Street racing, as we all know, is nothing new. Depending on the specific circles and sub-groups of car people to which each reader belongs, you may have direct experience with the activity or you may gain most of your exposure to it from major media outlets like the Discovery Channel or this very publication. But more often, to learn about the players in each local scene in each corner of this country requires either some serious investigative acumen, or just plain luck.
Indeed, any Queen of the Streets certainly does not start street racing for purposes of the Discovery Channel, on streets closed by Pilgrim Studios, or with any cameras around that weren’t part of a cell phone somebody was holding on the side of the road, along where Arkansas and Tennessee meet at the river. It was the godfather Chris “Limpy” Collins himself, the man of DFWSS (Dallas Fort Worth Street Society), who first made the introduction between the eyes of the world and Memphis, and specifically their queen, Precious Cooper.
And yes, that is her real, legal name. It said so in wild pink letters on the windshield banner, “Precious”, that announced Puddle Jumper, her deep blue 1966 Nova, as it traveled to Texas in the Summer of 2016. Limpy, based on his network and knowledge of their reputation, had invited the Memphis crew to Dallas-Fort Worth to be part of his resurrection of the original, illegal, Cash Days. The magnitude of the event drew videographers for some of the major online channels for drag racing coverage, 1320Video and NXGonzo, as well as some bigger names in street racing — those that had already been made public figures by appearances on the Street Outlaws series.
…women are underestimated when it comes to street racing. They don’t think that we’re capable of doing what they’re capable of doing.
Across the board, though, neither the videographers or even very many of the racers recognized Precious, or even JJ. That is, up until Precious took out “Barefoot Ronnie” Pace in the first round and made a race of it against “MurderNova” (Shawn Ellington) in a second round loss. And, of course, up until others in attendance, like Justin “Big Chief” Shearer, noticed just what a formidable street racing force Precious and the whole Memphis crew truly were.
And from that point forward, when Big Chief wanted to showcase a group who could compete on the “real streets”, against his OKC racers or any others, he knew that JJ was the one to call. But for Precious, the big names and big stages…don’t seem to mean much. As far as she’s concerned, “I just want to race. I love racing. I believe nobody’s really more or less important than any other. If they’re willing to buckle up, get beside me, and put their life on the line, then hey — it’s an honor to race them.” That is, not to be disrespectful, but the race itself matters more than the name you carry with you.
She’s serious about this stuff. When asked what street racing with JJ and family means to her, Precious says simply, “Well it means everything to me! It’s my pride. I love it — everything about it. And so I work hard towards it.” That dedication and work towards her passion aren’t always apparent, however.
Indeed, on television her personality comes across as mostly reserved, and maybe shy. It’s a temperament that most would consider well-suited to her chosen profession — nursing — for which she is now studying. And yet she will be loud and a bit cocky, on occasion — and viewers might wonder which is “really her.” Is Precious just getting loud all of a sudden for the cameras? To be seen? Put simply, no. She’s an example of someone so committed, attention and talk are not concerns of hers. “It’s a part of me, so it’s serious,” she says slowly and strongly. “I am more reserved, and I try to stay quiet and out of the way, but when people go to talking trash, and start downgrading me in the scene, I get in my feelings and I tend to be a little loud with it!” So if you can’t figure out who she is or what she’s capable of, she’s likely to speak up and correct your little oversight.
A lot of others’ assumptions and misjudgments of her ability relate to her gender.
“Well, women are underestimated when it comes to street racing,” she says. When it comes to men’s perceptions, especially, “they don’t think that we’re capable of doing what they’re capable of doing.” But of course, as a racer who studies the game and perfects her craft, she has found a strength in this perceived weakness. “That’s the fun part about it,” she explains, “They underestimate us. That goes against them, first thing, coming out the gate!” Which has led to her particular satisfaction in beating men who thought they had the race against her already won.
Thus the famous saying, “Off with their head!” It came about not planned or thought out in advance, she says, but rather just in that moment of victory. As she tells it: “Well, truthfully, I was racing this guy — he had got me in my feelings — and it just kind of came out, and it stuck with me. I mean I said it, and it stuck with me when I said it that day.” And what she means by it is, this is my passion, and now you know.
The roots of that passion for street racing run deep, and back generations. “My dad raced with JJ’s dad, and with Jeffery James and his dad…,” she begins to explain but then trails off, perhaps knowing that her entire upbringing cannot be conveyed in just a few words. So she cuts right to the point, “I was actually born into racing.” The statement is delivered with a particular emphasis, to let you know that for her this is more than a figure of speech.
Really, then, it was a foregone conclusion that as an adult, Precious would be racing alongside that family, as part of that family. “I grew up into it,” she says. And being around JJ growing up, helping him with his studying and so forth, her early exposure to his street exploits triggered that same fire that she had inherited, too. “Once I saw him doing it, I just knew I had to get into it — it was in my blood,” she recalls.
Her contributions to the Memphis family have been formidable, ever since. Yet they don’t derive from a particular car that she brings to the table… truly, Precious has piloted pretty much any car, as needed. In her words: “If it’s got four wheels and involves street racing, I’m all for it.” From Ziptie, to Ol’ Heavy, to Puddle Jumper (which was unfortunately lost in a crash at a no-prep event in late 2016), she will wheel any racecar, down any road.
I’m me, I’m gonna be who I am, and nobody’s gonna’ change me. If they don’t like what they see, they can move on to the next one.
So, then, what would she say is her unique contribution to the group? As soon as Precious explains it, you feel like it should have been obvious… “I come off the trailer first,” she says.
But there’s more to it than just the order in which she races. A lot more. In her words, “A lot of people don’t know the extremities that come along with that. You don’t know what you’re up against: you’re going out there on a fresh road, and nobody’s made any test hits. There’s a lot more to it!” And not just in the tuning department. It goes deeper, into the very personal calculation of risk, and what consequences you’re willing to accept. “It’s the most dangerous,” she emphasizes, and continues, “A lot of people don’t choose to do that — a lot of people aren’t willing to put their life on the line, by going first off the trailer.” But Precious? Well… “I love the dangerous scene! If I die doing what I love, then it ain’t a tragedy.”
And with that level of commitment and intensity, you can bet Precious isn’t about to alter course on account of any outside circumstances that would otherwise distract from racing with JJ and family, in Memphis. Media exposure, production crews, cameras — all that is irrelevant to her. “I’m a real street racer,” she explains, bluntly. “Therefore, it doesn’t matter if there’s a camera out there or not a camera. I’m gonna race.” And for the people who find her quiet confidence disconcerting, or even a little threatening, she couldn’t care less. With a well-earned defiance she states, “I’m me, I’m gonna be who I am, and nobody’s gonna’ change me. If they don’t like what they see, they can move on to the next one.”
And therein, the Queen has spoken. You can disrespect, misjudge, or try to beat the Queen of the Streets, but always remember the lengths to which she’ll go for her family in Memphis. The usual outcome? “Off with their heads!”
Season two of Street Outlaws: Memphis is currently airing Monday evenings at 8 p.m. on the Discovery Channel.