Jimmy DeFrank is familiar with metals that commemorate special occasions. The Southern California-based Stock Eliminator and Super Stock racer has earned 15 antique brass trophies for NHRA national event wins, and over the course of his already distinguished career in drag racing, the second-generation competitor has brought home an impressive collection of world titles: four Super Stock world championship trophies grace his shelves wearing a shiny, gold finish.
DeFrank’s most recently earned championship trophy, honoring the DeFrank & Son’s Racing team’s success in the 2012 season, sits in his office at the family-owned and operated California Car Cover Company in Chatsworth, Calif. In 2014, the company that was launched by his parents, Jim and Loraine DeFrank, and where DeFrank is Chief Operating Officer and brother Tony is Executive Director, will celebrate 25 years in the business. For the DeFrank family, that brings another precious metal to mind as the company celebrates their silver anniversary.
“We are very thankful for every team member at California Car Cover and the customers who have made the last 25 years so special,” said DeFrank. “It is amazing that the years have gone by so fast. If you think about it, it is really an accomplishment for a business to make the 25-year mark and beyond, and we as a family and team are already looking forward to the next 25.
The year-long celebration of the milestone anniversary for California Car Cover will also mark a special year for DeFrank on the racetrack as he competes in NHRA’s Mello Yello Drag Racing Series and the Lucas Oil Series. DeFrank will continue to wheel his familiar and quick Super Stock SS/BS Chevy Cobalt and 1969 Chevrolet Camaro in B/SA Stock Eliminator in 2014, a season that will close out two decades of racing for the youthful driver who dove into competitive quarter-mile racing at just 16 years of age, in 1995.
“My approach to racing has definitely changed as I’ve gotten older,” laughed DeFrank, who will celebrate his 36th birthday on March 16th. “I appreciate racing even more now than I did back then, and I recognize how special it is to even have the opportunity to own a race car, be able to drive it, and to do this with my family and friends. I take each round and each race more seriously now because I can appreciate how much work, effort, time and money goes into a race car and team. I still enjoy it just as much, but I think I appreciate it more.
“I haven’t always been focused on setting specific goals as much as I’ve been a dreamer imagining wins. I’m still a big dreamer, and I always think we have a chance to win, even if it’s a long shot. But when it comes down to a specific run or a round, we’ve grown as a team in how we calculate – or try to calculate, anyway. Hopefully, we’re better at that now than we were back then.”
Despite a recent test session that was halted due to excessive winds in the area, DeFrank is optimistic heading into the new year of competition. His father, Jim Sr., oversees the racecars both on and off the track, and DeFrank’s Cobalt has had a good once-over and is now equipped with header tethers. The Camaro has a fresh engine beneath the hood, replacing the previous powerplant that had been pushed to 108 runs.
“I do feel that we are starting slightly behind where we have in past years, but fortunately the cars are very close to what they were at the World Finals. Hopefully, I can get comfortable quickly and knock any winter rust off,” said DeFrank. “My dad did an incredible job of leading the way on getting the cars and everything prepared for the season, and we are looking forward to the first burnout in Pomona.”
As for the schedule, DeFrank says that the race team doesn’t have plans past the Las Vegas national event this spring, but he did say that they would like to do something different than they have in years past to “freshen things up a bit.” He intends to compete in at least eight national events and will begin the year with the 54th annual Circle K NHRA Winternationals in Pomona. Last season, DeFrank pulled off a remarkable feat when he doubled up in Pomona and won Stock and Super Stock at the Winternationals. Only 28 drivers have ever earned two trophies at one national event in the history of NHRA.
Following the season-opener, DeFrank and the team will head to Phoenix, Ariz., for the national event and the first race of the NHRA Division 7 Lucas Oil Series. Shortly after, the group will travel to Las Vegas to race both the divisional and national events at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, a favorite stop on the tour.
“It seems that every season, the competition is a bit tougher and the racing a bit tighter,” said DeFrank. “Last year we ran a little bit of a different combination in the Cobalt from Indy through the end of the year, and that was somewhat of a challenge because it acted differently than our previous engine and even than this particular engine had in the past. The car was running well, but we struggled with consistency and dial-ins. I am hoping that we can use what we learned at the end of last season with this engine and combination to help us with the first events of 2014.
“Just as we do each year, we want to try to have fun and enjoy the time with family and friends. Racing is a break from the everyday routine in the office, and we appreciate that. Of course, the dream is always to win an NHRA national event, and I hope we have the opportunity to do that again this year. No matter what, this year will be very, very special.”