ARCA’s ‘Pizza Man’ Hoping For A Party In Daytona

Laster

Brayton Laster is hoping to surprise the ARCA Menards Series field Saturday afternoon with a win at historic Daytona Int'l Speedway. (James Gilbert/NASCAR photo)

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – To reference a term from one’s high school days, ARCA Menards Series young gun Brayton Laster is hoping his weekend at Daytona Int’l Speedway ends with a pizza party: literally.

Laster, affectionately known as “The Pizza Man” by his fanbase, will chase his first ARCA victory during Saturday’s Hard Rock Bet 200 at the World Center of Racing, teaming with family-owned TC Motorsports and owner Terry Carroll in collaboration with Mark Noble's MAN Motorsports for the season-opening event.

The 21-year-old from Greenwood, Ind. – a multi-surface racer who won dirt super late model rookie-of-the-year honors at Brownstown (Ind.) Speedway in 2018 – will wheel Carroll’s No. 95 Toyota Camry at the 2.5-mile superspeedway, hoping to improve on his career-best Daytona mark of 13th from 2022.

“Three years ago, I never thought there would be a remote possibility I would even be competing anywhere near this level,” admitted Laster, whose previous Daytona starts came with Mullins Racing and Clubb Racing Inc. “Now we’re getting ready to go down there for our third time in a row. We’ve gained a lot of experience the past couple of years, and now we are ready to put it all together with a new team.”

It’s the third straight time Laster will run the Daytona ARCA event, as well as his first time competing for the Carroll team, which previously raced on the ARCA platform between 2015 and 2022 and has contested select NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series races over the past two seasons.

Teaming with Laster, however, represents a return to the organization’s ARCA roots that the Carroll family hopes will continue with additional ARCA appearances later in the year.

“We are really excited to go to Daytona with Brayton, we think with his experience there, we should be able to have a good run,” said Justin Carroll, the team manager of TC Motorsports who previously raced the full ARCA Menards Series East schedule in 2020, finishing sixth in points that year. “We are looking forward to forming the relationship and advancing our program.”

As much as Laster’s run with the Carroll team is about performing well at Daytona, the biggest stage that the ARCA platform competes on all year long, it’s also about pizza and its ties to Laster’s racing persona.

Laster

Brayton Laster speaks about pizza ahead of the July 2023 ARCA Menards Series race at Iowa Speedway. (Matthew Putney/ARCA Racing photo)

When did the Pizza Man branding originally start for Laster?

“It started out basically in middle school,” Laster recalled. “I’d been racing go-karts since I was really young; I was about seven or eight … and in those days I’d always be sitting around the racetrack eating pizza. Even when I went to school, I would always eat pizza there too. I had a pizza backpack and pizza shoes … the whole pizza outfit. Seriously, if there was anything I could wear that was pizza-themed, you bet that I wore it. And because of that, everyone called me the pizza kid.

“For my 16th birthday in 2018, I got a pizza helmet, and that’s when the whole image just exploded,” Laster added with a chuckle. “When I got that pizza helmet, it was game over.”

As for why it happened at all, Laster tipped that the answer is as simplistic as it is amusing.

“I just like pizza that much,” he said. “Literally, that’s all it started out as.”

What it’s turned into, however, is one of the most unique stories in grassroots stock-car racing, which now extends to the national stage at one of the most famed motorsports facilities in the world.

Similar to his youth, when he’d carry a pizza backpack to school, Laster now appears at the racetracks he competes at with a flat-brimmed pizza hat and a pepperoni-pizza helmet, which he’ll wear during Saturday’s Daytona ARCA event as he has in his previous nine ARCA Menards Series starts.

It’s a theme that the native Hoosier plays up proudly, cheesy as some fans might think it is.

“I never really thought that the whole ‘Pizza Man’ image would take off and be as well perceived as it is nowadays, but I quickly realized, ‘Hey, if this is something I’m passionate about, I can make this something that people know me for,” Laster told Motorsports Hotspot during a wide-ranging, exclusive interview in advance of Daytona Speedweeks presented by AdventHealth.

