West Memphis, AR—May 4, 2007--By: Tony Veneziano, WoO Sprint Series PR Director
From the time that Jason Sides pulls into the pit area for a World of Outlaws event, until long after the final checkered flag of the night has flown, he is on the go, and that is exactly the way he likes it.
The native of Bartlett, Tennessee is one of the most hands-on drivers in the pit area, and that includes driving his own transporter and turning the wrenches on his Wetherington Tractor Service Maxim.
While he had the chance to race in his home state of Tennessee earlier this season at Volunteer Speedway, that was still a nine-plus hour drive clear east across the state. On Saturday, May 5 he will have a chance to take to his true home track, Riverside International Speedway in West Memphis, Arkansas, a scant 23 miles west from his home. This will be the World of Outlaws first visit to the ¼-mile since 1981.
“I’m very excited for all the fans we have in the area,” said Sides, the 2003 World of Outlaws Kevin Gobrecht Rookie of the Year. “Many of those fans do not get to travel a lot to see the Outlaws. There hasn’t been a show in that area for a long time.”
Sides has raced in the past at Riverside International Speedway in a 360-sprint car, but this will be his first time in a 410-sprint car at the racy ¼-mile. Not only is he ready to take to the track, but he also is excited to see all of the improvements that have been made to the facility since the last time he was there.
“I haven’t been to Riverside for probably five or six years,” he said. “If we can go back and have a good strong run that will make for a good homecoming.”
A stroll through the pit area before any World of Outlaws event will find Sides working meticulously on his car. Knowing how every part on the car works he believes is an advantage when he climbs behind the wheel for a night of racing against the best sprint car drivers in the world.
“It helps a lot being as hands-on as I am,” explained the native of Bartlett, Tennessee. “There are a lot of teams that have a lot of guys do the work on their cars, and I am sure the driver often wonders in the back of their mind if every nut and bolt is tight. I have a couple of good guys that do help us as well.”
While driving his race car is his focus first and foremost each night, Sides continually learns about what makes the car even faster and more consistent from being his own crew chief. At Dixie Speedway in March, Sides put down his own wrenches for a few minutes to help three-time World of Outlaws champion Sammy Swindell, who lives just down the road from Sides in Germantown, Tennessee, attempt to fix his machine after hard contact with the wall in time trials.
“I do most of the work on the car myself, and I still enjoy doing that part of it,” Sides commented. “If I know that everything on the car is good and tight, that lets me run a little bit harder into the corners.”
One of the biggest responsibilities that Sides has besides his driving duties on the track, and maintaining his race cars, is driving the team’s transporter to make sure he along with the cars arrive safe and sound at the next race. He is one of only a handful of drivers in the series that drive their own truck from race to race.
“It is tough sometimes driving the rig myself, but riding in a vehicle with someone, oftentimes you are not comfortable either,” he said. “If I am driving, I feel confident that we will make it to the next track. If I am dead tired, I will let someone else drive, but for the most part I do it myself.”
With 16 races in the books, Sides is confident that things are headed in the right direction. He led laps earlier in the season at USA Race Park in Tucson, Arizona, after winning the dash at that event to earn his first pole position of the season. He enters the event at Riverside International Speedway on Saturday, May 5 just outside of the Top-10 in points with seven Top-10 finishes on the year, including a season best run of third at Eldora Speedway on April 13, in an event that can be seen on SPEED on Sunday, May 13 at 2 p.m. Eastern.
“I feel like things are going pretty well for the team,” said Sides. “In a couple of the races in Ohio, it was a big deal to just make the races, with the number of strong local cars they had. Sometimes when you have a bad night it gets you down, but knowing that you have a home race coming up and tracks that you enjoy help the confidence. If we can run in the Top-10 that will help us stay up in the points.”
With the World of Outlaws schedule picking up in the next couple weeks, Sides has made the most of being able to spend plenty of time working out of his own shop and sleeping in his own bed at night to begin the season. He values the time he has been able to spend with his family, knowing the demands that competing full-time with the World of Outlaws bring, and all the time spent away from home later in the season.
“We’ve been able to get home for the last six or seven weeks after the races,” said the 2004 winner of the Kings Royal at Eldora Speedway. “That is great, because I have a little girl (Skylar) growing up, and that makes it nice to be with the family. Knowing that in a few weeks, we will be gone for about 16 weeks straight, it helps ease the pain of being gone that long, having been home the last few weeks.”
After passing more cars than anyone on the track at Knoxville Raceway last weekend, when he charged from the 25th starting spot to finish 12th, Sides is ready to mix it up on a short track. With three bullrings in a row on the schedule, he is looking forward to tight, close racing.
“I prefer the smaller tracks,” he admitted. “Anything that is a 3/8-mile or less, I really enjoy. Often at the bigger tracks the cars get strung out. On a quarter-mile it seems like it equals everyone out.”
On Saturday, May 5 at Riverside International Speedway, all tickets will be $35.