Jason Cardwell and Chase King entered the final race of the season this past weekend at Volunteer Speedway separated by just one point as they battled for the track championship in the Limited(Steelhead) Late Model division at the Bulls Gap, Tenn. facility. In the end, Cardwell beat out King for the race win and the season-long title.
Those same two competitors also ended the 2017 campaign at 411 Motor Speedway in Seymour, Tenn. as the top-2 drivers in that class with King getting the better of Cardwell there.
Cardwell explained that he and his family team experienced a series of ups and downs throughout the course of the season that ultimately led to those first and second place results on the two east Tennessee dirt tracks.
“It’s been kind of a rocky year,” Cardwell explained in an interview with InsideDirtRacing.com. “We had some bad luck and broke some race cars. There was a lot of stuff that was out of our hands. We had fast cars but we had some terrible luck, especially at 411, and that’s what hurt us in the points there.”
Particularly, Cardwell’s No. 07 machine was involved in accidents that caused significant damage on more than one occasion. However, he and his close-knit crew were able to overcome those difficulties whenever they arose.
“We were really more consistent at Bulls Gap,” the second generation racer recalled. “We had good cars there and at 411, but we had better luck at Bulls Gap than we had at 411. We were able to keep the car together and keep it out front.
“We were involved in some accidents,” Cardwell continued. “Most of them happened while we were leading races. We had some lapped cars to get into us and stuff. We had three really bad wrecks, one of them actually knocked me out and gave me a concussion. But we were able to bounce back from those wrecks. We’ve got a really good crew and some good people helping us. It takes a lot of work when you have to put cars back together after tearing them up. We tore up one Warrior car and wound up getting another one, a 2016 model.”
The Cardwell team uses Warrior Race Cars along with Phantom Race Engines in their efforts to win races and titles. The Knoxville driver is proud of the fact that his team is made up of family members and close friends that have been by his side for years.
“It’s great,” Cardwell declared. “It is a family deal. Everybody knows that we’re kind of a low budget race team but I’ve surrounded myself with some really good people. My shock guy has been with me for a long time now and so has our engine builder.”
The 39-year-old driver says that he and his brothers are in agreement regarding the work they do on the race car more often than not.
“We’re always rowing in the same direction,” he insisted. “Me and my brothers have always been close and we continue to be since our dad passed away. We’re doing it for him. I just want to make him proud.”
And that closeness among family members is particularly important when things go wrong, as was the case at times this year when the team had to battle through the difficult time constraints placed on them as they worked to repair crash damage.
“It can be pretty difficult,” he went on. “We’ve got pretty demanding jobs. Me and my brothers work together on our job and then we work on the race car. I spend a lot of time at the garage away from my wife and kids. My wife is very supportive because racing can be demanding. It’s pretty stressful. I’ve crashed on Saturday and stayed up all night just wondering how I’m going to get it back together. But like I said, I’ve surrounded myself with good people and I have got phone calls from people offering to help put the car back together when we’ve needed the help.”
Despite racing at two separate tracks during 2017, Cardwell says his crew was up to the challenge as far as getting the car ready from week to week was concerned.
“To be honest with you, we can do the changes from 411 to Bulls Gap in ten minutes,” he said. “It’s a matter of shock adjustments and a couple of spring changes. Other than that, it’s pretty much the same.”
The real challenged was not necessarily in getting ready for the tracks, but getting ready for the stiff competition faced at both venues.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to race at a lot of tracks and between 411 and Bulls Gap, the competition is great,” Cardwell said. “There’s ten guys who could win every week there.”
And the fact that he had to outlast such strong competition made this track championship one of the more satisfying of those he has amassed in his career.
“We’ve been lucky to win championships at Atomic and at 411 and now at Bulls Gap. With what we’ve went through with the accidents and the hard work, it’s very satisfying. We’ve got a lot of tough competition that we race against every week.”