Driver Spotlight on Emil Assentato

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (May 30, 2002) - From Wall Street to street stock racing, Emil Assentato leads a hectic life. As a driver and team owner, Assentato spends his free time racing the ...

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (May 30, 2002) - From Wall Street to street stock racing, Emil Assentato leads a hectic life. As a driver and team owner, Assentato spends his free time racing the #53 Mustang Cobra R of Max 'Q' Motorsports in the Grand-Am Cup Street Stock Series Grand Sport II class. After an accident in 1976 and a busy workload, Assentato was out of racing for 19 years. But he could not fight his need for speed and he started racing again with the Ferrari Challenge in 1995 and street stock cars in 1996. Currently, Assentato and co-owner Nick Longhi hold a first-place tie in the GS II driver standings and are hoping to keep their lead throughout the season.

THE BASICS
Series: Grand-Am Cup Street Stock Series
Class: Grand Sport II
Team: Max 'Q' Motorsports
Car: #53 Mustang Cobra R
Date of Birth: May 21, 1949
Hometown: Locust Valley, N.Y.
Birthplace: New York City, N.Y.
Spouse: Priscilla

RACING HIGHLIGHTS
Currently in a first-place tie with co-driver Nick Longhi in the GS II driver standings
Finished second in GS II class at 2002 UnitedAuto Sport 250 in Phoenix and 200-mile race in Daytona
Won GS II class at 2001 Grand-Am Finale in Daytona

IN HIS WORDS...

When did you begin racing?
That is a long and a short story. I actually started racing Formula Fords in 1973. I quit Formula Ford racing in late 1976. I had a very big shunt at Lime Rock where I nearly lost my legs, so I got out of racing for 19 years. I got kind of bored with life - worked down on Wall Street since 1973 also. I always wanted to get back in a race car and decided to get back in 1995. I stuck my toes lightly in the Ferrari Challenge, and decided I wanted more racing rather than less racing. Then I bought a Ford Cobra R in 1996 and started doing the street stock series. I have been on and off in street stock since 1996. I did some GT racing starting in 2000, and now I own the (Rolex Series GT class) #10 BMW M3 car, which we raced at the (Rolex) 24 hour this year and we're coming back at Watkins Glen again with that car.

When did you know that you wanted to pursue racing professionally?
I have always wanted to do, but I didn't have the opportunity to do it. My career on Wall Street prohibited me from spending more time at the racetrack, but I have been able to work that out over the last six or seven years.

How did you become involved with Max 'Q' Motorsports?
Well, Max 'Q' Motorsports is a combination of my co-driver Nick Longhi and myself. Nick and I believe we just have to try to get the maximum efficiency out of our race cars. The 'Max Q' is the maximum physical strength on an object. That is engineering shorthand for maximum physical stress on an object. So that is why we use the name, because we try to get the most out of the race cars and we think it sort of captures the attitude we are trying to create.

What is your favorite racetrack?
Watkins Glen and Mosport -- it's hard to say. Either one of those racetracks.

What do you think of the 2002 season so far?
We are pretty excited about it. We've been competitive this year. We actually were competitive the last half of last year. We had a lot of problems getting our race car up to snuff at the beginning of 2001, and we cured a lot of the problems we had in setup and brakes with the Mustang. Since the latter half of 2001, we've been pretty competitive and continued it into 2002 with the same results. Hopefully it continues. These things change very quickly. We have been lucky, of course. We had a couple of guys fall by the wayside in a couple of races. Those races sort of fell in our lap. We had a bad result at Fontana in the last couple of laps coming together with the #26 car, but all in all we think 2002 looks pretty good. We are really excited about competing with all of the other guys. We have some good competitors in our class and hopeful will continue to give a good show.

What were you thinking during the final laps of the California race when your co-driver wrecked during a battle for the lead?

That's racing. I was thinking that looked like what was going to happen. It was starting to work out that way. It was looking like the fight for the lead was getting a little bit too tough and something was going to happen. And we weren't surprised when it did. That was a disappointment because we didn't walk away with the point count we wanted, but it was pretty good fun to watch. It's always fun -- fights for the lead -- but hopefully you stay in the race though, that's all.

What advice would you give a young racer?
I think he should start out in karting. You can get a lot of good experience there. It's just like racing. You learn basic chassis set-up in karting with tire pressures and tire compound. Ultimately to get into racing professionally, I think you need to follow the money, so to speak, and where the money is being spent. Right now that is in NASCAR-related series in the U.S. My advice would be to follow where the money's going. I think also they should take advantage of any opportunity to sit in any car. That is something that I didn't do when I was younger. I pretty much stayed in Formula cars, and I missed a couple of opportunities to run oval tracks and modifieds. Out in Long Island, where I grew up, you've got Riverhead, and I missed a couple of opportunities out there. Looking back at it, that was a mistake. You should take every opportunity you can get to get into any car on any race circuit.

What is your most memorable racing moment?
Last year when we won our first professional race at Daytona. Nick and I came in first in the GS II class and won it by almost two laps. We were real excited about that. I would say that is the most memorable moment we have had.

What do you find most exciting about racing?
Good results. It's very disappointing when you have bad results. With all the time the team has put into fixing the car, keeping the car prepped, supporting the car at the racetrack, and all the thought that goes into getting the car right, when you have a good result I find nothing better than the feeling of all the combined efforts getting to the place they want to be. The achievement they are looking for. When you get a win or a top-three finish that is the most exciting part.

What goals have you set for yourself?
In Grand-Am Cup we would like to win the class. I don't know if we will be able to. We've had some luck, but you know luck runs out eventually. We would like to come in the top three in the series - that's a goal. On the GT side of the racing, we just want to be considered a serious competitor when we show up.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?
Have patience in the race car.

What hobbies do you have outside of racing?
I work a little too much and racing is my primary hobby.

Is there anything you would like to say to your fans?
I would like to thank them for their support. We don't want to disappoint them. We are going to try our best to win the championship this year in Grand-Am Cup.

Additional information about the Grand-Am Cup Street Stock Series can be found online at www.grandamcup.com. Grand-Am Cup will travel next to Watkins Glen International for the Sports Car Grand Prix, June 21-23. Tickets are currently on sale for the event at www.theglen.com or by calling 607-535-2481.

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Emil Assentato , Nick Longhi