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Dillon Bassett Fighting for K&N East Success

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.

E-MAIL ANDY AT  andymarquis@gmail.com

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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Intensity Level Rising in K&N Title Fight

HAMPTON, VA – Two of NASCAR racing’s hottest prospects are locked in a tight championship battle in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East in what could be a preview of future title fights in NASCAR’s upper echelons.

After picking up a win at Langley Speedway in Hampton, Virginia on Monday, 16-year-old Todd Gilliland took over the K&N East points lead. Gilliland has a six marker advantage over his main championship rival, 15-year-old Harrison Burton, and both drivers have been relatively evenly matched.

On Monday, Gilliland, the son of Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series competitor David Gilliland, made a late race pass on Dillon Bassett and pulled away from the Chase Purdy in the final laps to score his fourth K&N East victory of the year – tying Burton in number of wins in the eastern tour.

“This is a crucial part of the season overall,” Gilliland said afterward. “With there only being 14 races, all of them are very important. This one is huge for us, taking the lead. We had some bad luck to start the year off but, man, we’ve come on strong in these summer months. We’ve just got two more races to go get it.”

While Gilliland lavished in victory lane, Burton languished.

Burton, son of NBC Sports broadcaster and former MENCS racer Jeff Burton, struggled throughout much of the day. During the race, Burton fought valiantly, but was only able to come away with a seventh place finish and, as a result, watched his four point lead become a six point deficit.

“It was a tough race for us,” Burton remarked. “We didn’t have the handle on the car all week. We’ve got to win the next two, that’s what we have to do. It’s something we’re really capable of. We’ve got to go to the road course and win and I know I’m capable of it. I believe in my team, and we’re going to have a great car. Then we’ve got to go to Dover and take care of business there.”

With two races remaining, the K&N Series standouts will now turn their attention to the 2.25-mile road course at New Jersey Motorsports Park on September 16th, and both drivers are confident entering the event.

Todd Gilliland has fared well at the road courses so far in 2017. In the most recent road course race at Watkins Glen International, Gilliland finished second to Will Rodgers. Heading to New Jersey, Gilliland is already looking to gain an advantage.

“We’re driving all night after this race to go test at New Jersey,” Gilliland said. “We’re going to try to give ourselves the best chance we’ve got. That’s all we can do.”

Harrison Burton, who finished third at Watkins Glen, is equally optimistic about the New Jersey race.

“That’s my best road course I run at,” Burton remarked. “Really excited to get going to New Jersey. It’s a great racetrack, a lot of fun. We get tires at the halfway break, so that plays into my favor. I’ve never been too good at saving tires. I like going 100 percent, but, we’ve got to go and do what we’ve got to do.”

Both drivers come from NASCAR pedigree and have had plenty of success in short track racing – Burton in Super Late Models and Gilliland in Late Model Stock Cars.

Burton recently won the New Smyrna World Series of Asphalt championship as well as the Speedfest 200 Super Late Model race in Georgia.  Gilliland, who won last year’s K&N West championship and is poised to defend that title, won the inaugural race for the CARS Late Model Stock Tour in North Carolina back in 2015 before moving up the ladder and into the K&N Series. Both drivers have also made starts in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and are members of the 2017-18 NASCAR NEXT class.

E-MAIL ANDY AT  andymarquis@gmail.com

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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Drive for Diversity Driver Macy Causey Gaining Notoriety

HAMPTON, VA – On a hot summer night in Virginia, Macy Causey prepared to compete in one of the biggest Late Model Stock Car races in the country, the Hampton Heat 200 at Langley Speedway in Hampton, Virginia, before a sea of fans ready to cheer her on.

The 16-year-old from Yorktown, Virginia is a third-generation racer who recently made NASCAR racing history when she became the first woman to win a Late Model Stock Car race at the historic South Boston Speedway. Before the victory, Causey had already generated buzz, being featured on NBC News and other prominent media outlets nationally and locally in the Hampton Roads area.

Her win at South Boston only made her even more prolific.

“It’s been a whirlwind.  Getting that first win, it all comes after that,” Causey told POPULAR SPEED. “Hopefully it’s just the first win of very many.  I worked with what I’ve got and what I had that night and worked with my crew chief, and we got it figured out.  It was the right time, (the) right place, so it happened.”

