by Greg Soukup
Jason Sides got an early start on his racing. At 6 he began racing BMX bicycles and by the time he was 13 he had moved up to Motocross. Before leaving the Motocross ranks he won state championships in Arkansas and Mississippi as well as National Championships in New Jersey and Ohio.
At 20 Jason progressed to sprint cars and finished 2nd in points at Memphis Motorsports Park and won the "Rookie of the Year" award for 1993 as well.
In 1996 he moved to the American Sprint Car Series where he finished 7th in points in just his first year.
2001 saw Jason join the World of Outlaws Gumout series, where he took the checkers in the A feature at Tulsa Speedway. He also won the Short Track Nationals in Little Rock, Arkansas. At the Knoxville Nationals that year he was awarded the "Nationals Rookie of the Year". He also won "Rookie of the Year" honors in the Gumout Series after ending up 2nd in points. Jason topped off the season by being named "410 Rookie of the Year" by the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame.
Jason began 2002 quickly by winning both of the memorial races at the Winternationals in Florida, claiming the title of "King of the 360's" after winning the John Bankston Memorial race on the previous night. He further managed to showcase his talent by qualifying for the Knoxville Nationals on the first night of racing. That year he finished the Gumout series with a 3rd place in the final point standings.
Jason won the "Kevin Gobrecht Rookie of the Year" award with the Outlaws in 2003 after finishing 6th in points.
A win at the 2004 King's Royal was the highlight of the year for Jason, when he was the last driver to be crowned by legendary Eldora owner/promoter Earl Baltes.
2005 was rather a down year for Jason, finishing 15th in the World of Outlaws points standings; due in part to numerous motor problems. A mid- season change of motor suppliers brought Jason a new track record at Billings, Montana however, and allowed his time trial results to improve greatly.
This year Jason has moved to the World Of Outlaws and so far has a total of 13 top 10's to his credit, including a win in the preliminary A Feature at Volusia's USCS show in February. His team also acquired a new partner and co-owner in Wetherington Tractor Service of Plant City, Florida. Another first for Jason this year was taking off the wing and running his 360 against the 410's at East Bay Raceway, where he won both of his heats and finished 4th and 6th in the 2 features. Pretty good for his initial foray into the topless ranks.
For more information on Jason, or to keep up with his results, visit his
and his brother Paul's website at www.sidesmotorsports.com .
EPSG: Jason, I suppose I should start by asking where the "Double Down Jason Sides" nickname came from. Can I assume that it wasn't from tiddlywinks??
JS: Well, that goes back a few years actually. We were in Fargo, N.D. playing blackjack; and several drivers were at the table. Johnny Gibson, WoO announcer was standing nearby. I like to have fun when I'm playing, so I double down on a lot of combinations. Anyway, Johnny started calling me "Double Down" the next night of racing.
EPSG: I know that your mother, father, wife and daughter accompany you to some of the races here in the US; but did they also get to follow you to Australia?
JS: Mom and dad went with us a couple of years ago and had a great time. Mom even climbed the Sydney harbor bridge. Now they stay home and keep our daughter Skylar with them, so Farrah and I can go over.
EPSG: Speaking of Australia, do you think that the races down there make an already long season too long? Or is it more of a pre-season vacation and tune-up opportunity before you hit the road?
JS: I, my wife Farrah, my brother Paul and his wife Deanna actually look forward to Australia because we have made so many good friends down under. Although it is a lot of work, and makes it a little rough to get everything ready for the upcoming season, I wouldn't trade that opportunity for anything. Get to race AND go to Australia???
EPSG: Is it easy to be gone for so long without your family?
JS: That is the toughest part of "Racin' for a Livin'". Fortunately, living in Memphis, it is somewhat centrally located. So, we get home a little more often than some of the west coast or northeast guys on the series.
EPSG: You began racing when you were very young. Who gave you your start in sprint cars?
