It was a profound moment for Mason Daniel – when he first laid eyes on the 1969 Chevelle his grandfather purchased from a local dealership in Porterville, California. It was Easter weekend and the 13-year-old Daniel couldn’t stop staring at it. The car was beautiful – dusk blue with two perfectly-painted white racing strips down the middle. The fact Chevrolet had unveiled the car 30 years before he was even born meant nothing to Mason – the Chevelle was a proper beast of a road car and a timeless work of art.
He wanted to drive it.
But there were multiple factors preventing Daniel from getting behind the wheel of his grandfather's new ride that day – the least of which being that he was three years shy of the age required to obtain his driver's license. No, it was his father Scott who presented a challenge that would prevent his son from piloting the old school Chevy classic that afternoon. But his father's ultimatum would also change the course of Mason's young life.
"If you want to drive the Chevelle," Scott proclaimed. "You're going to have to be a racecar driver."
The challenge was anything but hollow – the family had a relative, Chris Ennis, who owned a micro sprint car. And Chris was all-in for a chance to show it off to the family. It became immediately clear that if Mason wanted to drive his dream car, the path was laid out before him. The decision didn't take long. Exactly one week from the day his Dad presented the challenge, Mason Daniel was sitting in a racecar for the first time in his life.
Ever since that moment, it's been nearly impossible to get him out.
"I was hooked," Mason recalled. "That first time, I was horrible – I'd never started a racecar before and was awful getting it into gear. Once I got going around the track I knew I wasn't driving correctly – but I was having a blast. I wanted to go back to the track every weekend."
As soon as his first run was complete, he looked his father square in the eyes. "We should do this."
It was apparent to everybody in attendance that the kid had a knack for it. The natural ability was evident. His passion and excitement were palpable. What had started as a harmless challenge from his father exploded into something much more profound. Not long after his trial run, his family had purchased the micro sprint he tested that day. By the end of that year, he was competing in official races as part of a five-race schedule and, within a year, the scheduled expanded.
By 2016, he was running two separate cars – the non-wing 600 and the Outlaw class – and former Silver Crown champion Tanner Swanson had signed on to be his crew chief. He delivered results in every car he drove and continued to climb the ladder. Quickly. In 2017 he began running a midget in addition to micro sprints – where he collected 10 race wins, 25 podium finishes and never finished outside the Top 10 in a race he completed. The breakout season earned him West Coast Rookie of the Year honors.
Mason's racing career was rocking.
There was, however, one holdup: Daniel was a star on his high school swimming and water polo team, and he was reluctant to give up the sport he loved so much – no matter how much his budding racing career was creating conflicts. He would practice in the pool all week, then race on the weekends. On weekends where there were swimming tournaments he would compete during the day, then drive – often as much as four hours – to attend a race that night. Sometimes, when he'd crash, he'd return to practice for water polo visibly bruised and beat up. His coaches didn't like it, but Mason was good – and they'd rather have him banged up than not have him at all.
But it wouldn't last. His junior year a torn muscle in his right shoulder became so painful during swimming it would require surgery if he wanted to continue in the sport. The surgery would also force him to miss racing season. If he passed on the operation he could still race. He consulted with his parents on a decision he'd been putting off for some time. Now, it had become imminent: Racing or water polo? The final decision was a difficult one. But, then again, it wasn't. His future was behind the wheel. And it was happening now.
At the Trophy Cup in 2017 a chance meeting would help plot the next stage of Mason's young career. He and his father had begun plans to move up to sprint car racing full time the following year, and they admittedly had a lot to learn. Through their friends Giovanni and Dominic Scelzi they heard that sprint car legend Danny "Dude" Lasoski – former World of Outlaws champion and a four- time winner of the prestigious Knoxville Nationals – needed a motor to be able to compete in the Trophy Cup that weekend.
Mason had one.
A deal was struck: Lasoski could use his motor if Mason could simply hang around and learn as much as possible by working on the car. He came early. He stayed late. He worked hard. Lasoski noticed. And, by the end of the weekend, he'd taken a liking to the young Daniel. The Dude asked about his plans for the following season and Mason explained plans to move up to sprint cars and continue racing in California.
"That's a bad idea," Lasoski said, noting that the level of competition – and the number of races he could run – would increase exponentially if he was in the Midwest. The conversation continued, and eventually evolved into Lasoski inviting Mason to move to the Dude's hometown in Missouri, where he could compete against the best in the business under the veteran's mentorship.
It was an offer that Mason simply couldn't pass up. He moved his schoolwork to independent studies to allow him to travel and did all the work required so he could graduate early – in January of 2018. By February, he had moved full-time to the Midwest to be coached full-time by Lasoski and to compete in any 360- winged sprint car race that was within a 10-hour drive.
What started as an innocent challenge from his father had officially become a career. And it was just starting.
Added USAC midget to stable of cars he was racing and won West Coast
Rookie of the Year.
In micro sprints he competed in a total of 53 events, collecting 10 wins, 25
podium finishes, 36 Top Fives and 45 Top 10s. Finished Top 10 in every race he finished.
Graduated Redwood High School early (January) to begin racing full-time
the following month.
Moved to Missouri to begin sprint car career under the guidance of driver
coach – and sprint car legend – Danny Lasoski.
Earned first career sprint car victory in a 360-winged sprint at Knoxville Raceway in June of 2018.