Jay was a great motocross racer, he was a tri-state champion. I kind of went off and did my own thing and Jay kinda stayed there with motocross. I got a sprint car and he drove it one night and said, “Shit, I’ve gotta have one of these.” In the fall of 1992 we both got sprint cars. We started racing in 1993 and that was our first full year racing in Memphis. For the last 25 years Jay and I have been kind of racing on and off together.
The first year we raced we both realized that we could do this, we were kind of naturals at it. We both had jobs working for our dad running Memphis Motorsports Park for him. Jason and I took care of all of the grass and I did the dirt work and that’s where we learned to run heavy equipment. We did everything it takes to run a race track from selling tickets and working the concession stands to dirt work. We had to take everything very seriously because we were the ones making everything happen. Eventually when that lease ran out our dad got another track north of Memphis but we weren’t involved in it.
In ‘92 we started getting race cars so we had to do everything to take care of the track AND get our cars ready. At 6 p.m. we would clock out and go to the pits and race while we had a crew to run the races.
Whoever finished ahead of the other on that first night got the good trailer.
When we raced together in the early years we were rivals. We wouldn’t crash each other but I’ll always remember our first race. Our dad got us cars and we had one good trailer and one bad trailer. Whoever finished ahead of the other on that first night got the good trailer. So I was running fourth or fifth and I’m ahead of Jay and I’m thinking I’ve got the nice trailer and there he went by on the outside. I was cussin’. He got it and got to start off with the good stuff.
As time moved on Jason started racing with the ASCS and then the World of Outlaws Gumout Series. I stayed home with dad and just raced locally.
In about 2000, that’s when Jason started racing with the Outlaws and I’ve been on and off as a crew member for him over the past 15 years just trying to help him and doing what I can.
Jason and I grew up racing together and our dad fully believed that families that raced together stayed together. That’s basically been our philosophy from when we started racing until now. We’ve always been together and we get along pretty good. Racing on the road is like living in a submarine. You live in tight quarters with the same person every day and we end up seeing each other more than we see our own families.
Jay is one of the most generous people I know, he kind of wants to take care of everybody else before he takes care of himself. He doesn’t even get a paycheck out here. He has enough to pay his bills and keep going up and down the road and gets me a paycheck. He can’t afford to have a big crew like some of these other teams but he does what he can and he never gives up.
If I had to sum up Jay in a few words I would say that he’s the most honest, generous, what you see is what you get kind of guy there is. He’s not afraid to tell you what he thinks and if he doesn’t like something he’ll tell you, if he does like something, he praises you for it. He’s just genuine. He’s hard to explain, you know? I guess I would just say that he’s more worried about everybody else than himself. He loves his family, he loves his little girl.
We try to get home as much as we can. If we are anywhere close to home, if we have to drive 8 hours out of the way to drive 16 back but will have a few days off to go see our families we will. On Mother’s Day we left our car at Eldora on a Saturday night and drove straight through to Memphis to celebrate Mother’s Day and then left Wednesday to go back to Eldora to do all of the maintenance on the car and race where we raced after Eldora.
We take racing seriously but our dad always told us that if you’re not having fun doing what you’re doing, it’s not worth doing. We try to keep grills and coolers full and try to make being on the road as pleasurable as it can be even though you’re 1000 miles away from home. We cook all of the time. When we are gone for six or seven weeks I always try to set up events so we all go do something fun at the same time whether it be bowling or going sight seeing. We’ll rent a minivan and load 10 of us in there and go up to Sequoia National Park.
You can only work on these cars so much. You can tinker with them all night long but the reality is that you can’t do that and expect to have a good time. You’ve got to break things up, you’ve got to get out there and do other things. Jay and I have always been really good about that. We get our jobs done, the car is the main priority and when that’s done, yeah, we’ll have some beers or go to a bar and get something to eat and drink. It’s not like we’re living like a rock star lifestyle or anything, it’s a lot more laid back because you’re wore out half of the time.
There is a lot of driving involved in doing what we do. Jay drives more than any other driver out here. He drives the truck, he drives the race car, and he works on the race car. He’s 100% dedicated. I’ve got to commend him for that because he’s one of those guys that never gives up and when I’m ready to put it in the box he’ll say “Well lets just try this…”.
The other night we were racing at Williams Grove. We were starting eighth and we had to run fifth. On the initial start he passed two cars and he was aiming to pass the third one for a transfer and they went yellow. We still made the transfer and I was just happy with that. He just doesn’t quit.
Savoring the Wins
Jay winning the Kings Royal was everything. I was actually at home racing and we were under red on the front straightaway at Riverside Speedway. I’ll never forget the moment. I was sitting under red right next to Gary Wright and they announced that Jason had just won the Kings Royal. It was like I just won that race. It was great. It was so awesome, I’ll never forget Gary Wright saying that there was no one else he’d rather see win the Kings Royal than Jason Sides.
The format is such a big part of racing with the World of Outlaws right now, so to get another important win, this time at I-30 with the Outlaws was huge. We had won the odd 360 race here or there but we hadn’t won an Outlaw race since Dodge City last year.
To win that close to home was kind of like a fairy-tale night. Our whole family was there, there were people there we hadn’t seen in 20 years and it was our closest race to home. We were home in two hours and at 2 a.m. in the morning people were coming to our house just to hang out. We drank until 7 a.m. that morning. That was a good night and we were off for the next 10 days after that so we were able to savor the win.
