Coble, Knox earned world titles

Friday, May 27, 2011
Cameron "Hammer" Coble (left) and Jeff "Burger King" Knox (right) stand in front of Coble's 1969 Chevy Nova that won one of two NMCA titles for the Lewisburg native. Tribune photo by Anthony S. Puca

Two drag racing super-stars have lived in the midst of Marshall Countians for years, earning their stripes with marathon days and nights thinking and creating in the race shop, while working their way up on drag strips around the country in a quest to become the best, become the fastest in the world, and become feared by their competitors when the hauler rolls into town.

Lewisburg native Cameron "Hammer" Coble and southern California transplant Jeff "Burger King" Knox were the ultimate gear heads growing up and both loved racing, and had the same dreams of reaching the top, but they took different routes in getting there.

When their paths crossed in the late nineties, along with a host of some other local gear head gurus, a perfect speed potion was mixed to perfection to create world champion drag racers.

"I have always liked cars and hotrods all my life and I guess just like anything else after high school, after sports, after I got past that I needed something competitive to be in," said Coble. "Just like playing baseball or football, whatever you do, you want to be competitive and we picked up drag racing, something we could be competitive at, it's all about competition."

Coble toiled through a tough 10-year run before rising to the top of National Muscle Car Association in 2006 when he captured the Vortech Xtreme Street championship.

Lewisburg's Cameron "Hammer" Coble needed things to fall his way in order to secure the 2008 Xtreme Street championship at Memphis. Coble qualified first, broke his own speed record down to 7.851 seconds, and won the race to take the title, his second in three years.

The journey for Coble went from putting the car together, getting it to the track, qualifying for a race, passing tech, winning one round at a national event, and finally winning a national event.

Coble said about finally winning the title in 2006, "There was no better feeling then when you put it all together. That was 10 years of hard work. It is a lot of dedication and hard work to get to that level."

In 2008, Coble took the title for a second time in a pressure cooker situation when all he had to do was qualify number one, reset his own speed record, and win the race.

"For him to do that was kind of like winning the Triple Crown," said Knox.

Knox grew up racing motocross in California and one fateful day when he was 15, his father Mike bought him a 1972 Chevy Nova for a thousand dollars that would eventually set the National Muscle Car Association's True Street speed record in 2008.

"My dad has been around it and I kind of grew up racing motorcycles and kind of got learning that stuff from him when I was a kid," said Knox. "I built my first motor when I was 18. At 16, I started pulling motors out of junkyards and putting them in that car because I kept blowing them up because I didn't know what I was doing. He definitely got me started in being a gear head."

Knox and his wife Heather decided they did not want to raise their children in California and said about moving to Tennessee in 1997, "When we moved out here, I brought the Nova I had since I was 15 primered on a trailer and a Chevrolet truck and that is what I moved here with. Been here ever since, working on the car, and improving and improving it. We really like living here in Tennessee, it is a great place to live and raise kids."

As fate would have it, Knox met Coble at a race in Bowling Green, Ky., and as they say, the rest was history.

The pair got busy forming a team that included Lewisburg engine builder Tyree Smith of Ty Tech Racing Engines, body and paint man Dennis May of Marshall County Auto Sports, Bowling Green chassis specialist Steve Matukas, and Hot Wires' Rajat Sharma, who managed all the wiring and trick electronics.

In unison, the race team worked together, forming a winning package of sheer speed, beauty, and technology that put Knox and Coble over the top.

"Marshall County has got some of the best race car people here in it, that a lot people don't know," said Knox. "These whole cars are built right here in Marshall County from start to finish, except for the roll cage which is built in Bowling Green."

After several tries to break the eight-second barrier fell short, Knox knew it was time in 2008.

"The reason that my car went so fast is because of the stuff that Cameron had done," said Knox. "I had a leg up on everybody going right in because of the help I got from them."

At the 7th Annual Nitto Tire NMCA World Finals at Memphis Motorsports Park on October 12, 2008, Knox's first pass of 7.98 seconds broke the eight second barrier for the first time ever and his other two passes of 8.0 and 7.99 gave Knox an under eight second average.

Jeff Knox's world record, street legal 1972 Nova, seen here at Memphis Motorsports Park.

"It was very, very satisfying," said Knox of breaking the record. "It was something I always wanted to do since high school."

Amazingly, Knox had a screw in his right front tire during the record run, something Coble and the crew knew about, but did not tell Knox.

"I would have done him the same way," said a smiling Knox. "It was too late anyway."

Knox lives in Chapel Hill with his wife Heather and two sons Jeffrey (13) and Garrett (8), and daughter Jessie (3).

Knox has not run the car since 2009 and said, "I went after an accomplishment and got it and went after what I wanted to do and did it. We are kind of in limbo, tinkering around with some street cars and stuff, playing around and going to the local tracks. My next goal would be to build a street car that would go 6.90."

Coble, who lives in Lewisburg with his wife Leanne and two children Carson (12) and C.J. (10) has not run in two years, but has a plan in the works to get back into racing.

"We are actually in a changeover mode ourselves," said Coble. "We are going to go to twin F-2 superchargers. We are changing from racing fuel to alcohol, so we are changing gears. We probably had 1,600, 1,700 horsepower before and we are looking at 3,000 now."

Coble will run in the Limited Street Division and hopes to run the new car this year after some testing at local tracks such as Huntsville, I-22, and Montgomery.

The juices seem to be boiling over again for the two racing comrades, so look for these racers and their amazing machines to be back in the headlines soon.