WHEATLAND, Mo. — Blake Hahn never had a chance to race against Jesse Hockett, but watching the driver known as “The Rocket” drive a non-winged sprint car around dirt tracks around Oklahoma left a lasting impression on Hahn.
“I didn’t know him personally, because I wasn’t quite racing sprint cars yet, but I looked up to Jesse,” Hahn said. “He ran a bunch of ASCS (American Sprint Car Series) stuff, so I was able to watch him when I was able to go to the races.
“It stuck out to me that he drove a yellow car and I always loved yellow. Just the way he was able to jump from one car to the next and be as competitive as he was, it was something I looked at. He was a true outlaw, being able to run everything and anything he got into.”
Those memories of Hockett, the sprint car driver from Missouri, made it a special moment when Hahn captured the victory at last year’s Jesse Hockett-Daniel McMillin Memorial at Lucas Oil Speedway. Hahn, 25, will attempt to defend the title in the 10th annual event in his familiar yellow No. 52.
Hahn is no stranger to the fans of dirt track racing in the area. He is the grandson of Emmett Hahn, the legendary promoter of Chili Bowl and the American Sprint Car Series. His dad, Tommy, also drove sprint cars and midgets. Blake Hahn has been a fixture on the Lucas Oil ASCS Series circuit since 2014.
“Pretty much since I was growing up, I wanted to drive a race car,” Blake Hahn said. “My grandpa drove a yellow No. 52 and since my first car, I knew mine was gonna be a yellow 52.”
More than 137 cars, including competitors from the Lucas Oil ASCS Winged Sprints and POWRi Lucas Oil WAR wingless sprints, are entered for three nights of racing beginning Thursday. Hahn would like nothing more than to park his yellow No. 52 winged machine in victory lane again in a race that honors the memory of Hockett, who died in a shop accident in 2010, and his cousin and crew chief Daniel McMillin who died in an auto accident in 2006.
“The race gets bigger and bigger every year,” Hahn said. “It’s a prestigious race, paying $10,000 to win, a big race on our schedule. You see a bunch of big names coming just for that race.
“Then the aspect of it being the Hockett Memorial, having Jack Hockett (Jesse’s dad) there, it’s pretty neat. Seeing him on the front straightaway and being able to talk to him after our win, that was pretty neat.”
Hahn had a nearly perfect weekend in 2019, winning his Thursday night preliminary and finishing seventh on Friday to lock himself into the second starting spot for Saturday’s finale. Hahn said collecting enough points in the preliminary nights is crucial to a good starting spot Saturday night.
“You pretty much have to go forward every time you touch the track,” he said of Thursday and Friday. “Being able to start toward the front come Saturday, it makes all the difference with that stiff competition. It seems like with these harder races, if you’re not starting in the first two or three rows, it’s hard to win.”
Currently fourth in ASCS points standings, Hahn hopes a strong finish in the Hockett-McMillin Memorial will be the jumpstart he needs on what he considers a subpar season.
“We should have better results than we do, but we’re sitting 4th in national points. That’s not too bad considering,” Hahn said. “But I know it can be better. If we do what our team is capable of, we should be able to finish the year out strong.”