Team owner and MX-5 Cup champion John Dean II has created a life for himself and his family with Mazda Motorsports
What started out as a $5,000 loan from his brother has grown into the largest, most successful team in Battery Tender Global Mazda MX-5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich, as well as a leading prep and performance shop for track day cars, road vehicles and even drag racing cars. John Dean II’s Sick Sideways does it all, and he’s looking for more.
“Back in 2011, I had just started the shop as kind of a track day facilitator,” explains Dean of Sick Sideways’ beginnings. “I had two clients, a husband and wife, and she wanted to do MX-5 Cup. She had watched it, loved it, and really wanted to race in that series. I was coaching both of them, and we worked out a deal where they would fund me to race in MX-5 Cup and they would race as well. It was a good way to get my foot in the door and get started. The problem was, they had a change in business right after we figured out the deal, and they ended up only doing one race. It was very difficult that first year.”
Dean made it through the first year, and in the decade since, Sick Sideways has won multiple driver’s championships in MX-5 Cup, including one for Dean and one for Nathanial Sparks. Two Sick Sideways drivers are currently at the top of the standings – Drake Kemper leads Selin Rollan by three points. In addition, Dean himself is at the top of the ND1 championship. The team holds the record for the most podiums, most poles, and is a two-time Team of the Year in the series. Their status is reflected not only in the race results, but in the growth of the shop.
“In 2011, I had this 5,000 square foot building in downtown Sebring, Fla.,” he recalls. “We had a few clients, and did MX-5 Cup. Then we grew out of that space. I was working a couple of years trying to move to the racetrack. We were hoping to take over one of the shop buildings, but could never make the deal work. Then I found the shop that I’m in now, less than five miles from the track, on the busiest road in Sebring and at an intersection that’s really convenient to get to the track.
“It’s the first time I could build a business model that wasn’t reactionary,” Dean explains. “I was able to change my approach because of the great location. We became a very public-based shop, where we work on street cars, a lot of performance cars, track day cars and some regional race cars. We’re a full-service automotive shop dedicated to road racing and performance, with some drag racing clients as well.”