Nestled in the downtown Laurinburg area, a visit to Hickman’s Performance will usually result in a greeting from the Hickman family, who are always on-hand to oversee their business.
That’s the way it has always been at the local business staple, ever since James Hickman entered the auto performance and machine trade in the early 60’s.
But running hand-in-hand with the emergence of Hickman’s Performance is the family’s love for drag racing, which has formed the foundation of both the business and the family who operates it. As a member of the International Hot Rod Association (IHRA), James Hickman earned multiple first place awards during his heyday, while son and current Hickman’s owner Buddy Hickman holds 12 IHRA world records of his own.
So it should be no surprise that, having just turned 12 years of age back in June of this year, that Blake Hickman (son of Buddy) has already attained a level of prestige that dwarfs most racers twice his age.
“I loved racing as far back as I can remember,” Blake Hickman said. Hickman started his IHRA junior dragster career back in 2008 at just 8 years-old. “All of the excitement is a lot of fun, and it feels great to carry on the family tradition.”
“People always ask me if I get scared with him driving that fast,” said mother Kaye Hickman. When Blake suits up for competition, the 12 year-old (who works on his car with father Buddy) often reaches speeds of 70-80 miles per hour.
“I don’t get scared though, because we put everything in the Lord’s hands and give Him the glory for everything he’s accomplished. Plus we couldn’t keep him away if we tried, because Blake loves racing just as much as eating which is saying a lot for a growing 12-year old boy,” she said with a laugh.
Averaging six-to-seven races a year, Blake Hickman has competed in 23 IHRA-sanctioned races and counting thus far in his career. In his first year on the junior dragster circuit, Hickman finished third place overall and followed that with a second place finish at the conclusion of the 2009-10 season.
But as the family gears up for Blake’s fifth season which is slated to begin in 2013, the 12 year-old is set to defend his IHRA junior dragster first place crown, which he has held for the past two seasons. Hickman is the first racer ever in his class (which ranges from 11 to 17 year-olds) to be declared the ‘IHRA Raiders Junior Dragster Advanced Champion’ for two consecutive seasons.
With years remaining before he can obtain his North Carolina driver’s license, Hickman’s drag-racing resume includes five first place finishes, six runner-ups and two IHRA division championships.
“It means the world to us to see Blake do well in something he loves,” said Buddy Hickman, who has proudly chronicled his son’s achievements on the walls of Hickman’s Performance for all to see. Father and son often work on Blake’s car together before and after a race.
“Blake is a very low-key kid who just enjoyed watching and being around racing when he was younger. But Blake is very thankful for the opportunity he’s been granted, and so are we as his family,” he said.
While he has accomplished much in his young career, Blake Hickman’s fondest memory came from this past July at Thunder Valley in Bristol, Tennessee. The race that Hickman participated in featured more than 500 junior dragsters from around the country, with 52 featured in Hickman’s class.
And while Hickman was bounced in the first round of the tournament, the journey itself demonstrated the dynamic that lies at the heart of the Hickman family. In the week leading up to the race, the family packed up their trailer and made the five-hour trip to Thunder Valley, taking in the sites and sounds of a race track equipped to accommodate hundreds of thousands of people.
The experiences afforded to the Hickman family because of racing have strengthened their family bond, and Blake has no intentions of slowing down.
In fact, if older sister Lisa’s answer is any indication, Blake knows exactly what the future will hold if he continues his current career path.
“He’s always told me the same thing,” Lisa Hickman said. “He says he’s going to be a professional drag-racing, baseball-playing mechanic!”