Atco Dragway’s youngest Junior Dragster Jamison Devlin, 7, of Mullica Hill climbs the scoreboards in first year on the track
It took a lot of convincing for homeschooled Mullica Hill 7-year-old Jamison Devlin’s mom to allow him to get behind the wheel of a junior dragster. Traveling an average speed of 52 miles per hour on a one-eighth mile track in a 14-foot long dragster, all within the constraints of 13.9 seconds, Jamison said he wouldn’t want to do anything else.
“He has no fear, so that’s a good thing and a bad thing,” Jamison’s father, Tim Devlin, said. “As soon as he wanted to do it, I was confident enough in him. I felt as though he could, I know the safety regulations with it — he’s not going to get hurt.”
Before kids, Devlin used to drag race and had experiences racing at Atco Dragway himself. He said Jamison has been going to the races since he was 18 months old, and could have started racing as early as the age of 5.
“I was trying to hide it from him,” Devlin said. “But about two seasons ago, he saw a little girl with a dragster, it was all pink, and he said, ‘if she can do it, why can’t I?’”
This year, every time his parents would ask what he wanted to do, or what sports he wanted to play, Jamison would respond, “I just want to race,” Devlin said.
To race, Jamison had to earn an NHRA drag license, which requires a driver’s test assessing his ability to follow strict directions, listen and control the car.
“The night he passed his test, I knew,” Devlin said. “A lot of times kids fail, or there are problems, and he was just blowing through the test. I knew he had it.”
According to Devlin, Jamison is the youngest driver in the Atco Dragway Junior Dragsters, and he holds second place in his bracket. Jamison was showcased at this year’s Thrill Show, next to monster trucks, jet dragsters, wheel standers and more. He was also featured on the television show “South Jersey Speed,” and in the Atco Dragway coloring book and raced in his first national race this year.
“It’s fun,” Jamison said. “I’m racing for life.”
In his bracket, Jamison cannot cross the finish line faster than 13.9 seconds or he is disqualified. However, next year he’ll be able to go a second faster, at 12.9 seconds, which his dad said will be a bit easier.
“We beat ourselves a couple times this year,” Devlin said.
Devlin said there are small boxes underneath the car to hold weights, which help slow him down and keep him to speed.
While racing, Jamison is buckled in wearing a blue fireproof suit, helmet and neck guard. Once he and Devlin review hand signals and line up at the start line, Jamison is on his own for the race.
“Once it gets to the last light, I slam the gas,” Jamison said. “I got a perfect light one time, not a second away.”
According to Devlin, Jamison will race his dragster until he is 18, however when he turns 14, he will be able to race his father’s ’69 Chevelle, with Devlin as a passenger. He can also participate in what is called “round robin,” where Jamison would alternate between the dragster and Chevelle during a race.
Devlin said he would highly recommend drag racing for other children, as it forms a bond between the youth and those helping them with their car, and the sport is very family oriented. From his own experience, he said, racing provided a discipline growing up, with a constant reminder if he lost his license he wouldn’t have been able to race.
“It teaches the kids discipline and responsibility,” Devlin said. “Jamison knows he has to listen and follow directions carefully for safety reasons, and he loves it so much he counts down to his next race.”
Jamison will be competing in his last points race at Atco on Aug. 27, with hopes of doing well enough to finish in the overall second place position.