Michael Hinde Has Arrived as a Late Model Contender

The 17-year-old Floridian has won four of his last eight Pro Late Model starts.

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The past six weeks have pretty much served as a coming out party for Michael Hinde but that hasn’t been a surprise to his new mentor or their shared crew chief.

That Stephen Nasse is now a role model to younger drivers is the surprise.

But Nasse has experienced a lot in both motorsports and life over the past decade. That growth and maturation has been obvious and that makes him the best possible mentor for the 17-year-old from Hernando, Florida. Wherever Hinde has raced over the past six months, Nasse and crew chief Chris Cater are right there with him and the results are starting to show.

Hinde emerged on the national scene in a big way in January by winning the Pro Late Model portion of Speedfest at Watermelon Capital. He followed that up with three wins in seven races last month at New Smyrna to claim the Pro Late Model championship in the World Series of Asphalt.

But this story begins years and years earlier.

"My family grew up knowing Chris and his dad, Terry, outside of racing," Hinde told Racing America on Friday. "I introduced myself a while back to Stephen when they were racing with Jett Motorsports and this was around the time they were thinking about starting their own team, and he asked if we wanted to be a part of it.

"We raced with Jett a little bit, and that’s when Stephen started his own thing and it’s just been a great start to the year."

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The World Series championship was especially rewarding because it came after a week of racing every single night under a variety of formats that tested his race craft – 35 laps, 50 laps, 100 laps and inverts.

"It really taught me how to be disciplined," Hinde said. "Anything can happen in those races, and even with having speed, I couldn’t get cocky or put myself in a bad position."

And yet, that happened anyway, as he was involved in a crash with Kaden Honeycutt inside five to go while racing for the win in the penultimate race of the week. Hinde took responsibility for the crash and worked overnight alongside his team to swap their Super Late Model into a Pro so he would have a shot at the championship.

A top-five finish was enough to reclaim the points lead from Conner Jones and the good times rolled.

"It was definitely heartbreaking as soon as the wreck happened," Hinde said. "Chris apologized to me because he thought I was clear. It's all part of racing. But the decision to turn our Super into a Pro was one we had to make.

"I knew we'd have a shot if they could just get us close with the car. We made the right adjustments all day and I finished fourth and that was enough."

Nasse has always taken pride in his own equipment and results, but he's also shown a different side of his personality in taking the mentor role with Hinde. Nasse is often the first one to debrief with his teammate. He's also been the first one at Victory Lane over the past two months.

He's proud of his friend and what that success means for Stephen Nasse Racing.

"It's been huge," Nasse said. "The first few months after getting started were a little bit rough, but I feel like we're getting on our feet a little bit. We're starting to put together some good finishes.

"Michael here is not the most experienced kid out there, but he's really patient and really good about not tearing up his equipment. He's a very good listener. Working with him and his family has been a pleasure and he's making us look good."

Nasse says Hinde has a natural affinity for short track racing, but his work ethic and teachability is what impresses him the most.

"Obviously, some of it is taught and some of it comes natural," Nasse said of the results. "You can't teach everything. He likes driving a free race car. We're trying to teach him a little bit of finesse. That's what I'm preaching about how to make moves the right way.

"I haven't always taken my own advice but have gotten better in that area over the past couple of years and I want him to see that. It's going well so far and he's just a heck of a driver. We're giving him good race cars, but he makes us look good too."

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The cars look good, too.

The No. 69 has a can’t miss wrap with neon flames on a black base with chrome numbers. The driver has worn a mullet hair cut under a trucker cap for the past four years after a bet with his friends. The whole combined aesthetic is a vibe.

"I like to be flashy," Hinde said. "I like to make sure people know who I am. It doesn't matter where you are, you're going to recognize that race car with the flames and the fluorescent colors. The mullet just pulls it all together."

It's true to who Hinde is, but he also wants to give new fans as many reasons to gravitate towards him too.

"I've met people who come to their first race and they talked to me afterwards and said they just liked our car," Hinde said. "I've gotten to know people who became fans of short track racing because they started following our races. If you don't know anyone in a race, you're going to pick the best-looking car, and we want to be the best looking car."

Hinde has won four of his last eight Pro Late Model appearances, but he isn’t entering the Alabama 200 on Saturday with any kind of arrogance. The recent run of success gives him confidence in both his race craft and communication with Cater, but Hinde just wants to stay hungry and committed to his development.

"I feel confident, but not cocky," Hinde said. "I definitely thrive on confidence and I think that's why we've started run up front a lot. When things are going well, and you start to trust what you can do, that's when I drive to my full potential.

"When I'm confident, it's because I feel like I know what I need and I feel like I'm giving my guys the right feedback and they trust me to get after the trophy.

"I do feel like we have a good shot with Stephen teaching me how to get around here better and Chris giving us a good car. So I'm definitely feeling that confidence I mentioned."