Jenkins races toward success

Published 9:35 am Saturday, July 1, 2023

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For The Washington Daily News

C.J. Jenkins is one of the best junior drag racers in the country at age 15. The Jamesville native has won many championships throughout his young career, including the National Open Champion in 2021.

Because of his age, he does not have an official driver’s license. He had to obtain a special license that allows him to drive on sanctioned race tracks.

He began racing at age nine when he saw it on TV. “I was intrigued when I watched for the first time,” Jenkins said. “I asked my dad to take me to the local track and I’ve been in love with it ever since.”

He said he loves it because it is different than most sports and brings unique challenges with it. “It is a lot more than just driving,” Jenkins said. “With every race I am thinking about where I am on the track, where my opponent is, where the finish line is, and how the wind is affecting my car all while going 85 mph.”

He competes in the Junior Dragster class for the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA). This class is designed for drivers ranging from eight to 16 in age. They get to speeds of about 80 mph and race 1/8 of a mile.

“He is not allowed to go faster than 85 mph,” his father Corris Jenkins III said. “This is a league rule. If he goes faster than that, he gets disqualified. The speed limit changes with different classes but for his class, he can’t go over 85.”

While he cannot go faster than 85, Jenkins hopes to be going 320 mph at the pro level. This would be the Top Fuel class. It has the fastest cars and the most experienced drag racers competing in it. To get there, he will have to continue racing well, gaining sponsorships and marketing himself.

Jenkins said he is ready for the challenge. He believes his talent and hard work will take him far. “One of the reasons why he is so good is his reaction time,” Jenkins III said. “He is so good at starting and right from the beginning, he has an advantage.”

When he is about to race, he lines his car up at the starting line. There is a dial in front of him with a red light. When the race is about to begin, it will go to yellow and then to green. Jenkins explained that he leaves just before the light turns green.

“I can’t false start because that’s illegal. However, I can time my start so I’m leaving right as the light turns green but not too early that I’m disqualified,” Jenkins said. He understands that in a sport that can be decided by nanoseconds, he needs every advantage he can find.

Outside of racing, he attends Beaufort County Early College High School where he is taking a public speaking course to help better talk to large groups of people. He also helps his dad on their poultry farm where he helps raise chickens and drives all kinds of machinery.

Jenkins tells people that are interested in drag racing to participate. “The experience is hard to describe, you just have to try it. It is a lot of fun and for people who are trying to get into it, I would say just give it a try.”