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Massey returns in style

Defending Young Lions champ now has Bill Elliot Racing on his side

 Photo by Brian Paglia
“Our goal is to win the championship,”said Mason Massey, last year’s Young Lions points champion. Massey signed Bill Elliot Racing in February.

Photo by Brian Paglia “Our goal is to win the championship,”said Mason Massey, last year’s Young Lions points champion. Massey signed Bill Elliot Racing in February.

Up and comer

Mason Massey made a steady rise in the Thursday Thunder ranks. A look at the young driver’s history at Atlanta Motor Speedway’s summer series:

Year Division Finish Wins

2006 Bandits 8th 0

2007 Bandits 3rd 1

2008 Bandits 1st 5

2009 Young Lions 3rd 0

2010 Young Lions 2nd 3

2011 Young Lions 1st 6

Mason Massey comes with the look — the polarized shades, the tightly-cropped, finely gelled hair and the willing smile.

Massey also comes with the resume — over 200 careers wins, three Georgia state championships and two Thursday Thunder championships.

Now, Massey comes to Atlanta Motor Speedway for Thursday Thunder’s 15th season with something else.

A big-time sponsor.

Massey signed with Bill Elliot Racing in February. With the No. 9 Pro Late Model car and the 20-race schedule across three states comes the clear goal for Massey to be the next-big-thing to hit NASCAR by way of Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Indeed, when Vice President of Events Brandon Hutchinson introduced Massey at Thursday Thunder media day two weeks ago, he poured out praise for Massey, mixing in the names of some of AMS’s most notable alumni, like Joey Logano and David Ragan.

Both have reached racing’s pinnacle level.

Massey wants to get there, too.

“It’d be great to drive in the Sprint Cup or Nationwide some day,” Massey said. “That’s what everybody’s out trying to do, just work the way up the ranks.”

Young drivers can start competing at Thursday Thunder when they turn eight. Massey’s father tried to convince Thursday Thunder officials to let him race at seven. By that time, he’d already raced in seven different states. AMS made Massey wait, but he didn’t waste any time once he arrived.

Massey took his lumps in his first full season in 2006, finishing eighth in the points standings in the Bandits division. But it was a steady climb from there. He finished third in 2007 and won the points championship in 2008.

He took the same path once he made the jump to Legends racing in the Young Lions division — from third (2009) to runner-up (2010) to the points champion last season. He had nine top 10 finishes, eight top 5 finishes and won six races.

But Massey’s premier victory came at the 2011 Labor Day Legends Invitational at AMS. Massey earned the invite, then earned the win, hanging to beat Doug Stevens, who sets up Massey’s car.

That propelled Massey into a spotlight that’s quickly increasing. When Elliot’s son, Chase, signed with Hendricks Motorsports, the NASCAR legend quickly swooped in to sign Massey.

And Massey couldn’t be happier.

“He’s a NASCAR legend. It’s just cool to be with [Bill Elliot Racing],” Massey said. “Him trying to build me up the ranks. So far, it’s been pretty good. I’ve had fast cars every week. And I’ve had fun doing it.”

Indeed, driving is Massey’s life, and he races around the Southeast with a bewildering schedule.

Take this week. Massey will be at AMS this evening for practice runs for tomorrow’s first week of Thursday Thunder, then it’s off to Five Flags Speedway in Florida for a late model race Friday with another one Saturday at South Alabama Speedway in Ozark.

This is the formula to NASCAR stardom that Massey’s predecessors have given him, and he’s fully committed to the plan.

That includes defending his Thursday Thunder points title.

“Our goal is to win the championship, obviously, a few races,” Massey said. “Every week I’ll drive hard and try to improve everywhere I can and see what happens after that.”