JS: I have to say my dad and mom have always supported whatever form of racing that Paul and I wanted to do. We raced BMX early on, and then I raced Motocross and Supercross for several years. Dad bought Paul his first sprint car in 1993 when I was still racing cycles. I went out to watch Paul on a practice day and he asked if I wanted to try it out. Of course, I said yes; and that is when I got hooked. Paul and I both began racing sprinters that year. We were real rookies that season. We had a lot of help and encouragement from a lot of good racing friends around Memphis. Guys like Mike Ward, Terry Gray, Ricky Stenhouse, the legendary Hooker Hood and so many others were very helpful those first few years.
EPSG: I know that a lot of mothers dread their sons racing when they first start out. What did your mother think of your racing sprinters?
JS: Well, my mom was so used to always filming my cycle races, crashes and all that she says it is a lot easier to film than to watch. If she is at the races, she has always got the movie camera on. That poor lady had a double dose when Paul and I both started racing sprints at the same time.
EPSG: With unloading, prepping, racing, loading and cleaning the cars, not to mention the long hauls between tracks, you spend quite a lot of time at and between racetracks. What do you and your family do during the off- hours? What sort of things do you do to relax?
JS: I still love to ride cycles. I have a CR250 I ride whenever I'm at home. We have taken our dirt bikes on the road and ridden them during the week at some neat places in California and other places out west. When we're at home we get together with some good friends and go on a weekend ride. Farrah and I spend a lot of time with our two year old Skylar. She is just so much fun to play with now that she is talking nonstop.
EPSG: A lot of the young drivers currently are looking at sprint cars as a stepping stone to bigger and better things, such as NASCAR. Do you think this is a good thing for the sport; or would you prefer to see them stay running the dirt tracks?
JS: Sprint car racing is definitely a good training ground for several forms of auto racing. I would encourage any young drivers to race sprints and any other form of open-wheel cars they get the opportunity to drive.
EPSG: Given the chance, would you like a chance to try NASCAR or perhaps IRL?
JS: Yes. I would love to try Silver Crown, the Craftsman Trucks, Bush, Cup and IRL. Actually, I really enjoyed racing non-wing at East Bay recently. It was a lot of fun!
EPSG: Is there one person who you can count on to make you laugh? Who would you say is the biggest jokester in the pits?
JS: I would have to say that last year was one of my favorite seasons. My brother Paul was on the road with us, driving the Two-Seater and the Hummer pace vehicle for DIRT, and he made everyone in the pits laugh a lot.
EPSG: You ended your association with your previous car owner after last season. Tell us about the new partnership.
JS: Although I ended my partnership in racing with my previous car owner, we did not end our relationship or friendship. I still use his race shop and he is still a huge supporter of my racing. We remain the best of friends.
But, to answer your question: We have a new partner at Sides Motorsports name Kimball Wetherington. Kimball owns Wetherington Tractor Service. Based in Plant City, Florida, Kimball is involved in land development, real estate, and strawberry farming along with several other businesses. We have known each other a couple of years now, and he helped us out a lot last season; then we approached him about becoming more involved and now we are partners in Sides Motorsports. He hopes to be at several races this season. We're both very excited about the future of our team.
EPSG: Who are your other sponsors this year?
JS: Our other sponsors include Memphis Kawasaki. They have supplied our pit mule for the last five years. We couldn't race without it. FSR (Four Seasons Radiator) owned by Gary Bell in Memphis has helped us out tremendously. Gary and his son Bryan are both sprint car racers and fantastic fabricators. WELD Wheels are the only wheels that I've ever used, so that tells you how great they are. MAFIA Motorsports has been with us for two seasons now. The have a great line, or should I say a unique line of apparel. Vince at VRP shocks has been with us for a couple of seasons also, and they really work well for my style of driving. We use Don Ott motors; what a great guy to work with. MAXIM chassis is my brand of preference. Chuck Merril, Brad and all the guys at MAXIM build good, safe equipment. Simpson Products is a big help to us with safety gear. Arctic Cat, Kwik Change tire bleeders, and B & B Oval Track parts also support our racing. I appreciate every last one of these guys so much, and want to thank you for asking about them and giving me the chance to thank them as well.
