Story By: SCOTT RUNNING / STAFFORD MOTOR SPEEDWAY – STAFFORD SPRINGS, CT – In a short amount of time, NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour driver Craig Lutz is finding himself right at home when it comes to racing at Stafford Speedway. The Miller Place, NY native and driver of the #46 Riverhead Building Supply Chevrolet comes into the August 3 Starrett 150 riding a 4-race top-10 streak at Stafford. Lutz recorded his second career top-5 NWMT finish at the NAPA Spring Sizzler back in April and he will be looking to turn his luck around after misfortune has hit the #46 team in 2 of the last 3 NWMT races.
“Stafford is my favorite track and we’re looking forward to trying to rebound there,” said Lutz. “It’s been a really good season so far. We started off with a lot of momentum and then we had a motor issue at Langley and we got caught up in an early incident at Loudon so we’re looking to bounce back at Stafford. I’m starting to get more seat time at Stafford so I’m more comfortable and luckily I’ve been able to have some good cars there. Stafford is a fun track to drive and it’s very line sensitive. You have to hit your marks all the time to be fast. It definitely helps that I’ve had my best finishes at Stafford. We’re hoping to be better than we usually are at Stafford.”
For Lutz and the #46 team, what a difference one year can make. Lutz joined the #46 team in last year’s edition of the Starrett 150 where he scored his first career NWMT pole position and drove to an 8th place finish. In the final 9 races of the 2017 season, Lutz scored 3 top-10 finishes, 2 of which came at Stafford. Enter the 2018 season and Lutz and the #46 team have top-10 finishes in all but 2 of the first 8 races and they enter the Starrett 150 in fourth place in the NWMT points standings.
“It’s been awesome, the #46 team is an awesome group of guys and I’m very grateful for the opportunity I have to drive for Russell and Jeff Goodale,” said Lutz. “We keep building together little by little and we’re looking to continue to click off top-10’s and top-5’s. It’ll be pretty huge to get a good result at Stafford. We’ve struggled for the last couple of races so it’ll definitely be a plus to gain some momentum for the August run of races that we have coming up.”
Despite his pole position run last August at Stafford, qualifying has not been a strong suit for Lutz. Lutz’s average starting position during his 4-race top-10 streak at Stafford has been 11.0 with his pole position the only top-10 start he has enjoyed in the last 4 Stafford races. Lutz will be looking to emulate his pole run from a year ago when the NWMT cars take to the track for their group qualifying session and make another top-10 run an easier prospect to achieve.
“Last time at Stafford we struggled on short run speed so we’ll be working on that and hopefully we can qualify up front and be there for the whole race and be able to capitalize at the end,” said Lutz. “Any time you can qualify up front, it makes your night that much easier. Everyone is so close so you’re always looking for that little bit and if you’re able to start up front and have a good start to the race, it carries throughout the night.”
While qualifying up front is one half of continuing his top-10 streak at Stafford, the second half will be choosing a good pit strategy. With NWMT teams only allowed one tire per pit stop, Lutz and the #46 team will have to figure out the best time to come to pit road for new tires.
“I think we’ll figure out our strategy as the race goes along,” said Lutz. “Myself, I always like to wait as long as possible to take new tires. This race will be a little different strategy-wise from the Sizzler with 150 laps instead of 200 laps. I think tires are going to be a big deal so whoever wins the race will probably have the newest tires at the end. We’ll have to see how things play out with caution flags. I think you’ll see most of the heavy hitters wait until late to take new tires. That’s what we did at the Sizzler and it ended up working out in our favor. I’ll leave it up to my crew chief to make the call when we come to pit road.”
Tickets for the August 3 Starrett 150 are available and on sale now at the Stafford Speedway Box Office. Tickets are priced at $35.00 for adult general admission tickets, $5.00 for children ages 6-14, and children ages 5 and under are admitted free of charge when accompanied by an adult. Reserved seat tickets are $37.00 for all ages. All ticket prices include 10% CT Admission Tax. Stafford Motor Speedway offers plenty of free parking along with overnight parking available for self contained Recreational Vehicles. Stafford’s five NASCAR Whelen All-American Series divisions will join the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour cars in feature action.