Joe Morrison

About

Joe Morrison
Quick Facts
HometownFlemington, NJ
NicknameNitro Joe
Racing Since2001
SpouseJennifer
ChildrenRyan, Maggie, Brendan, Lily
Birthday12/23

About Joe

Hometown: Flemington, NJ
DOB: 12/23/1969
Years Racing: 15 (consistently)
Favorite Track: Island Dragway (home track) Maple Grove (NHRA National Event track)
Race Most Like to Win: Indy, baby! Also Maple Grove.
Racing Heroes: My Dad; “Jungle” Jim Libermann; “Big Daddy” Don Garlits; Don “The Snake” Prudhomme; Richard Petty; Dale Earnhart, Sr.
Favorite Food: Anything Italian
Favorite Movie: The Empire Strikes Back

Career Highlights

North East Timing Organization (NETO) Comp Eliminator Season Champion 2011

Sponsors

PennGrade1 Racing Oil, Best of Texas BBQ Sauce, Americana Global, D-A Lubricant Co, Diversatech, Edge Welding Cups, ProThings Apparel, TapTok

Joe Morrison is a 2nd generation drag racer, entrepreneur, and musician. This uncommon combination of skill sets, all of which he pursues with passion and determination to be the best he can be, creates a unique and holistic approach to motorsports. Whether it is driving, interacting with fans, or working to provide ROI to sponsors; Joe approaches each opportunity with professionalism, enthusiasm, and a desire to continue perfecting his craft. Joe has been married to his wife Jennifer since 1995 and together they have 4 children: Ryan, Maggie, Brendan, and Lily.

Joe’s love affair with driving started out with his first go-cart purchased with money he earned by cutting neighbors lawns at the tender age of 10. With some sage advice from his racing dad, Chuck; Joe soon began modifying the engine and adding “model airplane” fuel containing methanol and 20% nitro methane in order to improve performance and be like his racing heroes “Jungle” Jim Liberman, Don “The Snake” Prudhomme, and “Big Daddy” Don Garlits. By the time he drove his 1970 4 speed Chevelle at historic Raceway Park on opening day in 1988, it was no surprise that he went all the way to the final earning a runner up in his very first drag race. It was not until (of all days) September 11, 2001 at Atco Dragway that Joe earned his competition license with Doug Foley’s drag race school. After “renting” race cars for several events, in 2006 Joe became part owner and driver of a 7 second Fiat Altered for former Top Fuel and Comp Eliminator racer Mike Gillespie. The team enjoyed success in 2007 finishing 7th in the North East Timing Organization (NETO) points championship. Sadly, due to a return of cancer, Mike passed away in 2008 but not before giving full ownership of the car to Joe.

Joe was determined to make the team a success to honor Mike’s legacy, and also to provide inspiration to his dad Chuck who by this time was diagnosed with COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease). Joe and his team enjoyed great success with the Fiat racing with NETO while using the race car to raise awareness first for cancer in 2010, then since 2011 for COPD and his dad’s battle with the disease. In 3 seasons, the team finished 5th (2010), won the championship in 2011 winning 7 of 14 races, and 2nd place in 2012 winning 6 of 12 races attended. It was clear that it was time to move on to bigger goals and faster cars.

In 2014, Joe followed in the footsteps of many professional drag racers (including the Force family) and earned his alcohol dragster license with famed team owner and tuner extraordinaire Jerry Darien. The weekend at renowned drag strip known as “The Patch” in Bakersfield California ended with a personal best run of 5.37 seconds at 269.89 MPH for Joe. Since then, Joe has been driving two high profile nostalgia nitro cars including the Fuel Altered known as the #134 Fuel Coupe and the Frantic Ford Funny Car at match races and nostalgia events across the country including The California Hot Rod Reunion, The Tucson Dragway Reunion, and events at tracks across the northeast and mid-Atlantic. At the same time, Joe’s 501(c)(3) non-profit, Right2Breathe provides free education and lung health screenings to race fans and hot rodders at NHRA national events, car shows, and nostalgia races in honor of his father’s memory.

Since 2020, Joe has been driving the Leverich Racing Top Fuel Car in the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series and has continued to grow both his racing career and Right2Breathe.

Career At A Glance

Early Development:
Drove and modified several go-carts, mini-bikes, and motorcycles.
Wintertime go-cart driving helped develop car-control while taking corners sideways in the snow.

