EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW

The Short Track Report: 4 high-octane questions for Stephen Nasse

Stephen Nasse is one of the stars of the CARS Late Model Series, the premier short-track racing series in America. Not only is he one of the most talented drivers out there, but he is always going to say what's on his mind and that makes for some of the best interviews. He was nice enough to talk to me about his racing plans for the rest of 2020, give a recap of his run in the Winchester 400, and a lot more.

SportsMap: So first and foremost, what an excellent drive you had in Sunday's Winchester 400, coming back from a penalty and then some mechanical issues as well. While it may not read as win on the stat sheet, it's got to feel good to get such a good result after all you went through.

Stephen Nasse: Yeah, you know it's definitely tough to swallow. I was pretty upset in the time being with the issues we were having. I felt like they were issues that could have been avoided by me and my guys but at the end of the day, my guys worked harder than anyone else. I feel in that pit area, they want to win just as bad as I do, if not more. So you can't be too mad at them. But at the end of the day, it was good to come back and have the car in one piece, so that's all you can really ask for.

SM: The penalty you guys got was kind of controversial as you were cleaning off some of the leaves on your grill. Can you kind of expand on that a bit and talk about what happened there?

SN: Yeah, I don't understand their thought process on some things. Winchester is notorious for having leaves on the back straight away. And this year it was much worse and it didn't take a very smart person to realize that they should have blown off or drove over before the race because those racecars should not be cleaning off that racetrack. I mean everyone who comes here spends way too much money to have to come here and deal with that. My water temp was pegged out and I wasn't going to spend the money just to keep my spot, but it was unfortunate.

SM: Talk a little bit about how you got your start in racing.

SN: Well growing up, my grandfather was big into racing, and they finally had a boy after having two girls. So when they finally had a boy, it was time to go racing! So they bought me a dirt bike, and I was falling off every 25 feet, so they decided it was time to go to four wheels. So after that we got a go-kart, and we moved up to Pro Late Model cars and on to Supers and it went on from there. But it's always been something I wanted to do and I love doing it.

SM: For some of the newer viewers of Late Model Racing like myself, can you kind of explain the differences between each class like the Super Late Models and the Pro Late Models?

SN: Well when you are looking at it visually, you can't really tell a difference but it mainly comes down to speed. In the Pro Mods, you have a Crate Motor which makes about 500 horse power and it's more of a level playing field. And when you look at the Supers, it's making about 650 horsepower and there is a lot more to control.

You can hear the entire interview on Audioboom below.

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The media has mixed feelings about the James Harden trade. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

James Harden was 100-percent exactly right earlier this week when he said the Houston Rockets were "just not good enough."

How could they be? Not when their moody superstar scorer, who makes about half a million dollars per game, shows up chubby, looking like a kielbasa about to explode in the microwave. Hey, some people eat when they're unhappy, it's a defense mechanism. In Harden's case, the only defense he's exhibited this season. At least he had a good excuse for missing pre-season training camp and alienating his teammates - he was busy partying with Cinnamon and Cherish in Atlanta and Vegas without a mask. Worst of all, he went into the tank his last four games in a Rockets uniform, standing around, arms folded, scoring fewer than 20 points each time, all Rockets losses. Fans in the front row were asking him to move, he was blocking their view of players who cared about winning. James Harden sabotaged his own team, a team that offered him $50 million a year to stay. Something that crazy could only happen in professional sports these days.

There's a saying that drives the American labor movement: "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work." It's the motto of the American Federation of Labor. The National Basketball Players Association is not a member. Harden's sulking on the court, cheating the Rockets and their fans, was unforgivable.

Harden, sitting out games while somehow being on the court, forced the Rockets to trade him - and quick - to Brooklyn. The trade, when you ignore the fine print and unindicted co-conspirators Cleveland and Indiana, sent Harden to Brooklyn in exchange for Caris LeVert (immediately flipped for Victor Oladipo), Jarrett Allen, three first-round draft picks and four swapped first-rounders. It's true, when you trade a superstar, you never get back equal value. The other team wins.

If it makes Rockets fans feel any better, the media in New York already has problems with their new problem child. I should say newest problem child. Kyrie Irving plays for the Nets.

"They (the Nets) gave up everybody! There's nothing left now. I just want to cry, It's awful," weeped WFAN Radio talk host Evan Roberts. For those who don't subscribe to weekly Arbitron ratings reports, WFAN is the most powerful, top-rated sports talk station in the Apple.

"You're leading down the road of doom. Harden and Durant could be gone in a year and a half. I'm not convinced this gives them a better chance to win a title. I'm living a nightmare again. They better freaking win."

Circle March 3 on your Rockets schedule. That's when the Brooklyn Nets, with their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden and possibly Kyrie Irving visit Toyota Center. I hear talk radio salivating over the record jeers that will cascade over Harden's name, although I'm not buying it. Fans don't think like the media does. I'm thinking that Rockets fans will welcome Harden back - one night only - with cheers.

Toyota Center public address announcer Matt Thomas: "Usually when former Rockets come to town for the first time since leaving, I give them a positive introduction. It's up to the fans how to react."

James Harden spent eight seasons with the Rockets. He is a spectacular player who watched other NBA players engineer trades so they could compete for a title. Harden didn't think the Rockets were good enough, and he's right. So he wanted out. We've all been there, a job we didn't like for a company we didn't like, for a boss we didn't respect. Harden wanting to be traded is understandable. How he went about it was deplorable. He hurt his co-workers.

Houston will make Harden pay for his disrespectful departure. He has an upscale restaurant set to open here. The name of the steakhouse will be "13." Harden's business partners may want to change that number ... before the restaurant's telephone number is disconnected. There are plenty of other restaurants in Houston. Rich people who can afford steakhouse prices hold grudges.

Rockets fans searching for a silver lining say, "We got two decent players and a whole bunch of precious first-round picks" for a malcontent who would rather be anywhere (except maybe Sacramento) than Houston." Yes, a bunch of first-round picks does bode well for the future. Anywhere, except maybe Houston.

Houston's draft war room isn't the most successful operation in the NBA. Over the past decade prior to 2000, under the direction of general manager Daryl Morey, the Rockets made 16 draft picks. Not one of them is still in a Rockets uniform, many of them have sought employment outside of America, some outside of basketball. Among their first-round whiffs: Nikola Mirotic, Terrence Jones, Sam Dekker - all out of the league. Best of all, Royce White, who played three whole games in his NBA career and finished with a scoring average of 0.00 points per game.

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