Dragbike.com Person of the Week: Jessica Tueller
Vol. 3, Issue 37
Born September 17, 1984 in Salt Lake City, Utah, Jessica Lynn Tueller was quite the active child, full of curiosity and interest. She raced around the house in her stroller as fast as she could go and used her tiny little toes as “brakes” to come to a stop and as fast as she stopped she would pivot and speedily take off again in another direction. She was always so busy doing things that her Aunt nicked named Jessica “The Busy Little Woman.”
Jessica’s affection for going fast was most likely the result of her breeding. She was practically born on the back of a motorcycle. When her mom was 8 months pregnant with Jessica she rode on the back a newly purchased Kawasaki KZ 750 as Jessica’s dad rode away from the Moonlite Kawasaki dealership in Salt Lake City. Eighteen months later Jessica insisted on sitting on dad’s KZ (see photo below).
As Jessica got older she took a liking to the arts, particularly singing and acting in school plays. She participated in Junior high and high school choirs and landed leading acting roles in plays such as “Man of LaMancha,” “Fiddler on the Roof,” and “The Mikado.” Her love for learning helped her excel in academics where she graduated with honors from high school. Jessica’s singing talent was enhanced by her operatic voice, which earned her the Sarah VanKomen music scholarship to Weber State University in Utah. Despite Jessica’s love for the arts she always had an itch to go fast and get dirty working on motorcycles and cars. That trait was really an extension of her father, Shayne Tueller, a Software Engineer/Developer who became a motorcycle drag racer after Jessica was born. When she was 2 years old Shayne started racing the KZ at Bonneville Raceway in West Valley City, Utah on the outskirts of Salt Lake City, now called Rocky Mountain Raceway. Every time dad went to the track, Jessica wanted to go.
As soon as Jessica was able, she wanted to start helping her dad and be his crew chief. She started out by starting the bike, video taping the passes, then pushing him back from the top end. That led to helping Shayne work on the engine and chassis. Before Jessica could legally drive, she learned to ride motorcycles by riding the family dirt bikes whenever she could. Eventually she talked her dad into helping her launch her own racing career. Shayne stopped racing to help Jessica. They basically traded places.
In 2003 Jessica started her drag racing endeavors on a stock GPz 1100 motored drag bike her dad put together for her. That was enough to light the passion. In 2006 Jessica wanted to step up and go faster so she shopped around and found a dragbike called “Kazuki” built by the famed Ray Bellucci in the 1980s and owned by Cary Phalen. She and her dad drove out to Nebraska to check out the bike, which turned out to be a perfect fit for her. It had a Suzuki GS based 1428cc motor mounted in a KZ chassis, hence the name “Kazuki” displayed on the bike. It had a 70” wheelbase with a small tire setup. They purchased the bike and Jessica started racing it in Pro ET and Top Gas. Jessica affectionately re-named the engine “Brutus Beefcake” and often called her new dragbike her “boyfriend”.
On one interesting weekend, Jessica’s new racing career and her singing career crossed paths. It was one of RMR’s big race weekends in which around 5000 spectators were in attendance. Prior to opening ceremonies, the tracks public relations person came to the Tueller trailer asking Jessica if she could sing the National Anthem. The person who was supposed to sing was a no show. The staff knew only that Jessica could sing, little did they know how well? While all the other racers were in the pits warming up their cars and bikes, Jessica was in the trailer warming up her vocal cords. As she practiced her voice filled the pits. Racers could not figure out where the sound was coming from. Her dad said it was rather entertaining. When the time came for her to sing, she left her bike in the staging lanes, came to the starting line dressed in her leathers, took the microphone and belted out the most beautiful rendition of the National Anthem many had ever heard. Her dad said it was awesome. He remembers another racer saying, “Holy Cow…not only can she race but she can sing too.” After singing she walked back to her bike, put on her helmet, mounted her bike, and went out and won.
Over the next two years Jessica would earn the title of being the first female to win an NHRA Summit ET Series event at Rocky Mountain Raceways. She was also the first female motorcyclist to run under 10 seconds in the ¼ mile at RMR. She currently still holds the RMR record for a female motorcyclist at 8.68 @ 154 mph. Jessica also won the Top Gas category at the 2008 MDRA event at “The Strip” at Las Vegas Motorspeedway. During that race she was the only racer with a perfect .000 light for the weekend.
The above photo is of Jessica’s last burnout and subsequent Top Gas win. Sadly this is where Jessica’s racing story and her life end. Unknown to most, Jessica suffered greatly from clinical depression which caused her to self medicate with alcohol and abuse prescription drugs. Overtime her addiction worsened much like Lindsay Lohan and Amy Winehouse. Just weeks ago Winehouse lost her life to the same condition. Although Jessica’s parents did everything they could to get her help, which Jessica embraced and truly wanted to overcome her addiction, she could never turn the corner. On March 12, 2010 Jessica lost her life as a result of her addiction.
