Mason makes all the big races and is still a threat to win.
Editor's Note: This article introduces a new department in SCR. Each month, we'll feature top dirt track drivers, particularly those competing in Dirt Late Models. We will profile veterans who've reached Hall of Fame status as well as up-and-coming youngsters, examining the keys to their success. We'll also include driving tips and advice on chassis setups.
Bill Holder, a longtime contributor to SCR, will be our point man for this department. Bill has an especially keen eye for dirt track competition, serving as executive director of the National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame, located at Florence (Kentucky) Speedway.
It would be hard to describe John Mason with a single word or two.
He's many things, with most of them revolving around Dirt Late Model racing. Right off the bat, he's a Hall of Fame driver with over 400 feature wins to his credit in a career that's still going after three-and-a-half decades.
Then, there's the technical side of this guy, first as a manufacturer. He designed and built the first Bert bellhousing, which even today is still the one selected by many top race teams. You can also see the Mason decal for his line of starters, which are manufactured at his Racin' Mason speed shop.
But there's another phase of J.M., with the technology that he generated and then applied to his own race cars.
"I was one of the first to build a tube-chassis car, which really improved the response and handling of the car," he says.
Another innovation was the inversion of the brake floaters on a leaf-spring dirt car. In the late '70s, Mason designed what was probably the first race car with an independent rear end. And of that aforementioned bellhousing design-it involved putting the dry sump oil pump on the back of the engine for the first time.
Smart guy, that John Mason. And if you look down the hill from his race shop near Millersburg, Ohio, you will see that he has carved out a quarter-mile dirt track on his property that will be used to test his new innovations. Finally, Mason is also quite an entrepreneur, being in the oil-drilling business.
But as far as racing is concerned, he could have chosen the open wheel variety, as his dad was a big Super Modified fan and took John to a lot of their races.
"It was an early goal to drive one of those super-quick machines," John recalls.
Hard work has never been something that Mason shied away from.
"Heck, I was helping out in the fields when I was only 4," he says, "and then when I was 11, I lost three fingers in an accident out there."
His overall background is suited for racing, as that toughness and work ethic has carried through to his racing career with a number of big victories through the years, including the World Dirt Track Championship in 1989. Also rating high are victories in the North-South 100 at Florence Speedway in 1985, along with the 1983 U.S. Dirt International Challenge and the 1990 All-Star title race, both at I-70 Speedway in Missouri.
He's made the field a dozen times in one of the most prestigious and toughest of the Dirt Late Model events, the World 100 at Eldora Speedway, with his best effort being a close runner-up finish in 1987. He also won a pair of championships with the former Renegade STARS group, in 1984 and 1987. Additionally, Mason has been tough on the mile tracks, having won twice at Illinois State Fairgrounds. John was very competitive with the former NDRA group, the first high-paying dirt traveling series, which ran in the Midwest in the early '80s. In addition, there were a number of big wins at such events as the Buckeye Speedway 150 in Ohio in 1986 and the Octoberfest Classic at the Hagerstown (Maryland) Speedway Nationals in 1990, along with wins with the Hav-A-Tampa, MACS, and ALMS groups.