Much like Clark Kent leaving Smallville for the bright lights and big opportunities in Metropolis, “Superman” Mason Mitchell has arrived in NASCAR.
While the defending ARCA Racing Series champion has made one previous start in the Camping World Truck Series back in November at Homestead, Mitchell has been given an opportunity to win his first NASCAR race, joining Hattori Racing Enterprises for a one-off start this Saturday night in the K&N Pro Series East race at Bowman Gray Stadium.
The move reunites him with crew chief Jamie Jones, whom Mitchell worked with in the second half of last season, defeating Grant Enfinger for the ARCA championship. It was his relationship with Jones, dating back to their pairing at Empire Racing in 2013, that led him to Shigeaki Hattori who employs Jones as the crew chief of his NASCAR Pro Series efforts.
“We’ve known Jamie for a long time,” Mitchell told Popular Speed on Thursday morning. “So he’s over there with ‘Shige,’ trying to rebuild their program and we’ve been talking about doing things together for a while. It got serious about a week ago and Shige gave me this opportunity to go race at The Stadium.
“I don’t know if this is the perfect place for me to make my debut, but I’m excited to go down there and chase a NASCAR win.”
His hesitation is due to the combustible and random nature of competing at the Winston Salem football stadium that happens to have a flat quarter-mile racing surface circling the circumference of the gridiron.
The bump and run, spin to win and cars sliding across the field are just a normal day at the park for those racing at “The Madhouse,” which has seen stock car racing since 1946.
Despite driving the same equipment that Brett Moffitt drove to five wins in 2011 and 2012, Mitchell knows he has his work cut out for him — not because of the equipment but due to the nature of racing at this specific circuit.
“This equipment is solid,” Mitchell said. “Shige and Jamie are working really hard to get their program back to where it was not too long ago and these are good cars. But anyone has a shot at The Stadium with people getting moved out of the way or turned around. But we’ve had a lot of success with Jamie and we hope to do it again.”
If all goes well, Mitchell said it’s not unlikely that they could team up for additional races this season. Despite winning the ultra-competitive ARCA championship, Mitchell knows it’s equally important for him to excel in the NASCAR spotlight.
He’s also pursuing the funding and partners to make additional Truck and XFINITY starts. Success in the K&N Series could go a long way towards that goal.
“I think so,” Mitchell said of remaining in the K&N Series for additional races this season. “Shige wants to be successful and have the best possible people in place. This is a one-race deal but we could do more if this works out.
“I’m really excited.”
While BGS is a unique track by every measurable standard, it is a short track where Mitchell has enjoyed the majority of his success, dating back to the ARCA Racing Series. The 20-year-old has made 22 short track starts and has accumulated 17 top-10s and nine top-5s.
To win on Saturday night, he knows he has to start up front and control the pace of the race.
“Qualifying is going to be a key component for the race,” Mitchell said. “A winner has never started outside the top-10 so we need to start up front. I really enjoyed the track during the test and am looking forward to a successful race.”
NASCAR Hall of Fame 150 Notebook
- This is the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East’s fifth visit to Bowman Gray Stadium.
- The K&N Pro Series East made its debut at Bowman Gray on June 4, 2011. Coleman Pressley was the inaugural pole sitter and Matt DiBenedetto the race winner.
- The NASCAR Hall of Fame 150 will air on NBCSN on Thursday, June 4 at 6 p.m. ET.
- Ben Rhodes was the first driver in the five years at Bowman Gray to win from the pole position.
- The most cautions in a K&N Pro Series East event at “The Stadium” was 15 in the inaugural 2011 event and the fewest was 10 in 2012.
- The average starting position for the winner is 3.75 while the pole sitter has an average finish of 10.25.
- The 2013 NASCAR Hall of Fame 150 was the only one of the first of four Bowman Gray events not to be extended to a green-white-checkered finish.
- Chevrolet (2), Ford (1) and Toyota (1) have all gone to Victory Lane at Bowman Gray.
- William Byron Ldr.
- Austin Hill -14
- Kyle Benjamin -19
- Scott Heckert -37
- Gray Gaulding -37
- Nick Drake -39
- Ronnie Bassett, Jr. -41
- Dalton Sargeant -45
- Kaz Grala -45
- David Garbo, Jr. -46
- J. Haley -52
- Rico Abreu -54
- Dillon Bassett -60
- Kenzie Ruston -66
- Collin Cabre -67
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