Friday, September 17, 2021

ARCA: Mason Diaz goes from championship contender to last place at Bristol

Mason Diaz' car at Southern National Motorsports Park in June

by William Soquet Staff Writer

Mason Diaz scored the 1st last-place finish of his ARCA Menards Series career in Thursday’s Bush’s Beans 200 at Bristol Motor Speedway when his #74 Solid Rock Carriers did not finish the race due to battery issues, completing 2 of 200 laps.

The finish came in Diaz’s fifth career series start.

Mason Diaz has been an interesting case in the “backwards is forwards” train of thought. He climbed the traditional ranks of go-karts, Bandoleros and Legends cars before moving on to full-bodied cars. Conveniently, his father, Michael Diaz, co-owns a track, Southern National Motorsports Park. The North Carolina venue was a natural proving ground for a young Diaz, and as early in 2015, Mason was making starts in regional touring series. In 2017, Diaz teamed up with Brandonbilt Motorsports to make his Truck Series debut at Martinsville. The pairing was a good fit, as Brandonbilt team principal Jerry Brown was the other co-owner of Southern National. After qualifying an impressive ninth, Diaz scored stage points in the first stage before a cut tire plagued the rest of his race.

In 2018 and 2019, Diaz made sporadic XFINITY starts for Brandonbilt, scoring a 19th-place finish in his series debut at Richmond. That same year, the Diaz family made a go of running for the then-NASCAR K&N Pro Series East championship, making it four races in to the twelve-race schedule before halting the effort. In 2020, Diaz signed with Venturini Motorsports to contest a now shorter East schedule and secured fifth place in the point standings. With that season done, he also ran the final two XFINITY races of the season with Sam Hunt Racing, again finding success at Martinsville. In advance of 2021, Diaz chose to run another year in the East series, focusing on driver development rather than jumping to a higher series. He signed with Visconti Motorsports, a team that did not make it through the year with driver Giovanni Bromante. The pairing yielded considerable success - heading into the season finale for the East Series at Bristol (which happened to be a combination race with the national series), Diaz was still within mathematical contention for the championship, albeit a long shot.

Mason Diaz on the grid at Bristol.
PHOTO: Bill Goffin, thanks @nascarcatholic

As a combination race with both the East and national series and as one of the best-paying races on the schedule, a stout field of 32 cars populated the initial entry list. With the withdrawal of Eric Caudell, the list was brought down to 31. The East contingent included Rev Racing’s Rajah Caruth, slated for a part-time XFINITY Series schedule with Alpha Prime Racing next year; New Smyrna winner Max Gutierrez; Conner Jones with Cook Racing Technologies; David Gilliland Racing driver Joey Iest; and the eventual champion, Sammy Smith of Joe Gibbs Racing. On the national side, several part-time teams put their best foot forward for Bristol: Don Thompson, Sam Mayer, Kyle Sieg, Greg Van Alst, Andy Jankowiak, Chuck Buchanan Jr., Jason Kitzmiller and Justin Carroll highlighted that group. Jack Wood returned to GMS Racing for a one-off, and Zachary Tinkle began his stint as driver of the Richmond-Clubb Motorsports entry. Venturini Motorsports entered Parker Chase and Jesse Love alongside regular hot shoe Corey Heim, and Fast Track Racing entrants included XFINITY regular Jade Buford, Mason Mingus, D.L. Wilson and Stephanie Moyer.

All 31 cars took a time in practice. Ty Gibbs was the only driver to break the 15-second barrier, and on the other end of the speed charts, Don Thompson’s Wayne Peterson Racing entry was the only car in the 19-second bracket. Qualifying was much of the same, with Gibbs and Sammy Smith securing a Joe Gibbs Racing lockout of the front row and Thompson alone in Row 16. Diaz was solidly mid-pack, clocking in at 15th-quickest in practice and qualifying 12th.

While Thompson recorded the slowest lap in qualifying, ARCA’s provisional system awarded him the 29th starting spot; Buchanan drew the final starting spot.

The race had barely started when a caution flag flew on Lap 2. Diaz ducked on to pit road during the caution and never emerged, done for the evening. Don Thompson’s race was done after a black flag for a lack of speed was shown early in the race. Sam Mayer, already in a backup Bret Holmes Racing entry from earlier in the day, found contact with Jason Kitzmiller and retired less than a quarter of the way in to the race. D.L. Wilson and Stephanie Moyer rounded out the Bottom Five.

31) #74-Mason Diaz / 2 laps / battery
30) #06-Don Thompson / 14 laps / brakes
29) #23-Sam Mayer / 47 laps / radiator
28) #12-D.L. Wilson / 70 laps / engine
27) #44-Stephanie Moyer / 76 laps / electrical

1st) Chevrolet (7)
2nd) Ford (6)
3rd) Toyota (5)

1st) Fast Track Racing (8)
2nd) Young’s Motorsports (2)
3rd) Bull Racing, Greg Van Alst Motorsports, Kimmel Racing, Kovski Racing, Rette Jones Racing, Smith Brothers Racing, Visconti Motorsports, Wayne Peterson Racing (1)


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