||Kenneth Charles Jones (K. C. Jones) born September 20, 1958 and raised in Van Nuys California.
The Year 1964: At the young age of 6 K.C. went to his first drag race with his big brother. Over the next 7 years he visited the likes of Lions Drag Strip, Irwindale Raceway, San Fernando Drags, and OCIR. Along with going to the drags, K.C. spent a lot of Saturday nights at Saugus Speedway a famous short track in Southern California.
1971: Its summer time and K.C. sees his new neighbor has what appears to be a race car trailer. What rolls out of that trailer but a blown and injected nitro burning 392 Hemi Chrysler strapped into a 92” wheelbase AA/Fuel Altered, as they say the rest is history. The new neighbor was Dennis Geisler, the car was the Instant “T”, and K.C. spent the next 10 years working with Dennis and his racing team.
|K.C. became an important part of Dennis’s crew and was hands on with the construction of a new car and got to hang out a lot at Frank Huszar’s Race Car Specialties shop in Tarzana, California. By age 15 K.C. was crew chief for Dennis on the Instant “T” and handled all areas of maintenance on his race car.
1973 thru 1977: K.C. was crew chief of the Instant “T”, one of the most feared AA/Fuel Altereds in the Western half of the Country. Setting track records and winning more than their fair share of events.
1975 thru 1977: K.C. got the opportunity to work on numerous AA/Funny Car teams such as, Fearless Fred Goeske, Pete Everett and his “Petes Lil Demon”, and Burt Berniker’s Hindsight (rear engine) Funny Car. Also, in 1977 K.C. began working for his mentor Dennis Geisler, as a glazier in his glass and mirror company.
1978: K.C. became the Crew Chief on Geisler’s new Mustang II funny car that Dennis had purchased from Lil John Lombardo. This was a dream come true for K.C., to compete at the highest level of professional racing and getting to race at NHRA National events. This year was capped off with a huge win at the prestigious Governors Cup at Sacramento Raceway in Sacramento, California, beating Tom “The Mongoose” McEwen in the final round. At this time the Mongoose had just beat Don “The Snake” Prudhomme in an emotional victory a few weeks earlier at the US Nationals and was considered the car to beat.
1979 thru 1980: K.C. and Geisler’s Funny car team started 1979 down under in Australia as part of Team USA. Along with Jimmy and Johnny West they secured a victory for team USA. After the team victory they sold the whole racing operation and came back home to start construction on a brand new Steve Plueger funny car. Again the opportunity to work with a legendary Chassis builder like Steve Plueger was huge for K.C. Over the years K.C. had the pleasure of working with the best, like Frank Huszar, Steve Plueger, Shem Gunn, Jamie Sarte, Pat Foster, Dave Tuttle, and aluminum fabricator extraordinaire Jim Hume at H & H Racecraft. And while we are speaking of legends K.C. also had the opportunity to work side by side with the who ‘s who of engine building and tuning of Supercharged Nitromethane burning racing engine with the likes of Ed Pink, Keith Black, Sid Waterman, Steve Montrelli and Famous Amos Satterlee just to name a few.
The 1980 Dodge challenger bodied funny car was completed in time to debut at Ontario Motor Speedway at the end of the 1979 season. Over the next year the team established themselves as one of top independent team’s on the west coast, qualifying at NHRA National Events and winning a number of match races along with two different races in Hawaii.
During the 1980 season at a match race K.C. ran into his old friend George Hedebeck that he had known from working with Fred Goeske and his Funny Car. George had spent the last two years driving Fred’s Rocket Cars and was going to be starting his own team at the end of the year. He invited K.C. to stop by the shop and check out what he was up to.
It’s the end of 1980 and K.C. has accepted his friend George ‘s invite to see his new project. To his surprise the Engine he was checking out was not of a piston type instead he was looking at a J-34 Jet Engine not just one but two J-34’s and the start of a Jet Funny Car Chassis. After a few more visit’s K.C. made what would turn out to be a life changing decision and gave notice to Dennis Geisler and left the racing team along with his glass business and went to work for Thrust Racing and jumped right in on building two Jet Funny Cars.
1982: The Trust Racing team starts the season running the NHRA Winternationals side by side with Roger Gustin and his jet funny car. This turns out to be the first jet funny car race in the history of NHRA competition. After this event the team had a busy race schedule in place. Thrust Racing was also building a race car hauler for Gene Beaver. Gene comes to pick up his new trailer with his nephew John Force. John and K.C. were friends from the fuel funny car days. John asked K.C. if he would be interested in going to Gainesville, FL to work with his crew chief Rocky Epperly.
What was to be a one race deal, turned into a season of crewing for John Force. This was a dream come true for K.C. to follow both the NHRA and AHRA tours with a lot of match racing in between. By mid season Rocky and John parted ways leaving K.C. to finish out the season as crew chief for John, on the Mountain Dew Chevy Citation.
At season’s end Force had finished in the top ten of NHRA points and a solid third place in AHRA Points plus a number of match race victories thru out the year. K.C. was then asked to stay on for the following year but chose to follow his own dream and returned to Thrust Racing to start building his own jet dragster. John was a huge inspiration for K.C. and supported his decision to go on and do his own thing so, over the next couple of years K.C. would help John now and then on a part time bases.
1983: K.C. back with Thrust Racing and the construction on what was to become the first Cannonball Express was started. During this time Thrust Racing had landed a contract to build a jet powered vehicle for a movie called Buckaroo Bonzie. Both vehicles were completed about the same time. By spring they were out testing the jets and working on the film. By year’s end Thrust Racing and K.C. had completed a successful year with K.C.’s new car. But still, K.C. had one major goal left to accomplish. That was to get his jet car license and to set out on his own! He was determined to do just that and left Thrust Racing.
