Wheatland, Missouri (March 15, 2021) – Californian Jason Papich finished his 2020 Lucas Oil MLRA campaign on an upward swing of momentum, and looks to ride that wave into the start of the upcoming MLRA season. When action gets underway next month he will go to work on a bucket list of accomplishments for the season ahead, which includes notching his first MLRA win and being in contention for the series title come October.
After stepping away from the driver’s seat for a number of years, Papich returned full time one year ago and has intentions of another full MLRA run in 2021. He admits to the team struggling at the onset of last year, but is excited by the strides they have taken and by the momentum that his team will carry into the season ahead.
“We were trying a lot of stuff last year early on and unfortunately we just kept going backwards,” explained Papich. “We finally decided to bite the bullet and make a change last year around the “Show-Me”(100) and got us a Longhorn. We were really fast the last couple of races and had some good qualifying spots. We took that info and got another new Longhorn, made some additional improvements to it, and I think we showed pretty well with it in Arizona (Wild West Shootout)”.
Papich’s improvement showed in the stretch run of the 2020 season, where he compiled four top ten finishes in the last five races, which included an MLRA career best runner-up finish at the MLRA Fall Nationals at Lucas Oil Speedway. Not to be outdone, he proceeded to grab his first Slick Mist Fast Time award of the season one week later at the season finale at Tri-City Speedway.
The now 42-year-old, first set out to chase the MLRA back in 2016. After holding down the series point lead for a period early in the season, he made the decision to step away from the series to focus more time on his young and growing family at home, putting his racing on the sidelines for the next few years.
“My wife is certainly supportive and was not part of the reason of why I stepped aside before, it was a decision I made. My kids are old enough now where they are easier to travel with, so I am hopeful they will be able to get out here and watch some of our races. My girls love racing and my son is four years old now and a lot easier to handle around the race track, so that will be extra support that helps me having them come out and not having to be away from them every race.”
Like most MLRA drivers, he has become accustomed to juggling work priorities and family time while still finding a way to enjoy his passion of dirt late model racing. Papich finds his way to the track from half-way across the country from his home in Arroyo Grande, CA to compete with the series. While the frequent flyer miles may be adding up, he admits it comes with its share of challenges.
“It’s variable based on where we are racing, it’s sometimes challenging in certain rural areas,” he said of the travel. “We might have to fly out the day before, often times we try to fly out the day of but that’s been another thing affected by Covid, where flights are more limited and then there is always the variability of weather along the way that makes it interesting.”
“On Sundays it’s an early flight out, gaining a couple hours going west and trying to spend the rest of the Sunday with the family and then tending to the business right up until the last minute when we have to fly out to the next race.”
Papich along with teammate and fellow Californian Tony Toste, base their MLRA operations in Camdenton, MO where crew chief Tim Douglas and Robby Schmidt are tasked with weekly preparations. “When I leave the track my brain is 100% off of racing until we come back pretty much, so we rely heavily on these guys. I am all about the business that helps pay for this when I am not here,” he commented of his duties as the owner/manager of Papich Construction and Sierra Pacific Materials.
The MLRA season is set to go green at the Lucas Oil Speedway April 9th - 10th which is as good of place as any for Papich to get a jump towards achieving his goals for the season. “We always run pretty good, knock on wood, at Wheatland. I have raced there probably more than I have anywhere else in the Midwest and the track always seems to kind of come to a certain similar condition almost every time we race there, so I am able to read the track pretty well."
Jason Papich Racing: Brand Creative West, Midwest Sheet Metal, Toste Construction, Sierra Pacific Materials, Lucas Cattle Company, Bilstein, Monarch Mega Storage, C&D Bonding
Crew Chief: Tim Douglas
Crew Members: Robby Schmidt