By Craig Murphy
So how do you spend a week off from racing?
For Jason Sides, the answer was easy: he spent last week racing.
Sides competed in the Northern Sprint Tour's Northwest Speedweek, racing five times in six nights.
Sides, who won the Sedalia World Of Outlaws race in June, drove the Doyle Harley-Davidson car that had previously been piloted to Northern Sprint Tour titles by Roger Crockett.
"Paul Silva called a couple of weeks ago, and said they wanted to run the week," Sides said after the whirlwind week concluded. "(The Doyles) called him, and then he called me."
For Sides, it was the first time racing with the Northern Sprint Tour, a Northwest-based 360 Sprint series started by Fred Brownfield in 1996.
"I hadn't run any of the races going into it, but I knew it was going to be a good car," Sides said. "It was fun."
At least, it was fun after a period of adjustment.
"It didn't start off as well as I would have liked," Sides said. "I guess I'm not running a 360 as much as I need to. We spun out a couple of nights. We're used to a softer tire (with the 410). It was too hard of a tire, too early. After the first two nights, we got the car tighter. As the nights went on, we got better and better."
The results bear that out. On July 24 at Southern Oregon Speedway in Medford, Ore., Sides had to run the B-main. He won that race and finished seventh in the main event.
Northwest Speedweek continued the next night at Cottage Grove Speedway in Cottage Grove, Ore. Sides again had to advance through the B-main. He again won that race, and finished third in the main.
The next race was July 26 at Willamette Speedway in Lebanon, Ore. This time Sides didn't have to run the B-main. He started the 35-lap main event second, and was running in that position on lap 25 when the leader got taken out by lapped cars. Sides went on to take the win.
"That was pretty good for a track I'd never been to or even seen," Sides said. "It was a good win for all of us. It helped us out for the week to get a win in my third night in the car."
While NASCAR star and Washington native Kasey Kahne got the lion's share of attention for running the July 28-29 Evergreen State Sprint Challenge at Grays Harbor Raceway in Elma, Wash., Sides had two solid nights of racing with finishes of third (Friday) and second (Saturday).
"It was great both nights," Sides said of Elma. "We didn't have the motor running like we needed to, which hurt us in qualifying. We were 18th in qualifying the first night and 13th the second night, so we couldn't get in the dashes. Still, we had a 15th place start in the first night and finished third, so it was a good weekend."
Sides wasn't awestruck competing against Kahne, who was the Northern Sprint Tour Rookie of the Year in 1997 and grew up racing at tracks the series raced at last week.
"He's no different than any of us," Sides said of Kahne. "We raced together a few years ago. It was good to see him again."
Whether it be Kahne or track regulars like Saturday winner Jay Cole at Elma, Sides was impressed with the level of competition.
"It's always fun," Sides said of racing guys from different parts of the country. "The competition is good everywhere we go, and it was no exception up here. Both nights in Elma, Jay Cole was right on the money."
Sides was disappointed to lose the Northwest Speedweek title by three points to Steve Kent from California.
"It really was (disappointing)," Sides said. "If we had qualified a little better at Elma, that would have fixed it. (Kent) was more consistent than us."
Cottage Grove and Elma are two tracks the World Of Outlaws visits in late August as part of the Wild, Wild Northwest Tour. Sides isn't sure how much knowledge can be applied from last week to those races.
"Maybe the car setup a little bit," he said. "The weight of the motors is different, and there's the added power of the 410. It will be interesting to see what happens with the softer tires on the 410."
Before running those shows, Sides will run the Aug. 24 Northern Sprint Tour race at Elma. The World Of Outlaws races at Elma the next two nights.