Mason Attends Cup Test Courtesy Of Matt Kenseth Mike Mason spent an afternoon between college final exam studying for a different kind of test he hope he'll one day be able to take -- a NASCAR Nextel Cup test session. Mason, a rookie in the...
Mason Attends Cup Test Courtesy Of Matt Kenseth
Mike Mason spent an afternoon between college final exam studying for a different kind of test he hope he'll one day be able to take -- a NASCAR Nextel Cup test session.
Mason, a rookie in the USAR Hooters Pro Cup ranks this season, was the guest of Roush Racing driver Matt Kenseth as the Cup cars completed their second day of testing for the upcoming Coca-Cola 600 at Lowes Motor Speedway near Charlotte, NC.
For Mason, his first experience in a Cup garage was awe inspiring.
"I knew they did a lot of data acquisition at the Cup tests, but I never thought you'd have teams using as many as 10-12 computers to collect it all," said Mason. "It was crazy. There were guys everywhere with laptops. Some teams even had computer 'war wagons' that were just rolled up to the garage stall and booted up. It was pretty amazing."
Throughout the day, Mason visited with several drivers and crew members including Kenseth, the 2003 Nextel (then Winston) Cup champion.
"Matt just seemed really down to earth," said Mason. "Some of the guys looked pretty tense, but Matt was really relaxed and seemed to be enjoying himself. Seeing him fool around with his team reminded me a lot of the way my guys and me joke around. It was a lot like we do -- just with a lot more equipment and money on the line.
"This was a real eye-opener for me," Mason continued. "It was great to see how the teams approach a test and what kind of things they are looking for. I can't thank Matt enough for arranging for me to attend the test. I leaned a lot just by watching."
Mason has been the surprise of the 2006 USAR Hooters Pro Cup Southern Division tour rolling to five-straight Top-15 finishes including two consecutive Top-10 efforts -- the latest a sixth-place finish at Concord (NC) Motorsports Park last weekend.
The 19-year-old Bakersfield, CA driver is currently 10th in the USAR Hooters Pro Cup Southern Division championship standings and is leading the Miller Lite Rookie Of The Year Award chase.
"We've had a good year so far, probably better than most people expected," said Mason, who has completed all but one lap in the first five events. "We've just tried to stay consistent and not put ourselves in situations where we're overdriving the car or racing hard when we should be riding. So far, it's worked out and people have started to notice our efforts."
Mason also had an opportunity to meet and visit with Robbie Loomis from Petty Enterprises and Roger Purcell, an engine builder for the No. 11 car fielded by Joe Gibbs Racing.
"Everyone I talked to was interested in what I was doing," said Mason. "It was neat they all took a couple of minutes out of what they were doing to talk with us. It showed me that even though these guys are at the top of our sport, they are just regular racers like the rest of us. I met a lot of nice people, made some good contacts, and had a great time."
One Cup driver at the Charlotte test that had definitely noticed Mason's accomplishments so far this season was former USAR Hooters Pro Cup star Mike Garvey.
"Mike said he's been watching the races on TV and noticed we've been doing pretty well," Mason stated. "Mike is a great guy. He was one of the first guys I met when we decided to move our race team from Bakersfield to the Charlotte area. He's been great to me from day one. He's the kind of guy you really want to pull for and see be successful at the Cup level."
As for his own aspirations, Mason -- like most stock car drivers -- hopes he one day will be behind the wheel of a Cup car.
"Sure, I'd like to be here someday," said Mason. "I've loved stock car racing ever since Mike Harvick (Kevin's dad) built my first car. Loving it and wanting it isn't enough, however. You've got to put in the time, learn what the cars need, develop your skill as a driver. That's what I'm trying to do in the Hooters Pro Cup division right now -- learn to be a better racer. Hopefully, we'll continue to do well and someone at the NASCAR level will notice and give me a shot in a Truck or Busch development programs."