After pursuing other racing endeavors, Jason Hathaway announced that he will return to the NASCAR Pinty’s Series full-time. The nine-time race winner recently spoke with POPULAR SPEED to share his thoughts entering the 2019 campaign.
POPULAR SPEED: What are your thoughts entering the season?
JASON HATHAWAY: Well, our team is solely focused on winning races and the championship. From where we’re at, this is our major goal and we have been working towards it all winter. We’re working on the cars, building on some new ones, so I guess all cards on the table entering the year.
PS: Why did you make the decision to come back full-time?
JASON: Well, I think honestly seeing the team with them being competitive week-in-week-out kind of rejuvenated, re-fired up what I had inside. It wasn’t like I didn’t race; I raced the pro late a bunch of races, so not like I was totally out of the seat. Just to have the opportunity to get back in with some sponsorship from Kobota, Choko, and Fast Eddie Racewear it was the right opportunity to get back in.
We talked to some different drivers through the winter time, but I still wanted to do this and I felt it was the right time to get put the band back together and go racing.
PS: If you could make the title happen, what would that mean to you?
JASON: Well, it’d definitely cap off my racing career well, but honestly, I think I want to do this for another couple of years. I’m not looking at this as a one-and-done. I think I can still do it for another couple of years after this if everything lines up.
So I don’t want to call it a one-and-done year, as I think the series is working in the right direction as there’s some real good direction moving forward with the new team involved in NASCAR now. I think I like the way it is going, with the positive outlook in the series right now.
PS: What track on the schedule are you most looking forward to?
JASON: Riverside Speedway.
PS: Right, as I know you like racing out there….
JASON: Yeah, I was out there three times racing my late model. But you know what? There’s a lot of tracks when you break it down to look forward to. Saskatoon is real good, too; it’s a lot of fun. I can’t wait to get to New Hampshire (Motor Speedway) either. I feel like I am a little behind there because most of the teams have already ran there, raced there last year, so I feel I’m a little behind compared to the others. Jukasa is always good; it’s close to home, so that’s a good race track as well. But it’s just a real good mix of race tracks that we can run on.
PS: You’ve been around for a while, and you touched upon this already, but what are your thoughts on the current state of the series?
JASON: I think this year, we have the right team at NASCAR to take us in the right direction moving forward. The series is on solid ground, but they want to grow and move forward with some of the ideas that some of the teams and sponsors have that are involved. So I think it’s in the probably in the best situation that it’s been in over the past five years. The teams are strong, the competition is strong; you cannot beat the competition in this series, and I’ll stand behind that. It’s got a lot of corporate sponsorship involved, still.
Could there be more fans? Yeah, for sure, we’re all fighting for that for the same eyes and ears with every other sport like the rest of them. But I do feel it’s in good hands with the right people in NASCAR, that value your ideas and ask for them. Open communication always bring the best ideas. That’s my feeling on it, and I think some of the other teams as well are under the same impression after the meetings this winter.
PS: Even coming back Pinty’s Series full-time, will we see you behind the wheel of a late model this season?
JASON: I’ve got one race on my schedule already signed with my wife’s approval – that’s who has to sign it, and that’s Jukasa with the big one, the Canadian Short Track Nationals. We are gearing up for that. We were quick last year. We were fast in practice a lot of it, most of it, and ran up front before the crash. We definitely had a good car there; that’s one circled on the calendar.
PS: With how things played out last year, did it surprise you?
JASON: Not really. I think some of the U.S. cars that were there had an advantage over the Canadian cars that were there. I think the rules and race benefited what they brought to the race track. It was a good race. From my perspective, my feeling is Bubba Pollard wasn’t the best car there. He won the race because he was up front and had a chance, with some of the cars in front of him having issues. He didn’t walk into that race and dominate all day, all night, like a lot of people expected.
It just played into his hands with how the race broke down. Three of the fast six qualifiers ran into issues during the race. So he had a good car, but he wasn’t a dominant as some say he was. I know there are a lot of guys that came and a lot coming, and I don’t know who they are, and they don’t know who I am – but that’s the way I like it. So bring your car, let’s race, and let’s see who stacks up on top at the end of the day.
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