Racing Career:
• First race: Opening Day 1988 – Runner up in Street Eliminator class @ Raceway Park, Englishtown, NJ
• Earned NHRA 4B (door car) competition license – 9/11/2001 9.42 @ 144 MPH
• Earned NHRA 4A (dragster) competition license – 10/18/2005 9.14 @ 151 MPH
• 2007 North East Timing Organization (NETO) season points – 8th place
o One runner up, 2 semi-final finishes

2008 Mike Gillespie passes away- only 2 races attended with NETO

2009 NETO season points – 7th place
o 2 runner up finishes
o Earn Advanced ET NHRA license

2010 NETO season points – 5th place
o 2 race wins, 2 runner up finishes

2011 NETO season points – 1st Place CHAMPION
o 7 race wins in 14 races attended
o undefeated in final rounds
o Won last 3 races of the season to come from behind and win the title

2012 NETO season points – 2nd Place
o 6 race wins in 12 races attended
o undefeated in final rounds
o one round short of repeating as champion

2013 Match racing Fiat Altered at tracks across the mid-Atlantic
o Part time NETO schedule
o Focus shifts to driving faster cars

2014 Earn Top Alcohol Dragster License – 6/30/14 5.37 @ 270 MPH
o Match racing, part time NETO schedule

2015 Earn NHRA Nitro license drive AA/Fuel Altered
o Race #134 Fuel Coupe with Fuel Altered class @ California Hot Rod Reunion
o Exhibition races with the #134 Fuel Coupe
o Match Races with Fiat Altered

2016 Exhibition events and match races
o #134 Fuel Coupe
o Frantic Ford Nitro Nostalgia Funny Car
o Raced in Fuel Altered and Nostalgia Eliminator 1 classes @ California Hot Rod Reunion with 2 different cars

2017-2018 Exhibition events and match races
o #134 Fuel Coupe at Tucson Dragway Reunion, California Hot Rod Reunion vs. Winged Express and several high profile nostalgia events as well as exhibition run at NHRA Dodge Nationals in Maple Grove
o Frantic Ford Funny Car – exhibition events and several Match Races vs. Former NHRA Funny Car Champion Bruce Larson (Lucas Oil Sponsored)

2019 Exhibition events and match races
o #134 Fuel Coupe with other Fuel Altereds at Dragway 42, Cecil County Dragway, Wisconsin International Dragway, Beaver Springs Dragway
o Mike Harrigan’s “Fool’s Gold” nitro nostalgia funny car at Galot Motorsports park and Fuel Altered at Palm Beach International Dragway
o Rocky Pirrone’s Frantic Ford at New England Dragway, Island Dragway, Atco Raceway, and Lebanon Valley Dragway (Lucas Oil Sponsored)

2020 First season in the Leverich Racing Top Fuel car
o Completed Top Fuel Licensing at Maple Grove Raceway on 7/11/2020
o Raced in 4 NHRA National Events: Indy (2) Summernationals, Indy 3, Gainesville, and Houston.
o Raced in several events in Rocky Pirrone’s Super Camaro and Screamin’ Eagle nostalgia funny car

2021 Finished 13th in Top Fuel Points despite only racing in 9 events
o 80% of matchups Joe had a better reaction time than his opponents
o Qualified for every race the team entered
o Best Qualifying position: 9th
o Continued driving the Screamin’Eagle funny car at 4 events.

More About Joe

A lifelong passion:
According to Joe’s mom and dad, from the moment Joe could talk he expressed a love of drag racing. From riding in his dad’s 59 Corvette as a toddler, helping work on the family stock eliminator car, driving his go cart, to standing at the fence to watch the nitro cars at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in New Jersey; Joe was all about racing. When his dad had to sell the race car in order to make ends meet, Joe knew that he would find a way to get back into drag racing somehow in the future.

When Joe was 15, he bought a 1969 Camaro as a project car. Working at a gas station generated the funds needed to upgrade the 10 bolt differential to a 12 bolt posi-traction rear, add disc brakes up front, beef up the turbo 350 transmission, as well as new springs and shocks. Joe did all the work himself. When the opportunity to buy a 1970 Chevelle with a 383 stroker engine and a 4 speed came along, Joe new it was time to put the Camaro project on hold. The Chevelle was the first car that he took down the venerable strip at Raceway Park. Opening day in 1988, at Joe’s first ever drag race he went all the way to the final round in the Street Eliminator class and ended up as runner up in a double break out race. His best reaction time was a stellar .005 light. From that day on, Joe knew he was destined for success on the drag strip.

