ES: Loudon: Joe Masessa race notes

Joe Masessa Sixteenth In First Race Of 2007 Loudon, N.H. (June 29, 2007) - Joe Masessa made his first NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch East Series start of the season when he raced to a sixteenth place finish at New Hampshire International...

Joe Masessa Sixteenth In First Race Of 2007

Loudon, N.H. (June 29, 2007) - Joe Masessa made his first NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch East Series start of the season when he raced to a sixteenth place finish at New Hampshire International Speedway. Masessa, driving the No. 14 North Jersey Dermatology Chevrolet, started out the race with an ill-handling race car but finished strong, getting back on the lead lap and coming from outside the top twenty to sixteenth in the final twenty laps.

"If it wasn't for the fifteen cars in front of me at the end, I would have won the race," the Franklin Lakes, N.J. driver joked after the race.

Masessa, whose only other racing this year came behind the wheel of a Grand Am Porsche 996, tested at NHIS to prepare for his return to stock car racing. When he returned to the "Magic Mile" for practice and qualifying, he was up to speed right off the trailer. His first qualifying lap put him 29th fastest, but on his second lap he spun coming off turn two. There was no damage to the car but the tires were flat-spotted.

East Series rules dictate that each driver has to start the race on his qualifying tires, so Masessa took the green flag on Friday already at a disadvantage. He struggled with the ill-handling car until he received a "lucky dog" pass to make up one of the two laps he lost on the track, and pitted for fresh right-side tires. A second "lucky dog" got him back on the lead lap, and he was set to try and get as close to the front as he could in the remaining 25 laps.

"My car and myself really didn't get engaged until the race until late in the going," he said. "I had a horrific car for the first ninety laps but I knew I had to save what I had for late. We had gotten a couple of laps down but cautions worked in my favor, I got two lucky dogs in a row and got back in the lead lap. Then there were yellows and red flags and crashes that left me very few laps to charge up to the front. I wanted to start my charge at lap 100 but I don't think very many of those last 25 were green. But I moved from the tail end to sixteenth position by the end of the race.

"It was definitely one of the best cars that I have driven at the end of a race. It was easy to drive, I just ran out of race," Masessa continued.

Masessa had quite a few thank-you's to dole out after his first NASCAR race of the season. The first goes to Moore Racing and Kelly Moore, who prepared the car. Then there's the all-volunteer crew.

"I have an all-volunteer crew led by Bill 'The Lobster' Coppersmith," Masessa said. "The chief mechanic is Chris Magnon and he was responsible for changing the setups. We have Pat O'Rourke from Pennsylvania, Dennis 'The Marine' Redshaw, and the 70 year-old twins Bill and Bob Fontaine who used to be harness racers in the former Yugoslavia. Then we have Wayne 'Wang' Theriault who did a whole lot of work all weekend long.

"My spotter was former Champ Car driver and test driver for Robby Gordon Motorsports, Ryan Hunter-Reay," he continued. "He's going to be a Nextel Cup driver one day. He coached me for the whole race and was instrumental in race strategy and avoiding wrecks. That's how we got to lap 100 with a completely clean car. As a professional driver, he was instrumental to get me in places on the track to get the lucky dog as well as keep me out of all those crashes. Our plan was to stay out of trouble and we did that."

Sponsorship for Masessa's effort comes from North and South Jersey Dermatology, state-of-the-art dermatology and skin cancer treatment centers in Newfoundland, Rockaway, and Toms River. Also present on the car is the Skin Cancer Foundation and Medwell Physical Therapy in Midland Park, New Jersey.

Masessa will return to the track at NHIS for the September Busch East race, followed the next weekend at Dover International Speedway. He remarked on how much the series has changed.

"I think I was the oldest driver in the top twenty," he said. "If I had kids, they'd be older than some of the guys I was racing against. I have two cats - Betty and Cinder - that are older than some of those drivers. But it was so cool racing with an Earnhardt for position on lap 126. It's good to be back in a Busch East car and I wish success to both the younger and the more experienced drivers there. We look to be back in September."

-credit: ajc

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Drivers Robby Gordon , Ryan Hunter-Reay , Joe Masessa