Despite retiring from full-time NASCAR Pinty’s Series competition, Jason Hathaway did not slow down last year as he competed in a variety of races across numerous series, experiencing success along the way.
Recently, POPULAR SPEED caught up with the veteran to speak about the year, and his perspective moving forward.
POPULAR SPEED: You did quite a bit this past year, from racing in the truck series to late models. What are your reflections on everything?
JASON HATHAWAY: It was pretty busy for a retirement year….No, I think it went well. We built a brand new late model, had some issues with it in the beginning, and started to figure it out at the IWK 250. We sat on the pole down there and led the first 40 laps, so that was good and encouraging for our season.
We ran some Pinty’s races at CTMP (Canadian Tire Motorsports Park). We had fun doing that. We then ended up putting a truck deal together for CTMP as well to have a little bit more fun that same weekend as the Pinty’s Series. So that was kind of unexpected. I mean, I was hoping to do the race but wasn’t sure I was going to, but we were able to put that together and have some success there and finish 15th.
We went to Jukasa (Motor Speedway). We had a good test there, and I knew we had a good car going back for the race weekend. Running the APC (Auto Parts United Late Models of Ontario) series with all the guys that were running that deal weekend in and weekend out, I was pretty excited to go and just race with the competition and see where we stacked up. I wasn’t going there thinking I was going to win, with Brandon Watson winning every race that they ran pretty well. I was hoping that I could come there and have a decent, respectable run. We went there with a new car – it was only our third race in the Late Model. But we ended up winning both of those, and kind of really set momentum going into Labor Day weekend going into CTMP with the Pinty’s and truck ride. So it was kind of cool to announce the truck ride prior to the Jukasa race. We had a lot of fans that were interested and asking questions, and cheering us on, so that was cool.
Then we ended up going to Phoenix (Raceway – now ISM Raceway). We go down there every year, so that was kind of cool to put the deal together that we could run a truck in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. That was a lot of fun, had a good finish and ran into a bunch of Canadians down there. (Martin Truex Jr.’s crew chief) Cole Pearn came to see me and we chatted for a couple hours, so that was cool. (Noel) Dowler was down there, along with a bunch of other guys. Lots of Canadians go down there for that race weekend as fans to go down there and watch, so it was kind of cool to race at that race track. Never been there before, never sat in the truck before, and never seen the team before Friday morning. So I kind of showed up with a helmet and firesuit, and figured this is the one that I get in because my name is above the door, and ended up 11th. That was Premium Motorsports’ best finish all year, so that was cool about that event. D.J. Kennington, a good buddy of mine – I’ve known him since we were kids – he ran the Cup Series and finished 26th, so that was their best finish all year, too. We both ran the same number – No. 15. So it was pretty cool – two kids from Delaware Speedway running the Phoenix race and getting the two best finishes for a team.
I got to interview Cole Pearn tonight for TSN – so two kids that grew up at Delaware Speedway interviewing each other at the Hockey Hall of Fame in sports coats. That’s the way life goes. It’s a wild ride, but you got to live for every moment and enjoy it.
PS: Jumping into the truck, what was the biggest surprise for you?
JH: Definitely the weight of them, the amount that they roll over compared to the Pinty’s cars that I’ve run and am used to, and horsepower, a little bit; you kind of get where you’re going a lot quicker. But definitely the weight; the weight transfer is a lot different. They don’t slide; like the Pinty’s NASCAR car you slide – almost like a winter day on ice. But in the truck, you can’t do that. Once you slide the tires in the truck, you’ve lost all momentum and it’s hard to drive. That was the big thing for me.
Phoenix, it took me awhile to get used to the truck. I would say probably say after practice before qualifying, I was pretty comfortable. But we were respectable in the race and at the end, we ended up P11.
Kubota (Tractors) jumped on board and helped us out. That’s really what inspired our team to get more involved. We probably weren’t going to run as many races if Kubota didn’t get involved, but their involvement inspired us. They’d say let’s go do that and have some fun. Our schedule was kind of based off having fun, and picking races we wanted to race, and trying to get the best results at the end of the day. I’m a fortunate racecar driver.
PS: Is there a possibility now for you to run more truck races in the future?
JH: I hope so. Right now so far this year, I have the IWK 250 in Nova Scotia – that’s my number one that I know I am going to do standing here today. Then obviously the Jukasa Late Model event (Canadian Nationals) with $25,000 to win. That’s the two that I have. In a perfect world, I’d like to run CTMP in the truck and I would like to try a mile and a half oval. In a perfect world if all the stars align, if things happen for me, that’s what I would like to do this year.
We have a few other things going. We’re thinking of maybe helping some of the younger drivers do a one-off and maybe working with them, but we’ll see how that goes. That’s a new adventure that I may be doing. I have a couple NASCAR Pinty’s races that we’ve had some rental opportunities come our way, some younger drivers, so I am excited about that if it comes together. I feel like it’s a good thing to give back to the sport. I think I have some knowledge from doing it so long that I can share and help the next generation coming up.
PS: Having been involved in the Ontario Late Model scene this year, what is your perspective on the state of the sport?
JH: Strong, very strong. Real good friends with the ownership group at Sunset Speedway. They run a fabulous weekly program there. Car counts, competition, payouts – it’s a real good short track program. Delaware Speedway is bringing back the late models; that will be good for that area for the fans number one, but also the racers.
The APC Series is strong. Rumor has it that they are going to pay more this year – I don’t know if that’s certain, but that what I’ve been told. It’s not a cheap series, but it’s the best short track series in Ontario, and I would put it up against the Maritime Pro Stock Tour, as far as car counts, competition, payouts, professionalism. That’s a good thing because you can get cars switching back and forth series for big money races.
We’re starting too actually – I think the tracks and series promoters are starting to get things aligned with rules, and allowing racers to travel more, rather than try to keep the racers at their own track for themselves. It’s a bad decision to do that, because you shut yourself out for growth. You must just like the 20 cars you’re getting and not want anymore. Myself, I’d rather have the opportunity going to a track on Saturday night that maybe they’ll be 25 cars, and better competition.
I remember back when I ran late models at Delaware, I bought myself for my first late model off of Cole Pearn in 2006. So you know, we used to bring in anybody. A car would come along and want to run from the US and we’d just put weight on them. So if you had a different brake or rear-end package, we’d just put weight on them; we’d never turn any car away.
That’s what some of the series and tracks need to start focus on doing. I’ve been told that they had a summit together with some of the tracks to work together – which is good, so I think it’s heading in the right direction. I think everybody, as far as the racers are concerned, should be happy with the direction.
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