Jessie Nash is an avid 2nd year autocrosser with the Cincinnati Region SCCA, in addition to being a 2nd year medical student at The Ohio State University. She is looking forward to dabbling in a C Street S2000 next season and competing in her first national event in 2021.
We had the opportunity to speak with her earlier this year and we know you'll enjoy hearing what she has to say as much as we did!
What SCCA region do you belong to?
Photo: Jeff Loewe
What class do you drive? What car?
G Street- 2018 Civic Si
How did you get started autocrossing? What was it like at your first event?
I discovered autocross after moving to Cincinnati for a new job. I had only been out of college for about a year, so I began looking for ways to stay social, meet new friends, and get involved in the community from the get go. It’s not surprising that I landed on the SCCA page-- after all, one of the many reasons I changed jobs was my beloved car and saving its odometer from painful commuting mileage.
After scouring internet resources, it appeared that autocross was firmly positioned in the goldilocks zone of motorsports-- just right for a beginner on a budget.
My first event blew my expectations out of the water. I’m normally a little on the reserved side, so I was truly surprised how at home I felt interacting with total strangers at a sporting event I had never tried before. Everyone I met that day went out of their way to be kind, welcoming, and helpful. I had so much fun learning the basics and seeing my times improve with each run that I knew I had to come back for more.
Do you have a favorite memory from your first season?
My favorite memories from my first season were meeting the people that would soon become some of my best friends, and trophying at my first event outside of novice class!
Have you always been an adrenaline junkie? What drew you to autocross?
Yes and no. I’ve ridden horses for most of my life, even dabbling in barrel racing at the county fair once or twice. There’s definitely an element of unpredictability and danger that comes with horseback riding, but what I enjoy most is finding that fine-tuned level of communication and responsiveness between animal and rider. I’ve found that autocross is similar in many ways-- you learn to listen and feel for the limits of your vehicle and work hard over time to refine your responses and inputs.
Overall, I wouldn’t say I’m in it purely for the adrenaline, but rather the triumph over instability that comes with experiencing loss of control and learning from it. Plus, it’s a boatload of fun-- even when you accidentally understeer into a wall of cones every now and again (Sorry corner workers!).
What can we find you doing when you're not autocrossing?
When I’m not autocrossing, I’m either studying or doing research. I’m a full time medical student at The Ohio State University, so most of my time is spent pursuing my education. Even at school, though, we’ve found a way to get our fill of autocross-- Gina Ma, Sabrina Mackey-Alfonso, and I created the school’s first dedicated autocross club this past academic year. Every now and then when I get a spare minute, I enjoy gardening, painting, or going on back-road drives.
What was one of the most important driving lessons or skills you learned in your first season of autocrossing? What are you still working on?
Backsiding and finding smooth lines. One of the things that helped me most when I started was to set a time goal I wanted to hit by the last run and then only focusing on that-- no one else's times mattered. If I was able to beat my last time, then it was a win. If I hit my goal, that was even better, and I made a faster goal to beat.
As a somewhat aggressive driver, I’m still working on refining and smoothing out my inputs to maintain balance, traction, and speed in corners. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m pretty prone to overdriving at times.
Did you face any challenges within your first season? How did you overcome them?
I would say my biggest challenge in the first season was a general lack of knowledge. When you read about autocross on paper, it seems pretty straightforward-- parking lot Mario Kart, in essence. In reality, there are countless factors to consider that can either help or hinder your growth as a driver. I feel lucky that I joined an organization that values teaching and fostering novice appreciation for the sport. From day one, I have found that fellow autocrossers go above and beyond to offer advice and support, ESPECIALLY if you are new. My early experiences likely would have been very different were it not for the generosity, friendliness, and enthusiasm of my regional community.
Do you think you face any particular challenges in autocross based on your gender? If so, how have you overcome those?
You don’t have to be very involved in autocross to see that it’s a male dominated sport. While I’ve been lucky to have found great mentors and plenty of support, at times women encounter assumptions and comments where the takeaway is that they won’t be as fast or that they are disadvantaged from the start strictly due to gender. And when a woman does beat a man, it’s not uncommon to see men get made fun of by their friends for being “slow”.
Women aren’t immune to these kinds of cultural assumptions of ability either. I see women who excel in male arenas sometimes distinguish themselves from their female counterparts in order to escape the connotations of lesser aptitude: “I’m not like the other girls” is an all too common statement that only further reinforces the idea that women, in general, are not as skilled in motorsports. Well, when less than 10% of a sport is female, you’re probably not going to see a lot of them on the podium even if they performed, on average, better than men.
I don’t believe anyone holding these perspectives intends harm-- but the end result nevertheless is a sense of isolation and a self-fulfilling prophecy of lesser potential just waiting to happen.
I think the best way to overcome this situation is to check your preconceived notions of others-- especially if you haven’t met them-- and to offer encouragement and support to others, regardless of gender or how they’re performing right now. Oftentimes people just need to hear that someone has their back and believes in them for growth and success to materialize. You’ll never challenge yourself if you can’t see the possibility and potential to realistically achieve success.
Do you have a mentor? How have they helped you succeed?
I’ve had many mentors over the course of my first season that have made me both a better driver and a better person. Rob Clark taught me the ropes from day one and always made sure that I knew what needed to be done to improve on each run. Countless others offered invaluable advice and encouragement (and sometimes even their cars). I’d like to make a shout out to Tacti Takagi for helping me get more involved with our local SCCA chapter, as well as to Gina Ma, Charles Totten, Sam Urs, and Chad Freeman for welcoming me to the G street family. Lastly, my partner Tyler Fullington has been by my side in autocross since I convinced him to try out novice class with me. He is always ready to use his technical prowess to help myself and others learn and perform at our best, and I can’t thank him enough for it.
What are your goals for 2020? Can we find you at any National Solo events?
My goal for 2020 is to get back on the pavement as soon as I can. COVID-19 has really put a wrench in many of our plans for nationals, but I’m hoping to be able to participate in my first few national events this season or the next, along with as many regional events as I can. Hopefully once the season is over, I’ll have a few pennies set aside so I can retire my absolutely tortured all season tires and perhaps even purchase a second set of 200TW for next season.
How do the Driving Forward Together ideals align with yours?
I’ve been in love with DFT’s mission since I first learned about it. It was refreshing to see that there was already a group in place working to strengthen the presence of women and equality in motorsports. I have felt many of the same sentiments that DFT stands for while participating in autocross--from the need to connect with and encourage other women in the sport to providing support for women running in open classes. There’s quite a bit of controversy over the matter of Ladies’ classes with valid arguments on either side. It’s wonderful to know that no matter your stance, DFT will be there for you, cheering you on and providing assistance if needed.
Do you have any words of advice for someone new looking to come to their first event?
Introduce yourself to as many people as you can, only focus on your own times, look ahead, and don't be afraid to drive hard!