WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Audio and story by Race Chaser Online Associate Editor Kyle Magda — Mason Mitchell Motorsports photo —
Driver for hire.
Those three words have summed up 2014 ARCA champ Mason Mitchell’s season so far.
After driving in the first two ARCA races of 2015 with his own team, Mason Mitchell Motorsports, the 20-year-old driver/owner hasn’t seen track time in any series.
That all changed this week when team owner Shigeaki Hattori gave Mitchell an opportunity to drive his No. 1 Toyoda Gosei Toyota Camry in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East race at Bowman-Gray Stadium (BGS) Saturday night.
“I met with Hattori a lot and know the crew chief Jamie Jones pretty well,” Mitchell said. “The relationship’s there and [we kept] on meeting with each other [to] try to work out some stuff. They gave me an opportunity to drive the race car this weekend and hopefully showcase my ability and get them a really good finish.”
Mitchell shook down the Hattori Racing Enterprises Toyota during the K&N open test at BGS Wednesday afternoon. Jones overlooks the effort this weekend, with the two working together to claim 2014 ARCA Racing Series championship last season. When Jones re-joined Mitchell last August, the No. 98 Mason Mitchell Motorsports team never lost the points lead on their way to the title.
Mitchell has 46 starts in the ARCA series but none in K&N East prior to Saturday’s NASCAR Hall of Fame 150.
“Our plan is to go out there and battle for the win,” Mitchell said. “It’s a one-off deal. We’re not running for points at all, so we’re going to have some fun and hopefully I can make these guys proud and get back into the seat some more.”
Going from watching his driver, Austin Wayne Self, race on the 2.258-mile New Jersey Motorsports Park to racing the quarter-mile track at Bowman-Gray Stadium himself, Mitchell nearly saw Self pick up his first career ARCA win at NJMP last Sunday and hopes to do the same in the K&N East ranks this weekend.
“We’ve been consistently improving with our program there,” Mitchell said. “Austin’s doing a heck of a job this year. He’s really been patient behind the wheel and been there at the end and the longer the run goes, the better he gets, which is always good to see improvement.”
The No. 98 AM Technical Solutions Ford sits fourth in points with Self, 75 points behind championship leader Grant Enfinger. Self was also running second at Toledo before leader Enfinger lost fourth gear, causing a chain-reaction crash and collecting the top-five cars.
Mitchell is usually at the MMM shop or at the track when the ARCA Racing Series is off racing at another facility, and he didn’t rule out that a second MMM car could compete again at another ARCA race this season.
Although Mitchell hasn’t been behind the wheel as much, he still deals with the business side of his team, similar to his championship-winning season last year.
“I feel like I’m always learning mentally with racing and business side of things,” he adds. “For myself a year ago, I just feel like I got a lot more mature and learned a lot over the last few years. It’s unfortunate to have a little bit of a setback from the driving role, but I’m getting the opportunity here this weekend and I’m going to make the most of it and hopefully open some more doors.”
Mitchell will return to the quarter-mile BGS track to practice his No. 1 Hattori Racing Enterprises Toyota Saturday afternoon before qualifying for his K&N East Series debut in the fifth-annual NASCAR Hall of Fame 150.
22 cars are entered for this weekend’s K&N East race at BGS. The track has only produced one first-time winner — Corey LaJoie in 2012. Five drivers in the field have at least one career win in the series, but Saturday will feature a first-time BGS K&N winner. 2014 K&N East champ and current NXS driver Ben Rhodes is the defending winner of the race.
The NASCAR Hall of Fame 150 will take the green flag at 9 p.m. Eastern Saturday night, with tape-delayed coverage of the event airing on Thursday, June 4 at 6 p.m. Eastern on NBCSN.
Listen in to an extended cut of Race Chaser Online’s conversation with Mason Mitchell by clicking on the player below: