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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Racing has been and forever will be generational. A grandfather and grandson took to the track as teammates for some on-the-job training.
With 62-year-old Fred Miller III as mentor, 16-year-old Daulton Maassen of Avoca, Iowa, won the state and track NASCAR Whelen All-American Series rookie of the year awards at Adams County Speedway in Corning, Iowa while competing in the dirt Late Model division.
Maassen got his start in racing on a dirt go-kart track in neighboring Nebraska. After five seasons on the .125-mile oval, he was ready to graduate. To prepare, the youngster spent the 2011 season observing the larger and more powerful Late Model machines.
“I took 2011 off from driving karts so I could learn Late Model racing from my grandpa,” Maassen said. “We felt like the promoters at Adams County Speedway really appreciated us being there, so that’s where we wanted to be.
“Being there gave me a chance to learn,” Maassen said. “I’d go down to every corner on the infield and watch drivers’ entry, roll through, and pick up on the throttle. It looked like entry was everything because that’s where you set yourself up to get through the corners.”
After a season of crewing and crew chiefing for Miller, it was time for Maassen to get on track in 2012.
“When I got on the track last spring, driving a Late Model was a lot harder than I thought it would be. It put me to the test. It took time to get used it, but I finally figured it out,” Maassen said.
He approached the competition aspect of driving cautiously as he learned.
“Grandpa always told me a driver has to show respect to earn respect,” Maassen said. “I worked on holding the same line consistently, gave people room and didn’t overdrive the car.
Maassen and Miller often started side-by-side in early-season heat races and features.
“The first couple of weeks he took me to school on the track,” Maassen said of Miller. “Later, I was showing him what I was learning.”
Maassen posted his first top-10 finish in the fifth feature race of the season, and a week later scored his season-high finish of seventh.
“That was really a confidence booster,” Maassen said. “I quickly felt that finishing anywhere outside the top 10 wasn’t good enough because I knew we were good enough to finish in the top 10.”
He completed the season with nine top 10s in 16 starts while finishing ninth in the track’s final point standings.
“Daulton never drove a race car before 2012,” Miller said. “He just jumped right in, and it snowballed from there.
As a junior in high school Maassen is a straight-A student and plays on the varsity football and basketball teams.
“He’s a good kid,” Miller continued. “There’s no way he can be more proud of me than I am of him. We work on the cars at night during the week. He’s doing it all.”
The 2013 season will be Miller’s 30th year in racing. After starting out in Enduro racing, he then worked his way through Hobby Stocks, Street Stocks and Modifieds; winning three championships along the way. He’s been racing dirt Late Models since 1998 and has 68 feature wins to his credit.
Miller said he learned from family archives that Maassen’s great-grandfather, Donnie Pash, won the track championship at the old Playland Speedway in Council Bluffs, Iowa 60 years to the day Maassen claimed the 2012 Iowa state rookie-of-the-year honors.
“After we attended the NASCAR banquet in Charlotte in December, I’d like Daulton or me to go back again as a track or state champion. Being in Charlotte was an awesome time for both of us.”
Miller is an Avoca city council member, a farmer, and owns Fred’s, an Avoca bar. After the loss of a racing friend years ago, he developed a Fire and Safety Roll-Over Simulator. The simulator is used to train drivers, track crews, rescue squads and municipal fire departments in the event of a roll-over accident.
Maassen and Miller share the same crew that includes Maassen’s dad David Thies, Mark Smith, Brad Meyers and Neil and Amanda Roof. Thies crew chiefs for his son while Meyers calls the shots for Miller. Common sponsors include J.D. Wyman Motorsports and Fred’s Bar.
Maassen was honored in December for his state rookie-of-the-year award during the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Awards event at the Charlotte Convention Center’s Crown Ballroom at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. The NASCAR Whelen All-American Series rookie-of-the-year program is presented by Jostens. Based in Minneapolis, Jostens supplies championship rings for all NASCAR-sanctioned series and created the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series “crystal cup” national championship trophy.
Adams County Speedway’s awards banquet is scheduled for January 26 at the Cass County Community Center in Atlantic, Iowa. More information on the event is available at www.acspeedway.com.