When Rich Lavallee decided he wanted to get back into stock car racing in 2010, he said so on Facebook. What social media did by coincidence was help him find a family heirloom race car. Now he’s driving it to Victory Lane for the first time in 10 years.
Lavallee wrote posts on Facebook asking friends in his area if they knew of any street stocks for sale. He sold his own car when he moved up a division five years earlier. He stopped racing at the end of the 2005 season and wanted back in. He won consecutive street stock championships spanning 2003-04 at All American Speedway in Roseville, California.
“A friend said he knew where my old car was and it was for sale,” Lavallee said. “I went to look at it the next day. When I saw it I knew I had to have it.”
The connection between Lavallee and the car is strong. It is the 1978 Camaro that he and his late father Roger rebuilt and raced when they moved up from Bombers in 1999.
All American Speedway is a third-mile paved oval at Placer County Fairgrounds. Street stocks are the track’s NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Championship Division II. Lavallee leads the track point race and is ranked 17th in NASCAR Division II national standings. He has four wins and top-five finishes in all seven starts. The track was off last weekend and returns to action Saturday.
With his father as crewman, Lavallee originally raced the Camaro on a part time basis in 2000, figuring out how to improve its performance before going full time in 2001. Lavallee and his dad were working hard for success and having fun. During the 2002 season Rogerwas diagnosed with lung cancer but he urged his son and the team to carry on.
With equal parts of preparation and inspiration, Lavallee got off to a strong start in 2003.
“We won the first race and never lost first in points,” Lavallee said.
Roger Lavallee passed away in June of that year, and as hard as it was, his son didn’t miss a race.
“Dad was my best friend and he made me promise no matter what to keep racing,” Lavallee said.
He went on to win his first NASCAR track championship. Roger Lavallee was posthumously awarded the track’s sportsman of the year award.
“Dad’s sportsman award means more to me than the 2003 championship trophy,” Lavallee said.
“We came back in 2004, won the first race and lever lost the point lead. Dad always wanted to race modifieds so I sold the street stock at the end of 2004 to pursue our dream. We won the rookie of the year award at Stockton (California) 99 Speedway in 2005, but it never felt right. Without dad there it was hard to stay focused. I sold the car and stopped racing.”
His desire to race returned five years later and he found the old car. He didn’t race it in 2011 as it had to be updated with a new body, transmission and engine and adapted to new rules. He raced a few times in 2012 to learn what the car needed to be competitive. Last year he raced on a part-time basis and finished eighth in track points.
“We struggled at first with handling,” Lavallee said. “It wasn’t bad, but we were racing for a top-five finish. This year we go to the track knowing we can contend for the win. Once we got that feeling we knew we’d have to race full time.”
Lavallee credits his nephew and crewman Alex Segovia and crew chief Tim Walters for a big part of the success.
The driver said that Price Racing helped update and correct deficiencies in the car’s original frame between the 2013 and 2014 seasons.
“The frame had some flex in it and Eric, Eric Jr. and Chris at Price Racing helped triangulate the frame and re-skin the body. Now everything just clicks. We just hit on it and it’s making for an awesome season. This year feels so much like our championship years.”
Mike Parrish of Parrish Automotive is the engine builder. Sponsors include Lavallee’s business, Buckhorn Bar & Grill in Dixon, Gone Fishing Marine and Segovia Decals.
The NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Division II-V Championship program determines support division national championships. In each division, dirt and asphalt tracks are combined in point standings. The four national champions will receive a trophy and a trip to the series’ national awards event. In addition, the top-three dirt and top-three asphalt drivers will be invited to the series awards event.
The top five NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Championship Division II-V leaders this week include Division II Keith Rocco, Waterford (Conn.) Speedbowl, Thompson (Conn.) Speedway Motorsports Park; Spencer Davis, New Smyrna (Fla.) Speedway; Buddy Head, Kalamazoo (Mich.) Speedway; Jesse Dennis, Adams County Speedway, Corning, Iowa; Randy Stout, Grandview Speedway, Bechtelsville, Pa. Division III Jerod Weston, I-80 Speedway, Greenwood, Neb., Adams County; John Ketron, Kingsport (Tenn.) Speedway, Lonesome Pine Raceway, Coeburn, Va.; Josh Sink, Adams County, I-80; Blain Petersen, I-80, Adams County; Jared Umbenhauer, Grandview. Division IV Brad Derry, Adams County, I-80; Jeremy Menninger, Columbus (Ohio) Motor Speedway; Dave Trudeau, Thompson, Waterford; Jimmy McElfresh, Columbus; Corey Kyer, Columbus. Division V Brian King, Anderson (S.C.) Motor Speedway, Greenville (S.C.) Pickens Speedway; Chris Harvell, Greenville, Anderson; Donavan Beacham, Anderson, Greenville; C.J. Huitt Jr., Greenville, Anderson; Don Tavernia, Anderson, Greenville.
The NASCAR point structure in Divisions I-V has been adjusted slightly for 2014. Drivers receive two points for every car they finish ahead of in an event, up to 18 cars. Three bonus points will be awarded to a race winner with a single-digit starting position and five bonus points will be awarded to a race winner with a double-digit starting position. At season’s end, drivers in Divisions II-V will be ranked by their best 14 NASCAR point race results. The season concludes September 21.
Drivers must be NASCAR-licensed and cars will be verified for display of required series sponsor decals to be eligible for NASCAR points and awards.
NASCAR IMC – Photo Doug Day