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The Tribute – Jesse Hockett Remembers “The Wrench”

Lonnie Wheatley, TULSA, Okla. (July 1, 2009) – He never met a stranger. And he could be counted upon to greet you with a smile and an entertaining story or two of some form, whether it be one of the racing variety or otherwise.

But, fate stepped in three years ago today, cutting Daniel McMillin’s life short in a car accident at just 22 years of age.

“The Wrench” and his cousin, known in popular culture today as Jesse “The Rocket” Hockett, had been virtually inseparable.

Chasing Brodix Rookie of the Year honors on the Lucas Oil ASCS National trail in 2006, the pair of Missouri kids had grown into young men while teaming up for approximately 70 feature wins along the way since a 1998 start.

Among those were a pair of $10,000 triumphs in Lakeside Speedway’s annual wingless classic in Kansas City; wins that made it impossible to ignore Jesse and Daniel on the racing radar. Especially after that first one in 2003, when Daniel threw a winning setup on the car straight off the Jimmy Sills “how-to” video in what was just Jesse’s second wingless outing.

Already establishing that reputation of racing anything, anywhere, anytime, Jesse and Daniel were more often than not a two-man operation on the road in those days. And, traveling those long, lonely miles in the darkness of night on the way to the next dirt track, conversation would naturally shift to what the future might hold. With young men and big dreams, how could it be otherwise?

While consumed with the dirt track wars of Sprint Car racing, Daniel also held a similar passion for music.

One of Daniel’s dreams was to someday sign a recording contract and make it big on the country music scene. And, he vowed that when that happened, he would furnish Jesse with all the latest and greatest racing equipment so that “The Rocket” could fulfill all of his Sprint Car racing dreams.

Daniel offered up just a couple of stipulations for that racing operation, though. The car would have to carry a hot pink paint scheme. And, it would also have to be emblazoned with a big guitar.

All too often though, dreams die young. And, in this case, some dreams were dashed on a winding, rural Missouri highway in the early a.m. of July 1, 2006.

This past Saturday night, 53 Lucas Oil ASCS Sprint Car Dirt Series presented by K&N Filters competitors from throughout the nation gathered at Missouri’s Lake Ozark Speedway to pay tribute at the Third Annual Daniel McMillin Memorial, which played out before a host of Hockett and McMillin family members and friends along with several thousand fans.

Opening ceremonies included a tribute to the man that so many have missed around the race track for the last three years, with presentations made to Jesse, Daniel’s mother and the McMillin family after young Reagan Hockett sang the National Anthem.

Two-time race winner, and three-time by the end of the night, Jason Johnson presented Daniel’s Mother with a shirt signed by all the competitors, commenting that, “We had a lot of fun with Daniel going up and down the road. He was a great guy and I’m just honored that we can be a part of this race.”

The microphone moved on to Jesse, the one person that probably knew Daniel as well as anybody.

“Daniel got along with everyone, even if he got into a disagreement with somebody it never lasted long,” an emotional Hockett explained as he thanked the crowd. “There are so many people here that Daniel made a positive impact on. I miss him, I think we all do.”

Then, when it was time to get down to the business at hand and the night’s first heat race rolled out, there it was.

Jesse Hockett’s VKCC Motorsports/Tom Buch Racing No. 13 had a different look for this night only. You guessed it. The No. 13 was all decked out in hot pink with a big ol’ guitar emblazoned upon the top wing.

That’s one dream of Daniel’s that didn’t die. Jesse made sure of that.

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