Open Eyes Racing: Connor Mosack Ready for NXS Debut at Portland

CONNOR MOSACK
Portland NASCAR Xfinity Series Advance
No. 18 OpenEyes.net Toyota GR Supra for Joe Gibbs Racing

NASCAR Xfinity Series Overview

• Event: Pacific Office Automation 147 (Round 14 of 33)
• Date: Saturday, June 4
• Location: Portland (Ore.) International Raceway
• Layout: 1.967-mile, 12-turn road course
• Time/TV/Radio: 4:30 p.m. EDT on FS1/MRN/SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

Connor Mosack Notes of Interest

• “Hello, My Name Is…”: Connor Mosack will make his NASCAR Xfinity Series debut in the Pacific Office Automation 147 Saturday at Portland (Ore.) International Raceway. The 23-year-old racer from Charlotte, North Carolina, comes to the Xfinity Series from the Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli where he competes in the TA2 division. Mosack has made 22 starts in “America’s Road-Racing Series” and is currently in his second fulltime TA2 season. As a rookie in 2021, Mosack scored four podium finishes in his final eight races, including a breakthrough win Sept. 12 at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International to secure third in the championship standings. It was an impressive drive considering that all but two of the series’ 10 tracks were new to Mosack. In the six races run thus far in 2022, Mosack has scored two poles and earned a best finish of second March 19 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval. Mosack’s next TA2 race is June 26 at the Mid-Ohio Sportscar Course in Lexington, Ohio, site of his first career TA2 podium.

• How It All Started: Mosack played football and lacrosse in middle school and high school, and it wasn’t until he was 18 that his racing career began. He started in Legends cars and after winning five championships, he transitioned to Late Model stock cars in 2019. He ran the full Solid Rock Carriers CARS Tour in 2020, winning the rookie-of-the-year title. Mosack augmented his Late Model schedule with four TA2 races in late 2020 before committing to TA2 fulltime in 2021 while also competing in select ARCA Menards Series races. “For me, seat time is really the most important thing, and experience in just about any car is really helpful,” Mosack said. “Knowing you can be fast in the Trans Am Series gives you the confidence that you can drive fast and be competitive in other series. That’s my biggest takeaway as I get ready for my Xfinity Series debut at Portland.”

• Oh, the Places You’ll Go!: Mosack balanced a burgeoning racing career with a college education. On May 8, 2021, Mosack walked across the stage at High Point (N.C.) University and accepted his diploma. In his four years at High Point, Mosack was very much like the athletes at his school, but instead of competing on a hardcourt or field of green like the High Point Panthers, Mosack made his mark on asphalt. With his degree in business entrepreneurship in one hand and his helmet in the other, Mosack continues to put his education to use, working at Interstate Foam & Supply, focusing on the company’s business development. “I had several very good professors at High Point, and lot of it for me was business advice that can be applied to racing, not really behind the wheel, per se, but as a driver trying to find sponsors or talking with teams,” Mosack said. “I think there were definitely helpful moments there. I feel that’s been the biggest help about going to a good university like High Point, understanding that side of the sport more. I think that will help me find and support sponsorships for later in my career and always be with good teams. It’s important to work well with them in addition to just being their driver.”

• Eyes Wide Open: Serving as the primary sponsor of Mosack’s No. 18 Toyota GR Supra is OpenEyes.net. Open Eyes is a global impact ministry co-founded by Frank Harrison, Chairman and CEO of Coca-Cola Consolidated, and his son James Harrison, who passed away while serving in Kenya in 2010. James’ mission to serve others selflessly continues today through the Open Eyes Mobile Messengers program and its relief and development efforts around the world, including Ukraine and the Middle East. Mosack has firsthand knowledge of Open Eyes’ mission, as he volunteered with the group in Africa during the summer of 2017, visiting Rwanda and Uganda. “The time I spent with Open Eyes in Africa was probably one of the most impactful moments of my life,” Mosack said. “Its name speaks for itself because it did open my eyes to how people live in other areas of the world and how having purpose, along with someone they can lean on for strength and support, can make a difference in their everyday lives.”

