In the first of a semi-regular series on drivers who race at PGP Motorsports Park, meet Jessica Dana, a 15-year-old who competes in the Stars of PGP and Rental Kart Racing series.
KENT, Wash. — (July 13, 2010) By any measure a racer can think of, Jessica Dana has had an amazing Spring in 2010. Less than a year after getting into a kart for the first time, the 15-year-old high school student from Tumwater, Wash., beat four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon in a charity kart race on May 26 in Charlotte, N.C.
Then, 10 days later she finished second in the Spring Rental Kart Racing Series at PGP Motorsports Park in Kent. And that was just a month-and-a-half after Jessica beat extreme motorsports superstar Travis Pastrana in a charity kart race at PGP.
“My favorite memory of racing at PGP would definitely be racing and winning, beating Travis Pastrana,” said Jessica, who earned the right to race him when her ticket was pulled in a raffle. “It was a lot of fun and a great experience.”
She started riding quads with her father Troy Dana at the age of 4, and by 8 she was drag racing them. Less than a year ago she expressed an interest in racing after a visit to South Sound Speedway in Tenino, Wash., so Pam and Troy Dana — her mother and father, himself a former motocross racer — thought karts would be a good first step.
“It’s definitely physically demanding, depending on how long you go and what kind of kart you’re in,” Jessica said of kart racing. “It’s also much fun — I’d recommend it to anyone, especially at PGP where they’ll help you out. They’ve helped me out a bunch.”
Jessica met her driving coach, Mike Smith, shortly after she started racing at an indoor facility. Smith, a former national champion who called her “a natural” driver, took Jessica to a national event in Phoenix AZ where she placed second in her age group. Smith also helped get Jessica get one of the 48 invitations issued nationwide to the Jeff Gordon event — an event that Smith has twice won.
Jessica visits PGP nearly every weekend, racing either in a rental or her own Touch and Go (TaG) kart. When asked to compare racing outdoors rain or shine at PGP with an indoor track, she said the experience is completely different.
“Indoors you’re all packed together and racing really close to each other and at PGP you’re farther apart and have so much more room,” she said, before adding with a laugh: “PGP is a lot faster with the long straights, too.”
Going fast is something Jessica wants to do as her career, with racing in NASCAR her ultimate goal. Last summer she tried racing a small “Baby Grand” stock car at South Sound Speedway.
An only child, Jessica’s safety is of paramount importance to her parents. Pam, a highway designer with the Washington Department of Transportation, said “karts don’t scare me too much, but last year when she got into the car she was just 14 … if she got back in one today it probably wouldn’t scare me too much.”
A commercial real estate broker with Pacific Real Estate Partners and owner of D3 Consulting, Troy Dana said he is Jessica’s “Chief Strategist … that is, I talk to Jesse’s mom about how much we need to spend.”
In addition to hiring Smith as her coach, Troy and Pam Dana are looking into sending their daughter to a driving school and they have helped Jessica secure sponsorship from Apex Karting, Pacific Real Estate Partners and Pacific Technical Resources. Troy Dana also credits PGP owners Paul and Juli Zalud with playing a part in Jessica’s racing development.
“Paul and Juli are absolutely first-class people. They make racing at PGP a wonderful experience, not just for the racer but also for a doting father,” Troy Dana said. “We feel blessed that they’ve taken such a fondness for Jesse.”
With high-profile wins over Gordon and Pastrana added to her resume this Spring, Jessica’s future prospects are bright. One of Gordon’s representatives said the NASCAR superstar plans on following Jessica’s racing and offered access to him for advice and guidance on a possible move up to the next level.
But even if racing as a career doesn’t work out, Jessica — an honor student just finishing up her freshman year at Tumwater High School — plans to keep racing karts, probably at PGP.
“It’s a great track, everyone is so nice they make the racing fun,” she said. “PGP definitely has some technical parts, but it’s easy and fun, too. I haven’t seen a better outdoor track yet.”
On the Web:
Visit www.pacificgp.com, become a fan of “Pacific Grand Prix” on Facebook or follow @pacificgp on Twitter.
About PGP Motorsports Park:
PGP Motorsports Park is the Northwest’s premier multi-purpose racing facility and is located in close proximity to the greater Seattle metropolitan area. Named “Best Guys Weekend Destination” for 2010 in the KING 5 Evening Magazine Best of Western Washington contest, the track is easy to get to and inexpensive to utilize, making PGP a rare combination of top-level racing excitement and affordability. For more information on PGP events and services, visit www.pacificgp.com or call (253) 639-7223.