Racing has always been a family affair for the Bassett family. Brothers Ronnie Bassett, Jr. and Dillon Bassett grew up racing together in the Bandolero and Legends Car ranks before progressing into the Late Model Stock Car battles throughout the southeast. As they tried to climb the short track racing ladder, it was always a battle between the two brothers. Ronnie wanted to beat Dillon. Dillon wanted to beat Ronnie.
Now, as both drivers look for their opportunity to progress to the higher levels of NASCAR, the duo from Winston-Salem, North Carolina is preparing to join forces for their biggest challenge yet: competing as a two-car team on the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East circuit.
“Up until last year we’d been racing together,” Ronnie, 19, told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “We ran Late Model Stocks together for a long time. It’ll be a reunited thing. It’s pretty cool to have another racecar on the track to bank off of. I feel like it’s going to be a gain more than a loss and we’ll be able to gain more ground.”
As they have done throughout their racing careers, the Bassett brothers will tackle their challenge as a family. Both drivers will drive for their family-owned race team, Bassett Racing, the same team Ronnie drove for during the 2014 season.
“It means a lot more just because when we go out there and race, we’re not just showing up with a suit and a helmet ready to run somebody else’s stuff,” said Dillon, 17. “It’s our own stuff and we take pride in our own stuff. I’m not saying running somebody else’s stuff is bad or anything, but it’s a lot more when you win coming out of your own shop rather than somebody else’s.”
In his first year competing full-time in NASCAR’s development series, Ronnie finished just outside of the top-10 in series points during the 2014 season, recording three top-five and six top-10 finishes. Ronnie, the oldest son of former racer Ronnie Bassett, Sr. and Lisa, will enter the season eyeing his first NASCAR K&N Pro Series East win and will attempt to make a bid at the championship.
“There’s always ways to improve,” said the Ronnie, Jr. “There’s stuff that I learn over the course of the year. Like when I jumped from the Late Model Stock, I was expecting some change, but not as big as it was. Just having the seat time and the laps at the track is going to be the biggest part. Most of the guys that run the K&N East Series have run a Truck race or two at Dover and Bristol and have gotten laps and seat time. So I’m really looking forward to having that knowledge going into this year rather than having to relearn it again.”
Meanwhile, younger brother Dillon will be entering the upcoming season as a rookie transitioning from the lighter Late Model Stock Cars to the heavier, higher horsepower K&N East Stock Cars. He knows that there will be a learning curve, but he’s prepared for it and is looking forward to kick off the season at New Smyrna Speedway (FL) in February.
“I’m definitely excited,” said the 17-year-old Bassett. “I think we’re a step ahead of where we were last year with the K&N program so I feel like going into this year that we’re going to be able to be competitive and hopefully win some races.
“I’m just expecting the way the car is going to handle is going to be a lot different. It’s going to be a lot different on giving feedback back to the crew chief. But I’ve talked to my brother and my crew chief a lot here recently and I feel like I’m ready for the challenge and I think we’ll be alright. The biggest thing is just getting to know the cars. That will be the hardest thing for me.”
Although both drivers enter the season with a different level of experience driving a NASCAR K&N Pro Series East car, there’s no questioning their desire to want to beat each other. The ongoing competition between the two brothers started in the Bandolero ranks and certainly won’t be coming to an end any time soon.
“We both want to win,” said Ronnie. “We both want to be the quickest to shower in the morning and get ready and get out the door. We’ve raced together for a long time. When we get around each other we race harder than we do when we are around somebody else. I guess we just want to beat each other that much more. It is brotherly love I guess.”
Throughout their years competing against each other, brotherly love has been taken too far on a few occasions while on the race track. According to Ronnie, a few dust-ups between the brothers have created some interesting car rides from the race track back to their home in North Carolina.
“I’m not going to lie to you, a few times it has,” Ronnie said when asked if there were ever a time when something bad happened between the two Bassetts on the race track. “It depends on whose fault it is and who gets the hollering at. It’s definitely not a fun ride home, that’s for sure.”
Despite the competitive edge both drivers have, the two brothers have a great relationship with each other that goes deeper than what one would see at the race track.
“We have our arguments just like anybody, but we get along really good and help each other a whole lot more that what people see,” said Dillon. “It’s a whole lot more than what you just see at the race track, we help each other off the race track. He and I are pretty close.”
As long as Dillon and Ronnie stay close off of the race track and not on the race track, all will be good. If they do wind up close to each other on the race track, all bets are off.
“If I’m running sixth and he’s running seventh, I still want to beat him,” Dillon said. “Obviously we both want to win, but I want to beat him more than I want to beat anybody else.”
-By Brandon Paul, Speed51.com Northeast Editor – Twitter: @Brandon_Paul51
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com