Although he hails from Manassas, Virginia, for Mason Diaz, Southern National Motorsports Park is a second home. For the past decade, the Diaz family has owned the 4/10-mile oval in Lucama, North Carolina, where Mason claimed the Late Model Stock championship in 2017 and 2020. He’s picked up dozens of trophies from the track and is also instrumental in its operation from tech to tires.
This Saturday, he’ll compete there for the first time as an ARCA Menards Series East competitor in the Southern National 200 presented by Solid Rock Carriers.
“I have a lot of laps around there, I know that track really well so I’m looking forward to it,” Diaz recently told Race22.com.
The 21-year-old rising senior at Old Dominion University has a full slate behind the wheel for the 2021 campaign. In addition to competing in all eight races in ARCA East driving the No. 74 Toyota Camry for Visconti Motosports, he’s also taking on the entire Solid Rock Carriers CARS Late Model Stock Tour schedule as part of the series’ Lucas Oil Touring 12 with Mike Darne Racing in the No. 24 Toyota.
Diaz competed full time last season in ARCA East with Venturini Motorsports, but in 2019 his drove for his family’s MAD Motorsports team in select events in what was then the K&N Pro Series. This year, they have pooled resources with the Visconti outfit. As for the Late Model operation, this is the first season he is competing in all the CARS Tour races, after making spot starts on both the Late Model Stock and Super Late Model tours over the past few years.
“For us we need a goal to go race other than just going to get wins, we want something more than that,” Diaz said of the decision to chase points this year.
Despite two top-10 finishes, a great deal of bad luck likely took him out of the CARS Tour running early in the year. However, on the ARCA side he has scored three top-fives through four races thus far, including a pair of runner-up results at Five Flags Speedway and the Nashville Fairgrounds. He heads into Southern National second in the point standings.
Although he only got 45 minutes of sleep before the Nashville race due to competing at Ace Speedway with the CARS Tour the previous evening, he doesn’t concern himself much with the hectic schedule.
“To me it’s part of it, I’m fortunate enough to do it, so you do it,” he said.
Rather, he spends time studying the intricacies of both cars and their respective series, especially when he competes in each during the same weekend.
“It’s a lot of focusing during the week and studying for ARCA and studying for [the CARS Tour] just so you don’t get too confused,” he explained. “You’ve got to make sure you spend time on both.”
He watches a lot of races as well to aid in his studying and research process, in particular in ARCA, observing events from both faciities he has visited and those which are new to him. The Milwaukee Mile on the ARCA schedule and Florence Motor Speedway for the CARS Tour are two examples of tracks on this year’s docket where he has never competed.
On the ARCA side he also has the benefit of Daytona 500-winning crew chief Tommy Baldwin calling the shots — a valuable resource as the team competes against race teams with Cup affiliations.
“He helps a lot, because just by sight he can see what the car needs, ” Diaz said. “So if my feedback I give him is in agreement with what he sees then we know we’re on the right track.”
Meanwhile, his Late Model Stock crew chief, Mike Darne, is a longtime family friend who has known Mason most of his life. As a result, the two have developed a great deal of chemistry.
Diaz also has six NASCAR Xfinity Series starts to his credit, and one in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. For him, nothing can replace being on the track.
“No matter what, driving anything helps you,” he said. “It builds your confidence up, it doesn’t matter what you drive, a Legend car or Late Model Stock, ARCA, Xfinity, it’s seat time. You’re learning something no matter what.
“I’ve been racing Late Model Stocks now since I was 15, so I’ve got five years of those cars. They’re not simple to me, but I know what to expect. The ARCA car, I’m in in my second full year. It’s a little more different each track you go to, but you get the grasp of what it needs the more you run in it.”
He’s proven to be a quick study.