COLFAX — Finding a passion is difficult for most people. Many individuals spend their entire lives searching for the thing that makes them tick.
But when Jayce Jenkins was 13 years old, his father asked him a question that not only changed him forever; it helped him find the thing that makes him come alive.
“My dad, my brother and I were riding in the truck, and he said, ‘Hey, what do you think of racing go-karts or something?’” Jenkins said. “I said, ‘You know what, that sounds fun.’”
Now at the age of 24, the Colfax-Mingo graduate’s need for speed has never slowed down. From winning three national titles for go-karting to his current endeavor in becoming the best micro sprint car racer he can be, many who know Jenkins can attest that he loves to race.
“As far back as I can remember, we went down to Knoxville and watched sprint cars. Then we went over to the Newton Kart Track and watched a few times, and I’m like, ‘Man, that’s cool,’” he said. “Every time we started something, we became successful at it. We just naturally started moving up, all in all, it has been nine years I have been racing.”
According to Jenkins, as soon as his family purchased a go-kart, he craved to be behind the wheel. He started competing in 2008. He finished fourth in nationals in 2009, then won the open midget and super stock midget national titles in 2010 at the Newton Kart Klub, and the open midget national title at the Delaware Speedway in 2011.
“I would have four national titles. We were at Delaware, and right before we got up there, my dad was having serious blood clots in his legs. He was in serious pain. He said, ‘We did all this prep, we are going racing.’ I said, ‘No, we aren’t going up there. You can’t even stand.’ We went up there anyway,” he said. “The feature, I was ahead three-quarters of a lap. I was easily going to roll off to a win ... I knock the spark plugs loose and it runs dead. I’m like what happened ... One thing my dad always did was reminded me to put the zip-ties on the spark plug boot. That was one thing I didn’t do. That was a kick right in the – yeah.”
After that, the Colfax native found himself taking a slight break from the sport. But that could not keep him away from the track.
“We sold everything and got out of it for a few years. I just couldn’t, I was bored. I didn’t know what normal people did in the summer,” he said. “So we started to working on micros because we’d been to a few races.”
From making minor adjustments to improve his sprint car’s performance to tearing apart his the vehicle completely to make sure everything is working correctly, Jenkins has spent several long nights thinking about his car.
“I’m in here every single night from 9:30 to 10 p.m. just trying to figure things out. As I am working (at LDJ Manufacturing), I have done my job (welding) for so long, I’m thinking in my head how I can make my car faster. It is in my head 24-7,” he said. “Races are won on the track.”
The Monroe resident said he works 50 hours a week at the Pella building. Due to this busy schedule, he rarely finds time to do anything else but think about racing.
“I’m still young, so sleep isn’t that big of a deal. You get six or seven hours of sleep, and you’re good. There has been nights when you get big wrecks and stuff, and you are trying to figure things fixed for the weekend, you are out here till 10:30, 11 p.m. Then you go inside and go to sleep and go to work,” he said. “My girlfriend puts up with a lot of (expletive).”
Luckily for the 24-year-old, he receives a lot of help with the vehicle and race preparation from his crew, which consists of his friend, Mac Deaton, his girlfriend, Lexi DeHeer, his aunt, Heather Milligan, uncle Dennis Smith and his parents, Dwain and Danette Jenkins.
“Mac took a lot of stuff off my shoulders,” he said. “My mom (and my aunt) take care a lot of the paper stuff, let’s me know when the gates open, when I need to be there, (get sponsors). My dad taught me all this stuff to know what I need to do. I don’t trust that many people working on my car.”
With his constant effort combined with his crew’s support, the Colfax racer has seen success in his career so far. In the 2016-2017 season, the sprint car driver doubled his win total from five in the previous season to 10. He placed first in his last four races, which includes the 600cc Winged Micros: Iowa Micro Sprint Car series at the Brooklyn Raceway, Warren County Speedway and Newton Kart Klub.
“It would nice not to do this every single weekend, but then again, I love it. I don’t want to stop doing it,” he said. “I told my dad, you shouldn’t have got us into this (expletive) and should’ve let me do dumb (expletive) with my buddies. It would be less expensive than doing this thing, but (I love it).”
Jenkins said he plans to race in the Tusla Shootout in Oklahoma. That event kicks off Dec. 26, with races beginning Dec. 29.
Contact Anthony Victor Reyes at email@example.com.