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Massey's broken record still a hit song


Spencer Massey needs some new material. He hardly ever has a conversation these days without saying, "I'm loving life!"

It's a broken record for the National Hot Rod Association's Top Fuel points leader, but what else can he say? He is loving life.

Last weekend he won his fourth special-edition 60th Anniversary pewter Wally statue in seven chances -- and he did it in jaw-dropping fashion, using a holeshot to nip Del Worsham -- as the Al-Anabi / Toyota Dragster driver recorded the quickest pass in class history in the 1,000-foot era.

Massey is driving the FRAM-Prestone Dragster that Cory McClenathan drove to eight final rounds, three victories, and a fierce fight with Larry Dixon for the championship last year.

He has crew chiefs Todd Okuhara and Phil Shuler, who not only are skilled but work together seamlessly (a rare feat in any workplace but particularly in an ego-driven world such as drag racing).

After a year off because former boss Don Prudhomme lost his sponsorship, Massey said he knows he's blessed to be in the Don Schumacher Racing organization, with its best of the best in terms of equipment, personnel, and pro-active approach to the sport.

"This is a championship-caliber team with the crew guys, crew chiefs, the race car itself. It's awesome," he said. And in taking the job with DSR as McClenathan's replacement, "That just left it up to me to not mess up, to get up there and do my job and have fun."

So naturally he's giddy about his rich opportunity.

When it comes to Spencer Massey, the question isn't whether he can win a Top Fuel championship. It's whether he'll hyperventilate or spin himself out of control, drunk on dreamy destiny, like some amusingly wild-floating balloon after its air escapes.

He's entertaining, Spencer Massey. Will he ever come down from his emotional carpet ride in drag-racing's stratosphere? Maybe if he doesn't win the championship. Or maybe never.

"I've been around this sport, working on race cars, smelling nitro since I was a little kid," he said. "I'm definitely never going away, whether I'm driving or not."

Crew chief for Top Fuel driver Scott Palmer from 2001-2004 and a Top Alcohol Dragster Division 4 champion and JEGS Allstar champion, the former Jr. Dragster racer's love for the sport is like a breathless, nonstop mantra.

The championship stretch, Massey said, is "for everything in the world, and our world is drag racing. It's life-or-death situation when you roll up to the starting line for the championship teams. It's what we live and breathe for all season long. It's for this, for that moment, that instant, that thousandth of a second that you could be late or have a good light or be one thousandth of a second slow at the top end. It's drag racing. It's quite amazing.

"Keeping my fingers crossed. I'm loving life. Three races to go. I'm excited," the 29-year-old Fort Worth native gushed during an NHRA-sponsored teleconference Wednesday to preview next weekend's Arizona Nationals at Chandler, near Phoenix. It's the fourth race in the six-event Countdown lineup.

However, all that enthusiasm belies his seriousness as a racer.

He isn't some bobble-headed boy hoping to make an impression on the boss. He's an International Hot Rod Association Top Fuel champion (who landed a sweet situation there in Mitch King's dragster and impressed from the start). He's one of drag-racing's faces of the future, whose time just might be now.

DSR mates Antron Brown and Tony Schumacher and Al-Anabi-Toyota drivers Worsham and Dixon want to cast their votes in the final three races of the season.

Massey said he feel pressure as the Full Throttle Drag Racing Series winds down with its final three events at Phoenix, Las Vegas, and Pomona, Calif., yet he can't help expressing his excitement.

"There's tons of pressure with Worsham, with Dixon, with Antron and Tony. He's still in the hunt, as well. It's a lot of pressure. It's the Countdown," Massey said.

Still, he said, "It's quite amazing" and "I'm living the dream" and "I don't want to wake up, so don't pinch me." One of his favorite words is "awesome."

But he's focused enough to keep his pom-poms out of the cockpit.

"I try to tell myself to do the same job every time I get up there, " Massey said. "We all know it's hard to do that."

He does it to the best of his ability.

What motivates him, he indicated, was his desire not "to be what's called a flash in the pan, one guy to come out for a year or so and you never hear from him again."

He was the Auto Club of Southern California's 2009 recipient of the Road to the Future Award as the series' top rookie from all pro classes (beating out Matt Hagan, Shawn Langdon, and Doug Horne).

He earned the IHRA Top Fuel crown in his first and only year racing in that arena, and he is hoping he'll take his first NHRA title in his first year for DSR.

"It would simply be amazing. It would be my dream of what I always wanted, much less after sitting out last year and not really racing with the Full Throttle Drag Racing Series," Massey said. "Don Schumacher gave me a great opportunity, and so did FRAM. We started off the season not really, really great but not terrible either. We have steadily gotten better with the runs without smoking the tires, and now starting the Countdown, having consistency going down the racetrack, turning on the win lights. We might not be the fastest, but we're consistent and we're along with the hunt every round.


"My main thing is, 'Hey, let's not worry about setting the national record. "Let's not worry about the points. Let's worry about round wins.' If that comes, that comes with a race win, and that happens with points, and hopefully that means a championship."

He said, "It was a huge deal last year when we lost the sponsorship with Don Prudhomme Racing. I always stayed out, trying to hit up every race I could, hang out, talk with team owners like Don Schumacher.

"I spoke with him a little last year, but never about driving the FRAM car." He said his conversation was more in the vein of "If anything came about, I'd love to drive for you." He said Schumacher's response was "If anything ever came up, I'd be more than happy to have you drive."

Said Massey, "Things happened the way they happened and here I am sitting in the FRAM car. I kept my head up, stayed positive. I tried to keep my face out there, and it paid off. I got a great spot with Don Schumacher Racing with that FRAM car. It's one of the best hot rods in the country right now."

So who can blame Spencer Massey? He's loving life.


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