Earlier this year, she was selected as part of the NASCAR Drive for Diversity (D4D) Class of 2017 and competes with Rev Racing in select Late Model Stock Car races.  The D4D was a program created by NASCAR, currently partnered with Rev Racing, to get more minority and female drivers into NASCAR.  In its 12 year history, the initiative has propelled the careers of many NASCAR competitors, such as Kyle Larson, Daniel Suarez, Aric Almirola and Darrell Wallace, Jr.

Rev Racing fields a car in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East as well as in NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Late Model Stock Car racing.  Causey races on the Late Model team, predominantly at her home track, Langley Speedway. While the K&N Series program has had success throughout the years, Rev Racing’s Late Model program has not yielded the same success against regional powerhouse racers such as Philip Morris and Lee Pulliam.

That made Causey’s victory at South Boston all the more impressive in being the first Late Model Stock Car win for Rev Racing in five years. Next year, having already proven herself capable of winning races, she hopes her South Boston triumph can help propel her through the ranks with Rev Racing into the K&N Series.

“My next step is definitely K&N, you know,” Causey explained.  “I got Rev Racing their first Late Model win in five years, and I’m the youngest one they’ve accepted onto the program, so hopefully I’ve proven a lot. But I’m just going to keep doing my thing and hopefully next year, when they choose that spot for K&N, they look at my name quite a few times.”

Causey is a third-generation racer.  She is the granddaughter of Diane Teal, the first woman to win a NASCAR track championship, and the daughter of Dee Causey.  For her part, Macy Causey hopes to have a career in racing.

“My grandmother, Diane Teel, she was the first woman to win a NASCAR sanctioned race here at Langley Speedway,” the younger Causey said.  “I started racing when I was eight years old, Bandoleros here at Langley, won championships.  I race, my mom raced, I’m a third-generation female race car driver, so I kind of grew up in racing, all around racing.  I’ve been around racing especially with my family, so it’s definitely a habit for me.  I’m super excited for the rest of my career and what I’m going to be doing.”

At Langley Speedway, Causey certainly is a favorite among the fans.  During July’s Hampton Heat 200, the first of four Late Model Stock Car majors to be run this year, thousands of fans congregated at the track, and many were sporting her colors – t-shirts, mostly pink, with her name and number on the front and a picture of her car on the back.

“It’s super exciting to have all these fans that support me and travel around across the East Coast and supporting me,” Causey commented.  “It’s great, and I love it.”

In recent years, women have become more accepted in the sport.  In the four Mid-Atlantic states that predominantly run Late Model Stock Cars (South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia and Eastern Tennessee), the ladies have turned up the wick and become very successful.  Causey joins a growing list of female drivers who have scored significant accomplishments in recent years, which was seemingly kick-started when Haley Moody won a championship at Southern National Motorsports Park in Lucama, North Carolina in 2014.

Despite the growing acceptance, Causey does face backlash and criticism even still – but, with her famously positive attitude, she does not let it get to her.

“I’ve had a few people tell me nasty comments, but you can’t let that get to you,” Causey remarked.  “Right before you’re about get into a car going 120mph, and you let someone tell you that you’re not an aggressive driver, you can’t let it get to you, so I try my best not to let that happen and let it come with my success.  Clearly, it’s done me pretty good.”

The growing participation of women in the sport is something Causey welcomes.  Her win at South Boston made her the second female in as many years to win a Whelen All-American Series Division I Late Model Stock Car race, joining Kate Dallenbach who picked up a historic victory at Hickory Motor Speedway last spring.

“It’s great,” Causey explained.  “The more females we get out there and winning races, the more it shows how much more room there is in the Cup Series for females in the sport and what it’s definitely going to take.”

Like many other female racers, Causey credits Danica Patrick for laying a foundation for women to compete in NASCAR’s top ranks.  However, Causey wants to leave her own mark in NASCAR racing.

“Danica’s definitely laid down a great path in our sport, but I think it’s time for new females and new talent to pick up where Danica has left off,” Causey said.  “I don’t want to be the next Danica, or Dale, Jr.  I want to be Macy Causey.”

So far, Causey is doing just that with a growing fanbase as she racks up accolades.  Along with her win at South Boston Speedway, Causey was the youngest woman to make the field the Late Model Stock Car racing’s richest and most prestigious race at Martinsville Speedway last October. It was a feat no woman had accomplished in the event’s modern era until she, Moody and Annabeth Barnes-Crum all raced their way in last year.

Now, Causey is looking to the future, with the sky as her limit.

E-MAIL ANDY AT  andymarquis@gmail.com

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.