Christina Bassett’s dad built super modifieds and was a mechanic. She’s been around racing her entire life.
So, moving into the tower to become race director at Lee USA Speedway this year came pretty naturally.
Bassett had been working at Lee – a NASCAR-sanctioned 0.375-mile asphalt oval track in Lee, New Hampshire – doing scoring and handicapping for two years before moving up to race director. Both jobs had slight learning curves. It took a while for Bassett to get used to the scoring system two years ago and has taken her a bit of time to get used to the headset in her new role.
But even with those challenges, Bassett had acquired so much knowledge over the years of simply being around racing that everything else came pretty naturally to her.
“The rules… understanding the stagger of the tires, looking down and make sure someone’s wearing the right harness and gear, that’s just all kind of second nature,” she said.
“I was in the tower for the past two years so I’ve listened a lot. Before I even started, I had asked specifically, ‘I want all of the rules, send me all of the rules for each of the classes so that I have them.’ And getting a list of all the folks I’d be interacting with prior to this from an employer’s perspective to make sure I’m reaching to the right person.”
Bassett’s dad was involved with the sport around the Northeast when she was growing up, racing anything that could be raced.
“My dad was always involved in building race cars and snowmobiles and boats,” she said. “You name it. If it had a motor on it we were there.”
Even though she experienced a lot of different tracks, short track racing was the place she enjoyed the most.
“That’s kind of where the talent starts from and it grows so I’ve always kind of enjoyed just watching it and being involved,” she said.
Bassett has become especially involved at Lee, not just in her own role. Her husband, Joe Bassett, is the general manager at the track. It was him and track owner, Norman Wrenn Jr., who asked over the winter if she’d be interested in becoming the track’s race director.
Even though it wasn’t anything she had ever done before, it was their confidence that convinced Bassett to give it a try.
With five races under her belt, the role is something she’s enjoyed so far, especially the learning and interacting with the drivers and fans. She prides herself on knowing the rules inside and out and calling track employees by their name not their role.
Coming in for her first year, especially as a woman in the role, she said she wanted to make sure she got to know each driver personally and never showed favoritism.
The drivers have taken to her open door style.
“I field calls from drivers if they have questions about calls on the track, if they want to talk about situations that may have occurred on the track or if they have questions about any of the activities that went on,” she said. “I have a very open door policy with all of them. They all have my phone number, they all know how to get in touch with me. I’m happy to take any calls over the course of the week and if there’s anything that is lessons learned, if they see something that maybe I don’t… I’m always welcome to take that call and talk to them.
“I was kind of pleased, I got a couple of Facebook posts about how nice it was and how quickly I fit into it and how comfortable they were. So that made me feel good.”
Bassett joked she and her husband have a “unique setup” at the track.
“When I’m doing my thing, he always laughs and says, ‘I’m not allowed in my own tower.’ And he’s not,” she said. “I’m in the tower. We’re not married. I’m doing my job, you do yours.”
Race directing, to Bassett, is about making sure, first and foremost, the drivers are safe while also ensuring it’s a show and the fans are being treated to a good race. She makes it a point to get out of the tower and say hello to fans either before or after every event, another point in her open-door style.
“There’s a lot of personality, whether it’s from the drivers, whether it’s from the fans, whether it’s from the folks that work. There’s a lot of personalities in home tracks,” she said. “And it’s a lot more interactive so you get to spend a lot more time getting to know people.
“Home tracks is kind of like a family. When you get into the small track scenes, everybody knows who everybody is at the small tracks, everybody knows what’s going on. It’s a more interactive environment.”