First Aussie title, now sportsperson of the month
WINNING the Australian V8 Dirt Modifieds Championship was a weight off the chest for Grafton speedway driver Jai Stephenson.
His maiden national title confirmed the 27-year-old's place in the country's top echelon of drivers after 13 years of climbing the ranks in the racing game.
"I've been racing since I was 14 when I started off in the junior sedans then moved on to the street stockers," Stephenson said.
"Seven years ago I took over dad's car in the modifieds. I'm on my third car - a Troyer from New York."
Stephenson is into his second season with the Troyer, with dad Don and crew chief Frank McLachlan in the Big River Steel pit crew.
National runner-up last year, Stephenson leads the Five Star Dirt Series, which incorporates the national and each of the state championships, including the NSW championships at Lismore on the Easter weekend.
"The main threat in Five Star is Lismore's Mark Robinson," he said. "You've got to have good equipment but also a bit of luck on your side. The guys have to read the track, make good decisions and make sure we go the right direction with the car set-up.
"They've been getting it spot-on lately, so it's just up to the driver."
Jai's younger brother, Brayd, 21, also races in the same division with his twin, Jared, in the crew. Having two cars in the family can make things overcrowded at times.
"When it's going good we get along," Jai said. "When things are going wrong, especially running the two cars, it does get a bit stressful in the pits sometimes."
Stephenson has been named the Jetts Fitness Sportsperson of the Month for February for his national title win at Avalon Raceway on January 17.