SEBRING — Some bad racing luck may keep Sebring’s John Dean II from winning the driving title in the Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup, but the Sick Sideways team owner still has some lofty goals for the final four races of the season.
“We’re hoping to win the most trophies as a team this year even though we don’t think we can win the championship,” Dean said. “Right now we’re either tied or one podium back, so if we can double podium a couple of times here at the end of the season we’re going to take the most podiums as a team and that’s all we can go for.”
The year started off strong for Dean, but the gremlins that can plague all racers appeared to make a concerted effort to interfere with his championship plans.
“I had a good season going and was leading the championship for a while and then had a little bad luck at Houston, which is a street course with walls everywhere. I qualified second and finished the first race second and was running second in the second race and the car was running great; we had left the third-place car well behind,” Dean said.
“We had a full course yellow so we had a restart and a lap after the restart the third-place car hit me and put me into the tire wall. I finally got out of the tire wall and finished way back, I was lucky to even finish. The car was really banged up.”
The troubles continued for Dean the following races at Mosport, where he was running the team’s spare car and suffering from a lack of power, finishing sixth in the opening race and deciding on an engine swap for the second race.
“We started the second race in eighth, which is where I qualified, and the car was awesome,” Dean said. “We found a set-up on the other car and put that on my car and with the other motor in I knew I had a car that could win that race. At the end of the race the front brakes were starting to seize and I ended up finishing fourth. Now I’m second in the championship but a long ways back with four races to go.”
Dean said his teammate Nathaniel Sparks has gone a great job this season and the year has been a positive experience that he believes the team can build on in the future.
“We’ve learned a lot this season, which has made the cars a lot better and for next season we’re looking really good,” he said. “We learned a lot as a team and we’re working better as a team than we ever have. Sparky’s been driving better this year than he ever has before and he has three podiums to show for it. I’m thinking for the last four races of the season, Sparky and I have a chance to be on the podium in every race.”
In addition to racing the Mazda series, Dean has plenty to keep him busy as Sick Sideways is constantly expanding and the shop’s latest addition is a dyno tuner.
“We started doing the dyno tuning so you can see where your car is for horsepower,” he said. “We can dyno anything up to 1200 horsepower and we’re maxed out at 7,000 pounds so we can’t do the big trucks right now.”
Dean said more and more people are leaving the cars at the shop and letting him take care of all the details, while they just concentrate on driving.
“They’ll work hard all week and they don’t have the time to have a truck and a trailer or the space in their garage for their car and the time to prep it,” he said. “So they just leave their car here and tell us when they want to run and we get it ready, take it to the track for them and they drive it and then leave. It saves them a lot of time and effort, so it’s worth the extra investment for them.”
Dean said the activities at the shop are probably more fun than the actual racing that he does.
“I’m probably one of the only guys in town who’s excited to get up on a Monday morning and go to work,” he said. “I love tuning the cars. We have so many other cars, Lotuses and Corvettes, so we get to play with some cool stuff.”