Jay Middleton Announces Retirement after ASA SAT Championship By Elgin Traylor
24-Year Old to Step Out of the Drivers Seat
Some racing careers can last for several decades. Guys like Morgan Shepherd, Harry Gant, and James Hylton have pushed the driving age into the 50s and 60s. So when a young driver like Jay Middleton announces his retirement at the age of 24, you might wonder what is going on?
Recently, Middleton was involved in an on-track incident in ASA Southeast Tour competition with Taylor Satterfield. Middleton was victim of retaliation fueled by contact from Middleton earlier in the race that sent Satterfield in the wall. When the dust settled a few laps later, both Middleton’s car and Satterfield’s car sat wrecked in the first turn at Watermelon Capital Speedway (GA). Words were exchanged after the race between the two pit crews and penalties where handed out by ASA Southeast Asphalt Tour officials. So why the retirement?
“Because I am getting older and they’re taking 18-year-old drivers into Cup,” said Middleton. "With the economy the way it is, NASCAR is going to have a tough time trying to keep up with it. I have been taking a lot of different things into account and it was just time for me to make a change and go back to school.”
And then there was the Satterfield incident…
“It’s really not anything to do with Taylor (Satterfield). It’s more of the actions of the series. We got the exact same penalty as Taylor Satterfield and that’s not right. It’s just the last thing on a long list of things that I don’t agree with in racing. There’s really no way to protect ourselves and I just can’t allow my destiny to be handled by other people that don’t have my best interest in their heads.”
Racing is a hard sport and it’s not for the weak. Even those who deal with it for years get worn down by the uncertainties that can accrue on a race track. Economically, it’s a good decision for someone who has the resources like Middleton. With plans to return to the University of Florida for a law degree, Middleton says the cost of funding a Late Model program for a dream of one day racing in NASCAR is no longer appealing.
Jay Middleton won three race on his way to the ASA Southeast Asphalt Tour championship. After the final race he has decided to hang up his helmet. (51 Sports Photo)
“I’m going to go back to school and if I work hard, I’m going to get to a job that I’m going to make a lot of money and be very happy. If I work hard in racing, I might just get pushed around and beat up for the rest of life and never really get anywhere past where I am right now. At 24, with a wife and talking about starting a family, I just can’t justify taking abuse anymore.”
Middleton won three races this season driving for Mike Cope Racing. The combination of Cope and Middleton was a great fit as they logged six top-five finishes, and nine top-10 finishes. Along with the series championship, Middleton also won the Carolina Clash regional title and finished second in the other two as well.
Jay Middleton's face will still be seen at the track, just not in a driver suit. (51 Sports Photo)
“We’re going out as champions. We’ve been at a crossroads for a little while and I’m glad we came back, ran for this championship and won it. It wasn’t easy. We overcame everything and they’re not going to take that away from us.”
Don’t expect Middleton’s decision to be one of many retirements either. He’s ready to exit the sport and doesn’t plan on changing his mind anytime soon.
“This is a real deal and I’m not even interested in trying to do a whole lot in racing anymore,” added Middleton. “It’s just too messed up of a system with the way things are running right now. There is really no one looking out for racers except for racers and racers don’t want to take care of each other because they’re [too much] in competition with each other.”