Hagerty Race Team: Datsun-driving Jagusch is a chip off the ol’ block

Jeff Jagusch’s love for cars and racing are pretty much synonymous. “I’ve been interested in both for as long as I can remember. My dad has been racing since before I was born, so I grew up with an interesting point of view and just rode his coattails. And I’ve noticed that many people who race also have an interest in fun street cars. I’m big into motorcycles and other types of collector vehicles, too. I just love all aspects of the hobby.”

While Jagusch has seen the racing world from several angles—racer, pit crew and fan—it’s difficult to beat the feeling he gets when he’s behind the wheel. “It’s man and machine working harmoniously.”

THE LIFER

Driver: Jeff Jagusch, 25; Waukesha, Wis.

Race car: 1971 Datsun 1200

Position at Hagerty: Milwaukee/Chicago Regional Territory Manager

Events per year: When we had more free time, we usually did six or more events per year. Now with different priorities, we usually try to get to four or five.

Favorite race/track: My favorite race track is Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis. Hands down. The track was built in the ’50s and is one of the nicest tracks in the world, catering to a huge array of motorsports activities over the years. It is an absolutely beautiful and challenging facility on grounds that are wonderfully maintained and equally as gorgeous.

Most memorable moment in racing: Two come to mind …

First, was the opportunity to participate in a vintage race held on the U.S. Grand Prix’s venue. In 2013, my dad (Jeff) towed the little Datsun from Wisconsin to Austin, Texas, so I could race on the beautiful Circuit of the Americas (COTA). We quickly learned that my rear differential was holding me back on my lap times, so my mother (Carol) packed a different rear end gear set and carried it on the plane for the flight down. We had a couple other difficulties including low oil pressure, resulting in a starting position far from the No. 1 spot for the final race. I’m not sure on the exact position, but I believe I started in 22nd position. I had the race of my life and finished sixth overall and third in my class, finishing with a flat rear tire on the driver’s side and (again) low oil pressure. What a rush!

Second, I’ve always been nervous about racing in the rain, but you’re bound to come across it at some point. At Road America I had just exited turn 6 heading to turn 7—which is a right-hand, sweeping curve with a smaller straight immediately after. As I made the right hand turn, I could feel my back end sliding out. I was unable to save it, and I ended up spinning while moving at a pretty good clip. I remembered the saying from driving school, “When you spin, both feet in”—meaning push the clutch and brakes simultaneously to stop the car and keep it running. I ended up doing a full 360, aiming back down the straight towards turn 8. I dropped a gear and kept on going with no damage to the car or my pride. The best part was I thought no one was around to witness what happened until that night when a corner worker told me he saw it with some other friends and they ended up cheering me on. The best part about vintage racing are the memories made off-track.

What about racing keeps you coming back? Definitely the feelings associated with it. You have to be ultra-focused in a racecar. You need to constantly watch gauges, making sure you have adequate oil pressure and your coolant temperature is at a safe level. At the same time you need to concentrate on when to brake, when to shift, what gear to be in for whatever corner lies ahead, etc. With all of this going on, you literally don’t think about anything else, and it becomes a great escape. As far as the race weekends as a whole, you won’t find nicer people outside of the vintage racing community. Everyone is there to lend a hand. The stories and memories I’ve made off-track are very near and dear to my heart.

What’s it like to race on a team? I’ve never raced on a professional racing team, but my dad and his college friend started our team, “Turn Right Racing,” in the ’80s and we’ve been going strong ever since. We have a good group of “members”—about six cars and drivers. Some of the cars are in different groups, so we don’t all race together, but discussing different viewpoints after sessions can help shave seconds off your lap times. The comradery on our team is something that most teams have. The drivers on Team Hagerty participate in various forms of racing, which gives me a better appreciation for all the different types of motorsports out there.

How does Hagerty fuel your passion for cars and racing? Hagerty absolutely fuels my passion for cars and racing. Any event where I’m on the job—working for Hagerty but not actively racing—leaves me wanting to jump back in the driver’s seat. I think one of the coolest parts of working for Hagerty is the opportunity to meet all kinds of car people—from newer enthusiasts who recently finished racing school with a car they saved forever to buy, to veterans with multi-car collections who race in multiple groups because they love the thrill so much. I don’t think I’ve left a single event uninspired to go race.