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Then, a couple of hours later, I’m working in the shop and the phone rings and it’s Jim. I’m talking to him and he asks which glasses I liked, and I told him, ‘Well some of them I’m not so sure I’d want to wear, but some of them I would. To be honest with you, you sent a bunch of glasses. Which ones would we have to wear?’ I was worried about which ones he’d want us to wear just to put a sticker on the car. But he said we could wear the ones we liked, so I said, ‘That’s cool, we’ll do it.’

Then he says, ‘So what’s the deal about you wanting to go fuel racing?’ and I told him it was something I really wanted. He says, ‘What do you want to do, Funny Car or Top Fuel?’ and I said, ‘First choice, Funny Car, second choice dragster, but it really don’t matter.’ I said I’d cut my left nut off and throw it in a jar and pickle it--that’s exactly what I said--just to get to drive one of those things, and he said, ‘Well, consider it done. The only person who can monkey this deal up is you.’

So, that was when you first realized who you were dealing with?

Cannon: Yep, that moment, and I about choked. That was on a Tuesday and he said I needed to be there (California) in the morning and this was about 2 o’clock. He told me, ‘Just get your airplane ticket, my word is good, just call when you get here and my wife and I will pick you up and we’ll talk about it. And I’ll tell you one more time, the only one who can queer this deal is you. You can go fuel racing next year.’ That’s when I said it’s going to cost a lot of money and he said, ‘Don’t talk about the money, just get here and we’ll talk about what we want to do.’ So I flew out the next morning.

Did you go with anyone?

Cannon’s first car, an ex-Tim Wilkerson piece, played up the “Killer ‘Mater” theme he had going in the Pro Mod ranks.

Cannon: No, I went by myself and he picked me up and we didn’t really talk about racing for a while. His wife was there most of the time and it was real casual, they made me feel right at home and comfortable. Then she left and he started asking about if I wanted to own my own team and how I wanted to do things, and he had some of his own ideas about how to do it, and we basically agreed on everything and he said it’s a done deal. That’s when I said, ‘Well, I’ve got a problem with it being a done deal. I can’t really stop my (Pro Mod) career unless you make this where I know it’s for real.’ And he said, ‘Well, what’s that going to take?’

I had talked to two or three people that I knew who were already in the fuel classes and they said, ‘Well, I don’t really know this guy (Jannard), and I’ve seen deals like this fall through the cracks before, and it’s probably not going to happen. It’s too good to be true. It’s got fairy tale written all over it. But if he’s for real, he needs to wire you a lot of money, a whole bunch of money, non-refundable if he backs out.’ And I made that pretty stiff on him, and it was there, the money was there.

Did you sign a contract, too?

Cannon: Yeah, we drew up a contract, but not right away. I suggested we draw up a one- or two-page contract, something simple because I’ve been in business all my life and I knew if this thing went sour I wasn’t going to fight it. So he drew up a contract after he sent the money--he sent the money before anything--and a week or two after I got the contract I put it in my briefcase while I was so busy trying to get the fuel tune-up together to go to Houston for testing. I had just got my license at Gainesville. I had bought Tim Wilkerson’s car, truck, brand-new trailer, and all his parts and I hired Wayne Dupuy as my crew chief and he was putting the team together.

Anyway, we were testing at Houston and Jim shows up and he says to me, ‘Hey, we’ve got to talk about that contract,’ and right away I’m thinking, ‘Oh shit, here we go, there’s going to be problems,’ and he just goes, ‘You’ve never mailed it back yet. My lawyer’s all over me. I think we’re going to be okay, but some things have just got to be done by the book. I need that signed contract. You’ve got a lot of my money.’ So I apologized and went to the truck and got the contract and everything was cool.

It really is like a drag racing fairy tale. When you asked Jim to wire the initial payment was it a six-figure amount?

Cannon: Oh yeah, it was in the middle six figures. It was a lot, a half-million bucks. It was a bunch. And he sent it quick, within a day or so. My grandfather always told me, ‘Money talks and bullshit walks,’ and it’s really true. After talking to him in person that first day I knew that he wouldn’t have went to the trouble and had everything thought out just to be jerking somebody’s chain. He was concerned about getting started in time for the new season, he was worried about that just as much as me, so after that I really wasn’t worried about the money. He was always good on his word when it came to that.


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