NASCAR & Auto Racing

Auto shop worker gets the ride of his life

A dream delayed can often evaporate when too many years pass.

But for Late Model Stock Car driver Deac McCaskill, a phone call to a friendly former rival paid off with a chance to race in NASCAR's top minor-league circuit.

McCaskill, a 29-year-old Raleigh mechanic, will make his Busch Series debut racing the Evernham Motorsports No. 9 Dodge tonight in the Kroger 200 at Indianapolis O'Reilly Raceway Park in Indianapolis (8 p.m., ESPN2). A lanky, laid-back veteran of Late Model racing, McCaskill said Thursday he had grown to accept that he might never get the chance to race at NASCAR's top levels.

When his team sponsor, Puryear Tank Lines, approached him earlier this spring to discuss trying to land a Busch Series ride for a race or two, McCaskill called Nextel Cup driver Scott Riggs.

The Evernham Motorsports driver used to tangle with McCaskill in the mid-1990s at Orange County Speedway, and Riggs secured a team interview and test ride for McCaskill in May.

Tonight's ride likely is a one-shot deal with Evernham Motorsports, but McCaskill is treating it like a one-in-a-million chance to catch some eyes with a top-15-or-better finish.

"I'm 29 years old, and I'm a rookie at this level," McCaskill said. "But in a way, I feel like somewhat of a veteran just because I've been driving race cars for so long. ... You get inside and put your helmet on. It's just a race car, like the one I'm getting into every Saturday night at Kenly."

The Busch car he's racing tonight has about 250 more horsepower and weighs about 300 pounds more than the Late Model car he races regularly at Kenly's Southern National Raceway Park. McCaskill has won the Southern National Raceway points title twice in three years and outraced Cup driver Denny Hamlin in a Thanksgiving Classic race there last November.

Nationally last season, McCaskill ranked fifth in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Weekly Series. He entered this weekend ranked 12th in the national points standings.

At his family's auto shop off Capital Boulevard this week, McCaskill and his co-workers joked about how Raleigh will shut down tonight, judging from the number of well-wishers who trickled in to the garage to share their cookout party plans to watch the race on television.

His uncle Barry McCaskill, who also works at the shop, said his nephew has not spent too much time daydreaming or talking about the race while working this week.

"I wish he'd got this break a few years earlier, really and truly," Barry McCaskill said. "But I get cold chill bumps just thinking about it. It's unreal. I'm so happy for him, he gets a chance to do it."

Riggs said the most significant adjustment for McCaskill may be maneuvering the pits. Pit stops in Late Model races are rare, Riggs said.

"The biggest thing that he's going to have to learn and experience is getting in and out of [pit] stops without running anybody over," Riggs joked.

McCaskill and his wife, Sandy, were scheduled to fly to Indianapolis with the Evernham Motorsports race team; McCaskill said he had to convince his 5-year-old daughter Ashlyn that she would have more fun staying home and going to a skate party with friends and family, including her 1-year-old sister.

"I'm happy what I'm doing now," McCaskill said when asked how he would feel if this Busch Series race ended up as a one-shot deal.

"I have a good life, a good family, and I race every Saturday night with my friends and family," he said. "If this weekend don't go well, I don't have nothing to be ashamed of."