Within the highly competitive world of short track racing, there lies a mix of talent in every class. From seasoned veterans to timid rookies, they all come together once the green flag waves.

For second-year Street Stock driver Jordan Russell, fitting into that mix hasn’t been terribly difficult. The longtime race fan jumped in with both feet in 2015, starting his career against a host of top talent.

 “My entrance into racing came about in an unusual way,” Russell said. “I had a Harley Davidson that I didn’t want any more, and Justin Karkos wanted to get his hands on one. He offered me his 2014 Wildcat car for the bike, so we made the deal. All of a sudden, I owned a decent race car.

“I never really thought I had the ability or money to go racing, which is why I had never done it before. I had always attended the races at Oxford, rooting for my friend Josh Childs. My dad used to take me to the races often. He was a big Jeff Taylor fan, so we pulled for him back when he raced full-time.”

Since he dove in last season, Russell has experienced the ups and downs that come with competing on a weekly basis. He finished a respectable seventh in points last year as a rookie, with steady top-five finishes against guys with years of experience.

“It’s definitely been a learning experience for me,” Russell said. “Going from watching to racing in one of the most competitive classes out there has been a challenge. We aren’t running quite as well as we’d like this summer, but we’ve got some things to try, and I feel we’ll be up to speed before long.”

Like other drivers who race as a hobby, Russell understands there needs to be a “fun factor” to make the time, money and effort worthwhile. He takes it as seriously as the next guy, but has a good time.

“We weren’t the best last year, we’re still not the best in 2016 and we still have a long ways to go with our program,” Russell said. “But we go to the track and give it our best shot, and if we have fun, it’s like a win to me.”

In 2015, Russell was just trying to stay out of people’s way and really didn’t have much in the way of help in the pits. He and his small crew played a guessing game after practice sessions, not knowing exactly what to do to get the car where he needed it to be. This season, he has a much better idea.

“We’ve made some good gains as far as learning the car and how different adjustments affect the handing,” Russell said. “Yet we’ve also been plagued by some mechanical issues.

“The biggest one came at the worst possible time. I was running third after starting on the pole and my fuel pump failed. It’s one of the most frustrating things a driver endures, yet it happens and how you deal with it is what matters.”  

Russell realizes that a big factor in this sport is luck. A team can have the best equipment, spend hours and hours preparing the car and going over plans only to watch it all go away with a simple part failure. Yet in anything mechanical, those gremlins are a part of the package.

“A week or two after that failure, I made the decision to take a week off and go boating with family and friends,” Russell said. “It was great; I didn’t even go to the track to watch, I just relaxed for a weekend. When I went back the next week, I was refreshed and had a new perspective. Our luck will turn around soon.”

That confidence for the future comes from having several solid runs in 2016, even though the results don’t show it. Some guys run up front frequently, yet somehow circumstances don’t allow for a good finish.

“I’ve run a lot more laps up front this year than I ever did in 2015,” Russell said. “I’ve gotten out of the car this year on more than one occasion and was able to say I had the time of my life. Just to know I can run with the fast guys gives me a ton of confidence. When it all comes together, we’ll be all set.”

It may be hard to grasp, but even the youngest driver in his class has more seat time than Russell. Jonathan Emerson is a teenager from Sabattus, yet grew up in a racing family and got an early start. 

For the 25-year-old Russell, in just his second season, that means he’ll just have to work a little harder.

“Last year, anybody in the top 10 within our division had a legitimate shot at winning a feature,” Russell said. “This season, Matt Dufault and Calvin Rose Jr. are running away from the pack. Dufault has a ton of chassis knowledge and is also an excellent driver, so he’s got what it takes. Rose has years of experience at Oxford, and has his car pretty well dialed in for speed. At least we all have somebody to shoot for.”

Surrounding yourself with good people has always been something new drivers have done to speed up the learning curve. Russell is no different. He has some real talent on his side in the pits for 2016.

“I have some great guys on board I can always count on,” Russell said. “They include Kyle Lamb, Corey Mills, Tyson Jordan, and my driving mentor, Gary Davis. Gary raced for years and gives me great pointers that I think have really helped. 

“I also have a nice group of local sponsors who make this great hobby a reality. D.R. Grover Construction, MaineLine Plumbing and Heating, Willy’s Repair and Pre-Owned Cars, and Russell and Sons Towing and Recovery are all valued partners, and I greatly appreciate their support.”  

As for his goals for the balance of 2016, Russell says they aren’t lofty. He just hopes for improvement.

“Right now, I’m just striving for a little more speed and to achieve the kind of consistency we enjoyed last year,” Russell said. “We have plenty of races left this season to get it together. If we continue to work hard on the car and get can just get a little luck on our side, we’ll have our chance to shine.”

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