Out on the racetrack at Ocala Gran Prix, the Bridgewater Middle sixth-grader leaves competitors in the dust.
Alex Jacky lives the life of every normal, 12-year-old kid: He goes to school, works on homework and enjoys just having fun.
But for Jacky, a sixth-grader at Bridgewater Middle, his idea of fun is a bit more intense — as in “speeding up to 70 miles per hour as he weaves past other drivers around the racetrack” intense.
While his parents drive him to school, on most weekends it’s Jacky who is the one doing the driving, though it’s on half-mile- to mile-long tracks that are usually around 30 feet wide.
It’s there on that smooth, black asphalt at the Ocala Gran Prix facility where he has his fun as a budding kart racer. There, he gets to do what he likes the best — speed.
“(I enjoy) getting to go fast — getting to be inches from the ground, going super fast,” Jacky said. “Getting the momentum through the corners and (feeling the g-force).”
And it makes sense that going fast is something that Jacky has gotten incredibly good at, seeing as how he first took interest in the sport when he was just 3 years old.
Growing up in a house with two race-loving parents, Jacky received a nice toy vehicle from his grandpa to ride around in — that’s when a passion for racing started to take shape in the young Jacky.
“It was battery powered and had rubber tires, so it was kind of quick,” said Eric, Alex’s father and mechanic. “It was made for 8-year-olds and I was like, ‘Let’s take him out to the parking lot and see what he does with it.’ We put him in, put a little bicycle helmet on him and the kid put his foot to the floor and burned the tires off and took off.
“We were like, ‘That’s not what we expected,’” he said. “The thing did 10 to 15 miles per hour, so it wasn’t like he was hauling mail or anything, but for 3 years old he was moving right along. He would just go out there and do laps and just burn laps and squeal the whole time by — the little neighbor kids would get in it and they were scared to death of it, so we thought, ‘There’s no fear aspect here, so let’s look at something next.’”
The next step for Alex was to try karting, so Eric took him to the local track there in Boise, Idaho — where they lived at the time — to see what he could do.
Over the next few years Alex honed his craft — putting in hours upon hours of practicing — before taking part in his first real, competitive race the weekend of his eighth birthday. That race would see him finish in fifth place.
Since moving to Horizon West back in 2011, Alex has raced 50-to-60,000 laps at Ocala and has grown as a racer in every way, Eric said. For Alex, the growth as a driver has helped get him to where he is now.
“From the beginning I didn’t really know what to do, other than to take it and do it,” Alex said. “Then from my earlier races I’ve learned how to take other people’s lines and draft off of them through the races, and I’ve gotten better and better from there.”
In fact, in the last two weeks Alex was bumped up to the junior class, where the karts are a bit bigger and heavier, and the racers more talented.
But the funny thing is, despite having to adapt to a new class and all the obstacles that come with it, his approach before a race is the same.
Prior to each race he practices and practices — getting four sessions in before the first race — and getting the kart ready to go. From there it’s just good old-fashioned racing, which means Alex likes to keep a clean frame of mind.
“There’s not really much (that goes through my head) — I’m just hoping (my kart) stays gripped and I just follow the kart in front,” Alex said.
“(I enjoy) getting to go fast — getting to be inches from the ground, going super fast. Getting the momentum through the corners and (feeling the g-force).”
— Alex Jacky
That strategy is what led Alex to a couple of big wins last year in the Mini-Rok class (the division that he left for juniors this year) and it also helped him recently attain a four-year scholarship from Ocala Gran Prix for his racing efforts from the 2018 season.
But what do his parents think about all of this? While most would be worried about their kid riding in a kart going nose-to-nose with others at 70 miles per hour, for them it’s not that big of a deal, really.
“It’s just kind of what we do, so it’s really not something I think about,” Eric said. “I’m more worried about things like, ‘Did I get the air pressures right,’ because each tire is individually done. The only thing that worries me on the race track is if there is a new kid — someone who doesn’t understand the unwritten rules.”
When Eric says that it’s what they do, he means the whole family. Each member of the Jacky family acts in some role — whether it be as a mechanic, in Eric’s case, or as a cheer team.
And honestly, of all the things that have made up the Jackys’ lives in racings — including the ups and downs — it is the family aspect of it all that has really made this whole experience worthwhile.
“For us this is probably the best family activity you could ever imagine — it really is a full family effort,” Eric said. “From a family standpoint we are together every weekend, we’re always working together, learning and getting better.
“Racing is us 100% basically — we win together, we lose together,” he said. “It’s really a great family bonding activity.”