News Sportsman News Jason Stares doubles down at ANDRA Grand Final

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This past weekend Jason Stares became the new Summit Racing Equipment Sportsman Series Top Sportsman Champion and winning the ANDRA Championship Grand Final.

In a bracket only two seasons old, Top Sportsman built on the foundation 2015 season and really came into it’s own in 2015/2016 with a five way Championship battle developing into an exciting end of season showdown at Adelaide International Raceway.

Holding five events wins between them and numerous runner ups, any one of Stares, Paul Russo, Stuart McBain, Darren Saliba and Jason Arbery had a shot at supremacy.

Ironically it was the man who would be crowned Modified Champion, Matt Forbes, who had the most impact in the Top Sportsman finale eliminating Arbery, Saliba and Russo – who heartbreakingly broke out by .001 seconds in the semi final. 

Stares came through against Julian Carafa, a solo quarter final, Bruno Romeo to put the title out of reach and a solo final victory lap when Forbes’s semi final trip into the sand took him out of contention. That allowed Stares to take the pressure off, celebrate and pick up his third round win of the season. 

“For my crew and I we could not have had a better season,” said Stares. 

“We were fortunate enough to have two major sponsors and two minor sponsors step up their commitment with us right before we started our first ever attempt at an Australian Championship and our racing program just seemed to improve with their added support. 

“Our dream was to win the Championship but our goal was to win our first ever ANDRA Christmas Tree. We ended up in four finals, being Mildura, Calder Park, Portland and the finals in Adelaide, winning three of them.

“Receiving two Silver Christmas Trees and now two Gold Christmas Trees we not only accomplished our goal but also achieved my lifetime drag racing dream!”

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The Top Sportsman fraternity has become close knit and is evident when witnessing the teams and drivers interact around the pits. All five of the Championship contenders are friends and so are many others who raced throughout the campaign.

“We made many new friends this season in the sport as a whole but especially with the great bunch of racers and crews racing Top Sportsman,” added Stares.

“And with Paul Russo, Stuart McBain, Jason Arbery and Darren Saliba and myself all being on 300 points at the start of the weekend we all knew it was going to be a tough weekend on the track.

“But we all still managed to keep the banter flying thick and fast between us all off the track over the weekend. With four still in the running after the first round it was still anyone’s Championship.

“Come the semis the Championship was down to Paul Russo and myself and he had me a bit worried after two finals against each other – one win each and a few months of him constantly reminding me he was coming after me it could have possibly come down to the last final. But fortunately for me, not so for Paul, he broke out by .001 in the race before my semi. 

“With my crew getting a little excited I had to do my best to keep cool and a level head to try finish what we started months ago and racing my good friend Bruno Romeo was never going to be an easy race. I passed Bruno at about three-quarter track and backed off a couple of times to hopefully not break out and crossed the finish first so was pretty confident I had the win but I never get too excited until my crew give me the news. 

“When I saw all the arms flying out the tow vehicle and fist pumps it hit me that we had just won the Australian Championship. There were a few high fives and a couple of tears and now days later it still has not hit home what we have managed to accomplish this season.” 

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Stares is quick to brush off the accolades flying his way and point them in the direction of his sponsors and supporters, most of all his family. 

“Firstly thank you to my amazing wife Kellie, she was 36 weeks pregnant and her birthday was on the day of the test and tune when we were in Adelaide and never once did she try to stop me achieving my dream so thank you so much for your endless support. My two beautiful daughters Ella Ruby and Maddison Anne for being the best cheer squad ever.

“My Crew Chief/sister Michelle Stares for travelling all around the country and doing all the weather station/data recording and dial ins. All of the family and friends that have come along to crew at different meetings – Uncle Bob Chapman, Aaron Brookes, Father-in-law Michael Wheeler, Tim Spain, Andrew Ashley, my parents and little Pepi. 

“Thanks to Bruno Cugnetto and Aaron Brookes from VPW, Proflow and Sunoco Race Fuel Australia for their continued support, Jeff Pahlke, Andy and Danielle Pearce, Tom Bogner and former employee Big Mal Willmott from Lucas Oil Products. All of these people are every part as great as the awesome products they sell. 

“Kerry Rauch from Paul Oil Company / Sunoco Race Fuel USA, the most consistent race fuel I have ever used, Joe and Jenn Jolly from Sunset Performance Engines Texas, - the new engine and Joe’s unbelievable knowledge have been the key to our consistency, Darren McDonald from SunX, Fred Soleiman from Protrans for the killer transmission, John Willard from Flatout services for the chassis work and tuning, Kon Michaloudakis from WAS for your help and advice. 

“I owe a lot of thanks to Neil Constantinou as over the past few months he has given me some of the most valuable racing advice I have ever received and for that I’m very grateful. All of the guys that travelled making Top Sportsman the awesome bracket it has become, and a special mention to Paul Russo, his brothers and Bob Sherry for the close races throughout the season and keeping it exciting all the way to the end. Maybe next season I will be coming for you…

“Time to have a rest and see what the new season brings.”

Images: Bob Taylor / bobteee.webs.com (top), Sporting Scribe (middle), Jason Stares (below)
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