Jason and Jennifer Blonde are one of the most likable couples in motorsports. This week for the Great Lakes edition I had a chance to sit down with both of them to discuss Jason’s induction to the Michigan Motorsports Hall of Fame, their adventure to South Africa, and plans for 2019 and beyond.
TJ: Where were you when found out about being voted into the Michigan Motorsports Hall of Fame
Jason: I was at home sitting here watching on TV.
TJ: Who had the honor of calling you with the good news?
Jason: Richard Feeler, Bobby Santos car owner, he called me and gave me a heads up. Then Dave DeHam called and congratulated me.
TJ: Which was scarier: Going out to turn your record lap at Bristol Motor Speedway or giving your induction speech?
Jason: (laughter) Definitely the induction speech. I was sweating bullets through the whole summer and fall. Every time I thought about it, I was sweating. Jen helped me with my speech and having me read it. Usually I try to wing it and that doesn’t go to well.
TJ: How did the opportunity to go to South Africa and race come about?
Jason: They have been asking me for the past five years to come along. With my work I haven’t been able to go. This year we were slow enough with work that I went ahead and did it and grateful that I did.
Jen: Going for three weeks, that was the hardest part. Thankfully we have the support of Jason’s parents. His Mom came and house sat for us and watched the girls and the dogs, staying right at our home and took care of everything for us. We were very lucky on that end.
TJ: You did have some travel logically challenges though
Jen: Yes! We were supposed to fly together and the night before they were checking us into our flights, and it wouldn’t check me in. It was flagging my passport for some reason and to contact the front desk. When I contacted the desk, it said my passport was expiring too close to when I was coming home. There must be a certain amount of time left on your passport for certain countries. They wouldn’t let me depart the country and I almost didn’t get to go at all. Jason and everyone else left and I had to make an appointment with the passport people in Detroit on Monday and reschedule my flight on Tuesday with my fingers crossed that they were going to give me a new passport. Thank God they did, so then I had to take that whole flight myself.
TJ: How would you describe the sprint car racing scene in South Africa and the fan reception to the Americans?
Jason: We don’t have anything like that around here. The closest thing would be a New Paris or a Spartan. Really flat, small, everyone fighting for the bottom because the top there is not much passing wise. Its smaller than Spartan or New Paris. It was a whole different world. The people were amazing.
The fans were standing five-deep on the fence all the way around the track. Unbelievable support from the fans, its crazy. It felt like we were NASCAR guys. Taking photos, it was just crazy how they responded to us.
Jen: We took an entire box of 1,000 new hero cards on the trip and they were gone in the first 15 minutes during that first intermission we were there! They were completely wiped out!
TJ: What was the most amazing thing you were able to experience away from the race track?
Jason: The safaris was probably the best. We got to see elephants, leopard, lions, and a cheetah. The Big five in Africa, we got to see all of them. That was probably the best for me.
Jennifer: I enjoyed that. We also got to do this excursion where we met this hippo. As everyone knows hippos are one of the most dangerous animals to be around. I guess if you google her its name is Jessica the Hippo (NOTE, I did: https://www.jessicahippo.com/). A DNR type officer over there found her washed up on a shore as a baby and he raised her. Now you can go feed here, kiss her, its pretty cool. We got to see here, feed her. She’s not a baby anymore though, she’s very large. That was one of my favorite things.
TJ: Is the trip to South Africa something you would want to do again?
Jen: I would love to do it again!
Jason: I would go again in a heartbeat if my work allowed it. I’d love to take my kids.
TJ: You are going to be doing quite a bit of dirt racing his year driving for two different people…
Jason: Actually, I’m driving for three different people.
TJ: Really, did I miss one?
Jason: I’m driving for Kirkendall’s for some SOD stuff, Tracy Rice for GLSS part time, and the Mike Baker 12 car at Butler, I have an open invitation to drive that. We may take that out to do some Butler or I-96 open 410 shows.
TJ: Even though you made that transition to pavement you still have people asking to run your dirt cars. How good does that feel to have that kind of interest?
Jason: It feels pretty good because that’s where my heart was on the dirt. Its great to see all my old friends and I fell blessed that people want me to come race.
TJ: How is that going to work schedule wise with the pavement?
Jason: We’re kind of feeling that out as the year goes. We have some pavement shows that are marked on the calendar. Whatever is not conflicting with that we will do SOD, then we’ll fill in with Butler, I-96 open, and on top of that I have a mini sprint here that I might go to Jackson Speedway and play in.
TJ: I heard you were going to do some Micro Sprint racing this year?
Jason: Our daughter Morgan, I’d like to get her into something. They run some practice during the week in the Summertime, so I thought I’d give her some seat time in the Mini Sprint. Then we can get her gradually into a couple of races. Then she can do the winged race there and we can take the wing off and can do the non-winged race there.
TJ: How did this come about?
Jason: First I had a golf cart that was Jenny’s and I sold that to by a razor. Then I traded the razor off to buy the mini sprint.
TJ: Jen, what do you think of your oldest getting into a race car.
Jen: I don’t know, I kind of want my golf cart back (laughing).
TJ: What does the pavement schedule look like this year in the Nosal 42? You missed the first point races for AVSS and Must See Racing, is it hit and miss?
Jason: There looked like only 5-7 shows maybe. We’ll hit some of the Must See stuff at Berlin, Owosso, and Dixie. Then there are only a couple of Auto Value shows that we might hit. That’s all really.
TJ: How much longer do you foresee doing this?
Jason: I have no clue, that’s why I’m doing all I can while I can. To be honest with you last year I was wanting to taper down and look towards retirement for racing, but I got the racing bug bad. I want to go more. As long as I can I am going to do it, because it isn’t going to be here forever.