By Phil Whipple,
RaceOnTexas Staff Writer. Photo By: Rachel Plant
PEARLAND, Texas — Another member of a well known and respected family of racers in southeast Texas is starting to light up the radar in a big way. His father was a skilled racer who only stepped out of a car due to health issues, and his brother has made a decent name for himself in stock car circles.
For 24-year-old Jason Downey, carrying on the family tradition of success on the dirt ovals is a source of great pride. A regular in the ultra-competitive Limited Modified division at 105 Speedway, Downey has one win, three top-five and four top-10 finishes so far this season. And there are more wins coming.
“We really struggled at the beginning of this season,” Downey said in a soft, humble manner. “We had two engines let go, so that was a big hit. It made it difficult to focus on getting the car dialed in like we wanted. We picked up a new car, and I have to give all the credit to my Dad.
“He's dealing with some health issues right now, but he's in the shop with me making sure everything looks good on the scales and things get done up right. I'm just trying to soak up as much knowledge from him as I can right now. We just fired off real well with this car right from the beginning.”
That first career feature victory in the Limited Mod came on July 3 and carried a special meaning.
“It was big for us, it kind of makes everything we put into this sport seem worth the effort,” Downey said. “We got lucky in a sense, because a couple of guys up front broke. I'm not complaining at all, we were in the right place to capitalize and had to be strong just to seize that opportunity. It felt amazing.”
Jason's father, Thomas Downey, and his brother, Thomas Jr., form the bedrock of this family's racing legacy to which Jason's success now enhances. The 2021 season is Jason's third full year of racing.
“We did a little Factory Stock racing in 2019,” he explained. “We ran maybe 10 races or so, I picked up a win in it which was pretty awesome. Later that year I had a chance to turn some laps in another guy's Limited Modified, and I didn't want to get out of it. I loved the feel of it, and this is my division now.
“Growing up watching my Dad race these cars was inspiring, I always used to dream about racing one myself but never thought I would get here, especially at my age now. I'm appreciative of the chance.”
While we've all acknowledged the growth explosion in Factory Stock and how tough it is to win in that class these days, it ain't no cakewalk in Limited Modifieds either, boys. Just ask this recent winner.
“There are a lot of good drivers and race teams in this division,” Downey explained. “The intense competition can be seen everywhere you look. Even at 105, we've got guys like Chad Comer, Garret Higgins, Howard Willis and Garrett Gregory who make you get up on the wheel. They race to win.”
When Downey suits up and climbs aboard his beautiful No. 164 machine, it's a pretty solid ride.
“We actually have a 2015 Hughes chassis that was built by Jason Hughes,” Downey said. “It has some good parts on it, and is a very well-built race car. The price was right, and we have no regrets at all. We were fortunate enough to have Billy DeRemer at Southern Outfitters Designs come on board, and he bought us a Crate Motor for it. I couldn't be any more surprised or happier with how this car performs.”
As Jason begins to get this whole Sport Mod thing figured out, his brother is wearing a broad smile.
“My brother has all kinds of raw talent,” Thomas Jr. said with an obvious level of pride. “The kid has driven a Sport Mod maybe 12 times total, and the worst I've seen him finish is fifth. What's impressive about Jason is his determination both on-track and in the shop.
“He'll work 50-plus hours a week at his job, then goes home and puts in another 40-plus hours a week in the shop. His skills and that kind of unmatched work ethic will take him anywhere he wants to go.”
In 2021, 105 Speedway is enjoying a resurgence thanks to a vibrant, passionate new team at the helm.
“We are fortunate to have Jesse McNorton, Chris Brown and Joey Smith running and promoting 105 Speedway, and they are doing a fantastic job with it,” Downey said with a strong sense of local pride in his voice. “It's like a whole new environment, I think it's going to thrive. They're doing it all up right.”
Along with that raw natural talent and a great race car, Downey also has some key folks behind him.
“My Dad is a major part of my racing program,” he explained. “My Mom and Dad hold it all together, and my wife, despite being pregnant right now, is in the shop by my side six to seven nights a week. I have the most supportive family ever and I'm truly thankful. I couldn't do it without any one of them.
“I also need to thank Billy DeRemer, of Southern Outfitters Designs. He's the reason we are back on the track and have been so competitive. We couldn't do this without him this year, for sure. I'll also give a special thanks to our valued sponsors, including Jason McCool at Window Pros of Texas, another guy who's a huge part of our success; KMO Racing, Coast to Coast Septic Pumping, S&B Towing, 11x Motorsports, TDJ Racing and 41 Racing Shocks. I really appreciate what these folks do for our team.”
As the heat of summer rolls on in south Texas, Downey is enjoying his hobby and has some plans in place for the future.
“We're planning to run for IMCA Southern Sport Mod Rookie-of-the-Year honors in 2022 if all goes right,” Downey concluded. “We want to travel around a little and see how we stack up against some other race teams out there. You gain skills from competing against the top guys, so we'll go do that.”