SBRS: Jason Richardson - Out like a lion

Richardson is on pace to finish strongly in the Western Regional Series. Jason Richardson has re-energized his pursuit of a racing career. The Formula Dodge National Championship competitor had been out of racecars for almost six years before ...

Richardson is on pace to finish strongly in the Western Regional Series.

Jason Richardson has re-energized his pursuit of a racing career. The Formula Dodge National Championship competitor had been out of racecars for almost six years before moving to the San Francisco area and getting back to what he loves to do. Race cars.

His passion to race started early. At the age of 11, Richardson was placed in a go-kart by his Dad and ran at local tracks in Ontario every weekend.

"I loved going to the track," recalls Richardson." It was always a rush for me to get into the kart and do what I was good at. I can still remember feeling nervous on the way to whatever track we were going to go race at. But once I got into the kart, it would all go away. Sometimes I still get that feeling just before I have to get into an R/T 2000 car and compete."

Later, when Richardson was 17, he moved to Oakland with his Mother and was soon befriended by local Porsche builder Erik Shahoian. Intrigued by his personality, Shahoian put Richardson in one of his Porsche 914s at a local P.C.A event. Despite never having run a car like this, the young driver raced to a surprising fourth-place finish. Recognizing the passion and focus in Richardson eyes, Shahoian continued to put the fast running Canadian into more events, eventually starting him in the more powerful 911s.

"There is no other sports car quite like a Porsche," said Richardson. "In my opinion, the 914 is one of the most well-balanced racecars you can run on a track. I always felt real comfortable in a Porsche, especially the 911s. They are so much fun to race and when they are set up properly there is nothing like it."

With a series of strong finishes, including a number of top-3 finish positions, Richardson was starting to develop a following at race events. Just as momentum was developing, he was offered a high-profile sales job back in Toronto. Believing that he needed to start a professional career, the 20-year old accepted the position and went back to the great white North.

"They say everything happens for a reason," said the aspiring racer. He continued," I believe working for Century Circuits Inc. (now my main sponsor for the Skip Barber Formula Dodge National Championship) was put in my path because I needed to learn how to sell and interact with people on a higher level. I was making deals with companies for big money at a very young age."

Despite six years of success, Richardson grew tired of the position and looked to shift gears, eventually moving back to California.

" I knew what I wanted to do, and that was to get back into a race car and start a career. He started to look for local schools or events to race in.

"I considered the Jim Russell School," says Richardson," but didn't like the fact that it was only at Sears Point and you were at the same track every race. I also explored the Bridgestone Firestone School in Canada, but the same was true. And, of course, I also knew about the Skip Barber organization so I checked out their web site."

"Right away I was impressed with the information available online and how easy it was to use. I thought this is what I need to get started again."

In doing much research on the Skip Barber site and what Skip Barber had to offer it was not to long before Richardson was on the phone with a CSR, making his reservation for a three-day school.

" As soon as I spoke to a CSR and learned how the scholarship ladder worked, I wanted to run in the Western Regional Series. I had so much fun at my three-day school at Laguna Seca in Monterey California. I was a bit rusty as I settled into a racecar again."

Richardson recalls how working with Skip Barber coaches Lonnie Pechnik and Jeff Rodrigues changed his behavior in the Formula Dodge.

"I can remember being so jumpy on the gas and darting the car into a turn, and just upsetting the formula car in a big way. Lonnie and Jeff got me to smooth everything out to where I was mentally already out of a turn just as I was going into it. It is hard to explain, you really have to go out in the car and just drive the track."

Finishing near the top of his class, Richardson was ready to move on to do some advanced activity courses and on to his first Skip Barber Race Series weekend in the new R/T 2000. In his first race he was off the pace by about three to four full seconds, and spun the car in turn two midway through the race. But determined to succeed he drove his way from the back of the pack of about 15 cars to finish in a respectable seventh place.

"I'll never forget that race, I was not just nervous I was down right scared. I was very upset when I spun out in turn two that I was determined to finish as best I could. As the season progressed my goal was to always place in the top-10, but I was just really trying to get used to the car, or as Divina [Galica] likes to say "to be one with the car."

Following a tough, learning experience type weekend at Phoenix International Raceway which moved him down to 20th place, Richardson was feeling pressure to finish with the top of the pack. The Canadian had to re-evaluate his driving style and start garnering points. At the next race that's exactly what he did.

"I remember Fontana very well. I needed to get onto the podium quite badly. I could just taste it."

And get on with it he did, with a fourth place and then a third place result. Richardson had found his spark and was on his way to a strong end to the season. With his newfound confidence, Richardson went to the next race at Sebring and earned a fifth and third place finish. Unfortunately, his placement was deemed questionable, went to review and was later changed to a seventh place finish.

"That was hard to swallow. Fighting so hard to finish in the top-3 only to have a four-off rule take it away hurt. But that's racing and rules are rules." With coaches and fellow drivers taking notice to the ever-improving driver, Richardson was one to keep an eye for the up-and-coming races. With two races to go, and now in 12th place from 20th in the points standings, Richardson was focused on winning back at the track were it all started -- Laguna Seca.

"I was extremely focused on that race," recalls Richardson." I wanted this win very badly and knew I was going to get it. It was such a crazy start that I was not sure if we were ever going to get the green flag. Lonnie's instructions were get in front and stay in front so that's what I did."

With one race left in the Western Regional Series, now in the top-10 for points, Richardson is a contender for Most Progressive Driver distinction and perhaps even Rookie-of-the-Year.

"You could say I went into the season like a lamb but came out like a lion."

-barber/at-

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About this article
Series Other open wheel
Drivers Skip Barber , Jason Richards , Lonnie Pechnik