Local Restaurateur Finds Fun In The Fast Lane

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Thirteen-year-old Sam Sievert isn't old enough to drive yet, but when she is, she's determined to follow in her father's tire tracks.


"At our old house, we had a track around the property, and we bought her a go-cart for it," her father, Jeff, said. "She burned up that go-cart on that track."


Jeff Sievert, owner of Country Kitchen and Ponderosa Steakhouse in Payson, got his first fuel injection of adrenaline five years ago as a Christmas gift from his wife, Joy. That Christmas, Joy gave him a gift certificate for the Bondurant School of Driving in Chandler.


"It was a four-day driving school, where they teach you the ins and outs of race car driving," Jeff said. "At the end of the class, you get to drive, and I was hooked."


Today, Jeff races Formula 2000 cars at Firebird and Phoenix International raceways in the Valley.

The 1999-2000 racing season started in September. His next race is tomorrow (Nov. 13) at Firebird, and at this early stage in the season, his CK Family Racing Team is in first place.


The local men on Jeff's team who keep his two race cars rolling at top speeds of 175 mph are Danny Simpson, Jesse Smith and Mike Wicks. Jeff races about twice a month until the end of the season in May.


"Then it's just too darn hot for anybody to be racing," he said. Over the years, his crew has garnered a number of first-place wins, "six or eight, and lots of seconds and thirds to people with deeper pockets," he said.


You can tell who has the money to spend on this "hobby" by where they place, Jeff said. "The more money they can spend, the better the equipment they can buy."


Unless he has friends in the stands, Jeff mainly races with just his crew in tow. His wife, who started him down the fast lane and supports him 100 percent, steers clear of Jeff's races.


"I think it's kind of 'out of sight, out of mind,'" he said. "We were watching when (professional race car driver) Greg Moore slammed into the wall and was killed, and Joy just turned to me and said, 'Tell me again how safe this is?' She just waits to see if I come home with four wheels and four limbs."


Joy said she does worry, but she also stays away because she's bad luck when she's near the track.


"Whenever I've gone to watch him race, his car breaks down and we end up sitting around all day," she said.


Jeff's only accident -- minor as it was -- happened last year when he and another driver met on an inside turn and the other car vaulted over Jeff's. "I got to see the underside of one of those things," he said. "He went right over the top of me. And, wouldn't you know it, it was the only time I had Sam at the track with me."


Although she didn't see the accident, Sam did hear the ruckus over her radio headset. Even so, she still looks forward to the day she can get behind the wheel, her father said.

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