Texas Spotlight: Mason McGaha

Photo: Auto Imagery
Second-generation drag racers are common in a sport that speaks to family, so seeing a father and son race together isn’t too terribly uncommon in NHRA’s Camping World Drag Racing Series. Third generation drag racers, though, that’s not something you see every day – well, unless you take a walk past the Odessa, Texas-based Harlow Sammons Racing Pro Stock pits.

On one side you’ll find Chris McGaha, who launched his Pro Stock career in 2011 at the prestigious U.S. Nationals. His silver Harlow Sammons Chevy Camaro is pitted directly next to the brilliant blue Chevy of his son, Mason. Keep looking, and your eyes are bound to land upon Lester, peering into the engine compartment of either factory hot rod at any given moment and scratching his chin in thought. That silver-haired gentleman is grandfather to Mason and father to Chris, and he’s the one responsible for this whole deal.

Lester bracket raced from the time Chris was a kid then set the tone for the future in a Comp Eliminator car. By the age of 12, Chris knew that he wanted to race Pro Stock. His path included an early stint in NHRA’s Jr. Drag Racing League, then a turn behind the wheel of a D/Dragster in Comp at the age of 17. He was so devoted to drag racing, in fact, that before he would commit to Holly – the woman who would become his wife – she had to accept that drag racing would always be a very large part of their lives.

Holly embraced it, and later, both of their children – Mason and younger sister Berkley – were introduced to the NHRA’s Summit Racing Jr. Drag Racing League.

It stuck for Mason, and he licensed early in 2020 with the intent of making his Pro Stock debut at the famed NHRA Gatornationals. With the COVID-19 crisis halting the Gainesville event before the Pros even arrived on site, Mason’s debut was delayed until the E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis in July. It took a couple of races, but Mason qualified for the most historic event on the tour, the DENSO Spark Plugs NHRA U.S. Nationals, with 22 cars vying for the 16 available spots.

Qualifying was just the beginning for the young gun as he defeated his father on a holeshot in the opening round, logged a decisive victory over fellow Rookie of the Year contender Kyle Koretsky, and then cut a .001-second light to incoming Pro Stock champion Erica Enders’ sleepy .073. Enders got the nod at the top end after Mason’s car slowed.

“After we qualified and I was able to win some rounds, it was like, alright, I feel like I’m here now,” said Mason. “It was pretty cool to do that at the U.S. Nationals, our biggest race. It was funny because when I staged racing my dad, I flickered the bottom bulb. He had told me that if I ever did that and went to the chip, don’t get off the chip. If the light stays on, the lights going to be coming down – and getting off the chip is going to mess you up. I’d run over that enough times in my head that when it happened, I was like, ‘okay, stay on the chip.’ I guess that messed him up, because I had like four-hundredths on him when we took off. It was pretty cool.”

Mason qualified in both Gainesville and St. Louis and came up against three-time Pro Stock champion Jason Line in the opening round.

“I wasn’t as nervous racing him as I was racing in my first round,” Mason recalled. “I do get nervous, but I knew I could do it because I’d done it before. I just go up there and do the best I can.”

In Dallas, at their home race, the McGaha clan had hoped for the Texas Motorplex trophy. It was an early Sunday for both Chris and Mason, but this weekend in Houston at the Mopar Express Lane NHRA SpringNationals, the youngest Pro Stock driver on the property sees opportunity.

“Our car was not good in Dallas, but we think we have it fixed,” he said. “I think we’ll do a lot better here, and I feel like we’ll continue to get better. Maybe one day we’ll win a championship, but I’m already having a good time.”

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