Everybody has dreams, but for Jason Reed, he is living his.
When Jason was just 4 months old he attended his first race at Grays Harbor Raceway, and he hasn’t missed a season since. From the first race he can remember, Jason was determined that he would one day be driving a winged sprint car just like his father.
“When I was a kid, I used to go around and talk to the drivers all of the time,” Jason said. “Once I got older, I wanted to race as long as we had the money to still do it. I grew up in it. I grew up with this track.”
Now at 18 years old, the Elma resident and 2014 Montesano High School graduate is in his second season in a 360 sprint car. On July 5, Jason had his highest finish of his young career when he placed second in the 360 sprint feature. The smile on his face while he signed a few autographs after the race was the same he used to have when he was the one thrusting the Sharpie marker toward his favorite driver.
“I remember when I was a little kid, I would run around here like a chicken with my head cut off and get autographs all the time,” Jason said. “All the cards I got are in a binder at my house.”
Jason comes from a lineage with many years spent at the Grays Harbor Raceway. His grandfather Harold Clevenger raced back when the track was in Central Park and worked with Jason’s father Ron Reed when he got behind the steering wheel in 1982. Ron Reed raced winged sprints for 23 years and it was during some of these years that Jason got his first taste of the action on the dirt oval.
Jason’s eyes would be fixed on the track, but, after the races, he would hustle through the pit area getting autographs from all of his favorite drivers. He was hooked. Soon, he got to build relationships with some of the drivers. He was invited to a birthday party for one of the driver’s children. He even was given the nickname The Dragon by one of his early idols.
When he was 9 years old, Jason finally had the chance to get behind the wheel himself as he began racing in the quarter midgets.
In 2005, his dad suffered a fractured neck in a crash at the Grays Harbor Raceway and, after two decades, Ron would hang up the helmet. The turmoil of the crash turned into opportunity for Jason as the car the family owned was now without a driver. In 2006, the family put three different drivers in the 97R car and instead of putting a name on the car, the word “Driver?” was put on the side. While Jason has yet to scroll his name in vinyl, the question mark is now gone and Ron, who now acts as crew chief for the car, is pretty sure of who his driver will be.
“(Jason) is coming along pretty good for no more than he has been in the car,” Ron Reed said. “He is probably running as fast of times as I did. I’m proud of him.”
There is still a big learning curve for Jason as he gets experience behind the wheel. Each race is another lesson as Ron walks him through the good and bad of each performance. In the first race of the season, Jason finished ninth and was frustrated. Since then, he has improved.
“This year, it was like starting all over again the first race,” Jason said. “It looked like it was my first race ever. The second race I came out and raced pretty good.”
Last week, with one of the biggest fields of 22 cars for the Summer Thunder Sprint Series on Saturday, Jason was involved in a collision on the first lap and fought the rest of the race to get toward the front before finishing in 14th place.
No matter the outcome, the day after the race Jason and Ron are out in the shop from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. working on the car. They don’t have any sponsors yet, but Jason has another dream of one day being able to race for a living. For now, he is part of his own pit crew and puts in long hours from 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. almost every day just to be able to race on weekends.
When Jason isn’t racing himself, he is watching others race from inside the track. On the weeks when he doesn’t race his sprint car, he helps track announcer Phil Martelli with trackside interviews and for one race last year Reed did the announcing all by himself.
“He is a good kid,” Phil Martelli said. “He has been impressive (as a driver). He is young and he is still learning.”
Jason is hoping that one day soon Martelli will be interviewing him after a win to complete his transformation from fan to racer. When that day comes, it won’t just be about continuing a family legacy for Jason, it will also be about giving back to those who have helped make his dream come true.
“A win would mean a lot because of my family that supports me, my girlfriend and her family who supports me, my dad who works his butt off on the racecar each week,” Jason said. “A win would mean a lot because of all of them.”