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Auto Racing

Weller III returns to racing comfort zone

| Thursday, June 30, 2016, 10:15 p.m.
Jimmy Weller sits in his car before the hot laps at Lernerville Speedway on Friday, June 3, 2016.
Jason Bridge | Tribune-Review
Jimmy Weller sits in his car before the hot laps at Lernerville Speedway on Friday, June 3, 2016.

Jimmy Weller III took his shot. And even though it didn't work out, he wouldn't trade it for anything.

After a couple of seasons in rarified NASCAR air that is the Truck Series and Xfinity Series, Weller is back on dirt, where he feels most comfortable.

“Our sponsorship fell through,” said Weller, 30, of Hubbard, Ohio. “We had as much sponsorship as we did last year as this year. But to go run six races and run 30th, I am not knocking the team at all but our motor program was not where it needed to be. I felt like I was wasting other people's money.

“It was an awesome experience. But I'm having a lot more fun now.”

In 2014, racing for SS-Green Light Racing, Weller finished 28th in Truck Series points with 10 starts and one top-10 finish. Last season, also with SS-Green Light Racing, Weller started nine Xfinity races.

Weller is back racing a Big Block Modified and having fun where he started his racing career: Lernerville and Sharon speedways.

“It does make it easier to come back to dirt,” Weller said. “I recognize that I have some asphalt tendencies that I've got to deal with. When the car isn't right I try to race it like I'm on asphalt, and I am trying to break that habit.”

Weller's comeback season has been more successful at Sharon. He has won three of the past five features at Sharon and is second in the championship standings, 13 points behind Rex King Jr. He is 15 points in front of his father, Jim Weller Jr., and 16 points in front of Rex King Sr.

At Lernerville, Weller has scored six top-10 finishes and one top five and is tied with Dave Murdick for sixth in the championship race.

Weller was quick to acknowledge his father's help has made a world of difference. Weller Jr. is a two-time Lernerville champion, 1997 and '99, and is seventh on the all-time Modified victory list with 34.

“It really helps to have dad making all the calls crew chief-wise,” Weller said. “His eyes make a lot of difference. He and I can relate back and forth and, because he has driven, he knows.

“Even when dad was still driving here he always made us a priority,” Weller added. “He's still running Saturday nights at Sharon, and we are both starting to click. He just knows more about changing the cars than I do.

“I'm smart enough to know that. I can tell him what it is doing, and he can make changes for that; it just makes sense.”

Weller, 30, grew up around racing. His family is part of the ownership group at Sharon Speedway, a group headed by former Lernerville regular, World of Outlaws Sprint Car champion and NASCAR driver Dave Blaney. So he is well aware of what has to happen for a driver to make it to the NASCAR level.

“There are levels of asphalt that are hobby racing as well, but as we kept moving up I was trying to make it my job, so it was different,” Weller said. “It was an awesome deal, but it was still my job.

“You are there with the best drivers in the world. When I was growing up, I wanted to do what Dave did, and I actually got to do it.”

When Weller first moved to Charlotte, N.C., he lived with Blaney. He remained friends with Dave's son, Ryan, currently driving for Wood Brothers Racing and 17th in NASCAR's Sprint Cup standings.

“We're not running for points anywhere, but we have run everywhere weekly because there is nowhere else to go,” Weller said. “When the Dirt series gets moving we will start going around to some of that. I just want to take this year to learn again.

“It was a little bit like riding a bike, but I wouldn't have wanted to be on a bike that first night because I drove like an idiot.”

Thomas Zuck is a freelance writer.

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