A year ago, all Spencer Massey could do was watch as Larry Dixon dominated the NHRA Top Fuel class.
Now, Massey is in the verge of succeeding Dixon as Full Throttle Drag Racing Series champion.
Massey leads the Top Fuel standings as the Countdown to the Championship heads to Firebird Raceway for this weekend's NHRA Arizona Nationals.
Sure, there are three races left, but Massey is No. 1, 65 points ahead of Don Schumacher Racing teammate Antron Brown. And Massey is loving every minute.
He should, for after winning the 2009 Auto Club Road to the Future Award for NHRA's top rookie, he was left without a ride.
"I always had a little bit of doubts," Massey said. "I didn't want to be what's called a flash in the pan, one guy to come out for a year or so and you never hear from him again. I've been around this sport, working on race cars, smelling nitro since I was a little kid. I'm definitely never going away, whether I'm driving or not.
"But it was a huge deal last year when we lost the sponsorship with Don Prudhomme Racing. I always stayed out trying to hit up every race I could, hang out, talk with team owners like Don Schumacher."
Massey planted seeds in Schumacher's ear every time he could, telling the team owner that "If anything came about, I'd love to drive for you."
And guess what? Something came up, and DSR decided to replace veteran Cory McClenathan with Massey.
"I didn't believe it until I first hit the gas in West Palm Beach testing my first time just because you never know," Massey said. "But it was simply amazing. I've been at the right place at the right time numerous amount of times, being from Paul Smith, to Don Prudhomme to Don Schumacher. It's amazing.
"I always say I'm dreaming, I'm living the dream. I don't want to wake up, so don't pinch me. It's simply amazing to have the opportunities I've had. Numerous amount of cartwheels and jumping jacks, that's for sure."
Massey hasn't disappointed this year, winning four races, making three other final-round appearances and qualifying No. 1 twice.
He didn't exactly figured he'd be a championship contender given his relative lack of experience, but Massey also knew how good Don Schumacher Racing could be. Crew chiefs Todd Okuhara and Phil Shuler have engineered a consistently fast dragster, and Massey has driven well.
"I looked forward once we started the season and said, 'This is where Don Schumacher and Phil and Todd would expect us to be,'" Massey said. "I looked at it, saying, 'Hey, there's a possibility we could be because this car is a championship-caliber team with the crew guys, crew chiefs, the race car itself.'
"It's awesome. That just left it up to me to not mess up, to get up there and do my job and have fun.
That's what we do over here on the DSR team. We get up there, we have fun, but most importantly we're serious, focused, do our job, try to do it the same every time, turn win lights on at the same time."
Massey turned on four win lights during eliminations at the Auto Plus NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway last weekend, beating Al-Anabi Racing's Del Worsham in the finals. That came after taking out teammate Tony Schumacher and then Dixon earlier in the race.
Massey's confidence is soaring, as is his Fram team's.
"Yeah, it does help with big confidence knowing that I have Todd and Phil on my side," Massey said. "My entire crew, all the Fram boys, they know exactly their job. They do it perfect. They're a hundred percent. They double and triple check. They're concerned. You just see it in their eyes. They want to win just as well as Phil, Todd and myself do.
"Confidence helps tremendously from getting up there, staging the car, cutting the light. There again, you can't forget your job, you have to do it every time the same way."