After an automobile accident sidelined him for a month, Windsor native Jason Bartlett recently returned to Yonkers Raceway, where in the past five years he’s earned a reputation as one of the leading harness racing drivers in the country.

Bartlett was a passenger in a car driven by fellow driver Jordan Stratton that was sideswiped as the two were on their way to compete at Yonkers the night of July 4. Because of backed up traffic, Stratton decided to alter his route to the New York track.

“When we turned around we got T-boned on my side,” Bartlett said.

Both men were taken to the hospital. Bartlett sustained a cut over his left eye that required 16 stitches while Stratton needed six staples to close a head wound.

“We actually hit heads,” Bartlett said.

A couple of days after the accident, Bartlett was stricken with severe headaches and returned to the hospital. A closer examination and a CAT scan revealed several small facial fractures and a contusion of the brain. Bartlett had double vision for 21/2 weeks and didn’t return to the track until just over a week ago.

“It makes you think about a lot,” Bartlett said. “I was more worried about when I was going to get back. It makes you think a little more about your career.”

Bartlett’s absence cost him two driving challenges, including the World Driving Championships. He competed in that event in 2009 in Norway and placed sixth. This year the event was held in New York and Bartlett was again invited to compete.

The other event was the Tioga Downs challenge, in which the top eight money winners in the country are invited to compete. It began Saturday and by that time Bartlett, 30, had slipped to 10th in the country among money winners. Before the accident, he was ranked fifth. The top driver in the four-track event earns $25,000.

“(Competing in those events) wasn’t meant to be, but I’m alive,” Bartlett said.

So far this season, Bartlett is 10th in earnings among drivers nationwide with $4,781,789 in purses. He is 11th overall in wins with 299 in 1,537 starts. He is second in both categories at Yonkers.

In 2009, his best year, Bartlett finished with 711 wins overall and earned $10.7 million in purses.

For his career he’s topped $35 million in earnings and posted his 4,000th win in May.

Bartlett hadn’t considered driving to and from race tracks the most dangerous part of his job, but he puts thousands of miles on his truck during the year.

He competes five days a week at Yonkers, which is about a 45-minute drive from his house in Goshen, N.Y. He also competes at Pocono Raceway on Wednesday nights and on Sunday travels to other tracks in the New York/New Jersey area.

Bartlett said he’ll return to Windsor Fair to compete this year if his schedule permits, but he added it looks doubtful. He won his first career race there while he was still attending Erskine Academy and driving horses for his grandfather, Dick Bartlett.

He starred in basketball for the Eagles and later led the country in scoring in his division at Southern Maine Community College.

Kennebec Journal Staff Writer Gary Hawkins can be contacted at 621-5638 or at:

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