Story By: SCOTT RUNNING / STAFFORD MOTOR SPEEDWAY – STAFFORD SPRINGS, CT – Following an impressive runner-up finish in the NAPA Spring Sizzler® earlier this season, Long Island driver Craig Lutz is looking forward to returning to Stafford for the August 2nd NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Stafford 150.
Lutz, driver of the #46 Riverhead Building Supply Chevrolet, heads into the Stafford 150 with a streak of 7 consecutive top-10 finishes at Stafford, dating back to the 2017 NAPA Spring Sizzler® when he was still driving his family owned #56 car. Lutz has been close to picking up his first career NWMT win with 3 podium finishes this season and he is looking at Stafford as the best opportunity that he has to capture that first win.
“Stafford is my favorite track so I feel like that’s going to be my best shot,” said Lutz. “Everything has been going really good this season and we’ve been building some momentum with some top-5 finishes. We finished 10th in the last race at Loudon and hopefully we can get our first win next Friday night.”
In 2 plus seasons together with the #46 team, Lutz has become somewhat of a Stafford specialist. Lutz has yet to finish outside the top-10 at Stafford while driving the #46 car and he scored his only career pole position in his first start with the #46 team at Stafford in August of 2017. Lutz has finished second in each of the last 2 Stafford events and has notched 3 of his 7 career top-5 and 8 of his 22 career top-10 finishes at the Connecticut half-mile facility.
“Stafford is a very racy tack and is very line sensitive, so you have to be on your game as a driver for the whole race and you have to have a good car underneath you,” said Lutz. “My crew chief Doug Ogiejko and all the guys on the 46 team have been unloading fast race cars at the track and that definitely helps make my job much easier.”
Despite the success that Lutz has enjoyed at Stafford, he still looks back at the NAPA Spring Sizzler® this past May as the race that got away.
“I feel like I let the Sizzler slip through my fingers and I’ve lost some sleep the last couple months looking back at that race,” said Lutz. “I got beat on experience there but if I can be in that position again hopefully we can come out with a win instead of a second place finish. It’s very hard to win a race. The competition on the Tour is some of the best in the country and to win any Tour race would be a huge accomplishment. We’re knocking on the door and hopefully one of these races will work out for us.”
Lutz will also be looking for another good finish at Stafford to help maintain his fourth place position in the 2019 NWMT points standings. Lutz enters the Stafford 150 75 points behind Doug Coby and he knows he is a longshot for the championship, but the #46 team will be giving it everything they have.
“The championship is the goal that we go into every season with but it’s going to be hard for us,” said Lutz. “We kind of got behind the 8 ball right at the start of the year, the first 2 races were rough for us. All we can do is try to do the best we can each week and see where the points fall after that.”
One area that Lutz will be looking to shore up for the Stafford 150 will be his qualifying performance. Since winning the pole for the 2017 August race at Stafford, Lutz has only qualified once in the top-10 in the 5 Stafford races held since then but with two consecutive 2nd place finishes, Lutz knows what it will take to finally land the #46 car in NAPA Victory Lane.
“Without a doubt, starting up front always makes your day easier,” said Lutz. “Qualifying is something that we’ve been working on as a team. I think the last 2 Stafford races we started 11th and we’ve finished 2nd so hopefully we can qualify a little better and maybe we can win one of these races. It’s going to take a smooth day overall to win the race. You have to have good pit stops and with only one tire to change per stop, you have to make sure you have a quick stop. Doug Coby is obviously going to be the guy to beat with Stafford being his home track and he’s had a lot of success at Stafford, Justin [Bonsignore] is always fast and Ronnie [Silk] has been fast lately so hopefully we can change that around and have us be the fast car.”
The 29th Annual Stafford 150 takes the green flag on Friday, August 2nd. Tickets for the Stafford 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 $38.00 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.