Jerry Albert has always just wanted to go fast. As a kid, he drag raced his bicycle. When he got a little older and acquired a dirt bike, he preferred racing the wily two-wheeler in a straight line on pavement rather than jumping it through the dirt.
These days, Albert can be found winning national and divisional events behind the wheel of a nitrous-assisted 1997 Chevrolet Camaro in NHRA’s quick and competitive Top Sportsman category. So far this season, he’s proven to be a fierce competitor with two victories claimed in the esteemed Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, and his effective efforts have him positioned neatly as No. 6 in the national standings.
“The car is really good, and I’m catching up to it,” said Albert, following a rewarding victory at venerable Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis at the beginning of August.
The Avon, Ohio-native kicked off the season at the NHRA Gatornationals in March and then moved on to his home track, Norwalk’s Summit Motorsports Park, for the national and divisional events. Round wins were acquired at all three of those early season races, but Albert knew there were even brighter days ahead.
“We made some updates to the car in the off-season, and I had to find out what it liked,” he explained. “It took about 20 runs to get to the point where we could really trust it and have something solid. During that time, I was still getting caught up with new numbers in the delay box; it’s running a little bit quicker down low. Now I’m back in my comfort zone.”
In July, National Trail Raceway hosted the JEGS NHRA SPORTSnationals, which gave the amiable racer the opportunity to return to the site of both his first divisional and national event wins. Albert secured his first-ever NHRA trophy at the Columbus Division 3 race in 2003, and it was the first of eight division wins in 11 final rounds.
The 2012 SPORTSnationals in Columbus produced Albert’s first national event title, and this season he seized the opportunity to repeat history with an extraordinary performance that culminated in another winner’s circle celebration.
It was evident to all that he had, indeed, found his comfort zone as he put together one of the best packages of eliminations – including a .015 reaction time and a cool 6.624, 207.69 on his 6.62 dial-in – to defeat Chris Osborn.
It was not only a repeat of Albert’s first win, but it was also his third SPORTSnationals victory. He was also triumphant at the event when it was held at Bowling Green’s Beech Bend Raceway Park in 2016.
“Winning the SPORTSnationals three times puts me in a smallish group, and it’s one that I’m really proud to be part of it,” he said. “Winning it this year was really a high point for us.”
Now a five-time winner and six-time finalist at the national level, Albert is well in the hunt for a banner year. Twice before he’s claimed the division championship (2013 and 2014), and he earned one of the most coveted Sportsman trophies in drag racing with his 2014 JEGS Allstars victory. So far, though, he has yet to bring home the biggest trophy of all.
Time and performance will tell if it’s in the cards this year, but Albert is prepared to give it his best shot. September will begin a hard-charge for he and his wife, Traci, who is by his side at each event and plays a pivotal role in the program.
The weeks ahead will include the U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis and then a return to Charlotte for the national event. Albert is eager to return to zMAX Dragway in Charlotte, where he has claimed the trophy in each of his most recent visits (fall of 2017 and spring of 2019).
From there, the two will head to Virginia Motorsports Park for a double-header, and then after a couple of days of recharging at home, they’ll venture west to St. Louis for another grueling double-divisional.
“It’s a wait-and-see from there. Maybe I don’t finish in the top 10, or maybe we’re somewhere in the pack,” said Albert, before pausing thoughtfully.
“Or maybe this is our year.”
Albert races with components and support from ComSYNC EFI; Mickey Thompson Tires; Abruzzi Racing Transmissions & Converters; JEGS Performance; PAR Race Engines; R&R Auto Body; MSR Suspension; Kelling Equipment Repair; and RJ Race Cars.