NEW SMYRNA, Fla. – Stephen Nasse has been chasing a championship in the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing for what seems to be his entire life.
This time around, he wants to seal the deal.
The 23-year-old, Pinellas Park, Florida, driver is heading back to New Smyrna Speedway for the 52nd annual short-track showcase – which starts on Friday night – hoping to end up in Victory Lane.
More importantly, Nasse is hoping to notch that elusive championship crown.
“I really want to win this championship, it’s been a thing that’s on my list for a long time,” Nasse said. “But, to be honest with you, I’ve come so close to winning it that sometimes I forget I haven’t won a Speedweeks championship, just because I’ve been right there in the running for it. I still go out there and I strive to do it.”
All nine nights of racing from New Smyrna will stream live on FansChoice.tv
Nasse’s week of preparation leading up to the first green flag included practice on Thursday. He says the high-banked 0.500-mile oval is one of the more difficult he drives during the year.
“When you go to New Smyrna, the first thing that comes to your mind is long straightaways and tight corners,” Nasse said. “The corners are so tight and it makes it really tough for a driver. You carry so much speed going down into the corner and your car really just wants to be so tight because you are turning it so much.”
As a young driver visiting New Smyrna for the first time, Nasse didn’t shy away from the speed of the high-banks – and he feels that has aided in his success.
“I’ve always had a thing for the faster race tracks, I’ve always liked that speed,” Nasse said. “That doesn’t scare me away. When I first went to New Smyrna, the speed excited me. Some other kids my age may have been intimidated by it, but I took off and ran with it. I got a fresher start than some other people. Being able to really grab this place by the throat and not be afraid of it helps. I’m hard on the gas, and when I need to, I’m hard on the brakes.”
His success of the past isn’t necessarily a lock to translate to this week, and he knows that. He made a change with his racing recently that has allowed him to team up with Jett Concrete Motorsports, the same team that fields a car for Jeff Choquette – who won the first two Super Late Model races of the season at New Smyrna in 2018.
“I’m in a little bit different situation, in all of the years past, I was driving for the same team, DLP Motorsports,” Nasse said. “We split up earlier this year and now I’m with Jett Concrete Motorsports. This week is really going to be a big learning curve for us as a team. We’ve only worked together two or three times.”
After practicing on Thursday, Nasse is confident the team will be ready for Friday night.
“I’m really proud of what we have already done,” Nasse said. “But we need to get a little bit better. In practice, we made a good step towards doing that.”
Nasse will be joined by some top Super Late Model talent from across the country, including 2017 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East champion Harrison Burton, and New Hampshire SLM standout Derek Griffith. Burton won the Super Late Model title at New Smyrna last year.
Throughout nine nights of racing, some of the top names in NASCAR will also commence at New Smyrna.
NASCAR regional racing gets underway on Sunday, with the season-opener for the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East. With a new season set to begin, the entry list includes some veteran drivers looking to return to Victory Lane, but also some young talent looking to start a championship run and put themselves on the map.
Aside from the K&N opener and the Super Late Models, another headline division for the week will be the Tour-Type Modified class. The entry list is already approaching 20 modifieds and includes some top talent from the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and Whelen All-American Series. The week is headlined by Wednesday’s John Blewett III Memorial 76-lap main event and the Richie Evans 100 Memorial, but will also include three other feature races.
Timmy Solomito and Ryan Preece, who combined to win 10 of 16 events on the Whelen Modified Tour last season, are both set for competition. Preece is the defending World Series champion, while Solomito is looking to turn around his New Smyrna luck and capture his first trophy at the 0.500-mile oval.
“Last year, I feel like it helped us quite a bit, we went down there and experimented with a bunch of stuff and found some different things we liked with the car,” Solomito said. “I’m just hoping we can build on last year and find a little bit more speed.”
Other Whelen Modified names on the list include Eric Goodale, Craig Lutz, Ronnie Williams, Kyle Ebersole and Calvin Carroll.
Matt Hirschman, who scored the victory in the prestigious Richie Evans 100 last season and came up just short of the World Series championship, is also set to return this year. Jon McKennedy has also been selected to pilot the Tommy Baldwin Racing No. 7.
Jimmy Zacharias, who won the 2017 NASCAR New York championship, will be making the trip with two different rides. Zacharias will compete in his modified, but will also be making his first career NASCAR K&N Pro Series East start on Sunday — driving for Ted Marsh.
“I’ve been going down there since I was 10-years-old, and I got my first opportunity to run down there when I was about 14 or 15,” Zacharias said of attending the World Series. “It’s kind of like a little vacation, it’s an opportunity for us to get away every year. This year, I’m tired of finishing second or third.”
Although he has put together a strong list of accolades in his modified of late, Zacharias is also ready to take a next step and make his first career K&N start in the New Smyrna 175.
“Honestly, I never thought the chance would come,” Zacharias said. “I was getting older and in the racing world, I’m considered old. You get to the point where you focus on what you are doing and you are content with that. But I ran into this opportunity with Ted. We are going to go to New Smyrna with that on our mind and see what happens.”
The Pro Late Models, IMCA Type Modifieds, Sportsman and Southern Sprint Car Shootout Series will also compete during the World Series.
Race fans from across the country will have the opportunity to stream all nine nights of the racing on FansChoice.tv. Action kicks-off on Friday night, and will roll through Saturday Feb. 17.