Hailing from Greenwood, Ind., Brayton Laster made his racing mark in 2022 with his NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series debut on the dirt at Knoxville Raceway. He also competed in two ARCA Menards Series races on the superspeedway tracks of Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway.
With a pizza-themed driving helmet, Laster hopes to get a slice of success in 2023 with at least two ARCA starts with Mullins Racing.
Frontstretch‘s Jared Haas caught up with Laster before the ARCA race at Daytona. You can watch the interview on YouTube or read it below.
Jared Haas, Frontstretch: On Twitter, you’re “@TheOnePizzaMan.” Where did this nickname come from? Is there a craving for pizza every time after a race, or what’s the deal?
Brayton Laster: Yeah, that’s pretty close. Growing up, I’ve always been known for having a pizza slice in my hands, whether I’m at school, at the track, after school or at the gym.
I was always kind of like that nerdy, chubby kid, growing up, that was eating pizza. Kids started calling me “the pizza man” or “the pizza kid” growing up, and this is like when I was like 10-12 years old.
At the track, I’d always be seen eating pizza. It’s, “Pizza kid, get over here,” and it kind of became my personality. I had shoes, pants, backpacks, pizza shirts, pizza jackets, bucket hats, underwear and I’ve had pizza everything. Then, I got the helmet.
I [thought] people have trouble kind of relating to drivers nowadays. When you look at drivers, [you] don’t really know much about them. You look at me, see my pizza helmet, [you’re] like, “I like this kid; this kid is goofy.”
Because everybody can relate to pizza. Everyone [has] had an experience at least once with pizza. By having something that people can easily relate to it, I think one takes something that I would like and something I am very passionate about, pizza, and moves it to the more professional and business side of things. It’s pizza kid. We can work with this guy known for this thing [who’s] got a brand behind him. […] It started out as a joke, and now it’s become a very serious thing.
Haas: You started your racing career mainly in dirt racing around Indiana. How was the transition from dirt racing to pavement racing, and what are the similarities and differences between those two?
Laster: Twelve years ago, I was running a flat fifth-mile [asphalt and no banking] bullring. I started out in go-karts. When I was 12 years old, I started running thunder cars and street stock. It was a 1977 Ford Thunderbird.
When I was 15 or so, I made the move to dirt, and we went straight from asphalt, was running the Outlaw figure-eight late models at the time [at] Indianapolis, which is like a figure-eight race. [That kind of racing] is a big deal [because] you have to cross over, you have to drive through people [and] it’s kind of that superspeedway racing. You know you’re going to wreck [and] just got to figure out how to minimize the damage.[When] we made the move to dirt, I had a good mentor in my life, CJ Rayburn, who was the king of dirt late models. [Rayburn] lived four or five minutes south of my house. I interned at his shop over a winter, and I learned a lot. At Brownstown [Speedway], I got rookie of the year in the super late model series, and in our first year trying, I think we were 10th in points.
I’ve been focused the past couple of years running dirt from Kentucky to the Ultimate Heart of America Super Late Model Series. Circle City Raceway has become one of my home [dirt] tracks, which is another bullring.
Haas: You are one of the younger drivers in this ARCA field, and you’re still going through college. How do you balance college life and racing?
Laster: Also, I work a 40-hour work week during the week and work on our own dirt cars as I build our own motors for the dirt cars, go to school online and also try to become a professional racecar driver. It’s a lot of sleepless nights. I’m not very social back at home. I don’t really go out with friends or anything. I don’t really party. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a party.
It’s part of those sacrifices you have to make. I’ve grown up around racing. It’s a family thing. My dad owned and worked on racecars since the ’80s on the local level. I was born into it, and this is all I know. I never really thought I’d be able to make a career or even race anywhere near this level.
Last year was kind of a fluke how we got up here and then made a Truck start last year too […] at Knoxville and got 27th there.
Now, we’re back at the World Center of Racing, Daytona International Speedway, and there’s nothing like it. It’s definitely a lot of blood, sweat and tears involved. A lot of sacrifices [were] made by me and my whole family. It takes its toll. There’s a lot of times [where I wanted to] just throw in the towel and wanted to quit. I got pushed through it.
Haas: One of the highlights that you had last year was a wreck. You had a car fly over your hood at Talladega coming off turn 4. What was that experience like of having a car climbing up on top of your car?
Laster: I was […] cruising [around] lap 48. [The race] still got north of 30 [laps] to go. I’m chilling and cruising. There ain’t no need to make big moves [as I was] running inside the top 15. I thought we’d be behind all the stupid stuff.
