As the laps wound down at Bubba Raceway Park, USAC announcer Chet Christner and the club’s media guru and historian, Richie Murray, knew a big moment was potentially at hand. Jade Avedisian was out front and given the strength of her run it was easy to forget that she was officially in the 9th grade and months shy of her 16th birthday. Before their eyes she was holding off veteran Justin Grant and had demonstrated plenty of poise throughout the night. This could be big.
Several women had already won a USAC race, a threshold that was first breached when Bev Griffiths took the checkered flag at the Indianapolis Speedrome in a nationally televised race in 1986. Also representing the distaff side, Shannon McQueen snared a USAC Western States championship and tasted victory with that series. Nonetheless, the fact remained, a woman had yet to stand on the top step of the podium in a USAC national event.
As Avedisian negotiated traffic with 18 circuits down, there was just a moment of hesitation. At this level that is all it takes. With slight contact Grant used the inside groove to get to the front and later Buddy Kofoid the defending series champion moved into the second spot. Regardless, it was an impressive result and when Grant exited his car and made a beeline to congratulate Avedisian on her performance.
It is a race Avedisian admits she has watched multiple times. No matter how much she would like to alter the outcome she is still forced to settle for the result.
“I have known Justin for a long time and his dad used to take pictures of the quarter midget races I was in. Justin is a great guy,” Avedisian said. “I don’t recall exactly what he said because I had a lot going on at that moment. But after the race he said to call and he would help me with whatever I needed. I thought that was really cool.”
When the adrenaline washed away Avedisian admits feeling a bit more disappointment than elation.
“I knew we were fast enough to stay out front,” she said. “The first 15 laps, I was pretty good in the middle and things opened up into three. Once we got into lapped traffic, I could have been a lot more aggressive and if I would have, we probably would have won. We had the speed, but I messed up and Grant got by me and then Buddy got by me, too. Hopefully, next time that won’t happen.”
Avedisian was born on Sept. 14, 2006 and calls Clovis, Calif., home. Her father, Ryan, has a swimming pool business but has been interested in the sport for years. In his off time, he would help sprint car racer Monte Faccinto and racing was a big part of Jade’s life as well.
By the time she turned five the family purchased a quarter midget, and soon she was turning laps around cones laid out on an empty parking lot. Ryan Avedisian remembers when things changed.
“We were at that parking lot running around cones,” he says, “and suddenly she stopped and flipped up her visor. So I asked her what was going on and she said she was bored. I said, ‘OK, let’s go ahead and load up and go home.’ She said, ‘No, no, I’m bored just running in circles, I want to race other cars.’”
The next week she was practicing at Madera Speedway and seven days later she experienced her first actual competition.
She picked up the sport in a hurry. Jade was winning in karts at the age of seven and in 2015 she bagged three Quarter Midget of America championships winning the East, West, and Dirt titles. Her ventures in quarter midgets took her to the Eastern Grands in New Jersey, the Midwest Dirt Grands in Terre Haute, Ind., and in the West, she took the round at Baylands in California.
She was undaunted by new settings and a new group of competitors. By the time this period was ending it was clear to her family that she was serious about racing and had the talent to succeed.
Junior Sprints under the USAC banner provided her next challenge. This required competing at a new set of tracks. In the end, it was another step successfully mastered as she nailed down another championship.