In the Pits with Josh Mullins
From sneaking around racing go-karts, to top performer in the Masters division, Tennessee native Josh Mullins tells us about his racing journey. Barely missing the national championship last year, Mullins is back on his “redemption tour” which makes a stop this week at the Nashville Spring Series, all while helping young racers on their trek to the top. He tells us about his special moments with his family, as well as his heartbreaking disqualification this week on In the Pits.
Hometown: Franklin, Tennessee
Car Number: 21
Team: Mullins Motorsports
Favorite Vacation Spot: Homer, Alaska
Favorite Color: Red
Favorite Movie: The Count of Monte Cristo
Favorite TV Show: Meat Eater
Favorite Food: Steak and Potatoes, Salmon or Halibut
1. What sparked your interest in racing? What made you want to start driving?
My dad owned a maintenance shop, that's how he provided income and food for us. He worked on cars, so I was always out at the shop with him. It always peaked my interest to see how things worked, how you could make them better. I’ve always had that curiosity towards anything with a motor. He got into go-kart racing when I was six years old. I wanted to do it really bad, so he let me try when I was seven. I got to do a little of it, but then he decided to pull me out of it.
I had a buddy that [raced], so I would sneak off on the weekends with him and we would go to the racetrack. His dad would let me race. I would tell him my dad gave me permission, but my dad had no idea. My dad came to pick me up one day, I had won the race the night before. Mr. Parker said, ‘Josh brought home the bacon last night.’ He (Josh’s dad) goes, ‘What are you talking about?’ I kind of got into a little bit of trouble. I think I was 14 at the time. That's when Mr. Parker said he was racing. One thing led to another, and my dad said if you’re going to do this, then we are going to do it together. Then we started doing it together.
[Legends] was kind of naturally the next move from go-karts. We were spending an enormous amount of money with go-kart racing with very little exposure. My dream was to make it to NASCAR, and I thought what better way than to start running Legend Cars. I’ve been working on a late model team and a truck team back in the corner of Scott Borchetta’s shop. He had a Legend Car in the corner, and after we were done working I would sit in it and dream about racing it. He made a deal with me that I would work on his trucks to help pay for the Legend Car. Scott Borchetta and James Buttrey were two instrumental figures in me getting started in Legend cars.
2. What is your racing story? What forms of racing have you competed in?
I raced [Legend Cars] from 2004-2007. Scott Borchetta asked me to start driving his trucks. So, I left the Legends scene and went to trucks for a couple years, then I did the Pro Late Model stuff. Thought well I’m getting older, and want to focus on a family, a wife and kids. I completely hung up all racing. My kids started showing interest in racing, so I took them to an arrive and drive for quarter midgets. Naturally, I went all in and gave them the best I could give them. I had never talked about racing to them before then. I tried to give them instruction, they said you have no idea what it's like to be on a track, you have no idea how to race. So, I told my wife I need to get a Legend Car because it's the easiest, cheapest way to go racing. So last year I put in my first full season to show the boys that dad does know what he's talking about.
3. What is your favorite racing memory?
It’s kind of a love hate deal. My favorite was at Las Vegas (The Bullring), back in November. It was a track I’d never seen or been at. I was chasing Robbie Woodall for the national championship. Went out there, first practice top of the board, second practice top of the board. We had a ton of speed, I couldn’t believe it. We qualified second for the feature. Led several times, but my restarts weren't as good as everyone else's and I lose the lead but gain it back. We are coming to the last restart, Tim Brockhouse got into me. It was a shot for him to win the race. I sat back in third and rode the last three laps.
I thought if I leave myself enough room and don’t get caught up in their mess I am going to win the race. Brockhouse and Woodall got together, it was perfect timing, perfect place. Went on to win the race. Found out in tech that my driveshaft was too light and I got disqualified. It was really quite a magical week, super good memories. I hate that it happened to me, but the racing event was a ton of fun.
4. What is the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome in the racing world?
Probably the Vegas disqualification. It was the highest of highs, and the lowest of lows and it all happened within 30 minutes. The biggest challenge was sitting in the tech area, my youngest boy was ecstatic that we won. He was there and wanted to be a part of it. When they came over and delivered the news that we had been disqualified, I never felt so much pain to see the hurt in his eyes. He said, ‘You mean we don’t get to go home with the trophy?’ I said, ‘No buddy not this time.’
That was probably the most challenging part. It’s a part of it. I had to put on the big boy pants and show my son that even though we were on top of the board, we are at the bottom now. We still have to handle our defeat the same way we handle our win. Just have to stand tall and accept it.
5. What are your 2023 racing goals? What do you hope to achieve?
I would love to run for the championship again and see if I could do it. I’ve got a couple of kids that have come on board. It’s a bit more of a challenge to make sure their stuff is running at peak performance, and to keep mine going. Hopefully I can get a lot of races in, I want to win a national championship, we will race at the Asphalt Nationals again. What a better way to continue my redemption tour then to go back to Vegas and do it all over again.
6. How is having your family at the track made a difference?
My wife is kind of my driving force behind it. I told her last year, I’m just going to hang my helmet up and work with kids. She said, ‘no, you have to see it through and see what you can do with it.’ She's kind of my biggest motivator and cheerleader, and so are my boys. It's really fun, it's a family thing. They seem to enjoy going and making friends with all the kids. It's always special when they’re around.
7. Outside of racing, what other hobbies or activities are you involved in?
I’m a jack of all trades, master of none. I love all kinds of things. My boys do dirt bikes, so we do trail riding and stuff. We’ve got airplanes that we fly also. There's a restaurant about an hour away, you land right next to the river. We land there and go out and eat, they think it's the coolest thing.
8. Do you have any advice to younger kids who are looking into getting started in racing?
The best advice I got and heard was, don’t do something that is unsatisfying. If you love something, give it focus and attention. Follow your passion, that's the biggest thing. Even if you think it's not there, if it’s in your heart, don’t quit. Do it like your life depends on it one day.
9. If you could describe your racing style in one word, what would you say?
Sometimes I think it's flashy, but it's consistent. I try to be reserved, you can’t win the race on the first lap. I’d rather win based on performance than aggression.
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