxell didn't win their class, they represented ISU in a way that was new for Team Sycamore Racing. Prior to this season, the team primarily participated in NHRA Division Three and National contests instead of the elapsed time bracket races. Team Sycamore Racing previously would race in about six events each year that were spread throughout the North Central division.

That meant the team, which does not receive direct funding from Indiana State, paid hotel and food bills along with the team's entry fees for the four-day events out of sponsorship revenue and donations. Now, the team races locally on a weekly basis, which is less expensive and provides more consistent practice for the drivers.

Team Sycamore Racing also provides students with opportunities to learn about other facets of the automotive and racing industries, which could prepare them for various kinds of careers.

"Anybody who wants to go into any kind of motorsports field for anything, nutrition, nursing, finance, marketing or P.R., its' a great way to get out there, see what's going to happen at the track, see what's going to happen off of the track," Jackson said, "and it's just a good foot in the door for a lot of people."

Photo: http://isuphoto.smugmug.com/photos/i-QNVWfsC/0/D/i-QNVWfsC-D.jpg (ISU/Sam Barnes)
Team Sycamore Racing driver Megan Jackson in one of the dragsters at Crossroads Dragway in Terre Haute. Team Sycamore Racing is Indiana State University's drag racing team.

Photo: http://isuphoto.smugmug.com/photos/i-dTfLsjR/0/D/i-dTfLsjR-D.jpg (Submitted Photo)
Team Sycamore Racing driver Derick Troxell in the other team dragster at Crossroads Dragway in Terre Haute.

Photo: http://isuphoto.smugmug.com/photos/i-jS6XXmm/0/D/i-jS6XXmm-D.jpg (ISU/Sam Barnes)
Driver's seat view of one of the dragsters of Team Sycamore Racing.

Contact: Randy Peters, assistant professor, department of applied engineering and technology management, College of Technology, Indiana State University, 812-237-4962 or randy.peters@indstate.edu.

Writer: Austin Arceo, assistant director of media relations, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3790 or austin.arceo-negrich@indstate.edu.