CAR OWNER JACK O'BANNON MAKES SUCCESSFUL MOVE FROM BOAT RACING TO CAR RACING ALTA LOMA, Calif. --- It was just over three years ago that Jack O'Bannon, owner of the Oakwood Homes Dragster driven by Rick Santos on the NHRA Federal-Mogul Drag ...
CAR OWNER JACK O'BANNON MAKES SUCCESSFUL MOVE FROM BOAT RACING TO CAR RACING
ALTA LOMA, Calif. --- It was just over three years ago that Jack O'Bannon, owner of the Oakwood Homes Dragster driven by Rick Santos on the NHRA Federal-Mogul Drag Racing Series, made the switch from running a Top Alcohol Hydro boat to a Top Alcohol Dragster (now Federal-Mogul Dragster). Although O'Bannon and the crew he brought with him celebrated several wins and a championship in 1994, the success they experienced in boat racing does not compare to the success they have experienced over the last three years in car racing with driver Rick Santos. O'Bannon, who is part-owner of Fontana Wood Products, Inc., a wholesale lumber company that supplies lumber to Oakwood Homes among other companies, has always been a hot rodder. "When my son Sean was about five, we got involved in racing," said O'Bannon. "I had always had a desire for speed, and racing was something competitive and healthy to get his interest. It became a bonding experience for us and our desire for racing developed into a mutual relationship." O'Bannon became involved in lower class boat racing in the early 1980's. He had a hot rod riverboat and was involved in racing on a semi-competitive basis. Later he met Norm Grimes, now the crew chief of the Oakwood Homes Dragster, who was competing in the pro categories. O'Bannon and Grimes joined forces and together with current crewmembers Alan Russell and John Layfield, they won several races and a championship in 1994 in the Top Alcohol Hydro category with driver Scott Price. Eventually, O'Bannon and Grimes decided they would like to experience the challenge of asphalt racing, so they sold the boat and immediately started with cars. "At the time, the Santos' family had gotten out of car racing because of some rule changes," said O'Bannon. "Our team joined with their family team using the motors we used in boat racing. We knew how to make power, and they knew about the cars." "There are distinct similarities between boats and cars, like the vast majority of work and the entire thought process" said Norm Grimes, crew chief of the Oakwood Homes Dragster. "If you are successful in one, you can be successful in the other." "It was a learning curve," continued O'Bannon. "We didn't have a lot of parts and pieces and I suffered personal set-backs that didn't allow me to be as active with the team." O'Bannon lost his oldest daughter Christine to breast cancer in May of 1996. The "Love ya sis" located on the front of the Oakwood Homes Dragster is a tribute to Christine. Just 10 months after Christine's death, his wife Beverly was diagnosed with cancer, but was able to overcome the disease. It didn't take long for Jack O'Bannon Racing to reach the top of their game. Their first win came in their ninth start together at the Winston Finals in Pomona, Calif., in 1996. After a year and a half together, the rookie team had become World Champions. They won the Division Seven and World Championships in 1997 and 1998. Although it is still early in the 1999 season, they have already clinched the Division Seven championship for the third consecutive year, and have three national event wins in only five national starts. "I feel like the luckiest person in the world to have Rick Santos as my driver and Norm Grimes as my crew chief," said O'Bannon. They are both at the top of their game and the attitude and talent they bring each week are contagious to the entire team. This class is very competitive and it is very rewarding to have the success we have been able to achieve in this class."
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