Massey’s second chance
Spencer Massey before final eliminations at Pomona last November (Anne Proffit photo)
Because I didn’t stay for the entire NHRA celebration banquet the day after the World Finals on the Auto Club Raceway at Pomona dragstrip, I didn’t see or hear what happened with Spencer Massey, who finished third in last year’s Top Fuel championship standings behind his two teammates. Apparently he exhibited poor behavior because he was promptly canned from his job.
Like any competitor, he wasn’t terribly happy about finishing third, although there are many, many other people that would have been thrilled to have done so well in only their third full season of professional Top Fuel drag racing.
Team owner Don Schumacher couldn’t be at the celebration where two of his drivers, Antron Brown (Top Fuel) and Jack Beckman (Funny Car) were part of a triple play of new champions for the 2012 season. (The other first-timer was Allen Johnson, whose family-owned and run Pro Stock team took their Mopar Dodge Intrepid to the top of the standings.) He didn’t see – but like everyone else in the business – heard about Massey’s antics at the banquet.
Team owner Schumacher wasn’t in attendance because of the death of his mother.
In Schumacher’s absence, Texas native Massey, 30, showed up at this black-tie optional gathering with his own personal cooler of beer and proceeded to get a little bit loaded throughout the evening. By the time teammate Brown accepted the Top Fuel championship, he needed to go to the restroom, according to a statement Massey made today.
“I shouldn’t have disrespected him (Brown) by getting up to go to the bathroom while he was speaking. I was happy that he won,” Massey stated, “but, honestly, I was angry all day because my team didn’t win it. I was sitting in the back of the room and as I got close to the door to leave, a couple of crew guys from another team made a comment to me that I didn’t appreciate and I used language I shouldn’t have. But it was directed at them and had nothing to do with race (Brown is African American).
“That was the boiling point for me and I threw my plastic bottle of Coors Light to the ground. It only had a few gulps left when I slammed it down and some of the beer flew up and got on someone… “
When Don Schumacher heard about this he wasn’t happy and fired Massey as of November 23rd. Since that time, Massey has gone to a therapist for help with his temper – and Schumacher has opted to retain the driver.
The upshot is that yes, Massey will be back at Pomona, driving the third (No. 3) Top Fuel entry for Don Schumacher Racing, despite the loss of key sponsor Fram/Prestone last summer. Schumacher had said – all along after learning of Fram/Prestone’s departure – that his company, Schumacher Electric Corp and its product Battery Extender chargers would sponsor Massey’s rail as they looked for a proper replacement. He didn’t want to break up the team and that hasn’t changed.
With Massey’s childish behavior last November, Schumacher had to see some signs of repentance and responsibility, which he said he’s been shown by the driver.
Second chances are a wonderful thing, so next week we can look forward to seeing Spencer Massey driving – something he does extremely well – at the Winternationals on that same Pomona dragstrip.
Massey will have to get by without one of his co-crew chiefs from last year, Todd Okuhara, who’s been promoted to overall technical director at Don Schumacher Racing, but he’ll still have Phil Shuler by his side to try and do better than last year.
I, for one, hope the lessons have been learned and that Spencer Massey will give teammates Brown and 2012 runner-up Tony Schumacher, together with a truly stellar group of competitors trying to knock them from the top three slots, a good run for the honors. And the money. I hope he’ll keep his cool, because third chances aren’t always something you can depend on.
By Anne Proffit