1984: K.C. spent all his effort s and time working towards racing on his own in 1985.
1985: K.C. completed his licensing runs at Firebird Raceway in Phoenix, AZ. At the age of 26 years K.C. has reached his ultimate goal of owning and driving a race car. Not just any race car but a jet powered dragster fulfilling his childhood dream. At season’s end, K.C. and his jet powered Choo-Choo train had run 15 race dates. Finished the year with a victory in the Jet World Finals at LACR, taking the win over 7 of the best Jet Dragsters in the country, 2 of which were the Thrust Racing Team. The same Team K.C. had worked for over the last few years. NOT BAD FOR HIS ROOKIE SEASON!!
1986: K.C. is approached to be a part of an exhibition team that would perform in Lima, Peru for 6 weeks and it turns out to be a trip of a life time. Along with performing in huge soccer stadiums, K.C. finds the love of his life while in Peru. She is not from there but turns out to live only about 15 miles from his home in Van Nuys, California. Linda Brown was involved with the show working with her son Michael who was one of the performers, a stunt motorcycle rider.
K.C. and Linda became the best of friends making plans to go into business together. Trying to make a living at racing fulltime proved to be a bigger challenge than it appeared so once the two of them returned home they started a glass and mirror shop together. The Looking Glass Designs was opened for business in the winter of 1986.
Racing takes somewhat of a back seat over the next 6 years as K.C. and Linda turn their Looking Glass Designs into one of the premiere custom glass and mirror shops in Southern California specializing in high end custom homes. The two of them complimented each other with Linda bringing her interior design talents and K.C. with his fabricating abilities with glass and mirror.
Over the years K.C. was able to keep both his profession and his passion for racing going at the same time. During This time running his company and driving a jet dragster for car owner John Fattori. John asked if he would be interested in finishing his new car and driving it for him.
1988: K.C. at the wheel of the Simple Pleasure Jet Dragster set numerous track records and ran up and down the west coast along with a racing date in Hawaii. K.C. stepped out of the driver’s seat at the end of the year and was back full time at his business.
1989 thru 1991: K.C. and Linda focused all their attention on their business and then decided to sell their interest to a competing company and take some time off. That did not last long as they were approached to manage and run two jet powered Semi Trucks and spent the 1993 season campaigning these vehicles. They had turned the two old jet trucks that had no future as solo acts into one of the top acts in the air show industry. The owners of the Trucks decided not to run them in 1994 and K.C. and Linda figure it’s time to concentrate on their own operation again.
1994: starts off with a bang and Southern California is rocked with a major earthquake! Both K.C. and Linda returned to their previous occupations to help rebuild their community. So they both are back to work in the glazing industry. Two years have passed but K.C. really wants to go back to racing although the company he has managed since the earthquake has grown and branched into doing work in the motion picture industry. This has turned out to be a very enjoyable experience with the opportunity to work on some big block buster movies such as Men in Black, Titanic, Volcano, and Faceoff just to name a few.
1996: K.C. and Linda have rebuilt the Cannonball Express and are back running their own program. They will finish out the year with about 10 races under their belt.
1997: Finds them with a full schedule and the chance to run a number of races throughout Mexico.
1998: Again finds the team running a full schedule, along with trying to hold down a fulltime job. The company K.C. is employed by supports his racing career by telling him he should take some time and go get this racing thing out of his system and, his job will always be there. K.C. finishes off the 1998 season with a second victory at the jet world finals.
1999: K.C. comes to his home track in Palmdale, California, and wins the Jet World Finals for the third time. He was the first driver to win this race back to back.
1999 thru 2003: K.C. and Linda take their Cannonball Express and set out to run for the first time on the east coast. Over the next four years they run some 25 plus dates a year at some of the most historic tracks in the country, and fulfilling a dream that K.C. has had throughout his life. By the middle of 2003 K.C. and Linda were making plans to fulfill another goal by adding a second car and a new rig to haul everything for their team.
2004: By the spring of 2004 that goal is now a reality and the team heads out on tour with not one, not two, but three cars in their brand new Haulmark motor coach pulling a new stacker trailer. Along with building a new jet train called the “Super Chief”. K.C. had struck a deal with an old friend Tom Brown and agreed to campaign a new wheel stander called the Wheelie Wagon. Needless to say it had been a real busy off season.
2004 thru 2006: Over the next three years the team performed at events throughout the U.S. and Canada. Scott Holdridge was chosen to be the driver of the Super Chief while K.C. was doing double duty as the driver for the Cannonball and the Wheelie Wagon. Scott set out to run his own car in 2006 so Bill Dempsey came aboard to become the new Engineer of the Super Chief.
2007: The year starts with a third jet train named the Chattanooga Choo-Choo. The team has scaled back to a two car team concentrating on running only the Jet Trains. The team is busier than ever as the Cannonball Express versus the Chattanooga Choo-Choo is a huge hit with race tracks across the country.
2008: This season starts with a new engineer named James Paul Kelley driving the Chattanooga Choo-Choo. Paul picks up right where Bill left off. Paul had been with Team Steam since the middle of the 2007 season being trained to take over the controls as Bill was retiring at the end of the season. Running up to thirty dates a year is a demanding schedule and it can take a lot out of you.
Over the last three years K.C. Linda and Paul better known as Team Steam have made the commitment to bring to race tracks across the country the best possible show.
Some fun numbers to look at in the 40 years K.C. has been involved in professional drag racing, 31 years with jet cars, at best guess he has been to almost 200 different race tracks performed at over 400 different shows, and made close to 1200 passes down the track which adds up to almost 300 miles traveled. Then we look at the mechanical side of his history in the sport, he has been hands on with the building of over 25 different racing vehicles 12 of which were jet powered. At age 52 he really feels like he is just starting to hit his stride.
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