TROY — For most of us, age 80 is a time to slow down, but a passion for drag racing is keeping Miami County resident Jon Pickering running at full speed.
Pickering and his family participate in the National Mustang Racing Association circuit, attending drag races in six different states during the regular season, which spans from February to September.
“I started when I was 16, when I first got a car,” Pickering said. “That was 64 years ago. Back then, there weren’t sanctioned dragsters around, and there was a lot of street racing on back roads. That doesn’t happen much anymore around here. I quit doing that a long time ago, long before I got married.”
Pickering, who was born and raised in Piqua, worked in appliance repair in Miami County for more than 40 years before retiring in 2003. Since then, Pickering, son Jon Jr. and other members of the family have continued to customize their drag racing vehicles in Pickering’s garage.
“I’ll be 53 this year,” Jon Jr. said. “I’ve been doing it since I was 17. My mom used to race as well back in the ’70s and ’80s. My sister raced at one time. It’s definitely been a family affair throughout the years.”
“We build the vehicles pretty much from scratch,” Pickering said. “Once you get the body done, the only thing you need to do is upkeep on the engine. Breakage on the engine does happen.”
“We assemble all our own motors,” Jon Jr. added. “My dad does the cylinder work. If we had older heads, he’d make them flow better and breathe more, so we can get more horsepower out of them.”
The fastest time the Pickerings have clocked was 176 miles per hour, which Jon Jr. confirmed was “a total rush.”
Fortunately, the Pickerings have never experienced any major crashes, though they’ve had the occasional close shave.
“I scraped a wall in July,” Pickering said. “Water got underneath the tire when I was stopping, and the car started to go sideways. I got it straight, but not soon enough to keep it from scraping the wall.”
The Pickerings have won numerous prizes throughout their tenure with the NMRA, including a car in 2000 and a Wally award (named after Wally Parks of the National Hot Rod Association) in 2012. The Pickerings claim, however, that their drive to continue comes from their love of competition and community.
“There’s not great money in it, but sometimes you break even,” Jon Jr. said. “We’ve won a lot of races through the years, but it’s worth it for all the people that we meet and come in contact with across all the states we’ve traveled. We actually keep regular contact with quite a few people now from across the country.”
“We’ve spend a lot of time together,” Pickering said. “It’s actually brought us closer as a family. My daughter-in-law, my son-in-law, and my grandkids have all raced at one point. The name Pickering Family Racing truly tells what we’re about.”
The Pickerings’ next race will take place at Gateway Motorsports Park in Madison, Illinois, on Feb. 28, 2019.
For more information, visit Pickering Family Racing on Facebook.