“Being the pizza guy is actually kind of saucy,” he added, straight-faced for a moment before grinning widely. “Really, it is pretty sweet, in my eyes. I never expected it but we’re trying to make the most of it.”

And yes, making the most of the brand includes sampling pizza in as many locales as possible wherever Laster happens to be racing.

“So, normally, I don’t eat while racing. I try not to eat pizza on a race day, at least before the race,” Laster noted. “After the race, it’s game on. But as far as a favorite track [to get pizza from], most of them get a fast-food brand like Papa John’s or something like that. When I travel, though, typically I’ll try and go and find local pizza joints to visit. From Florida to Indiana, I’ve hit as many pizza places as I can in the past.

“People can call me crazy if they want, but I really do just like going around and eating pizza.”

While Laster admitted that, as of yet, the “Pizza Man” image has yet to lead to any sponsorships for his racing endeavors, it hasn’t been for a lack of effort.

“We have pursued it like you wouldn't believe,” he said. “I feel like it’s probably one of the most common-sense sponsorships that a restaurant or industry could look into, and we’ve talked to dozens of people. It has just yet to happen.

Paging Pizza Hut, Papa John’s, or Little Caesars, perhaps?

“Any of them,” Laster said. “I hope one day it can happen. That would be my dream sponsorship, bar none.”

Circling back to the racing aspect, Laster admitted that though his run at Daytona came together later than he would have liked,

“This was kind of a last-second deal, which ironically most of my ARCA deals have ended up being recently. We weren’t really looking at running Daytona … but we were still looking at what was open right now, because as a driver you want to be best informed in whatever way we can about what options are out there. Actually, in late December, a couple days after Christmas, we started talking with Terry and his team … and realized that us teaming up would work really well.

“[Running Daytona] is something they really were excited to do and they wanted to do, so here we are,” Laster continued. “I feel like I’ve learned a few lessons from being there before, about taking care of the car and being there at the end. As a young driver, you always want to go, go, go … but superspeedway racing is so tight these days that there’s little to no margin for error, and we have to be mindful of that.”

Brayton Laster's No. 95 CarAggio Toyota.

Sponsoring Laster this weekend is CarAggio Autosports, a Midwest-based, family-owned automotive and off-road company which features auto parts stores; supplies performance parts; provides warehouse distribution, machine shop, and rebuilding services; and also boasts one of the world’s largest automotive part inventories.

It’s a big moment for a young driver who once did nothing more than dream of walking into Daytona, let alone racing there.

“To have Caraggio supporting us and giving us an opportunity to really do something special on a stage like this … that’s all you can ask for as a smaller team and someone who’s scratching and clawing to make your mark like we are in the ARCA Menards Series,” Laster said.

As of now, Laster has no plans set in stone beyond Daytona this weekend. He’s just taking things as they come.

“This sport is a big money game,” he admitted. “It doesn’t make it easy for anyone, but all we can do is jump on opportunities like this one when they appear for us.”

And should he pull off a shock victory, as Greg Van Alst did in last year’s Daytona ARCA event, Laster stressed there’s one thing he knows for sure when it comes to his post-race celebrations.

“There will be pizza involved somehow,” he noted. “I can promise you that.”

Qualifying for the Hard Rock Bet 200 ARCA Menards Series opener at Daytona Int’l Speedway is slated for 1:30 p.m. ET Friday, while Saturday’s race is slated for a 1:30 p.m. ET green flag.

Race coverage can be found Feb. 17 on FS1 and the Motor Racing Network.

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About Jacob Seelman

Jacob Seelman is Motorsports Hotspot’s News Editor and Race Face Digital’s Director of Content, as well as a veteran of more than a decade in the racing industry as a professional, though he’s spent his entire life in the garage and pit area.