IT ONLY TOOK 50 YEARS FOR STASSI TO WIN A BIG ONE
While talking to George Stassi two days after he won Super Stock at the NHRA Arizona Nationals in Phoenix, the joy was clearly evident on his voice, and understandably so. After all, in a drag racing career that has spanned 50 years, this was his first national event victory.
"It was kind of nice to win for a change," joked the 70-year-old, whose first national event was the 1972 Winternationals in Pomona, Calif. "It was my dream to win a national event before I died."
However, as exuberant as Stassi was while talking about his accomplishment, he was the complete opposite after defeating 26-time national event winner Jody Lang in the final round in Phoenix.
"I was a disaster after the race," said Stassi. "I'm usually a man who can hold in his emotions, but I was in full tears after I saw my win light come on.
"Jody Lang, Dan Fletcher, Peter Biondo – not many Super Stock racers are better than them. So to beat somebody as phenomenal as Jody Lang, I didn’t know how you go about saying anything to him after."
Adding to his emotional reaction was the fact that his family was not with him. Usually his wife Rita, daughter April and her husband Brian, daughter Amber and her husband Owen III, and grandchildren Mason, Grady, Kaylor, Owen IV, Boston, and Brooklyn are present to help and cheer him on, but the Arizona Nationals is the only race they don't attend.
"I think that's the part that broke me," said Stassi. "We run on a tight budget, and there have been times when I've wanted to give up, but then the grandkids came along, and no matter how I did, everything was good to them. They made me want to keep going."
"The kids keep asking to watch the videos and pictures of grandpa winning on my phone," added Rita, who let out a thunderous scream of joy when asked about the win. "I and his daughters were in tears. It's so amazing and we are proud of him. We love him."
Thankfully for Stassi, he was never alone in Phoenix; he had the help of Doug, Brian, and Broc Broaddus; Jim Rau; Bob and Charlene Goullet; and Kenny Cadman throughout event. And after crossing the finish line, the Emmons brother helped him through the emotional ordeal.
"I couldn't get out of the car; I was in shock and didn't know what to do," said Stassi. "The Emmons boys came over and one of them said, 'Calm down; you need to do an interview,' but I told them to keep them away because I couldn't do an interview."
The Emmons brothers told him to simply be himself and speak from his heart, and he followed their advice, which he did again two days after joining the list of NHRA national event winners.