EPSG: A racer is only as good as his pit crew allows him to be. Who do you have helping you with the car this year?
JS: Wade Oliver, who is a sprint car driver as well as a good friend, is back with me this year; and Finchy of Australia is also returning to help out this year. Both guys have been around sprint cars for several years now. These guys put in some long hours on race days, and I really appreciate all that they do.
EPSG: Do you call the set-up on the car, or do you leave that to your crew chief?
JS: I guess you could say that we all kind of discuss things. We don't really have a crew chief, just 3 guys with good communication skills. We all work on the car, go to the car wash, etc. Both Wade and I drive the hauler.
EPSG: Do you use the HANS device or the Hutchins? Do you employ any other safety equipment?
JS: No I don't. It's kind of like what you get used to. I've tried neck braces and other such devices, but I really can't seem to get used to them. But, I would encourage any young drivers that are just starting out to use any safety equipment available.
EPSG: Do you think that safety equipment should be a mandatory thing?
JS: In my opinion, no. Some things are in place now that have the drivers much safer, but there is a limit to what you can make a driver do.
EPSG: What is your opinion of "universal rules" for tracks across the country? Do you think that tracks should all adopt the same rules for tires, wings, engines, etc.?
JS: Yes, because then you can go to a track knowing that if it is an NST/WoO or ASCS track you know exactly what to expect as far as tires, wings. wheels, etc. go
EPSG: Do you have favorite tracks to run at? Are there any where you have no doubt that you will be there at the front of the A feature?
JS: yes, there are several tracks that I like more than others, like Eagle, Pevely, East Bay and Chico. The true answer to that question is you like any track where you run well. To say that we will be at the front in the A Feature all depends on how everything goes for the night. Track conditions, where you time trial, or even which motor we have in the car that particular night can make or break your night.
EPSG: Which tracks have the best fans? Which ones can you just not wait to put on a show for the people in the seats?
JS: Now Greg, you don't really expect me to answer that do you? I will tell you that anyone who pays to go to a race is a great fan. They have to deal with weather, long delays sometimes, bad food occasionally, and yet they continue to root for their favorite driver week in and week out. I do like the fans in Australia.they are really into sprint cars.
EPSG: How about Eagle Raceway? I know we always enjoyed seeing you run there, and you have quite a following (my oldest son being right at the head of the line).
JS: I'd have to say that Eagle really is one of my favorite tracks. I like the size of the track and the pit set-up at Eagle. I have had some good runs there, and it's a fun track to race on. I kind of like that size track as opposed to some of the half-mile tracks.
EPSG: With most people having instant access to everything on the internet, lots of them are posting their feelings and opinions about (among other things) drivers. They also tend to pass along rumors and gossip about the drivers' private lives. What is your opinion about this? Do you think that their ticket gives them entrance into a driver's private goings-on also?
JS: I don't read the internet very much. If I do, I'm looking at race results or schedules for upcoming events. You know, there are thousand and thousands of race fans, but only a few of them seem to post messages. Sometimes those few are the ones that pass on results or news that other fans want to know about.
EPSG: The fact that several drivers left the World of Outlaws and are now running with the World Of Outlaws has created quite an uproar within the fan ranks. Much of it is being blamed on Steve Kinser, saying that he lead you all astray simply because he was greedy. Would you care to share your reasons for leaving?
JS: Each driver has their own reasons for leaving, but I will say that if it weren't for Steve and others like Sammy, Doug, Brad Doty and many others, this sport would not be as big as it is today.
EPSG: Jason, I want to thank you for taking time out to be interviewed. Are there any "last words" that you would like to share with the fans?
JS: Yes, there is. Thank you for the interview and I'd like to thank all of the fans out there that support sprint car racing as well as those fans who support their local track. Without the local tracks, the touring series don't have a place to race. PLEASE, support your local tracks.