At Jessica’s funeral, racers from all over the country sent in racing decals. Those who attended her graveside service put the decals all over her casket (at her parent’s request) after the service was over. Shayne said it was an amazing sight to see. Jessica’s Uncle Steve put a Pingel’s bumper stickers at the head of her casket, with Larry “Spiderman” McBride’s photo on it. The decal read “I’d rather be dragbike racing.” Shayne says he will never forget that. He’s glad they decided to let the racers do that because it gave closure to many of her close friends and the racers who attended her funeral. It added a light note to a very painful and sad event and he knows it’s what Jessica would have wanted. He said, “I’m sure she was smiling from above.”
Had Jessica lived she would have been 27 years old this weekend. She had so much going for her in addition to her racing. She did modeling and had a great work ethic working hard for everything she owned including her drag bike. She gave 110% in everything she did and was a community volunteer for children services, the police department, and animal shelters. Her dad said that she would like to be remembered as someone who set an example for other women who are interested in pursuing racing and chasing their dreams. She indeed set the bar for other women to reach at the local level. Because of her influence, one girl has adopted the aspirations of breaking Jessica’s track records. Having just turned 16, she just started racing herself this year and is on her way to reaching those goals.
Jessica was the oldest child and only daughter of Shayne and Pam Tueller. One of her three younger brothers, Jason, who is now 20, has taken up racing as a result of Jessica’s passion and will be racing his sister’s drag bike in her honor. Her two other brothers, Aaron and Nathan help with the team. It is Nathan’s dream to one day pilot a Funnybike.
Helen Keller once wrote, “What we have once enjoyed we can never lose. All that we love deeply becomes a part of us.” I would like to believe that everyone who knew Jessica would hold those same thoughts true. Jessica would have been the first person to tell other young adults to stay away from drugs and alcohol; it is simply not worth it. If Jessica’s story makes one young person rethink their life and turn from a tragic future her death will not have been in vain. If you have problems with prescription abuse, contact help today by calling (877) 571-5722 or visit http://www.prescriptiondrugabusehelp.com/ and make Jessica’s memory stand for something. Happy Birthday Jessica.
Other Areas of Interest
Residence: West Point, Utah
Occupation: Salesperson for Cricket Communications (voted #1 salesperson in Utah in 2008), Psychological Technician for University of Utah mental health institute children’s unit.
What year did you start racing or being involved in racing: Jessica has been involved in racing since 1986 when she was two years old going to the track with her Dad. She started racing herself in 2003.
History of racing bikes and classes:
1) 1984 GPz 1100 dragbike (S/G) 2003
2) 1984 Kawasaki Ninja 900 (street ET) 2004-2006
3) “Kazuki” dragbike GS 1428cc (Pro ET & T/G) 2007-2008
4) 2004 Kawasaki ZX10R (street ET) 2006-2009
Interest outside of racing: Jessica was a very passionate and compassionate girl. She loved to live life to the fullest in all its aspects. She also loved giving service to others. As a result, she worked as a rape crisis councilor for the local police department. She also worked at the center for grieving children where she helped children who were disadvantaged, abused, and neglected. Besides giving service to others, Jessica loved animals. She volunteered at the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Northern Utah, which takes care of injured wild animals until they can be released back into the wild. Jessica’s compassionate service even extended beyond her death. As a result of organ donation, she gave two people another chance at life. Jessica also loved to sing so when you didn’t find her at the dragstrip or riding her street bike, you could find her singing opera and stage acting.
Favorite foods: Sushi, seafood
Favorite movie: Glory, Lady and the Tramp
Daily driver: Her Kawasaki ZX10R she called “Tangie” and her MiniCooper-S sport car she called “Squibby”
First motorcycle: Honda XR70 for the dirt and a 1984 Kawasaki Ninja 900 for the street.
Heroes: Her Parents, her Grandpa Jack, and her Uncle Steve (who both served their Country in the military). Last but not least, all women who have taken up the sport of motorcycle racing, especially Karen Stoffer, Dawn Baugues, and Katie Sullivan who all currently compete in the NHRA P/S motorcycle class.
Jessica would like to have thanked the following people who inspired her in her racing career. Scott Valentine, Steve Rice, Jimmy Moen, Mark Pittman, John Hren, Brandi Mattison, Anthony Hoffman, Pete Steuri, Stee Gold, Tray MaGee, Captain Kirk Walton, Ron Craft (RMR dragstrip manager) and the other local racers at Rocky Mountain Raceway who supported her greatly.