Al Hanna, President of Hanna Motorsports, launched in 2007 the search for a new driver for the very popular BIC Lighter “Queen of Diamonds” 300 MPH Jet Dragster for 2008. Hanna read through thousands of resumes before choosing veteran driver Jill Canuso as his new queen.
“Over the past two months, we were inundated with more then 80 applications from across the nation representing a tremendous cross-section of the terrific young women in the sport of drag racing, all wanting to work with Hanna Motorsports. All had great credentials, had great family support, much experience, and a goal to succeed in our sport.” Stated Hanna. “The fact that so many had a similar background,, and similar credentials, actually made it much more difficult then we had anticipated.”
“Upon the receipt of Jill Canuso’s application, her credentials were quite different than the rest.” Rich Hanna said. “First, she has raced professionally for many years, and in many categories. That meant she was familiar with the travel, the issues of being a pro on the road, the media, the risks, the financial pressures, and so forth. Also, she is based within our region, which allows us to work closely through training, with our difficult travel schedule, and on sponsorship programs as well. It’s a win-win for all of us.”
Jill’s gained her love of auto racing while watching her father compete at North East drag strips. She started riding motorcycles at five years old, and collecting her own trophies won from many Track, District, State, Regional and National Championships.
Jill’s background includes racing Motorcycles, driving Midgets, and Professional Monster Truck racing. She has a very impressive resume. Jill herself is very excited. “I race to win. Hanna Motorsports is a winning team that I am fortunate to be a part of.” Jill has a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Design, and currently leads the Sales & Marketing team at M&R Products, a manufacturer of Driver Safety Equipment and Tie-Downs in Vineland, NJ.
“We now move to the training phase of this new program, and plan to debut the new BIC Lighter ‘Queen of Diamonds’ driver at the ‘Super Chevy Show’ in Memphis, TN April 18-19, 2008.” Stated Hanna. “We look forward to a great future with Jill as part of our team.”
What's it like to be chosen to drive the "Queen of Diamonds" ride for Hanna Motorsports?
It is an honor. The opportunity to represent the famous Hanna family, and pilot their equally famous Bic Lighters sponsored 300+ mph Queen of Diamonds Jet Dragster, is an one that I have earned through years of hard work and dedication. I am grateful to have been chosen to be an integral part of this well respected 3 car team.
“The phone call” happened while I was working at the M&R Products booth at the PRI Show. An acquaintance, from my Flat Track racing days, left a crazy message on my cell phone asking me if I would be interested in driving a Jet Dragster for Hanna Motorsports Jet Cars. He is currently a crew member on Rich Hanna’s Jet Funny Car, and he thought I may be a good candidate for the seat. I returned the call and the rest is history.
How do you feel your experience will benefit the team?
My racing and professional/business experience is very diverse. This will bring a new perspective, new depth, new energy and new opportunities to our team and sponsors. Al and Ellen Hanna, Rich Hanna, Ken Hall and I form a dynamic group that is focused on crushing the competition, promoting our sponsors and entertaining our fans.
What went into securing the ride with Hanna Motorsports?
As with any strong, successful partnership there is a lot of give and take. There was no single determining factor, but we all agreed Safety is priority. When I am not the “Queen of Diamonds” I am the Sales and Marketing Director at M&R Products. M&R is a manufacturer of Driver Safety Equipment & Auto/Motorcycle Tie-Downs. Confidence in your equipment is paramount. Hanna Motorsports has equipment and crew I can trust.
How did you get into racing?
At Maple Grove , in 19XX I asked my dad (who was a motorcycle drag racer) "If Bunny & Shirley can race, and they are "girls" why can't I race?" He said there is no reason why I can't do anything I want to do. He took me to my first race that summer, and I remember, on the ride home, I told him that "I want to race every day for the rest of my life."
What is your first race with Hanna, and how many races will you run with them?
My first event is scheduled for April 18th & 19th at Memphis Motorsports Park , Memphis , TN. Tentatively, the Queen of Diamonds is scheduled for 30+ races. Including many Super Chevy Sunday events, a number of IHRA Thunder Jams, Summit Motor Sports Park/John Force Night under Fire in Norwalk Ohio and 3 races at Englishtown Raceway Park , NJ (my hometown track.) Our 2008 schedule can be viewed, and souvenirs can be purchased at www.hannamotorsports.com
If you had to choose just one thing, what would you want to accomplish this season in this ride?
My personal goal, for my rookie Jet Dragster year, would be to finish the season with few to zero “rookie” mistakes. I’m a perfectionist, and there is not room for error at 300 mph +, also…… I race to win.
Anything else you'd like to tell your fans?
I would like to thank Rodney and the Hanna’s for “The phone call” and of course this would not be possible without the support of many people and sponsors over the years. My philosophy is to work hard, work smart, never loose sight of your dreams, stay true to yourself and true to your word.
Please stop by our pit if you are going to an event! Our Primary sponsor is Bic Lighters www.biclighters.com Support sponsors include: M&R Products, Simpson Performance Products, BizJet International and Daigle Truck Masters.