A musical interlude:
While Joe inherited the “Nitro Gene” from his father, his love of music was certainly passed down from his mother. A talented singer and guitar player herself, Joe’s mother encouraged and instructed his early musical endeavors. By the time Joe graduated high school, his band had begun playing several rock clubs across New Jersey. The success of the band attracted the attention of his fellow musicians and led to numerous invitations to join additional bands. At one point, Joe was in 5 cover bands simultaneously while also working as a “hired gun” doing recording sessions for numerous local artists. Although his time pursuing a career in music did not result in a multi-platinum recording contract the experience in “show business” was a valuable teacher. Joe learned how to be comfortable in front of large crowds, connecting with an audience, and building a fan base. Building business relationships with band mates, club owners, recording engineers, and producers created a solid foundation for his goal to become a professional drag racer.

Love walks in:
“And then you sense a change, nothing feels the same, all your dreams are strange, love comes walking in…” Just like the lyrics from the Van Halen song, Joe knew life would never be the same after he began dating his soon to be wife Jen. Joe decided he wanted to have a more stable source of income than music could provide so he started a landscape contracting business. Between 1995 and 2000, Joe and Jen were married and had their first 2 children. Never one to do something halfhearted; Joe took business classes, studies landscape architecture, and learned about horticultural management. While he enjoyed the creative aspects of landscape construction, he soon discovered that business building and marketing were more exciting to pursue.

Back on the track:
Even when Joe spent time away from racing, he would still go to NHRA national events as a spectator. While he had hoped that somehow he could return to competition, it seemed like it was impossible. With a young family, the responsibility of growing a business, making payroll, saving to buy a house, drag racing seemed like it was just not part of the equation. When the opportunity came to buy a beat up 1970 Nova from his brother in law, Joe jumped in anyway. Like many restoration projects, what began as a mild street build quickly became a long term project with the intention of racing in local brackets and Super Gas with a 9 second door car. With a limited budget, the project was taking a very long time to complete. Even though the car was far from being finished, Joe went to Doug Foley’s drag racing school on September 10th and 11th, 2001.

Terrible and wonderful Tuesday:
September 11, 2001 began with excitement and anticipation for Joe. Beautiful blue skies as far as his eyes could see over Atco Raceway provided the perfect weather for a lifelong goal of earning his NHRA competition license. The wonderful feeling changed immediately when track owner Joe Sway rode over to Foley’s class and shouted, “Turn on the TV in your motorhome! Someone flew a plane into the World Trade Center!” The class (including NHRA pro stock motorcycle rider Chip Ellis) watched in horror as the second plane hit, and eventually both towers fell. Wondering about the fate of family and friends, Joe thought about postponing his final runs. His next thought was, I am going to get this done. Today. After 3 more successful trips down the quarter mile, Joe earned his first NHRA license. Since that day, nothing has been able to distract Joe once the car is fired up and he begins his driving routine.

A door opens to drive a fast car without doors:
Over the next few years, Joe rented Doug Foley’s door car to enter several bracket races to gain more seat time. He also went to Jim Harrington’s drag race school to earn his dragster license. While his Nova was nearing completion Joe received an offer he could not refuse. Former top fuel racer Mike Gillespie (a friend of Joe’s father) had just purchased a Fiat bodied nostalgia altered and needed a driver. The new team brought the car to Atco Raceway on October 31, 2006 and made several test runs with the help and guidance of Jim Harrington. By the end of the day, Joe had reset his career best Elapsed times 4 times ending up with a best run of 7.64 seconds at 182 MPH. The team felt confident that their 2007 season would be fun, and planned to run with the nostalgia racing club called the North East Timing Organization.

Over the winter it was discovered that Mike Gillespie’s cancer had returned, and Joe’s dad Chuck had been diagnosed with COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease).

Americana Global - Discount
Right2Breathe
PennGrade 1
Best of Texas BBQ Sauce
CForce Water
D-A Lubricant Co
Diversatech
Edge Welding Cups
EJK Insurance
Hi-Tech Cam
Mark’s Mixers
ProThings Apparel
Racers To The Rescue
Smith Systems
Specialized Auto Craft
Superior Engine
TapTok - Discount
MyRacePass
SpeedPro
Rodak
Race Software