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Canada’s Larry Jackson a 'rock star' after driving NASCAR in Wonder bread ad

Mississauga firefighter and race car driver Larry Jackson is shown behind the wheel in a still frame from a Wonder Bread commercial in a handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Wonderbread Canada **MANDATORY CREDIT**

Larry Jackson has been firefighter of the year twice. He's raced in the NASCAR Pinty's Series for more than a decade.

But doing doughnuts in the Wonder Bread car for a TV commercial? That's what finally convinced his teenage daughter that he's cool.

"There was, I don't know, like 100 people on set there and they've got these $300,000 cameras on the car and it was just a really, really cool event," said Jackson from his home in Oakville, Ont. "You see everyone catering to us and treating us like royalty and it just it was so cool.

"To have your daughter there, for her to see that I'm not just 'dad,' that was awesome."

Jackson, 49, is a captain with the Mississauga Fire and Emergency Services. He's been honoured for his heroism twice, including helping to rescue a family of four who were perched on the window ledge of a burning townhouse in 2016.

He's also a driver on the Pinty's Series, Canada's NASCAR circuit that has races across the country. He most recently finished 11th at the WeatherTech 200 in Bowmanville, Ont., on Sept. 3. The stock car series has its season finale this Sunday at Pinty's Fall Brawl in Delaware, Ont.

Nineteen-year-old Treyten Lapcevich of Grimsby, Ont., leads the standings, with Marc-Antoine Camirand of Saint-Leonard-d'Aston, Que., and Canadian racing great Alex Tagliani of Lachenaie-Terrebonne, Que., second and third respectively.

However, it's Jackson's appearance in the 30-second "It Starts with Wonder" TV commercial that has caught the attention of the Greater Toronto Area's firefighting community, Canada's auto racing community, and his daughter Paris.

"I'm spoiled rotten with hundreds and hundreds of friends in the fire service. We have 1,000 people in the City of Mississauga service and I think 990 of them are good friends," said Jackson. "So massive amounts of texts and emails and harassment and stuff.

"Then the racing world is quite large as well so that all came in and my phone blew up and I felt really privileged, actually."

Jackson has driven the Wonder Bread car before, racing it at the 2017 Honda Indy Toronto. Because of his experience with the car and his passion for race car driving, many of the firefighters in his crew quote "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby" libes at him since the distinctive white car with red, blue, and yellow polka-dots is featured prominently in the 2006 Will Ferrell movie.

"You're always telling them what to do and where to go (as captain) as we go to a fire and they'll be quoting 'if you're not first, you're last!' because we want to be first into the fire because we want to do the rescue," said Jackson with a laugh. "They know I'm a race car driver so technically I want them to drive slower.

"'You guys don't have to go at my speed,' so I'm always trying to slow my drivers down because they're always trying to impress me and they're always throwing those quotes at me, a lot more now."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 21, 2023.

John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press

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