ORANGE PARK – Cody Owens got an inflatable go-kart that sat on his bed or on the floor while watching television, but feel of being behind a steering wheel at age five made quite the …
ORANGE PARK – Cody Owens got an inflatable go-kart that sat on his bed or on the floor while watching television, but feel of being behind a steering wheel at age five made quite the impression.
“I have a picture of him on his bed in the inflatable go-kart and you can see the look of determination on his face,” said Dan Owens, Cody’s dad. “I wanted to get him involved in something that we could do together after my divorce and he took to the idea of racing as an interest. He loved racing.”
Owens, 12, and heading to seventh grader at Lakeside Junior High, dabbled in Little League baseball and some Pop Warner football, but the feel of being in a race car stuck with him.
“I just liked going fast,” said Owens, who recently won a $1,500 check and a huge trophy as top dragster racer in Bristol, TN, at the NHRA Junior Drag Racing Eastern Conference Finals on July 21. “There is a lot of preparation to get a win, but I’ve been working at it with my dad.”
At age eight, Owens started his journey to checking out drag racing after his dad tried to find a dirt track in the area to take him to.
“We were looking for a dirt track to just go watch the races and we came upon what they call “Test and Tunes” which are test runs for dragsters,” said Dan Owens, a bank software technician. “We saw a list of all the juniors that do the racing and thought it might be interesting. I think Cody is the only drag racer from Orange Park.”
Dan Owens admitted that his favorite Camaro was the start point of Cody’s racing career as he sold his beloved car to finance Cody’s endeavor.
“We loved that 2010 Camaro, but we needed a truck to pull the trailer,” said Dan Owens.
Owens is on his second dragster since starting with one blip along the way.
“I take care of the regular maintenance on the engine and during one race weekend, I had changed the oil and did not tightened the quick release valve under the engine prior to racing,” said Cody Owens, who blew an engine at the Gatornationals in Gainesville. “The engine was ruined during the race because the oil had leaked out. It was a costly mistake I learned.”
The $4,000 error (new engine rebuild) on Cody put a different perspective on the seriousness of racing and preparation that had propelled Cody to formulating a precise checklist of items to prepare for his races.
“People think it’s all about just punching the gas and going straight, but I realized there was a ton of things to do way before getting to the start line,” said Cody Owens. “It’s actually a lot of math and one of my teachers has been helping with the mathematical effects on racing. Now, I make sure all the valves are closed tight. We changed the valve to make it easier to close.”
Those math factors, pertaining to readying the engine, the tire pressure and other items to perform are primarily because Owens’ racing is contingent on his “predicted” time.
“He runs ‘bracket’ racing designed where both dragsters finish at the same time,” said Dan Owens, who noted that ‘index’ racing is fastest guy down the track. “The win is determined by getting close to his selected time, for this race 8.99 seconds. If he puts in a 8.9 second split and finishes in 8.8, he loses. The skill is knowing the car, the speed and racing to achieve the time. It’s very difficult.”
Cody Owens calculates his ‘predicted’ time based on weather, track conditions and other factors.
“There is a website that drivers can input certain factors into like weather and altitude of the race site and they give us a time,” said Cody Owens. “It only gets close because a little bit of extra wind at the time of the race has a big effect on the performance. The whole point is to have consistent times each week. Weather is a big factor that changes the performance of the engine. Even the altitude in Bristol was a factor. We don’t have the website yet so we have to do that measures.”
Owens thinks he will pursue drag racing more as he gets older, having met legendary dragster Don ‘Big Daddy’ Garlits out of Ocala. With the win, Owens thinks he has more ‘street cred’ to attract sponsors in the future.
“Don Garlits was really cool and I’ve met Tony Schumaker too,” said Cody Owens. “In January, I will give a speech at the NHRA banquet in Amelia Island. That’s exciting. As far as sponsors, I can now say I have a championship car.”
Dan Owens noted that, though Cody hits near 80-85 miles per hour on the track, the sport is very safe.
“We have a ton of safety equipment on him; straps, fire suit, etc., plus the roll bar package and helmet that I’m pretty confident keeps him safe,” said Dan Owens. “When he reaches 13, he goes to a faster car and faster racing bracket.”
So far, most of his classmates have little knowledge of Cody’s exciting hobby.
“I have one kind of girl friend, Carly, that hangs out with me, but she’s not a racing nerd yet,” said Cody Owens, who likes Jaguars games and an occasional 5K run.
Owens has his next race August 18 in Gainesville with a Georgia race offering up sponsor money for wins on the track. Owens noted the track season ends in October with a track championship on the line. Presently, Owens can be track champion with wins in his next few races prior to October.