2014 has already been a good year in racing for the Sodeman family and Jack Sodeman JR hasn’t even been on the race track yet. With a new addition to the family on the way it is shaping up to be a good year off the track too.
It was announced by Lernerville Speedway a few weeks ago that his father, Jack SR, will be inducted this year into their Hall of Fame. This is something that Sodeman is very proud of and excited about.
“He is my hero and I looked up to him through my whole childhood,” Sodeman said. “Anytime my dad gets justification for the hard work he put into his racing career and all the sacrifices he made raising two kids and all is pretty neat. He didn’t come from money and had to put in the time to his racing. He built the motors, the cars, and went off of pure talent from that. It’s a big deal to me to see him get that honor.”
Sodeman SR amassed 33 wins which ranks 19th all-time at the speedway. He was a versatile driver who won in both the modified and sprint car class, winning 18 times in a modified at Lernerville and won the 1979 sprint car points championship at the Sarver, PA track.
The younger Sodeman credits his father for helping him when he first got started in racing.
“As far as racing goes I had a pretty good advantage on everyone else starting out,” Sodeman said. “I had one heck of a teacher that could help me see what I was doing wrong and where I needed to improve.”
|Sodeman and his father in victory lane at Lernerville.|
Growing up in a racing family naturally Sodeman was at the track from a young age. He helped his dad work on the car and he also remembers the good times he had making friends there too.
“I was good friends with Mike and Tony Beaber,” Sodeman said. “I remember playing with Matchbox cars with them up in the stands. I have found some old pictures of me wiping off wheels and things like that too.”
While Sodeman has great memories of growing up in racing he is making new ones now from a different perspective, as a father himself. He and his wife Catherine have a daughter, Samantha, who is a year and a half, and are expecting their second child, a boy, in March. It didn’t take long for Sodeman to have one of those memorable moments with his daughter.
“I won the sprint race at the Pittsburgher for her first win, but it was too cold have her outside in victory lane,” Sodeman said. “The very next week I was able to win a wingless race at Pittsburgh and we got her into victory lane. She was only probably about six months old. I have the trophy from that win and it is in her room. It’s her trophy for her first victory lane.”
Sodeman will be teaming up with an old friend and racing partner Mark Kubick this season for the return of the 23jr sprint car. They will be sponsored by Glassmere Fuels, http://www.glassmerefuel.com/, Economy Tooling, PRS Transit, Townsend Gas and Oil, http://townsendgasandoil.com/, Triple X Race Cars, http://www.xxxraceco.com/, Pro Shocks, https://www.facebook.com/ProShocks, Frankland Rear End,www.franklandracing.com/,and Simpson Racing products, http://simpsonraceproducts.com/.
“Without the help of all the sponsors we have we definitely couldn’t do what we love to do,” Sodeman said. “I have to give a huge thanks to my parents too who made a lot of sacrifices just to make it so I could do what I am doing. I have to thank my wife, my daughter, my brother, sister, Gary Park and all the people who have helped me over the years. It’s amazing the people you meet along the way racing for 20 years.”
Some of the crew members that help out Sodeman at the track are racers themselves. Cody Bova raced mod lites and will be moving into the 305 sprint class this season. Darin Gallagher races mod lites and CJ Jones runs in the 305 class.
“I appreciate those guys helping me out and taking time out working on their own cars,” Sodeman said.
Sodeman is coming off a year where he won seven races and amassed over 30 top ten finishes while driving for Rudzik Excavating in the 94 sprint car. He was able to accomplish that while running part of the season with a broken back.
“When you are racing you don’t really feel the pain except for maybe under caution or during red flags,” Sodeman said. “Getting out of the car at the end of the night can be the hardest part.”
The North Jackson, Ohio resident was able to pick up one of the biggest wins of his career last season the Lou Blaney Memorial at Sharon Speedway. A win that was special for Sodeman for numerous reasons.
“Lou Blaney was my dad’s hero,” Sodeman said. “It was neat to see that my hero had a hero himself.”
He shared a story that he told in victory lane that night of how Blaney gave him his first racing suit that not many people knew about.
“When I first started racing I didn’t have racing suit,” Sodeman said. “I was too tall for any of my dad’s old suits so when Lou heard about this he called me and gave me a suit. He told me the only thing was that it had a lucky dollar bill in the pocket and he wanted to be in there when I gave the suit back to him. It went through the wash a couple times, but it was still there when I gave it back.”
Unfortunately Sodeman has had his share of bad luck in racing. On Independence Day in 2011 Sodeman was running his time trial laps for an All-Star Circuit of Champions race at the Autodrome Granby in Quebec when the frame tube that connects the wing to the car broke causing the wing to fly off sending the car into a series of violent flips and over the catch fence out of the racing surface.
“Most of the crash I can actually remember,” Sodeman said. “I didn’t know exactly what happened, if a wheel broke or an axle broke, but all of the sudden the car just took off and started flipping. When I hit the wall that was about the time I was knocked out and I remember hitting the ground the last time, which they told me later, was outside the track.”
Sodeman was blind from the accident for a while, had a broken leg and suffered internal bleeding of the lungs. When he regained his sight he had vertigo and had to go through rehab for his injuries.
“I had a great therapy team that helped me through things such as learning to walk again,” Sodeman said. “They told me I wouldn’t be able to put my foot down to walk for eight weeks and I was walking in six. That’s a credit of the rehab team that allowed me to get back on my feet. It allowed me to get into good enough shape to get back in the car and doing what I love to do.”
Sodeman also credits the fans and his fellow competitors in helping him out through that tough time.
“The fans in western Pennsylvania stepped up in every way they could,” Sodeman said. “I am eternally grateful to them for helping me through that time. Whether it is the fans or fellow competitors, racing in one big family and being in the pits is like being at home.”
This season Sodeman is looking forward to getting back to racing with Mark Kubic. He wants to have a consistent and safe year behind the wheel.
“We’ll try to win as many races as we can and be competitive every week,” Sodeman said. “That’s all you can really ask for is to be in contention every week. With being hurt a couple of times the last few years it would be good to get through the year without getting hurt too.”
You can follow Sodeman on Twitter at https://twitter.com/Sodeman23jr.