SARVIS RETURNS REFRESHED, READY by Jeremy Troiano
2002 Pro Cup Champion Gets A Fresh Start At It All
Things were looking pretty good for Jason Sarvis just a couple of years ago. He climbed out of his car at Lakeland (FL) 26 years old and the 2002 USAR Pro Cup Series champion. He had talks lined up to possibly head to the NASCAR Craftsman Truck or Busch Series and get one step close to his dream of NASCAR's NEXTEL Cup Series.
However, the 2003 season started and Sarvis was sitting on the sidelines – no rides in hand. The defending Pro Cup Champion wasn't even in the first race of the year to defend his title.
Fast forward to the end of the 2003 season. After getting back with his old team and picking up another two wins, Sarvis again had his hopes set on a Truck or Busch Series ride for 2004.
The 2004 season started, and yet again, Sarivs found himself on the sidelines as the Pro Cup Series opened the season in Lakeland (FL), the same place that just a couple of years before, he celebrated his best night in racing and saw his dreams coming true.
“When I walked across the track (in Lakeland) and they were doing driver introductions, it just didn't feel right,” said Sarvis, who served as a spotter instead of a driver that night. “I looked down the front stretch and saw all those cars and all those guys that I've raced against and I knew I should be out there in one of them. I realized right then that I want to race and I'm willing to do just about anything to progress my career and move up.”
Sarvis' time with Ricky Benton was one of ups and downs. A championship in 2002 was followed up with contract disputes and a “so-so” season in 2003. Then, a complete separation left Sarvis rideless, but also jobless.
“This racing business is a funny game. I am learning more about it every day. I really didn't have anything, but I knew I wanted to be in this business of motorsports. I knew I wanted to keep moving forward, though. I wanted to move back to Mooresville (NC) and possibly do that.
It has been a long time since Sarvis was as happy as this back in 2002.
“I felt like I was in an area where I got the opportunity to run a Busch race. That is my goal; to run one. If I can get in one, I might be able to get into another one. I don't expect anything to be given to me. I know I’ve got to work for it. So I moved to Mooresville (NC) and started working at (car builder) Billy Hess' shop hanging bodies.
“Billy Hess is one of the main reasons I am still here. He is one of the best people in the sport as far as helping people. He gave me a place to work and a place to stay. He helped me get on my feet.”
But Sarvis was still a driver without a seat. That is when Hess introduced Cup series’ star Jimmy Spencer, a long time user of Hess' cars, to Sarvis. Spencer was getting a ProCup car for his son, Jimmy Jr., in hopes of moving him up the ladder. Spencer
showed some interest in Sarvis and knew Jimmy Jr. would need a mentor, as well as an experienced driver to help run the operation.
“Billy really pushed me on to Jimmy and asked Jimmy to look at me and give me a chance. That is all it took. We worked something out pretty quick and got a car together to go to the second race of the year at New Smyrna Speedway (FL).”
It wasn't the best debut for the team, finishing 33rd after mechanical problems dropped them out of the event early. But Sarvis finally found a seat. And it was a good one.
In 2004, Jason finds himself back behind the wheel.
“Jimmy has given me a good opportunity here. We have big plans. It can't happen over night, though, and we all know that.”
But this story isn't about the opportunity at hand. It is about the perseverance of one of Short Track racing's top drivers, who never gave up hope despite some pretty tough odds.
“All I've ever wanted to do was race and I was really into it. But I felt like I was let down in other areas that I thought were going good for me and didn't, like when I was trying to get a Busch ride. When that stuff falls through, that disappoints you. I made up my mind, though, that I didn't want to waste time, because time is everything in this sport.
“I set goals. That is how I've always been. And I want to keep moving forward. If I set a goal to climb Mount Everest, and I do that, I am not going to go back home and say I want to try to do it again. I want to move onto a bigger, taller mountain. That is what I am trying to do here. I want to keep moving up.
Jason (left) talks with car owner Jimmy Spencer at their first race together in Florida. (Horne Photo)
“I don't know what the future will be. But I've really learned to handle things better. People often ask me how I always keep such a good outlook on things. I don't know. I just always tell them that every once in a while, things will just not go your way. I've been real fortunate, though. I started with a go-kart in the back of my dad's truck. Hell, I never thought I'd get to run at (the ProCup) level.
“Sure, I want to move up, but I keep it in perspective that I'm thankful for what I've got to do. Every person you talk to has excuses, but they still have to perform. I enjoy working on racecars. I enjoy hanging bodies. And I love racing. Hopefully, one day I can get a good ride and keep moving up, but if it doesn't happen, I am not going to have a bad opinion of it. If I don't get a ride, I am going to be in racing regardless. I just love the sport.”
It sounds like this story is finally paying off for Sarvis.