Outlaws wins don’t come that often and when you win one it kind of sucks because a lot of times you can’t celebrate, you have to go drive five hours to race somewhere the next night. It was just really nice to have a week off after the win.
Jay has always been good about not tearing stuff up which is good because when you’re funding your own team you tend to drive a little more conservatively. You don’t have that big budget where you can go and run it wide open and take some chances. You might know you need to get to 10th but you have to ask yourself if that $500 spot is worth tearing equipment up? He’s a budget racer and I can see and understand that but when money’s on the line and he’s got a chance to win he does take the chance.
I think Jay’s biggest strength is that he’s so smooth and artistic about his driving. Robert Hubbard said it best. When we first started racing we actually hired a real mechanic to go racing with us. After the race we were at a Denny’s or a Waffle House and Hubbard explained it like this, he said “Jason’s an artist and Paul, you’re a cowboy.”
He’s a lot more smooth than I ever was, I’d run through the holes and cowboy up and Jay was just a lot easier on equipment. Jay’s really graceful around the bottom or even if there’s a middle. He doesn’t like to run the top a lot because a lot of times if you run the top for 40 laps you’re taking a big risk at tearing up equipment. Concrete does not forgive. Sometimes it works out for him and sometimes it doesn’t. The nights it doesn’t work we settle for a 10th-20th place finish, on the nights it does work he can go from 24th to win.
There aren’t a lot of tracks where Jay will go to the top but Pevely is one of them. He loves that race track and he’s always been good there. I know every time we roll through the gate at Pevely that we have a shot to win that race. Jay nearly won that race there a few years ago that Christopher Bell won but a late yellow cost us the race. Another car blew up with like two or three to go and Jay had just gotten up beside him and was fixin’ to pass him when the yellow came out. I knew right then it wasn’t going to happen because Christopher was so good on restarts and it took Jay a couple of laps to get going.
Gotta Stay Positive
If I had to pick out Jay’s weaknesses I would say that sometimes when you don’t run great for while you can kind of get down and you get in a lull and stop believing in yourself and I think Jay can fall victim to that. I just try to keep him pumped up as much as I can. It’s easy to fall into those cycles.
I feel like Paul McMahan is kind of in that situation where he may be down on himself right now and I kind of feel bad about it because when we are struggling Paul is one of the guys that tries to help Jay keep his chin up. It’s hard to keep your head up when we’re running like shit every night but when you do have a run like we had at Little Rock it puts a little pep in your step and you need that every once in awhile.
I can honestly say though that if Jay and I had an unlimited budget it would probably be less fun. If you have an unlimited budget you are controlled by someone else and they can snatch that away from you at any time. These guys that run for KKR and TSR are pretty stable in their jobs, but they can be replaced at any time, but Jay can’t be. He’s his own owner-operator, hell, I can be replaced at any time by him, but we work good enough together to make it work.
I can honestly say though that if Jay and I had an unlimited budget it would probably be less fun.
It’s wild when it actually sinks in that my brother has actually won the Kings Royal and beaten the Outlaws as many times as he has. I wasn’t there when he won the Kings Royal, but I was there when he won the Ronald Laney Memorial and we’ve been so close so many other times. He’s won prelims the last two years. It makes you feel good to know that your own brother can beat those guys and if he just had a little bit more luck and just a little bit more money he might be up front a lot more.
However, reality is reality and we don’t have the money that big teams have. One day somebody might come along and say, “Here’s $1,000,000, go have fun for a couple of years,” and that would be great but the reality is that’s probably not going to happen. We’re going to keep doing the same things that we’re doing.
Now don’t get the impression that I’m crying poor. We have a lot of good people behind us including David Horrell, East Coast Logistics, Wetherington Tractor Services, Clean Seal Inc, Jim Schuhknecht, Chris Santucci from RE Technologies, Dancer Logistics, Vince from VRP, King Racing Products Scott Inglis of Inglis Race Engines and Paul and Tom Kistler. We have really good motors, we’ve got two Kistler’s, an Ott and an Inglis out of Australia. We take care of our motors really well and we make sure to bring them back every 12-15 races. Our builders have been really good about getting them back to us quickly because they know we’ve only got three in rotation. In the back of your mind you’re always thinking about “How much time do I have on this motor and what’s going to happen if I lose one?”
Jay’s under a lot of pressure to make sure everything runs smoothly and make sure that he’s taken care of all of the logistics of getting a motor to where you are actually going to be. He’s the only truck driver we have as I said earlier. My job when we ride is basically to keep him awake. We have our cousin Josh Booker with us now and he’s basically been with us all year. He’s a good hand. Between the three of us it’s gotten a lot easier and Jay can kind of sleep in after he’s driven all night. We can take care of the car.
We don’t have the money that the big teams do but we take care of what we’ve got. This trailer we have is an ex-Donny Schatz trailer and is a ‘97 model. It’s seen more miles than any other trailer out here except for Bobby Allen’s and we work hard to keep it looking nice. You’ve got to take care of your stuff to make it take care of you and I really think that’s been a big part of the success Jay’s had as a racer out here on a lower budget.
When you sum everything up at the end of the day I’m just fortunate to get to spend so much time on the road and have such a genuine, honest brother and friend. I can’t wait to see where our next adventure takes us.
The Drivers Project is a media collective devoted to North American open-wheel racing.