When TJ Reaid straps into a race car and punches the throttle in 2015, he’ll be kicking up dirt instead of burning rubber on asphalt. The former All-American 400 winner and Super Late Model star from Acworth, Georgia has informed Speed51.com that he will be backing away from asphalt racing in 2015 to focus his attention on dirt racing and his family-owned machine shop.
“After the Snowball (Derby) I sat down and did some thinking to myself and really felt like I needed to make the move to start focusing on our business a little bit more,” Reaid told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “We’ve kind of got burned out on the pavement stuff. It seems like the cost to race keeps going up every year. We all know we’re not in this deal to make money, so it’s not really that, but I’ve done it for so long and I just really feel like doing something a little bit different and trying to focus on our family business a little bit more. There’s probably like 10 dirt tracks right around here within two hours of the house that we can go and hit.”
Reaid, a multi-time, ARCA/CRA Super Series, ASA Southeast Asphalt Tour and Georgia Asphalt Series winner, first got his feet wet racing Dirt Late Models at local Georgia dirt tracks in 2014. As he continued to race on dirt throughout the season, what started as a “to say I did it type of deal” turned into the second-generation driver falling in love with dirt racing, a tradition started by his father Tony. When he picked up his first career win on dirt at his home track of Dixie Speedway (GA) in June he compared it to the feeling of winning the All-American 400, one of the biggest Late Model races in the country.
“I’ve been around dirt racing, that’s where I grew up watching my dad,” said Reaid. “I was sitting in the office with Marshall Green (owner of dirt Late Model chassis company Capital Race Cars) and his wife Mia and I told them, ‘I’ve won the All-American 400, which is a pretty big deal on the pavement side, and this deal here means just as much if not more for the simple fact that it’s the track where I grew up.’ As a little kid watching his dad and his hero win at the track, being able to win a race at Dixie for the first time was pretty cool.”
Throughout his seven years racing Super Late Models on pavement, the now 24-year-old driver had the opportunity to compete in some of the most prestigious races in the country including the Snowball Derby, Redbud 300, Winchester 400 and World Crown 300. He also had the chance to drive for some of the most well-known owners in the game including current NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Kyle Busch and soon-to-be NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott.
“Looking back on the asphalt stuff, it’s been an awesome ride,” Reaid said. “Not a whole lot of people get to say they’ve actually had the chance to do that kind of stuff in racing. It’s kind of bittersweet but I feel like at the end of the season I was really at a crossroads. I really needed to sit down this winter and think about what I needed to do and I really feel like this is the road that I need to go down.”
As Reaid travels down this new road competing in the dirt ranks, he believes he will have a renewed amount of energy and focus. On his way to getting better behind the wheel, he’s excited to learn and work with a group of people including his father that know how to get to victory lane.
“As far as the pavement stuff goes, I’ve lost that little bit of drive and edge,” Reaid said. “It wouldn’t be fair of me to go to the race track and spend all of this money when I really don’t have that going on. That’s what I see with the dirt side. I have a new energy about that with the dirt stuff and I have a lot more focus and really want to learn.
“Our business here we’ve been fortunate enough to stay pretty busy and that’s what funds our whole deal. We could still go do it (asphalt racing), but as a driver you’ve got to have that drive to want to get better every weekend and want to go do it.”
Although Reaid has spent his time driving for other teams such as Kyle Busch Motorsports and Bill Elliott Racing, the majority of his Super Late Model racing was done with his family-owned team. His father was always at the track with him, but was never able to really offer Reaid advice behind the wheel. That was because, despite a very successful career on dirt, Tony Reaid never competed on asphalt during his racing career. Now that the younger Reaid is racing on dirt, he’s been able to pick up a few pointers from pops to use when he is behind the wheel.
“At first he had done it for so long that he was kind of burnt out on the dirt stuff, but once we got the car done and started going to the race track and he was involved that is when I started to see the racer side of him come back out,” Reaid said of his dad. “It was really neat. As a kid I watched my dad make laps around these tracks. He never raced pavement, so we’d go to the race track and he could only tell me what he could see and what he thought. He can actually help me more in the seat with this dirt deal and I think that meant a lot to him, too. It’s just been a really neat experience.”
During the 2015 season, Reaid will make the jump from crate-engine dirt Late Models to built-engine Super Late Models. He knows the competition at local tracks like Dixie Speedway and Rome Speedway is going to be stiff, but he’s up for the challenge.
“It’s going to be tough with the locals over here,” he said. “There are a lot of good guys you have to beat. I really want to try to run Dixie and Rome. I just want to stay around here and support all of these guys that make short track dirt racing happen.”
At the moment, Reaid has the majority of his asphalt Super Late Model equipment up for sale, but he certainly isn’t committed to labeling himself as “retired” from pavement racing.
“If we do sell the cars, we’ve become really good friends with Johnny and Butch (VanDoorn) and we have talked about actually, we may, I’m not saying it is 100%, but we may put together a new car throughout the season and end up popping up at Anderson or somewhere.”
Although his current plans include no races on pavement during the 2015 season, don’t be surprised if you see his No. 41 still show up at an asphalt track at some point during the year.
“As far as pavement stuff, there’s nothing 100% for sure but you never know. We’re racers.”
-By Brandon Paul, Speed51.com Northeast Editor – Twitter: @Brandon_Paul51
-Photo credit: Speed51.com