Modified stock car driver Jessey Mueller of Olmstedville poses with a trophy he won following a recent race. Mueller, only 19, has racked up a string of wins this year at area race tracks. One of his most dramatic victories this year was when he came in first among over a dozen racers in a 67-lap race soon after his pit crew swapped an engine that had self-destructed in a qualifying heat. Courtesy photo
Local teenaged stock-car racer Jessey Mueller accomplished a virtually unheard-of feat Aug. 1 at Devil’s Bowl Speedway by winning a modified stock car race soon after his car’s engine self-destructed in a qualifying heat — and his pit crew feverishly swapped his blown engine for a new one.
Mueller, 19, was assisted in the dramatic comeback win by his pit crew, which includes a number of people from the southern Adirondacks.
One of the mechanics, Rick Hull of Warrensburg, said the crowd in the grandstands witnessing the night’s feature race was astounded with how Mueller was able to pull off a victory with a brand new engine installed just minutes earlier.
“People couldn’t believe it — even the track personnel,” he said.
Tuesday, Mueller commented on the victory at Devil’s Bowl, a popular regional race track located in West Haven, Vt..
“I knew we had a good team and could get it done,” he said. “The way it all came together was phenomenal.”
Hull said that during the qualifying heat for the race, Mueller’s car was careening around the half-mile oval asphalt course when a huge cloud of smoke poured out from underneath the hood.
Coasting and being pushed into the pit, his mechanics determined Mueller’s engine, had blown a piston, Hull said.
“The engine was totally destroyed, “ he said. The pit crew heard that the owner of Devil’s Bowl had a car with a new engine sitting in a garage on the grounds of the track, and Mueller made a quick offer to buy it, Hull continued.
Mueller’s mechanics — assisted by the pit crew of well-known Plattsburgh racer Bucko Branham — then worked furiously to swap the motors. One of the pit crews dismantled the blown engine and removed it, while the other group extracted the new engine from the idle racer.
Mueller’s crew then installed the new engine in Mueller’s modified stock car, re-connecting the carburetor, manifold and all the other vital devices — within about 90 minutes, Hull said.
“We were busy boys,” Hull quipped.
After a mere two laps on the new engine to warm it up, Mueller was behind the starting line — in sixth position amongst 14 other race cars.
Soon after the race started, Mueller dodged and weaved through the speeding traffic, pulling into the lead with about eight laps remaining in the 67-lap race.
Hull said Mueller’s pit crew was overcome with emotion as the young driver sped towards the finish line, leaving every other competitor behind.
“We went crazy — we couldn’t believe he was winning after what he’d just been through,” Hull said.
As Mueller careened over the finish line, his many fans shrieked — then charged the track to celebrate with the grinning Mueller, joined by his family and friends, as well as the two pit crews.
Earlier this season, Mueller earned another dramatic win. In a June 20 race at Devil’s Bowl, the Olmstedville native was situated at last place on the starting grid, but he battled his way to a first-place victory.
Mueller’s wins are earning him points toward the championship of the 2014 Northern Modified Challenge Series.
Mueller’s pit crew includes Ryan Griffin, Jason Hull and Rick Hull of Warrensburg; Travis Jeffords of Pottersville and Jessey’s father Billy Mueller of Olmstedville.
In addition to Devil’s Bowl, Mueller and crew compete at various race tracks in northeastern U.S. and Canada, including Airborne Raceway in Plattsburgh, Thunder Road in Barry Vt., Stafford Speedway in Connecticut, and Autodrome Saint-Eustache racing complex west of Montreal, Canada.
Mueller is sponsored by various enterprises, including local firms McMillen Construction of Chestertown and Mueller & Son Heavy Duty Towing & Recovery of Pottersville — a business owned by Billy Mueller.
Mueller, who has already won 10 races in 2014, noted that he started racing at the age of 15.
“I won my first race before I got my driver’s license,” he said.
To date in 2014, Mueller has already won nine races, he said, deferring credit to his combined pit crews for his latest victory.
“Winning the race after swapping engines was a cool deal — the guys just didn’t give up,” he said. “Competitors thought we were crazy.”