Since taking out the 2018/2019 Summit Racing Equipment Sportsman Series Super Street Championship, South Australian racer Paul Jennings has had a challenging 18 months.
Early in the season results proved hard to come by, before COVID-19 restrictions saw him benched along with the rest of the racing community. Then most tragically, in late 2020 he lost a treasured family member.
Now, Jennings is hoping he can find something to smile about at this weekend’s South Coast 660 at South Coast Raceway (January 23/24) – the first event of the Summit Racing Equipment Sportsman Series to be held since the COVID-19-forced pause in competition.
“My 19/20 racing season started off well in Mildura when I was able to win US Muscle Car at the Nostalgia meet, after that though I seemed to become a spectator more often than not with early exists,” he said.
“It is a humbling sport for sure and can knock your confidence around a bit. I still have confidence in the wagon, but not so much in the driver,” he said dryly.
“I was able to go a round at the December 2019 South Coast Nationals, but then at the South Coast 660 in January 2020 I went red in the very first round – it was certainly very forgettable.
“Soon after, we hit the COVID-19 restrictions. Now that we are back on, I am certainly looking forward to catching up with the boys from Ballarat and getting back into it.
“After all that was 2020, any racing feels like a bonus and I am incredibly happy we can go racing again – hopefully, nothing changes with the borders so we can all have some fun this weekend.
“My dad passed away in September so this will be the first time I have raced without him being there. It will be very strange and emotional to not see him standing on the hill next to mum, throwing me a thumbs up for a win light,” Jennings reflected.
Ahead of this weekend’s return, Jennings has taken a relaxed approach to his preparation.
“I haven’t made any major changes to the car since the 18/19 season, although with the results I have had maybe I should have,” he laughed.
“To be honest, right now I am just happy I can race again.
“In these challenging times, with so much changing daily, hopefully we can get the extended season finished and then have a good reset for the 2021/2022 season.
“It is impossible to predict the future at the moment, but so far the plan is that after the Grand Finals I will put the car back on the jack stands and give it a freshen up ready for the Nostalgia event in Mildura.
“In the meantime, I would like to thank my brother Michael Jennings and also Steve Hunt – they play a big part in my racing and I cannot thank them enough – and also Kingsley and Lauren Kuchel for their support.
“I also wouldn’t be able to compete without the support of Grant from Norwood Automatics, Ford from Adelaide Car Transport, Ned and his awesome family from Smart Road Auto Wreckers and Smart Road Towing.”
The South Coast 660 will be held at South Coast Raceway across Saturday January 23 and Sunday January 24 and will host SRESS racing for the Summit Racing Equipment Junior Dragster, Modified Bike, Super Street, Super Sedan, Modified, Top Sportsman, Competition Bike, Super Stock, Competition, Supercharged Outlaws and Super Gas brackets. For further details, visit www.southcoastraceway.com.au
The event will mark round 10 of the 19/20/21 Summit Racing Equipment Sportsman Series season which has been extended in the face of COVID-19 to not only deliver successful completion of the current competition, but also a record prize pool thanks to Summit Racing Equipment. The performance powerhouse has announced it will offer 50 percent extra end of season prize money for a total prize pool of more than $100k including $10k for the prestigious John Storm Memorial, creating the biggest prize pool in Australian Drag Racing history. For more details, please click here.
For more information, visit www.andra.com.au
IMAGE: PAUL JENNINGS ON HIS WAY TO VICTORY AT THE 2019 SOUTH COAST 660. IMAGE BY AUTOMOTIVE EVENT IMAGES.