Originally published in Mount Vernon News – August 4, 2018
Jesse Cochran, a 13 year old from Mount Vernon, has two points titles under his belt in his five-year drag racing career and has continued his solid efforts on the the track this summer.
Cochran’s first championship came in 2014, when he was just nine years old, followed by another win in 2016.
The seventh-grader got his start in racing in the 12.90 class, which meant his car wasn’t allowed to finish in fewer than 12.90 seconds. He then dropped to the 11.90 class, before having to get a new car, which is his current car to compete in the new 8.90 class. With his new car, he continued to speed it up, dropping to the 7.90 class, meaning he is aiming to get to the finish line in 7.90 seconds.
On a race weekend, which Cochran generally attends each weekend around Ohio and sometimes out of state, he normally has two time trial runs, which sets his benchmark time for the weekend. He then gets put into a bracket of other Junior Dragster 13-18 year-old drivers.
When it comes to each showdown between drivers, the time trial times are put in to adjust the lights on the tree for each racer. The faster car’s lights are delayed, so that, if both cars drive their exact time trial time they should reach the end line at the same time, putting the importance on the lights.
“You have to go at the third yellow bulb and if you go red, you automatically lose, but if you go green, you have a chance to win,” Cochran said. “You have to cut a good light and make sure you don’t break out. Sometimes you have to play the finish line, which means let off or hit the brakes.”
In addition to a red light on the tree, breaking out results in an automatic disqualification. Breaking out means finishing in a faster time than the time trail mark.
Cochran and his family take his car, which goes 70-80 miles per hour, all over the state to race, including many stops at the Pacemaker track in Mount Vernon, as well as the National Trail Raceway in Hebron. Most of his weekend adventures start Friday, and his switch to Ohio Virtual Academy for schooling has helped in his racing career.
Cochran switched to OHVA in the middle of second grade after being bullied and has continued with virtual schooling since.
“I wouldn’t be able to do this if it wasn’t for Ohio Virtual Academy,” Cochran said. “I wouldn’t have Friday’s off or a free day off to go racing.”
The drag racer has used his additional time on the track to try and climb up the leaderboards in the quest for another championship. He was 10th in the standings this year, before a few missed races dropped him to 15th, but he recently climbed back up to 12th out of about 30 racers that compete on a more regular basis.
Cochran’s climb up the leader board may take a back seat for the rest of the season, as he breaks in a new engine. This past weekend in Hebron, Cochran blew his engine during a run down the track, the first time he has done it in five years. The setback will keep the young driver off the track for only a week or two, before he returns to action with a rebuilt motor.
At only 13, Cochran is in a class for up to 18 year olds, so even if he does not win any titles this year, he still has plenty of time to get back to the top, a task that he will enjoy for years to come.
“It’s fun to do and there is a good environment. You can go down the track without even having a driver’s license,” Cochran said, although he does have a racing license.
To learn more about Ohio Virtual Academy, visit https://ohva.k12.com/.