By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
“I like to speak my own mind. I’m going to say what I want to say and that’s how the world works. That’s what America is all about – free speech. You’re not going to have me keep my mouth shut.”
Floridian Stephen Nasse isn’t shy about his feelings towards NASCAR and ARCA’s flawed ladder system.
In his eye, talented drivers are criminally overlooked because race teams in those sanctioning bodies prefer those with tremendous financial backings who aren’t as talented or leapfrog their way to the top without paying their proper dues.
The super late model competitor explained on The Unnamed Weekly Podcast that talented drivers like Kasey Kahne, Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman are hard to come by because there aren’t any talent scouts who reward hard workers.
“I think it’s all a big joke honestly. Back in the day, you had talent scouts and drivers got picked up off of talent,” said Nasse. “These days, you don’t have that because you have guys that bring in money.”
Nasse used iRacing turned Cup Series driver William Byron as an example of drivers who isn’t on his level. Byron had only spent three full years on the lower levels before making it to Cup in 2018.
“I promise that (William) could not come down there and win a late model race,” said Nasse. “Even Kyle Busch can’t even do it. I don’t take any credit away from Kyle because he’s a wheel man, but it shows you how tough the competition can be. If you don’t have the credentials to get yourself there and all you have is the money behind you. I don’t think you should be there.”
It wasn’t all critical as the “Classy” one does have respect for a handful of NASCAR drivers. Those being Ryan Preece, Kyle Larson, Alex Bowman, and finally, Floridian Ross Chastain, whom the 25-year-old raced over the years.
“Not that I really care for the guy that much, but we grew up racing locally together. That’s the guy I was racing against in the pro trucks trying to win those races,” Nasse on Chastain. “We had some feuds and battles for sure, but he held in there and ran with a crappy team. He’s prevailing and getting good runs, winning races, and good rides. He might be a name that stays in NASCAR for a long time and I do respect that.”
Respect aside, Nasse was adamant about NASCAR needs to do something about the ladder system because if they continue rewarding drivers who haven’t made a name for themselves due to pure talent, mistakes will continue to repeat itself.
“I don’t think they’re going to change. They’re a stubborn sport. If you don’t go their way, you’re out. They’ve proven that multiple times and that’s something personally I’m not a fan of,” Nasse on the sanctioning body’s way of doing business. They pick the kid that they can kind of puppet around and I just don’t think that’s right.
“There’s a lot of real drivers that I see every weekend on Saturday night racing at short tracks that have every more right to be in a lot of those guys positions that they are on Sunday racing and really making a fool of the sport.”
The ladder system isn’t the only thing Nasse doesn’t like about the sport. He added the quality of competition is a far cry to the days when he used to watch and attend the races as a kid.
“It’s really embarrassing and tough to see because NASCAR was a sport that I grew up loving. I sat there and watched the races every single Sunday as a kid. I was obsessed with it and I couldn’t get enough of it. I can’t even sit here and tell you the last time I watched a NASCAR race live. Unless it was at Daytona when I was hanging out with friends, but It’ll put you asleep,” said Nasse.
“The people that are racing, the way they’re racing, and the cars they’re racing. There’s no real racing. The gap between teams on equipment is ridiculous and the way that big teams can push smaller teams out. These are people that have some serious money that bigger teams push out like they’re nothing. They’re so powerful and run the sport.”
To some, people will feel mixed about Nasse’s comments, but his tremendous racing resume backs up his sentiments.
Just last year alone, Nasse won major events at Bristol Motor Speedway and Winchester Speedway’s coveted 400-lap race. He even had superb performances in the All American 400 at the Fairgrounds Speedway and the Snowball Derby before brake issues and a disqualification denied him those victories respectively.
As successful he’s been, greater opportunities have been rare despite guys like Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Mark Martin and Gary Balough praising him in the past. Again, the subject returns to money.
To put it bluntly, if driver doesn’t have the dough, owners aren’t interested, mentioning that he’s better off not being in a spot where he gets a national opportunity, but miring at the back of the grid.
Nasse has reached no higher than the ARCA Menards Series East, where he’s competed in three races with his most recent start being at New Smyrna Speedway early this year (the other two being in 2012). He finished sixth out of the 23-car ARCA grid for Jett Motorsports.
Nasse’s deal to pilot the No. 09 Chevrolet came together thanks to his late model owner Pat Jett, who gave him the ride following another competitor’s deal not being favorable. It remains Nasse’s only he only ARCA race and has no desire of spending his own money to the lower stock car divisions.
If he would put money on a ride, it would likely be on a Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series ride because he doesn’t see ARCA striving. Then again, Nasse doesn’t see NASCAR thriving either and in his honest words, he doesn’t really care of being there.
Instead, Nasse is dedicated of making short track racing as must-watch racing, competing with the likes of CARS Super Late Model Tour points leader Matt Craig and elite racer Bubba Pollard, who in the past felt NASCAR has distanced themselves to what they once were.
“I don’t think it’s worth it,” said Nasse. “That’s why I’m trying to keep the short track world alive. I think it’s the best form of racing that we have. Longevity wise, we’re here to stay.
“They don’t want somebody like me in there. To be honest, I don’t really care to be there myself. Other than the competition aspect and people trying to claim they’re the best and I always want to beat the best. That’s the only thing that interest me on going to there to prove that those kids have no right to be there. They haven’t put enough time in and that’s a fact.
“You hear these kids starting racing at like 12 or 13-years-old and they’re only 18 and 19 when they’re already up there. It’s sad.”