High school diploma in hand, Mason McGaha ready to embark on his next chapter as an NHRA Pro Stock racer
Mason McGaha isn’t the first kid to get a new car after graduating high school, but in this instance, 18-year old McGaha’s new whip happens to be a 213-mph Pro Stock Camaro that is a near twin to the one his father, Chris, has driven to eight wins in 11 final rounds since 2015. McGaha has spent the last few months learning the finer points of driving a modern-day Pro Stocker, often regarded as the most technically advanced vehicle in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, particularly from a driving standpoint. When it comes to experience, McGaha had plenty to draw from including his father and grandfather, former Comp racer Lester. The third-generation racer secured his NHRA pro stock car license last week during a test session in Tulsa, Okla., and immediately came to Indianapolis where he’s making his debut at the E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Nationals.
“Overall, I think [licensing] went very well,” said McGaha. “Our goal was to just keep progressing and I think we did that. I started working on this about nine months ago but didn’t make my first full run until last Wednesday. I was out of the car for a while but we did find some time to go to our local track and work on a few things just to work on burnouts and shifting. I am really just looking forward to racing with my dad and Grandpa. “
McGaha, who concluded his license requirements with a respectable 6.81-second run, admitted that mastering the burnout was by far the most difficult part of the learning process. In a Pro Stock car, a burnout that is too aggressive can result in engine damage, particularly valve springs while not enough rpm can destroy the clutch.
“I felt good when I ran 6.81 and the we came here [to Indy] and made a half-track run on Friday and that felt pretty good. Compared to where I was nine months ago, everything is happening much slower. The burnout is definitely the hardest thing to master. There is so much to master but then again, my dad has made some runs where he messed up the burnout and the car still went down the track. Still, that’s something that I’m really trying to work on.”
When it comes to expectations, McGaha isn’t afraid to aim high. He certainly knows he’s got the power to compete against the top racers in the class.
“Our power is good,” he said. “We even changed engines last night to try and give me something better than what we had. There’s a big field here it will take a lot just to qualify but that’s my goal.”
While McGaha doesn’t seem the least bit nervous about making his NHRA debut, the same can’t be said for his parents, especially his father, Chris.
“I’m excited but I’m also a bit nervous,” Chris said. “Mason knows what to do and he listens well so I’m sure he’ll be just fine. We’ve tested and made a bunch of runs and you can see how much he’s progressed. When we started, he’d never even driven a stick shift car on the street so that should tell you how far he’s come. Now, it’s time for him to go out and earn his wings. The best piece I own is under the hood of his car so he should be able to get in this field.”
As a rookie, McGaha was one of the first drivers out during Saturday’s first qualifying session and he shut off early after shaking the tires.