There are many different story lines floating around the NASCAR garages during a race weekend.
The different angles that can be written about are vast as well as limitless, and depending who or what the subject may be about, it seems that most writers are always looking to the major players to get their next big story to write about.
With the popularity along with the start status that surrounds these teams, it’s easy to see how the little guy, or, for a more apt description, the low budget team almost always gets overlooked.
This weekend’s K&N Pro Series All-Star Showdown at Toyota Speedway of Irwindale is no different, since a few of NASCAR’s cup regulars have chosen to participate, and once again, most of the coverage is surrounding these teams.
Unfortunately, Teamcassracing, which fields the No. 50 unsponsored Chevrolet Impala SS, falls into the category of a low budget team.
How unfortunate is it to be considered a low budget team, especially when the its outlook and morale are on the same plateau as those of the more highly-funded teams?
Well, I had the honor on Friday night to sit and talk with team owner Teri Cass. The reason I say "honor" is because this team has the same level as enthusiasm as that of a team operating during the grassroots days of racing when the whole family was involved.
Family values have almost been lost in today’s high stakes game of racing, but this team has been able to keep the family values alive while living by the phrase, “The family that races together stays together.”
You can look up and down the board at how family-orientated this team really is: Teri’s husband, Jim, is the team director, and mother and father-in-law Floyd and Renie Cass are responsible for making sure the car gets to each track by driving the team’s hauler. Teri and Jim's daughter, Cristie Cass, is responsible for sponsorship and media, and another daughter, Anne-Marie Perea, is the director of travel.
“You have to be a family in order to be a team, and family comes first with us. There is a bonding process that we go through, and once we mesh as family we should do good and that is one of our goals,” said Cass.
Being a family-orientated team does have its ups and downs, and the team has managed to ride out the rough times by keeping their costs at a minimum, especially with sponsorship being hard to come by.
“For my team we are a low-budget team, we are family-owned and to find sponsors it’s tough because of the economy. We run on bare bones, but we run on top dollar equipment,” said Cass.
Cass also added that, “It does get tense without a sponsor, and sometimes those Top Ramens and hot dogs do get old. But my husband Jim and I are willing to sacrifice and eat those kinds of foods in order to put the money into racing.”
Sponsorship hasn't been their only issue. Last season, the team went through a complete makeover, even though their rookie driver, Chris Johnson, finished out the season 19th in points, while only competing in five events.
“The finish that Chris had last year says a lot about the team, kudos to Chris last year he did a good job," said Cass.
To begin the 2010 season, the team has hired Auggie Vidovich, a backup driver in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, for Roush Fenway Racing’s No. 60 driver, Carl Edwards.
Vidovich has competed in the Elite Division Southwest series for several years. He won the championship in 2003, and finished second in 2000, 2001, and 2005. In 2005, Vidovich won the Toyota All-Star Challenge.
At the end of the season, Vidovich tried out for Roush Racing’s Craftsman Truck Series team in the TV show Driver X .
Although not selected for the show, in the spring of 2006, Roush decided to hire Vidovich to run one truck race in place of driver David Ragan.
Vidovich also brought along four of his crew members, and three of them have been with him for eight years.
The team had their first test session in Vegas just last weekend with some really excellent results.
“The test session went wonderfully. It was his first time in the car, and it was for him to get comfortable with the car and to help the teams mesh together,” said Cass.
Cass also added, “We are using a new engine this season, so it was also a chance to shakedown the new engine. We started practicing at 9:30 A.M., and we were done by 1:30 P.M. When he got out of the car he said, 'Don’t change a thing.'”
Vidovich, who qualified 12th for Saturday nights All-Star Showdown, will be looking forward to bringing his new team a better finish than last year's race, when Chris Johnson finished 29th after an accident early on in the race after starting on the pole as rookie.
“Of course we would have liked the pole, but I'm happy because we are not starting in the middle of the pack. We are up far enough to where we can compete with the top runners. I feel really good about our driver, our car and our team. It’s all in his hands now," said Cass.
With the start of each new season come the challenges along with the high expectations, and even in this third-tier series, the competition is just as fierce as the second and first-tier levels.
When you think about NASCAR racing, try not to forget that there are still the other levels that bring just as much, and sometimes even more excitement than the Sprint cup and Nationwide series.
After all, each driver has to start someplace, and maybe that one driver who is racing on a Saturday night in your own backyard just might become NASCAR’s next big superstar.
The outlook that Teamcassracing is carrying into the 2010 season is very positive, and one that will hopefully see their goals and dreams come true.
“Our outlook is really good; I think that we will do very well this season. Those are our hopes and our dreams. We seem to be meshing as a team. We do have some humps and bumps to get over but we should go good.”
Photo Credit: Sal Sigala Jr.
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