INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Mason Mitchell put an exclamation point on his successful 2014 season Saturday, accepting championship rings, thanking his support network and grinning his familiar smile while accepting trophies, cash awards and congratulations from his ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards competitors.
Mitchell, driver of the No. 98 Mason Mitchell Motorsports Ford Fusion, won his first series championship, clinching the title when he took the green flag to start the final race of the season at Kansas Speedway. Since, he’s made his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series debut, enjoyed a whirlwind tour of his home state of Iowa and signed a new driver for his race team for 2015.
Saturday, however, was a chance for Mitchell and his father, Russ, the team’s general manager, to step back and enjoy the pageantry that comes with the series championship.
“At this time a year ago, we were celebrating a sixth-place run and looking forward to a new season,” Mitchell said at the podium. “We had formed our own race team and we didn’t have a shop at the time and had one car. … We were trying to put it together for the Daytona test. We had a lot of obstacles, but we made it happen.”
Mitchell said his team brought a huge notebook with them to Daytona and began laying out preparations for what would become a championship season. He moved to North Carolina to be with the race team every day.
“I learned a lot,” he said in an understatement.
The season began with a seventh-place finish at Daytona International Speedway in February and the success kept building. At Toledo, he set a track record and won the Menards Pole Award presented by Ansell, one of five on the season. He finished second six times, but kept pressing, learning and maintained his never-say-die attitude.
“Those first couple races of the year, we didn’t have a backup car at all, only the primary car,” he said. “It was risky at times, knowing that we could damage our hopes for a championship if we wrecked our car.”
The wrecks were few and far between. In fact, Mitchell earned 18 top 10 finishes in 20 races, part of an amazingly consistent year that put him in the championship drivers’ seat over Grant Enfinger, who won six times.
Mitchell’s only win came at Chicagoland Speedway. Even more than himself, he said, he was happy for the team around him.
“Obviously the Chicago win was one of the biggest moments of my career,” he said. “The emotion on everybody’s face after that first win was priceless. We had some ups and downs and a lot of adversity to that point, but we made it happen.”
The championship stretch didn’t come with ease as Enfinger kept winning. Mitchell thanked Enfinger for being a “class act,” and helping keep him focused on the title.
“I couldn’t sleep some nights, worrying about the championship,” Mitchell said.
By the Kansas race, the championship was all but a formality as all Mitchell had to do was start the race and he would clinch the title. Nearly 75 friends and family members showed up at the track to help him celebrate.
“Honestly I didn’t know some of them,” Mitchell said, “but to have that support there was great.”
Thermal Technology Services and the Wildlife Foundation of Florida were among Mitchell’s marketing partners for the season, along with Musselman’s Apple Sauce.
“Without them, this championship would not have been possible,” he said.
Mason’s father, Russ, thanked the competitors for making the ARCA Racing Series such a great place to race. He said his son has the right attitude to win.
“A long time ago, we set a goal in racing to try to be the as good as we can be,” he said. “Were probably never satisfied and we went through a lot of people to get here and we probably will in the future. But, we do that because years ago when I watched people Vince Lombardi and Bobby Knight coach great teams, they got there because they never gave up. That’s what my son wear’s on his suit – ‘Never Give Up’ and we never will.”
-ARCA Racing Series Press Release & Photo