Brownlow A Rising Pace-Setter in NASCAR Racing

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, July 9 2022

Georgia’s Jason Brownlow leads a lot of laps in NASCAR’s Xfinity Series. (RacinToday photo by Jeff Hood)

HAMPTON, Ga. – The journey began just over two decades ago for Jason Brownlow after he accepted a job to be a ticket taker on Saturday nights at Lanier National Speedway in Braselton, Ga.

That part-time gig wound up evolving into a full-blown career in NASCAR for the Gainesville, Ga. native, who earlier this year was elevated into the role of Assistant Series Director of the Xfinity Series. His promotion included a host of new weekend duties, most notably the coveted assignment of driving the pace car during each Xfinity Series race.

“I just thought it would be a good summer deal at the time,” said Brownlow, when asked to flashback on how it all started 22 years ago when he inquired about a part-time opportunity to work at the popular short track near his hometown.

A graduate of North Hall High School, Brownlow spent a short stint in college before being bitten by the motorsports bug in 2000.

Timing turned out to be favorable for Brownlow that summer when his tasks were gradually expanded before blossoming into full-time employment.

“For the first week or two at Lanier, I was there to cut the grass and I was still working the ticket gate,” Brownlow recalled. “But it snowballed to helping with inspections, the tires and working on the cleanup truck.

“It started with tickets and evolved into whatever needed to be done.”

Former Lanier National Speedway promoter Stan Narrison recalls taking note and quickly realizing he had a diamond in the rough in Brownlow.

“Jason learned at Lanier you better be able to do everything if you want to be involved in motorsports,” said Narrison, who is now the promoter at Montgomery (Ala.) Motor Speedway. “I told him it might be some crappy stuff. But he did whatever I needed him to do.”

As fans roared for their favorite driver on Saturday nights at Lanier National Speedway in 2001 and 2002, Brownlow was mastering his trade as a track official by gaining valuable short track knowledge through a variety of tasks such as learning to effectively communicate over the radio, lining up the cars on the grid for each heat and feature race and assisting with post-race teardown in the inspection station.

In the process, he was building a resume that opened the door for a part-time job with NASCAR beginning with the Truck Series race at Michigan International Speedway in 2003.

For nearly two decades, the 47-year-old Brownlow has been a regular fixture on pit road during NASCAR Xfinity Series events while utilizing his knack for doing-it-all.

“I’ve done a whole bunch of things throughout the years,” said Brownlow, who lives near Concord, N.C. with his wife Christine and their three children. “There was a time where I was pit road supervisor and handled all of the pit road assignments. I’ve booked hotel rooms and handled travel for our series.

“And there was a time when I was handling safety.”

He’s also spent a considerable amount of his time at NASCAR communicating with Xfinity Series crew chiefs and team members as they worked to get their cars through the inspection line.

Following recent offseason personnel shuffling within the Cup, Xfinity and Truck Series, the Assistant Series Director position in NASCAR’s junior circuit was suddenly vacant. And Brownlow wasted little time endorsing himself for the position.

“I had been lobbying that I wanted to do more and advance within the company,” Brownlow said. “I told them ‘this is the perfect job and this is what I want. I know the series, I know the officials, I know the crews.”

“So they decided to give me a shot.”

Shane Martin, the Program Manager for Chevrolet in the Xfinity Series, applauded NASCAR’s decision to promote Brownlow.

“I’ve known Jason for a long time and he’s deserving,” said Martin, an engineer who also serves as a South Carolina state senator. “Jason has put the hours in, he’s put his work in and he’s built up a reputation in the garage that he knows what he’s doing.

“I think he’s earned that position and everyone in this garage is proud of him.”

While his promotion has come with additional responsibilities, the focus outside the garage has squarely been on his actual duty during each event.

After riding in the passenger seat alongside Cup Series pace car driver Kip Childress at Daytona and Fontana, Brownlow was turned loose to pace the field beginning with the season’s third race at Las Vegas.

There was initially little hoopla about Brownlow’s promotion.

But when PRN Radio’s Mark Garrow referenced Brownlow as the Xfinity Series’ new pace car driver during the broadcast of the Atlanta race in March, word spread like wildfire back home when many of his lifelong friends heard the news while listening to PRN affiliate WDUN radio in Gainesville.

“My phone started blowing up after that race when (Garrow) mentioned my name,” Brownlow said. “My friends were texting ‘oh, wow! I didn’t know you were doing that.’

“It was insane.”

Despite pacing the field for 15 races this season, Brownlow’s face still lights up like a kid on Christmas morning when asked to describe sitting in what is arguably the best seat in the house at the start of a NASCAR race.

“I love doing it,” he said with a wide smile. “It’s cool to sit there, look in the rear view mirror and see 38 cars behind you coming to the green.”

There’s a well-documented history of shenanigans in NASCAR between the pace car driver and veteran drivers while circling the track under caution.

Does Brownlow envision the day when a competitor gives him a gentle tap in the rear bumper?

“Luckily, no one has tried to do that yet,” Brownlow said with a sly grin. “But I’m waiting for the first time someone does and me knowing I have to maintain control of the car.”

Brownlow and series veteran Justin Allgaier have already developed a new tradition this season.

“It seems like we’re at the front in a decent number of these races (under caution),” Allgaier said. “So I told Jason ‘I’m going to start waving at you.’ I wave and he waves back. And it’s almost like we’re always on cue.

“I’ve known Jason for what seems like 100 years. It’s been cool this year because I feel like it’s allowed us to have a different style relationship.

“This sport is all about enjoying it, whether it’s on the racing side or officiating side. We’re around each other all the time. So it’s cool we can cut up a little bit and have a little bit of fun and wave at one another on the race track.”

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, July 9 2022
No Comment