Wasson puts stock in tested path
By Dave Rodman
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Dec. 13, 2000) Gus Wasson hopes that a background that resembles that of Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Dave Blaney, Jason Leffler and Ryan Newman leads to a fraction of the success accrued by that group of open-wheel racing veterans who are currently driving NASCAR stock cars.
Wasson, 26, of Bloomdale, Ohio, will team with rookie team owner Sid May, a Michigan businessman, in 2001 to run the full 33-race NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division schedule for Team S3 Motorsports. The operation will be engineered by veteran crew chief and team manager Darrell Bryant and will use the facility that formerly housed Washington Erving Motorsports, which disbanded in 2000 after a three-year struggle in the series.
The veteran group's success in stock cars ranges from Gordon's three NASCAR Winston Cup championships to Stewart's leading the NWCS in victories this season to Newman making a big splash with three ARCA Bondo/Mar-Hyde Series victories in his first season. Across the board the roster has logged pole positions and in some cases track records in stock cars.
The common denominator is open-wheel experience early in their careers. That competition ultimately led them to NASCAR careers and Wasson is well aware of that.
"All I want is to have a chance to drive a competitive car in NASCAR competition," said Wasson, who won four rookie of the year awards in Sprint Car competition over six years. "I am very excited about Sid's attitude, business approach and willingness to succeed."
For his part, Bryant is anxious to continue to learn about Wasson, who began racing in conjunction with his father Paul after they sat in the stands and said, as many others have, "We can do that."
"I don't have much experience with him," Bryant said of Wasson, who works daily in the Team S3 shop with about a half-dozen other employees on the team's Chevrolets. "Like any other young driver you need to pull the reins back on him a bit. Then you work on understanding what they want and how to get them what they need."
"It's a real fine line, when you're talking about pulling him in at all," Bryant said of the competition in the NASCAR Busch Series. "The Busch Series right now is as competitive or more competitive than the Cup Series. Given the quality of the cars you have to have everything together and have very good team coordination to do well in it."
May, whose background includes manufacturing management and engineering, explored starting his team for two years before putting his plan into play in July.
"This is a long-term multi-year program, which will develop chassis and engine programs and additionally move into a Winston Cup program," said May, who like Wasson is an Ohio native. "What we're looking at is attempting the Brickyard to see how we like it, then evaluate the program to see if we can do one or more races in 2001 and then make a decision for 2002."
May said Wasson would concentrate solely on the NBS program, while Bryant would oversee getting in-house chassis, body and engine programs in place, they hope by the end of the summer.
Up until now, Wasson has made only nine NBS starts spread across three seasons with teams that were high on enthusiasm but short on the level of backing needed to compete in NASCAR's upper echelon. May said he has some sponsorship signed but the team was not ready to announce it.
"This is by far my best opportunity in the Busch Series," said Wasson, who has several top-25 qualifying runs on his resume, including a best of 12th at North Carolina Speedway in February 2000. "So far I am just getting to know Darrell, too, but I have heard nothing but good things about him and I'm real excited to get going."
Wasson began his career in 1990 in the "Econo Sprint" division at his local Limaland Motorsports Park in Lima, Ohio, where he won six features and the division's rookie of the year award using cars he constructed with his father. He followed that with 14 feature wins and the track's Econo Sprint championship in 1991, along with the e Ohio Oval Track Racing Association Rookie of the Year Award.
For the next six years he traveled with a variety of touring series, winning All-Star Circuit of Champions Rookie of the Year in 1993 and USAC Stoops Freightliner National Sprint Car Series Rookie of the Year in 1996.
He said he worked with car builder Mike Laughlin for much of the last year and gained invaluable experience on car construction and design.
"The biggest thing I've learned in the Busch Series is how competitive it is," Wasson said. "You have got to have all your ducks in a row when you show up, because everybody in the Busch Series is hungry to get to the next level. Sprint Car races are pretty short so you have to be aggressive. In the Busch Series, the races are a lot longer so you have to be patient, but it's the same thing as far as being competitive you really have to be up on the wheel all the time."
May said he had been involved in motorsports since 1972, primarily in drag racing and building some racing boat engines. He said he planned to set up a crankshaft company to manufacturer and build cranks for general racing applications. -nascar.com-