I grew up a car kid. We went to car shows and swap meets, always had a car project in the shop, attended Americruise when it came to Lincoln, and made trips to the Speedway Motors parts counter with our dad. I had no idea how lucky I was to have been born into the car world.
We lived in the country outside of Lincoln, Nebraska. My siblings and I spent summer days playing with our Hot Wheels in the tree lines and in the shop helping our dad on various projects. In 1988, a Bonneville streamliner took over our lives and dominated his time and energies. The race car fully integrated into our everyday; we even celebrated our young birthdays with the race car team... eating cake on the trailer with the many young gear heads from his 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. My twin sister and I were six, and little arms can get into little spaces, so we were tasked with cleaning out the fuel and water tanks for the streamliner. It was 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, all our summer vacations were spent on the salt flats in Utah, trying to break land speed records. Being so young, I had no idea how lucky we were to be so involved in land speed racing. When finally able to put into words what it meant, I 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."
I had set my sights on working for Speedway Motors as a career path when I was really young and figured I could do that through graphic design. I loved their catalogs and there were always plenty to study in my dad's shop. A high school art class taught me the program basics. I was 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, I worked in receiving all through high school, and worked on the Speedway Motors website and at the Museum of American Speed through college. I graduated from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln in 2006 with a Fine Arts degree, and in May of 2006 the Smiths made a place for me in the then Advertising Department. From there, I 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. And I sort of floated where I was needed. As departments grew and were restructured, the Creative Department found its home within Marketing. Today, I'm the Production Manager in Marketing, helping turn ideas into reality.
Working alongside my dad on the '33 coupe has had a profound impact on me. But I'm the person I am today because my mom raised strong, independent daughters who can take care of themselves and handle any situation with grace and confidence.
The streamliner retired in 2010 and is now on display at the Museum of American Speed. There are a few car shows I rarely miss. 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. My 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.
I built my garage and a 1933 5-Window Coupe with my father, John MacKichan. My garage also hosts my 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.