“He came up behind us a couple of times. I thought he was getting close. And then he fell way back, and then the next thing you know he’s getting close again, and he hit us.” Jason Sides recalls the incident that temporarily sidelined his 2021 season with the World of Outlaws for over six weeks. The driver of the Chevy pickup truck who, according to Sides, was alcohol impaired, rammed the back of his trailer as the team was driving down the freeway following an event at Eldora Speedway, causing massive damage to the back of the hauler, as well as a sprint car inside.
Sides says that the pickup was equipped with a grille guard and, “When the truck hit the trailer, the trailer actually pushed in about three foot and it got into the rear bumper (of the sprint car) and the tail tank and bent the frame.”
When you’re running the full season with a series for points, even one DNF can be a major setback. In Sides’ case, 10 World of Outlaws events were contested between his accident following the May 8 Eldora #LETSRACETWO event and his return on June 17 at West Burlington, Iowa’s 34 Raceway. Realizing the situation facing one of their platinum members, the World Racing Group issued Sides 75 hardship points per event – basically, show-up points. The Tennessee racer and 2003 Kevin Gobrecht Rookie of the Year currently sits 14th in the season point battle.
Long gone are the days when a World of Outlaws-caliber team could compete on the road, miles from home, with a small trailer pulled by a pickup truck. “Honestly, we thought about doing that and going that route,” Sides shares. “But you can’t do that no more. You can’t carry enough sh*t with you. So, that wasn’t even an option.”
Sides’ frustration grew as he began dealing with his insurance company. “The first three weeks we didn’t touch it because the insurance (agent) was supposed to come look at it. They kept putting us off, putting us off. Then they finally said, ‘Well, because of the pandemic, we don’t send people out anymore, we just do everything by pictures.’ So, we did that. And then it took another couple of weeks for them to get back to us. And, by that time I was about broke.”
Sides’ lone fulltime crew member, Steve “Gravy” Fairfield, was also broke. Gravy left the team as Sides Motorsports sat sidelined at his Tennessee home struggling to get his hauler back in action.
Thankfully, one of his team’s sponsors loaned Sides some money and Jason says “that gave us the resources to get all the materials we needed and get it back going.”
Enter Scotty Mills. The veteran sprint car crew member hails from Australia and has served on Jason’s Outlaws team in past seasons. Once they were able to secure the materials needed to begin repairs, Mills sprang to work, helping make the welding repairs to the back end of the trailer. Sides estimates that it took roughly 40 hours of welding to bring the hauler back to specs. Mills has now rejoined Sides’ crew for the rest of the season.
“The first couple weeks back were like going to (season-opener) Volusia, just getting adjusted to things.” Jason explains today. “And, after a couple races it comes right back. But at least it wasn’t starting at Volusia. We were at Burlington and Dubuque, and Beaver Dam, so a little bit smaller, racier tracks. So not as fast as Volusia. Of course, we got to Huset’s and had a couple problems, but then we got to Jackson – a little bit bigger track – and got going pretty good.”
“I’ve gotten some payment back from insurance and got everything back going. I wouldn’t say by no means you make a whole bunch, but got enough back to get things fixed, pay back my sponsor for that part of it ‘cause that was a loan-type deal.” Meanwhile, Sides’ attorney is working with his insurance company to attempt to recoup some of Jason’s lost income.
Despite the unexpected setback to his season, overall, Jason Sides has tried to focus on the bigger picture as he looks back on the accident and ensuing scramble that got him back out on the road. “You know, me and Carlton (Reimers, World of Outlaws Series Director) talked, and thank God this doesn’t happen more often. As much as we drive late at night through little towns leaving or going to race tracks Friday or Saturday nights, with bars getting out, that more of this doesn’t happen.”
“We’re back racing, and nobody got hurt, and we got it all fixed up.”