Saying the name Stephen Nasse around a paved short-track just about anywhere in America is almost certain to draw a reaction. Not only is the 24-year-old one of the top Late Model drivers in the country but he is also a fiery competitor known for not holding anything back on or off the track. Indeed, the Pinellas Park, Florida native is not shy about voicing his opinions off the track and he is not shy about employing a hard charging style that has resulted in significant accomplishments in the short-track racing world while on the track.
The roots of Nasse’s involvement in the sport are easily traced. The driver of the No. 51 Late Model comes from a family that has been deeply invested in racing for generations. His grandfather, Steve Stanford, and his father, Jeff Nasse, very much fostered the spirited young man into the racer he is today.
“It’s a family thing,” Nasse declared of his racing heritage in an interview with InsideCircleTrack.com. “My grandfather had a race team back out at Sunshine Speedway about five minutes from my house in Pinellas Park. He had some good drivers driving for him- Jimmy Cope, Mike Cope and guys like that- and my uncles ran for him as well. It was definitely a family thing at the start.”
Nasse’s own racing career began much like that of other young hopefuls.
“I raced go-karts at Sunshine,” he explained. “My grandfather was really big into it but then he kind of got out of it and my dad got into it. My dad and my mom actually met at a race track. They’ve always wanted me to be a racer and I’m the last child. I have two older sisters so it was kind of a hope there at the end to get a boy because they wanted a race car driver. It was really just this deal where I was molded into it because my whole family loves it so much and that made me just love it even more.”
After a successful run in go-karts Nasse moved into the FastTruck division where the wins continued to mount. From there, the next stop would be Asphalt Late Models.
“That was the direction my grandfather was in,” Nasse pointed to as the reason for taking the Late Model route. “His team was Late Models and they did the All Pro Series back in Florida when that was a big deal. Late Models have always been my grassroots. I ran other things, I came up running trucks and stuff like that but I love the Late Models, pro or super, I drive them both. Like I said, that’s what my grandfather’s team always ran. I’ve always had a big interest in Late Models and the best drivers are in Late Models. I think that shows week in and week out.”
As is the case for many young racers, NASCAR was initially a goal for Nasse. However, that dream eventually soured as he began to realize the realities involved with racing in that form of the sport.
“Of course when I was younger that was obviously a goal,” he recalled. “I think any little kid who is a racer is going to dream of going to NASCAR. I’d say the first five or six years of me racing were definitely going that way. I wanted to go to NASCAR and I wanted to be one of the greats, but then NASCAR fell off. There ain’t nobody in the stands, the racing is boring.”
The passionate driver notes that many who compete at what is considered by many to be the top level of stock racing do not often demonstrate his same degree of enthusiasm for racing.
“The guys that race are fake, they don’t want to show true emotion,” Nasse insisted. “They’re just a bunch of rich, spoiled kids. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of people who run Late Models who have got money too. But compared to the NASCAR guys, we’re a little fish in a big pond. It just ain’t real short-track racing. Guys like Earnhardt and the real greats would be turning around in their graves hearing about these young guns coming up.”
The 2017 Southern Super Series champion says that some who have top rides in NASCAR have not done enough at other levels to justify their current positions.
“It’s just a joke because nobody’s earned their way through the ranks, they’ve barely won a Late Model race, some of them,” he said. “It’s just all turned into money.”
However, there is one form of racing that has gotten this driver’s attention in recent years.
“Honestly, my answer, I’d like to go to something like the World of Outlaws and do some dirt racing,” Nasse revealed. “I never got to be in a dirt car. I ran a little Sprint Car back in the day when my buddy was getting into it when I was fresh out of go-karts but I still had the NASCAR route stuck in my mind so I went the pavement route. I’ve been talking to a lot of people lately about getting into a Dirt Late Model and that’s what I’m itching to do.”
But the winner of last year’s inaugural Mobile 300 at the Mobile(AL) Speedway knows adjustments would have to be made.
“I know there’s money to be made out there and I know there’s a lot more competition out there with guys like Bloomquist and Davenport- they ain’t nothing to play around with,” he stated. “If I were to go do something like that it would have to be with a good team. It would take some practice and that’s what worries me too because I know they go show up and race so it would be tough for me to get comfortable in one of them. But to be honest with you, for the last few years I’ve been thinking about that dirt stuff more and more.”
Nasse has come to be known as one of the sport’s fieriest competitors. After all, this is a driver who engaged his own pit crew(albeit a rented one from Roush Fenway Racing) in an altercation during this past December’s Snowball Derby.
He explains that he comes by that passionate determination honestly.
“It goes back to my family,” Nasse related. “My grandfather didn’t hold nothing back. I’ve heard a lot of crazy stories about my grandpa from him and from all of his buddies. And of course, my father, growing up and watching him when I was younger racing trucks some of them older guys would be beating up on me and my dad would go have a few words with them. Watching that made me know that I had to stick up for myself because when he would do that I wouldn’t get messed with as much. When I got to be 14 and 15 I had a voice of my own. It definitely carries out from my pops because he’s got a little bit of a hot head. But now that he’s almost 60, he’s cooled down a little bit.”
It’s been said that many of the greats in any sport hate losing more than they love winning. The winner of this season’s Ice Crusher 150 at Florida’s Showtime Speedway says that statement at one time accurately described him. But over the years he has come to realize that winning every race simply isn’t possible. And sometimes, finishes other than first can be celebrated.
“I hate losing, but you know what the big problem is? I don’t have a stat sheet full of big wins because there are so many cars that come to these races, there’s five, six, or seven of them and you have to put a perfect day together to actually win a race. At the beginning I really did hate losing more than I liked to win, but nowadays it’s just so tough to win these races that second and third does feel good. Man, these races are hard to put together. The car that usually wins them is perfect all day long. That one lucky guy normally takes off. I’ve learned to lose a little bit better, but I still hate it.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association
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