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Iowa dirt track racer doing his best to win races, make his father proud
Winning is what inspires most race car drivers.
But for Jason Briese, it goes a lot deeper than that.
The son of a Midwest dirt track racing icon, Briese is not only on a mission to win races, but to live up to his late father’s expectations.
So far, in his estimation he isn’t there yet, but if he can pull off a win in the 2013 Cocopah Speedway IMCA Winter Nationals presented by Sun Graphics, he’ll take a big step toward satisfying both of those goals.
"There is not a day I don’t think about him. It’s what keeps me going," said Briese as he talked about his father, Roger "Duke" Ducommun, who died in 2010 following a colorful career in racing that included fielding cars for such drivers as Bob Shryock, himself a dirt track racing legend.
"They won 48 races one year," said Briese proudly.
"When I started racing, I drove for my dad, and it was a tough deal. He was used to winning and we struggled quite a bit. We still struggle.
"That’s why I keep doing it now."
The first year after his father’s death was tough, said Briese.
"Dad knew car setup. He was very well known as a car owner who knew how to make a car work; not about the motors and stuff, but making the car better.
"Now, I just want to be successful, where we can go to race tracks and win races. I think we’re close and I think with more hard work we can do that."
Briese started racing when he was 18, and he didn’t start at the bottom and make his way up. His dad immediately put him behind the wheel of an IMCA Modified.
And his father made it clear that if his son was going to be a race car driver, he needed to devote his entire attention to that quest.
"If I wanted to race, I had to race," said Briese, now 36. "There was no girls, because girls and racing didn’t mix. He made sure of that.
"So in the winter time I had girlfriends. But when summertime came along, it just ain’t gonna work. I finally got older and wiser and found it’s not so bad."
Briese’s dedication to racing went beyond girlfriends, however. If there was a special event planned in the spring or summer, like a family reunion, it was a given that Briese and his father would not be attending. Briese said he even had to miss five of his best friends’ weddings because they conflicted with race dates.
"It’s not right, and I missed a lot of good things growing up because of this," he said, "because it had to be his way, that’s how it had to be. It wasn’t right, but it was also what I wanted to do.
"So these last couple of years it’s been a little different where I can do things my way now. It’s been a little more relaxed."
His father also did not make it easy for Briese at the track.
While many may have thought the son of "Duke" Ducommun would have the best of the best in everything when it came to racing, whether it be the chassis, motor, tires, wheels or other equipment, that just wasn’t so.
As a matter of fact, Briese’s father purposely did not give his son those things in order to make him a better race car driver.
"He said, ‘I’m going to make you start out with what we have and you’re going to learn how to do this, and if we need something, we might get it,’" said Briese.
"I started every year with six tires and I had to use them all year long. This is what he taught me … so when you go into that corner, don’t wreck nothin,’ otherwise …"
Briese said the last couple of months his father was alive he talked about how he gave his other drivers, like Bob Shryock and Kelly Shryock, whatever they wanted, "and he said, ‘But with you being my kid, I wasn’t going to do that to you.’
"And it taught me a lot. We have to run what we have and do the best we can with that we have to work with.
"Right now I’ve got four more tires to last me about another 12 shows. We’re going to do it, it’s going to be tough, but we’re going to do it. If we can knock off a win, maybe we can buy some tires."
Looking down the road, Briese said he’s not sure where his racing career will take him in the weeks and months ahead. He’s won eight feature events since he started, but he also hasn’t won in the last four years.
Still, he’s excited that he fared well during a weekend series at Casa Grande before he came to Cocopah Speedway for the Jan. 18 and 19 shows, and did well there too in what amounted to tune-ups for the Nationals.
"We were fast out of the box at Casa Grande, and were fast out of the box here," said Briese.
At Cocopah Speedway, Briese had the grandstand buzzing when he started the Friday night feature 24th on the grid and moved all the way up to third before his tires wore out.
During the Saturday night feature he started 10th on the grid and again drove to a third place finish.
"We finally got a car that can go good, so I’m kind of excited to go back home," said Briese.
And in almost the same breath he said it’s also a possibility that he will go home and sell everything and move on to a different chapter in his life.
"It’s in the back of my mind. We’ll see how things go," he said. "But I don’t want to race on credit cards, and we’re at the point right now where the cost is just getting out of hand, and to go fast you have to spend money.
"It just takes a lot of money, and I don’t have all that, so we just have to do the best with what we have until we’re good, and that’s what we’re trying to do."