Sometimes it’s all about being in the right place at the right time, and that’s exactly where Stephen Nasse was on Saturday night at South Alabama Speedway. Nasse, of Pinellas Park, Florida, parked his No. 51 Pro Late Model in victory lane after a dramatic ending to the Baby Rattler 125.
As part of the victory lane celebration, Nasse continued a long-standing tradition at South Alabama Speedway by having an Alabama rattlesnake draped around his neck.
“After a crazy ending like that, having a Rattlesnake draped around your neck is no big deal,” he joked after the race. “This is a great win for our entire team. The guys gave me a great car and I just tried to do my part by being in a position to win at the end.”
Nasse started the 125-lap race from the 11th position and methodically worked his way towards the front. He moved into the top five on lap 70 and into third on lap 106. There was quite a bit of distance between Nasse and the leaders, and it appeared it would be tough for Nasse to close the gap over the final 20 laps.
As the white flag flew, the leaders encountered lap traffic and contact was made between them in turn four. Nasse avoided the incident, completed the final lap and crossed under the checkered flag in second.
After the checkers flew, track officials made the decision to put the initial race winner to the rear for his involvement in the last lap incident. This gave Nasse the win and he moved his No. 51 machine into victory lane for a date with the rattlesnake.
“I mean to be honest all I saw was a bunch of white smoke,” said Nasse. “My spotter didn’t call a wreck or anything. I came off the corner and saw car kind of spinning around the start finish line and I saw one go high. I saw a 26 on it and I saw a 43, I looked at the 26, he didn’t cross the line, so we crossed the line second.”
“Next thing I came across the radio and asked if the 43 wrecked him or if he just spun out on his own. When I heard the 43 wrecked him I knew there was a shot that maybe we won it because I knew they might disqualify him. It’s not how we want to win it, but I’ll take any day of the week and twice on Sundays.”
It’s no secret that Nasse has always been strong in his home state of Florida, but his win in the Baby Rattler 125 proved he can get it done at other tracks as well. It’s a confidence that keeps growing for the 20-year-old driver and he thinks this year they will be a threat wherever they go.
“We’ve always been a competitor out of state, just haven’t been able to put the total package together, and even this weekend. Tonight, we didn’t put the total package together, but we were there at the end,” said Nasse. “A lot of my problem was a big learning curve, going to all these tracks out of state all these tracks I didn’t know. Now I really know about track we go to and I feel like more of a veteran than a rookie, so I think this is the year you are going to see Stephen Nasse click off some more wins.”
Nasse was hoping for that next win to come the following day, when he looked to become the first driver to complete the Rattler weekend sweep at South Alabama Speedway.
Nasse qualified sixth for the 40th annual Rattler 250 and looked strong right away. He raced in the top three throughout the course of the first 100 laps, even briefly grabbing the lead on lap 7.
There was a competition caution and a 10 minute break at lap 100 to give drivers a chance to make adjustments, take tires and fuel their machines. When the green flag dropped again, Nasse remained strong in the top five over the next 40 laps. Some hard racing for position led to contact with another driver, causing Nasse to drop back to the 15th position. Nasse could tell something was not right with his No. 51, but he held on in the top 15 until the next break at lap 200.
“The start of the day went really well, we were kind of riding in the top five,” said Nasse. “I got taken back on one of the starts, probably 100 laps in, and then me and that 4 got into it. He was on my inside, he rode me up the track and when he got by me I crossed him over. I accidently drove it in a little too deep and got too free and rode him up a little bit, and then somebody ran me over from behind. It cracked the frame and we didn’t know it. I knew something was moving around back there, we checked the rear end at the 200 lap break and didn’t see nothing, just didn’t look deep enough into it and went back out.”
Nasse remained in the top 15 for the next 27 laps, but when the caution flew again, he could sense more damage and was forced to retire for the day.
“We had that green flag run and then under caution I could feel the car moving back and forth. I knew something wasn’t right,” said Nasse. “They saw it in the pits and told me to come in. The left rear frame was cracked, the whole back of the car was probably about to come off so we’re lucky we pulled in. We had a fast car, even with that problem I was still right there. We really wanted this one bad, probably could have ended up 10th, it’s just too risky to risk destroying your car.”
The next race on Nasse’s 2016 racing scheduled has yet to be determined. He’s planning on being at the CARS Tour season opener on April 2 at Southern National Motorsports Park (NC), but is unsure if he’ll race anywhere else before then.
For updated schedule information and more on Stephen Nasse, visit www.stephennasse.com. You can also follow Stephen on Twitter at @StephenNasse.