Published: Jul 05, 2012 12:22 PM
Modified: Jul 05, 2012 12:24 PM
ROUGEMONT - firstname.lastname@example.org
Chuck Lawson can’t remember the last time before last month when he had back-to-back wins.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve had consecutive wins,” he said. “It’s tough enough just to win one.”
Running intermittently last year in Rougemont, Lawson’s top finish in seven races was a third place. But after winning two straight last month, Lawson is just one point back in the season standings for the Late Model Select Division.
Tripp Massengill threatened to make the points race in the Orange County Speedway’s premier division at into a runaway in the early season. He won the first three LMS events of the 2012 season. But Lawson’s newfound success has turned the points race back into a contest.
“Tripp was really on his game at the beginning of the year,” Lawson said. “I never started out to win a points championship. We just go out there and try to win races. We need the money.”
Even Lawson wasn’t sure he was capable of making a run in the points race until the fifth event of the season. He had been fine tuning his car throughout May and June, but he never knew how good a ride he had until he got onto the track.
Track time costs money – around $500-$600 for each session Lawson might have run – and he was willing to skip practice time to sink more money into mechanical work on his Chevy Impala. Much the same was true for new tires, which Lawson was willing to break out only on race day.
“We were working on our car all along. But you don’t know what you’ve got until you put on the new tires and get out there on the track to run full out.
Lawson, age 43, has raced “on and off for years” since the mid-90s at Rougemont, running in the Limited Division until recently, but has never been a big contender for the points championship.
“I’ve always liked Orange County. But I’ve never raced a whole season there.”
He’s raced a substantial number of times in South Boston and has finished second in the points race there twice. “I’ve never won a points race, period. I’ve had some good runs in South Boston, but it always seem like we’d have some bad luck get beat out at the end of the season.”
Lawson said that the most important thing a driver can do is, well, drive. And finish.
“A few DNFs and it’s all over in a points race,” Lawson said, noting that Massengill Did Not Finish (DNF) in a race at Rougemont after getting his early points lead, which allowed other drivers to catch up.
There’s also the matter of money. A DNF means less winnings, the sine qua non that makes race cars go.
Lawson does a little better with sponsorships that a lot of short track drivers, with backing from Auto Villa and The Sign Center in Danville, Va., and 86 Motors in his home base of Providence. That makes it easier for him to buy the precious tires and occasional track time needed to get ready.
Lawson ran in the holiday 100-lap Limited event this week in South Boston, Va., using a different motor in his Chevy Impala then the one he uses for Late Model Selects. He admitted he didn’t want to run full out at the southern Virginia track if it meant risking his ride.
“I want to win as much as anybody, but if you wreck or blow an engine you’re pretty much done,” Lawson said. “We’re not going to go to South Boston and risk messing anything up. I can’t risk getting too excited about any one race. We have too much racing left to go.
“It cost too much for me to do anything foolish. I’m a little older and wiser than I used to be.”
Racing returns to Rougemont Saturday with seven races, capped by a 75-lap Late Model Select event. The green flag for the night’s first event drops at 7 p.m.