With the upcoming NASCAR race season coming up, many people are wondering if Tony Basalone has retired from racing or if he has simply turned his attention to another form of motorsport. The 54-year-old driver from Michigan has had a long and storied racing career, dating all the way back to 1974. He has won the Grand National Championship, the Chili Bowl, the Michigan 300, and the Michigan 300-Michelin. He currently drives the No. 16 car for JEGS.com in the IMSA WeatherTech series. Here’s a look at Basalone’s racing career, both now and in the past.
A RACING STAR BEGINS
At a young age, Basalone showed an interest in cars and racing. He began his career in go-karts at the age of seven and won several races before moving up to late models in 1970. That same year, he made his debut at the prestigious Trophy race in Cananea, Mexico. Over the next few years, he racked up numerous wins, capturing the Rookie of the Year title in 1972. In 1974, he won his first Grand National Championship. As he began to establish himself as a top driver, he started getting offers to race in other parts of the country. He eventually settled in Detroit, where he currently resides. He still follows the sport closely, watching as many races as he can and keeping up with all the news regarding his colleagues and competitors. He also keeps in contact with a number of old friends from the racing community, talking cars and racing with them whenever he gets the chance. This is how a driver stays in touch with the sport they love so much.
THE RISE OF THE IMSA SERIES
In 1977, NASCAR created the International Motors Sports Association (IMSA) to provide a non-stock car racing series for drivers and teams who were interested in something other than stock car racing. The series was open to everything from sedans to sports cars and everything in between. The objective of the series was to create a top-level competition that would allow drivers to further their careers. Over the years, IMSA has developed into one of the premier sporting events in North America, hosting some of the most exciting races throughout its history. It also provides an excellent opportunity for up-and-coming drivers to prove themselves on the world stage.
GRAND NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS
Since its inception in 1974, IMSA has hosted over 40 Grand National Championships, hosting some of the biggest names in the sport. Current champions include Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt, and the late Richard Childress. The most recent championship was won by Chad Kaenon. The organization also crowns champions in other categories, including the Sportsman, Truck, and Prototype divisions. The Sportsman division is for older model vehicles (considered by the rules to be from the 1969-1972 era), while the Truck and Prototype subdivisions are for more current models. Every year, hundreds of thousands of fans come out to Monticello Motor Speedway in New York to witness the excitement of these races. It’s one of the highlights of the NASCAR season.
A FOUNDATION OF TRUTH
One of the things that makes Tony Basalone so great is that he always has been, and continues to be, completely truthful in his interviews and his public appearances. To this day, he continues to state his case with no holds barred and is often asked about his controversial moments on the track. In 2013, he was suspended for a month for intentionally crashing into a competitor, which drew outrage from his former competitors. Basalone later apologized for his actions and reiterated his desire to always be truthful. For this reason, he continues to be respected by drivers and fans alike for his honesty and his abilities behind the wheel.
Although he’d like to think his career is done, Basalone has continued to rack up wins since retiring from NASCAR in 1982. He continued to have success in some of the most prominent race series in North America, winning the 1986 Indianapolis 500 and driving in the prestigious 24 Hours of Daytona in 2011. In 2012, he returned to NASCAR to drive the No. 64 Chevy for Robert Yates in the Daytona 500. He also made an appearance in a “What Would Tony Do?” commercial for Sprint. Unfortunately, his career was plagued by injuries throughout its duration. He broke his back and was unable to walk for a number of years. He continues to suffer from arthritis, which makes it harder and harder for him to get around. Luckily, he has a number of fans and friends who keep him active by arranging races and events for him whenever they can. He still does his best to hobble around the garage area, helping his friends and fans who are also involved in the sport. He still goes to the track whenever he can, taking in the sights and sounds of the season opener. However, he struggles with the mobility issues that come with his arthritis. In April of this year, he was photographed in a wheelchair at the track, which led to an outpouring of support and kind words from his fans – many of whom are also racing fans.
ENDING A CAREER IN MOTORSPORT
For decades, Tony Basalone has been an integral part of motorsport. He started out as a go-kart racer and moved up to American cars, eventually settling on trucks. In 1994, at the age of 40, he finally hung up his helmet, retiring from full-time competition. Ever the adventurer, he continued to race in select events, including the Indianapolis 500 and the 24 Hours of Daytona. Since then, he’s found contentment driving for his friends and fans, occasionally taking on a new challenge. He still keeps in touch with a number of old racing colleagues, maintaining a close relationship with the sport he loves so much.
Basalone recently turned down a ride in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, choosing to continue driving in the less prestigious IMSA WeatherTech series. However, he has been linked to a few rides in the big leagues, including an offer to drive for Richard Petty in 2017. Although he may have said goodbye to full-time racing, he doesn’t mean goodbye to the sport he loves so much. In 2018, he made a guest appearance at the Speedweeks at Daytona, driving the No. 16 Chevy for JEGS.com in the Daytona 500. He also made an appearance at the Grand National Championship, getting out of his car to help sign autographs and take pictures with fans. He still attends every race he can, keeping up with all the news, talking cars with friends, and enjoying the beautiful sunsets along the way.