• The Art of Racing in the Rain: This 2008 novel by American author Gart Stein sat on the New York Times’ bestseller list for 156 weeks, and its film adaptation was released in 2019 with Kevin Costner providing the voice of Enzo. Beyond the title, racing in the rain is a real thing when it comes to road-course racing, and a very likely thing when it comes to racing on the 1.967-mile, 12-turn road course that is Portland International Raceway. The flat, clockwise circuit is located in the Pacific Northwest, an area prone to rain. On average, Portland sees rain 156 days a year, and that average will seemingly get bolstered this weekend during the Pacific Office Automation 147. Rain is in the forecast for Saturday’s inaugural Xfinity Series race, and the likelihood that rain tires and windshield wipers will be used is high. That’s no problem for Mosack, who has driven in the wet before. In fact, in Mosack’s first TA2 outing at Virginia International Raceway near Alton in September 2020, he qualified in the rain, earning an impressive fifth-place starting spot. And in last year’s Memorial Day weekend event at Lime Rock Park in Lakeville, Connecticut, Mosack again qualified in the rain, earning a third-place grid position. Most importantly, Mosack has recent experience at Portland in the rain. Three weeks ago, albeit in a much different kind of racecar – a “Late Model stock-type car” as Mosack described, but still a racecar – Mosack turned approximately 30 laps on a wet Portland layout. While Mosack will be making his first Xfinity Series start this weekend, it will not be his first time racing in the rain if that 97 percent chance of precipitation on Saturday holds true.

• “Let’s Play Two!”: Baseball great Ernie Banks would definitely be a Connor Mosack fan. The affable Hall of Famer who played for the Chicago Cubs is credited with the saying, “Let’s play two,” as he enjoyed the game so much that his serial belief was why play one game when you could play two? Mosack is of the same mindset. In addition to competing in the Xfinity Series race at Portland, Mosack is also competing in the ARCA Menards Series West race. It will be Mosack’s fourth ARCA race of the season and the seventh of his career between the West and East divisions. However, it will be his first ARCA race on a road course. Mosack has finished among the top-10 in all of his ARCA races this year, and among the top-five in his last two ARCA starts, the most recent of which came May 27 at the 1.5-mile Charlotte Motor Speedway oval where he finished a career-best fourth.

• Racing Rewind: Last weekend proved to be a busy one for Mosack. He competed in the ARCA race Friday night at Charlotte and after finishing fourth, jetted up to Lime Rock Saturday morning for the TA2 race. Competing in the two races meant that Mosack had to forgo practice and qualifying his TA2 car at Lime Rock to practice, qualify and race his ARCA car at Charlotte. As such, Mosack had to start last in the 32-car field Saturday at Lime Rock. With no prior seat time, Mosack picked off 17 cars to finish 15th in the 68-lap race around the 1.478-mile,seven-turn road course.

Connor Mosack, Driver of the No. 18 OpenEyes.net Toyota GR Supra for Joe Gibbs Racing

Portland seems like the ideal place to make your Xfinity Series debut – it’s a road course and it plays to your background in Trans Am; there aren’t any pit stops, so one less thing to learn on the fly; and it’s a standalone event so no NASCAR Cup Series drivers will be in the field. Were those the factors that led to Portland serving as your first Xfinity Series start?

“For sure. All those things were things we thought about going into it, but it ended up being the only one schedule-wise that I could do. I think it worked out well and it turned out probably being the best one I could’ve done.”

Have you competed at Portland at any point in your career?

“I got to run a Late Model stock-type car around there, obviously set up for a road course, but it rained the whole time I was there. We had some old rain tires, but it was really slick. Still, I got to see the place in-person, and if it rains while we’re out there for the Xfinity race, I feel like I’ll have a little bit of an advantage.”

As a TA2 rookie in 2021, all but two of the series’ 10 tracks were new to you. What did you do to learn those tracks before you arrived for the race?

“I think simulator time is really important going to a new road course. Learning the corners and at least knowing the place 80 to 90 percent of the way before you get there really helps speed up the learning curve. I feel like if you’re seeing it for the first time, you really waste the first session you’re out there because you don’t get to work on any speed, you’re just trying to find where to put the car. So you know that going in and, watching some in-car videos, even if it’s another kind of car from there – I’ve been able to watch some of the TA2 races there and I think it’s really helpful knowing the best lines and that sort of thing. I did the simulator with JGR and did some setup stuff so I feel like I’m pretty prepared going into it.”

