Jess grew up a car kid. Always going to car shows and swap meets, there always had a car project in the shop. Attending Americruise when it came to Lincoln, and making trips to the Speedway Motors parts counter with her dad, Jess feels lucky to have been born into the car world.
Living in the country outside of Lincoln, Nebraska, Jess and her siblings spent summer days playing with Hot Wheels in the tree lines and in the shop helping their dad on various projects. In 1988, a Bonneville streamliner took over their lives and dominated his time and energies. The race car fully integrated into the day-to-day; the family even celebrated our young birthdays with the race car team... eating cake on the trailer with the many young gear heads from their dad's work or from UNL's engineering department. Everyone had jobs to do, like "find me six more of these bolts," or pulling tape from the fiberglass molds or holding the light. Jess and her twin sister were six, and little arms can get into little spaces, so they were tasked with cleaning out the fuel and water tanks for the streamliner. An all-hands-on-deck sort of family, it didn't matter if you were a boy or girl or young or old, there was work that needed to be done and only so many days before the next trip to the salt flats.
From then on, summer vacations were spent on the salt flats in Utah, trying to break land speed records. Being so young, Jess had no idea how lucky they were to be involved in land speed racing. When finally able to put into words what it meant, Jess joked about how our classmates thought driving their farm truck over 90 MPH was fast. "No, 350 MPH is fast. Your truck is not fast."
Jess set her sights on working for Speedway Motors as a career path really young and charted her path here through graphic design. She loved Speedway's catalogs and there were always plenty to study in the family shop. A high school art class taught the program basics. Jess dove in deeper as a member of Skills USA/VICA in high school and competed in graphic design at the State competition in 2000 and 2001.
In the meantime, Jess worked in receiving all through high school, and on the Speedway Motors website and at the Museum of American Speed through college. Graduating from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln in 2006 with a Fine Arts degree, the Smiths made a place for her in the Advertising Department. From there, Jess grew up alongside Speedway. Very small teams grew into large departments and new positions were developed to focus energies where the industry and technology dictated. She floated to where she was needed. As departments grew and were restructured, the Creative Department found its home within Marketing. Today, Jess is the Production Manager in Marketing, helping turn ideas into reality.
Working alongside her dad on the '33 coupe has had a profound impact on Jess. She attributes much of her life to the fact her mom raised strong, independent daughters who take care of themselves and handle any situation with grace and confidence.
The family streamliner retired in 2010 and is now on display at the Museum of American Speed. To this day, Jess rarely misses a car show. "Vintage Torquefest in Dubuque, Iowa, is a great low-key event with tons of things to do. It's quite a drive from Lincoln, and about every other year it's snowy or wet, but it's great fun." Her family also attends the Hot Rod Hill Climb in Central City, Colorado; "It's also a family-friendly event with tons to do. And if your car is period correct, you get to race up the pass with crowds cheering you on."
Jess built her garage and a 1933 5-Window Coupe with her father, John MacKichan. Her garage also hosts her husband’s 1931 Model A and his many motorcycles, including his grandfather’s 1975 Moto Guzzi.
- Jess was recognized in Rod Authority as a Leading Lady in 2014. SEMA gave her recognition as a SEMA 35 Under 35 winner in 2016. To top it off, she was on Speedway Motors Bucket Beauties build team.