Twenty years of hard work and dedication went up in smoke Friday night for one of the hardest working families involved in the sport of auto racing. Bassett Racing, a family-owned team that competes in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, lost nearly their entire racing operation as a result of a fire at their Winston-Salem, North Carolina race shop.
First responders were first dispatched to the scene just before 8 p.m. ET Friday night after a loud explosion was heard inside the building. Nineteen-year-old racer Dillon Bassett, who won his first K&N East race last season, was at the scene while his brother Ronnie, 20, watched on his phone via the Facetime application.
“We worked until five o’clock. We were off work and actually eating dinner when I got the phone call from my mom saying that something in the shop had exploded,” Ronnie Bassett, Jr. told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “So we left my girlfriend’s grandma’s house and started heading back to the shop.
“I was Facetiming my mom the whole time, just watching. I got here and when I showed up it was like… it’s one thing watching on the phone but when I got here to see it in person my heart sank. It was bad on the phone don’t get me wrong, but when you get here and see it in person it’s like dang.”
The exact cause of the fire has not yet been determined, but Dillon Bassett explained that the family believes the fire started when the semi truck used to haul the team’s race cars caught fire.
“We had our 18-wheeler tractor in the shop, my dad was going to clean it on Saturday,” said Dillon. “He actually had just got done cleaning and polishing it and it was going to rain so he pulled it inside. He was cleaning it up a little bit from where it was already outside. He left and they think something shorted out on the tractor and caused it. “
Once the fire started it became too fierce for even the firefighters to fight. As Dillon watched the flames shoot through the team’s race shop he experienced a multitude of feelings, but the feeling he remembers most was a feeling of helplessness.
“Sitting there watching something burn is the most helpless feeling because you want to do something but you’re not a firefighter so you don’t know what to do,” he explained. “Even when (the fire department) were there, there were so much flames that they couldn’t even go in. They just had to sit there and watch it for like 10 minutes before they even had enough courage to open the door. It’s really a helpless feeling.”
Once Ronnie arrived at the scene the first thing that came to his mind was making sure his father, Ronnie Bassett Sr., was safe. Once he found out everybody was okay he experienced many of the same feelings that his younger brother felt.
“I know my dad, he had been in their working for the past hour and I was hoping he wasn’t in there. That’s the first thing I thought. Once I got here it was like I realized everything I’ve worked for the past 20 or so years is gone up in flames within 30 minutes.”
Nearly everything in the race shop including the semi truck was a complete loss as a result of the fire. Ronnie Bassett indicated that his family did have insurance on the race shop but did not know how long it will take to rebuild the entire operation.
“We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us,” stated Ronnie. “We’ve got to completely build our shop, race cars and everything. It’s going to be time consuming and we’re not sure how long it’s going to take us. It’s stuff that we’ve had for 20 years and we don’t have it anymore so we’re basically starting a new business over.”
Ronnie currently sits third in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East standings while Dillon is currently 13th. Both brothers are hoping to be able to find a ride for next Monday’s K&N East race at Dominion Speedway (VA).
“We’re trying to find something for this coming week, just one day to be able to race the next week and hopefully contend for a championship,” Ronnie said of his future racing plans. “We’ve talked to a few people but (don’t have anything finalized) as of right this minute. We’ve talked to a few people about maybe getting into a car. Everybody has two cars but they have two cars for a reason and that’s in case something happens during practice.”
“Right now we’re not really sure,” said Dillon. “We’re trying to get something together to run Dominion, but obviously it won’t be any of our stuff because it’s all messed up. If we don’t make it to Dominion then we probably won’t be racing much the rest of the year.”
While the future racing plans for the Bassett brothers are currently unknown, one thing is for certain: watching 20 years of hard work go up in smoke is a devastating blow to a devoted racing family.
“It was heartbreaking,” said Dillon. “Everything that my dad has ever worked for to give us is gone just like that. There’s really no words, it’s just absolutely devastating.”
-By Brandon Paul, Speed51.com Editor – Twitter: @Brandon_Paul51
-Contributions made by Rob Blount, Speed51.com Southeast Editor – Twitter: @RobBlount
-Photo credit: Chris Weaver/WGHP