While the Xfinity Series car is new to you, does the car itself feel somewhat familiar because of its similarities to a TA2 car and the ARCA Menards Series cars you’ve driven?

“At the end of the day, you’ve still got the steering wheel and the pedals and the shifter at your controls. You just have to apply those tools a little bit differently. Adapting to a new car and a new track is something I’m used to doing.”

Beyond the obvious fact that Trans Am is a series based on road courses, what are some of the key experiences you’ve picked up in Trans Am that you feel will benefit you at Portland?

“I think the most helpful things I’ve gotten from Trans Am, aside from laps on road courses, is just that the top guys in that series are really strong and have years of road-racing experience. They’ve schooled me a couple of times over the last few races and I’ve been able to learn from each of those things and learn to not repeat those mistakes. It’s made me a much better racer around those guys, and I think that will correlate going against guys who are really experienced in the Xfinity Series.”

You’ve been mentored in Trans Am by the father-and-son duo of Scott Lagasse Sr. and Scott Lagasse Jr. What is some of the best advice they’ve given you and is there anything specific they’ve told you about Portland?

“Both Scotty and Scott Sr., have been very helpful to me. I definitely wouldn’t be the road-course racer that I am without the two of them. They both have their own ways and their own experiences that they’ve been able to apply to me, and I think just overall, they’ve really helped me understand how to put a whole race together, a whole race weekend together. Even certain scenarios in the race, they’ve taught me how to approach them and be able to see these situations coming before they actually happen so I’m ready for them. Kind of when to be aggressive, when to let them go, those are things that I’ve made mistakes on in the past. So whenever stuff like that happens, they’ll sit down with me and be like, ‘Hey, this is what you did wrong, this is what you should do,’ and it makes it really easy to understand and apply going forward.”

Joe Gibbs Racing is one of the powerhouse teams in NASCAR with plenty of wins and championships in its more than 30-year history. Talk about the opportunity to make your Xfinity Series debut with this team and the resources that are available to you.

“It’s one of the best road-course cars in the field, so I know the speed will be there and the car will be there. That makes it easier to work on me and not have to worry about what I’m driving. I can just go out there and get up to speed at my pace knowing the car will be there and not worry about having to get every ounce of speed out of it right away.”

Jason Ratcliff is a very experienced crew chief, both in terms of preparing winning cars and calling winning race strategies, but also in developing young drivers. How helpful is it to have that experience in your ear now and throughout the Portland race weekend?

“Jason does a great job and he has a ton of experience, so I’ve been able to learn from him already, before we even go to the track. Even in the simulator, we’ve made some great changes, so I’m just really looking forward to working with him and the rest of those guys.”

You’ve only been racing for six years now, but you’ve accomplished a lot in those six years. Did the 18-year-old you think you’d ever be driving an Xfinity Series car for Joe Gibbs Racing?

“Absolutely not. The first year I ever drove something was really just a blur and I really didn’t know much of anything. Year two, we started to kind of get the hang of things and understand where we could go and what it would take. We’ve been kind of building on that ever since.”

You seem to constantly challenge and push yourself – Legends cars to Late Models to TA2 cars to ARCA and now, the Xfinity Series. Where does this drive come from?

“Growing up, I’ve always been into cars – racecars, street cars – but I never really thought racing was something realistic for me. I didn’t know anybody in the sport, and nobody in my family had ever raced. I didn’t know that anybody could just show up at a local racetrack and rent somebody’s car, or buy their own racecar and go out there and run it. So when that was introduced to me, I thought it was really cool, and I got to get a little taste of it, and that’s when I really fell in love with it. Once we kind of knew that was an option, we decided to pursue it to see where it could go.”

Portland will mean balancing your competiveness with your desire to learn. What do you want to get out of the race weekend, and what would you consider a successful outing?

“With it being my first race, I think success would be to run all the laps and be in the top-10 for most of the race. But I think the primary goal is to keep the car on the track and don’t do anything that’s too aggressive or try to overdrive the car, especially in my first race just getting up to speed. I think the plan is to stay in the race until the end, and if we have a shot, we’ll go for it.”

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com

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