For professional Funny Car driver Tommy Johnson Jr. (TJ), the phrase, “let’s light this candle,” refers to more than the rocket on wheels he pilots down the dragstrip. The 16-time event title winner, one-time speed world record holder, and racing supply business owner recently launched an online candle store called TJ’s Candles.
These aren’t your everyday candles that you’d find from a big retailer. TJ recycles empty wine, liquor and soda bottles to hold the candle wax. He also reuses engine pistons, which as turns out are a good size and shape to hold a candle.
So why would someone who makes their living at 300 plus miles per hour want to make candles?
“It started as a hobby.” TJ said. “Someone had given my parents a candle in a wine bottle and my fiancée (Amy Ladd) said we should try that. I said okay.”
TJ and Amy decided to make enough candles for everyone on the Make-a-Wish team for the annual Christmas party.
“Little did I know how hard it was,” he said. “Out of my first 12 attempts, I had maybe two that I could use.”
“I am a bit of a perfectionist,” TJ added. “After the Christmas party, I said I can do better than that.”
As TJ’s skills increased, so did his collection of candles.
“I figured we better start selling them,” he said.
“I’ve taken a little grief over it from some of the race guys. They kind of give me a look and ask, ‘you sell candles?’ I just say, yeah, I do. Five minutes later, they’ll come back and ask if I’ll make one for their girlfriend,” he laughed.
For more information on TJ’s Candles, visit etsy.com/shop/TACandles.
Story and photos By Chris Cornwall