Dillon Bassett, who may be one of the most underrated drivers in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, is fighting for everything he can get.
The 20-year-old driver from Winston Salem, North Carolina is a former champion in the now-defunct UARA Late Model Series and has one career win to date on the K&N East tour. Now, Bassett is hoping for more success with hopes of moving up the ranks.
“We can only be focused on what we’re doing right now,” Bassett told POPULAR SPEED. “We have a lot on our plate right now with trying to run the East series. Always looking for sponsorship. That’s one of the main things to move up nowadays. Just trying to do the best we can with what we’ve got and, if an opportunity presents itself, then we would be more than willing to take it. Just trying to focus on what we’ve got now.”
Bassett scored his first and, to date, only K&N East Series win at Motordrome Speedway in Pennsylvania back in 2015. The following year, he had a strong start in the K&N East Series, but his family owned and operated team suffered a devastating setback in May 2016 when a fire ripped through their Winston Salem race shop.
“Yeah, it happened about halfway through the season last year, and we lost a lot of our stuff, but the good Lord was good to us, and we bounced back,” Bassett said. “We’re here now, and that’s all that matters.”
This season, luck has not been on Bassett’s side with only two top-five finishes in the K&N East Series. Most recently, Bassett led the most laps at Langley Speedway in Virginia, but faded late in the race before being involved in an accident.
Bassett won’t let bad luck keep him down. He’s still determined to show that he has the talent to win races and possibly compete in NASCAR’s upper echelons one day.
“All I can do is I can place 110 percent of my trust in the guys that work in my car in the shop,” Bassett remarked. “Be there when I can. I’m in school full-time as well. Just put my trust in them and when we show up to the racetrack, be as much prepared as we can and give our best effort week in and week out and never give up. That’s where we’ve been at this year. We’ve had a lot of bad luck but we still just been fighting away at it trying to get the best finishes that we can even though things haven’t gone our way a lot.
“All we can do is keep fighting and hope that somebody sees and is willing to give me a shot.”
Bassett credits some of his success in the K&N East Series to what he learned racing Late Model Stock Cars in the Carolinas and Virginia. However, the younger of the two Bassett brothers also sees a difference – primarily in the advantage gained through technology and resources by the well-funded teams.
“We learned a lot,” Bassett explained. “A lot of stuff transfers. It seems to me like Late Model racing is a lot different than these things. It seems to me that even the guys with a lot of money in late models don’t always run as good but, if you have a lot of money in this series or so on, it seems to benefit them more. I don’t really understand (why), but all we can do is keep fighting for what we’ve got and just try to compete with these guys on a weekly basis and try to win races.”
While Bassett is looking ahead in his career, there is still one thing he would like in Late Model Stock Car racing – redemption in one of the biggest races, the ValleyStar Credit Union 300 at Martinsville Speedway.
In 2013, Bassett was involved in a thrilling duel for the win with Lee Pulliam, Deac McCaskill, Matt Waltz and Tommy Lemons, Jr., but a series of late cautions changed the complexion of the race. Bassett had the lead coming to a green-white-checkered restart, but Lemons ended up taking the top spot in the most controversial restart in the event’s history and scoring the victory, while Bassett came away with a heartbreaking runner-up finish.
Feeling like he is owed one, Bassett would love to compete in this year’s race, which will be held on September 23rd – the first event under Martinsville Speedway’s new permanent LED lighting system.
“I don’t know if Martinsville owes me one but NASCAR sure as hell owes me one,” Bassett stated. “I’d love to man. I’ve been talking about it all year. Under the lights, that’s just something that any driver would want to experience. Especially since it’s new and the Late Model race is going to be the first one to do it. Don’t really have a car or ride set for that race but with it being this close, it probably won’t happen, but I would love to do it.”
This weekend, Bassett will turn his attention to the twists and turns of the 2.25-mile Thunderbolt Raceway road course at New Jersey Motorsports Park in Saturday’s JustDrive.com 125. It will be Bassett’s first start at the New Jersey track.
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