All of a sudden, I’m sliding through the grass and I didn’t even know a car flew over me. I felt getting hit. [As] I started to roll back up the track, I thought I was about to get T-boned, and luckily we didn’t. [Scott Melton was] in that wreck that did unfortunately, and [he’s] still out here racing thankfully.
It was a scary wreck, for sure. I’ve wrecked a lot at the short tracks, especially the figure-eight [tracks]. There’s nothing that can compare to wrecking at 190 mph. It just happened so fast, and you don’t realize how fast [the cars] going [until you] try to slow down, because I know I’m holding the brake down. It is not stopping. We’re going sideways through the grass. I see cars flying through and can see nothing with dirt everywhere. I go to the infield care center, and [they] check me out.
I get back to the trailer, and Brad Perez says, ‘Man, dude, that was so cool, and a car flew over you.’ I’m like, ‘A car did what?’[Perez] pulls up Facebook, and [the video had] 50,000 views. I thought, ‘This is insane.’ That was my first time really seeing the car fly over me.
I remember stopping after the wreck and seeing my right front was destroyed. I got hit in the left rear and nobody hit me in the right front. How is the right front destroyed? I have no idea. I didn’t know what happened till like about an hour after the wreck. It was a career-defining moment.
When people will think of Brayton Laster, [they’ll think of] that kid that had the awesome wreck. Hopefully, we can change that this weekend to, ‘Hey, that’s the kid that won Daytona.’
Haas: Over this offseason, you signed Presley Sorah. If people are not familiar with iRacing, he’s raced in Monday Night Racing and raced a bunch of iRacing events. Now, he has the opportunity; he’s one of those sim-to-reality drivers. How did that deal come together with Sorah to drive your late model for select races?
Laster: It goes back to that Talladega wreck. Gavin Newton, who’s a good friend of Presley [Sorah], [and they] went to school together and they’ve been friends since they were seven or eight. [Newton] designed Richard Garvie’s car that flew over me and actually designed our car here this weekend too.
Gavin [Newton] reached out to me about a month or so after the Talladega wreck. [Newton said,] ‘I designed this car that flew over you, and they’re from Cambridge City, Ind., which is about an hour east of me. We’re also from Indiana; it’d be really cool if you want to talk about the wreck [to] get your perspective.’
I [said] yeah, and since then we’ve become friends. We go out to eat two or three times a week with Gavin [Newton] and Presley [Sorah]. We go-karting during the summer. […]
Presley [Sorah] obviously has a great story and won everything there is on iRacing. [Sorah said,] ‘I want to drive the real thing because there’s nothing that I haven’t proven in the iRacing world, and I wanted to go do the real thing.’[Sorah] tested the late model last year at Hickory [Motor Speedway] after he won the Monday Night Racing championship. I [wanted to see what Sorah] can do. [Blaster Motorsports] has never really been big in asphalt late-models and has always done the dirt stuff for Outlaw figure-eight. We got a sportsman late model there. [Sorah had] gone and raised the funding to make it happen. Now, we’re gonna make his dream a reality and hopefully get [Sorah] out here in the next couple of years.
Haas: Do you have Talladega planned, or do you have other ARCA races as well? What’s on the plate for you?
Laster: We’re taking this whole deal one race at a time. It’s vastly new to us. We never thought we’d be at this level, and last year everything happened so quickly.
Now, we have Daytona lined up, obviously, as we’re here. We have Talladega planned on returning with Mullins [Racing] for that [race] again in a couple of months and hopefully have a better result than we did last year.
The rest is kind of up in the air. We’ll be running an asphalt super late model for VanMeter Racing down at South Alabama [Speedway] for the Rattler here in March. We’re pretty excited about that. That would be my asphalt super late-model debut. We’ll be running with them a couple of times throughout the year.
Hopefully some dirt stuff, [yet] we actually sold a dirt car to come down here.
We had a sponsor back out on us last second, and obviously we want the dream to be alive. We believe in the dream, and this is a once-in-a-career opportunity to be down here with the Mullins; they’re great people, and they provide awesome equipment. If it’s gonna happen, it’s gonna happen this week.
About the author
Jared Haas joined the Frontstretch staff in May 2020. A graduate of Cedarville University in December 2019, Jared has been a Nascar fan since 2006. One of Jared's passion is recreating and creating Nascar cars for video games.
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Ummm Andy Jankowiak is also the pizza delivery guy… which has been talked about to death on the air.