When Michael Diaz bought Southern National Motorsports Park in 2011, he never knew it would one day be run by his entire family.
But, nearly a decade later, he wouldn’t have it any other way.
The Diaz family – dad, Michael, mom, Janet, and kids Mason and Trinity – live in Northern Virginia, nearly four hours away from Southern National, a 0.4-mile asphalt oval track in Lucama, North Carolina. Michael originally purchased the track with his friends Jerry Brown and Carlton Phillips, who no longer work in the day-to-day operations.
Racing wasn’t a part of the Diaz’s life until Michael began racing legends cars when the kids were young. Mason started racing go-karts himself when he was 4, and the family would run the local karting club.
As Michael has found with most short tracks around the country, SNMP has become a family operation for the Diazes. Janet will print schedules and tickets and make trophies and awards throughout the week, and work around the track on race days, helping with registration at the back gate and even offering help with concession needs.
“I’m just kind of that floater person who helps wherever I need to be,” she said.
Mason, a 20-year-old student at Old Dominion University, won a championship in SNMP’s late model division in 2017. Since then he’s raced in the Xfinity Series and ARCA Menards Series East, and he’s become a Toyota Racing Development driver. Not only is he back racing full-time at SNMP this season, he also helps in the pits as the go-to person when drivers have questions, he works on the clean-up crew, and lines up cars for races.
Janet said getting to watch her son race at the track adds to her love of going down there every week.
Trinity, a 21-year-old student at George Washington University, is in charge of the tire shop, selling tires and fuel to racers. She also runs registration for bigger races, and this year has been handling online forms for registration, selling track-side and tire shop equipment, and coordinating the track’s online presence.
The track is such a big part of the family’s lives they’ve even spent many Thanksgivings in an RV on the grounds getting it ready for races.
“I don’t necessarily think I would do it any other way,” Michael said. “It’s just one of those things where if my family didn’t go I don’t think I’d do it anymore.”
Michael has seen both of his children step up to take on more responsibility at the track the last two years. Learning the inside workings of a race track follows right along with Trinity’s studies. She’s majoring in sports management, and hopes to either stay in racing or work in her other love – ice hockey, which she plays at GWU.
“It’s been really cool to be able to work at the track and see so many different sides of managing sports from being there,” she said. “Mason and I, as we’ve grown up we’ve started taking on more responsibility so it’s cool to say, like, we really help run this place, especially since we’re so young.”
Being a driver and an employee has also given Mason a chance to see all sides of racing. He makes sure to look at other places where he drives to get ideas for what his family can do at their own track.
Whether he’s driving or helping other drivers, he’s happy to be able to put on a show for fans week-in and week-out.
“It’s definitely something I don’t regret doing,” Mason said. “Would we be doing something different with our weekends if we weren’t going it down there? Probably, but then again we enjoy putting on the show… To be able to put on a show for fans, it’s always fun to see kids enjoying it and run a smooth event for everyone to see and enjoy. It’s the reason why we do it.”
The Diaz family has extended beyond the quartet at the track. They’ll bring friends and family down from Virginia to help when necessary, and there are several employees who have been there since Michael bough the track nearly a decade ago.
“I’ve got a bunch of good staff down there,” Michael said. “It takes a lot of good people. To operate a short track takes a lot of patience and a lot of time and a lot of love… a lot of people really love the sport so it makes it better.”
“That’s also a cool part of it is meeting all the people now that I get to call friends through the race track,” Mason said. “From the employees to the racers there that I probably would not have met without the race track being open.”
At the end of the day, the Diaz family enjoys being able to put on races to help the community. Getting to put on a show with their family by their side is the cherry on top.
“This just happens to be one of those things where we own it and we can have some fun with it,” Michael said.
“It’s definitely a unique experience to have,” Janet said. “I do enjoy watching racing and I’ve gotten to know the racers really well. It’s fun to see them all progressing, especially the younger ones when they move up division to division. It’s nice to have that family atmosphere not just with my family but with everybody, the locals at the track.”
“Who else would you rather do something with other than your family?” Mason said.
Racing action will return to SNMP on Sept 20 with twin Late Model Stock Car features plus Chargers, Mini Stocks, Legends, and an any car race. The track will hold NASCAR races on October 4, and its championship on October 18.