ONE-TWO PUNCH: Stearns Off To Quick Start
Crazy Horse Racing Driver Has Early Oxford Plains Point Lead
Travis Stearns hasn’t competed in a full season of Late Model competition since his rookie season. Then again, he’s never gotten off to a start like this one, either.
Stearns won the 40-lap Late Model feature at Oxford Plains Speedway on Saturday night for his first trip to Victory Lane in nearly three years, just two weeks after posting a runner-up finish in the season opener at Oxford. After two races against a full field of nearly 30 Late Models each week in the early going, Stearns is the division point leader.
“By far, it’s the best start I’ve ever had,” said Stearns, who now has four career Late Model victories at the track. “There’s a lot of factors involved. I’ve put more time into it this year than I did in the last three years, but it’s by far the best car I’ve ever had. It’s pretty neat. I’ve never had that feeling of knowing that I can be competitive every week. Hopefully, I can go and contend for the championship.
“It’s a lot fun right now.”
Stearns started 17th in a 28-car field on Saturday night, but he’d managed to work his way into the Top-10 by the time the caution flew for the first time on Lap 3. Ironically, he had little inclination that the car was going to be as good as it was come feature time – as the crew had to be urged to hurry up and join the starting grid as it aligned behind the backstretch at the flat, .375-mile track.
Stearns said they had completely torn apart the car’s left front in trying to get a handle on it.
“It wasn’t the fastest car out there, but it was unbelievable in traffic,” Stearns said. “I don’t know how to explain it. Usually, if I’m good on the outside I kind of work out there as I transition off the corner. But (Saturday) I could set out there going down the straightaway and not upset the nose at all.
“I’m telling you, if we can figure out the same old problem that we’ve had, this thing’s going to be a weapon. The car’s awesome.”
It’s a car that Stearns and Crazy Horse Racing owner Mitch Green built over the winter.
“It doesn’t even have to do with this start I’ve had – I 100 percent would not be racing if it were not for (Crazy Horse Racing’s) Mitch and Judy Green,” Stearns said. I was doubting myself the last couple of years, thinking it was me, and they gave me this opportunity.
“The way we’re going now, I’m starting to think, ‘Hey, maybe I can do this.’”
The entire ACT Late Model Tour field suffered from tire problems when the Tour visited Oxford Plains last month, and Stearns believes he’d have been in contention for that victory in the Armed Forces Day 150 had he not had tire woes.
So count him among those who aren’t surprised by the start to the season the No. 85 has had in 2012 in the Oxford Championship Series.
“No, actually, I’m not,” he said. “I honestly believe if we didn’t have junk tires we were capable of winning that ACT race. We would have given them a fight. Then in week one (of the Oxford Late Models’ weekly series), I was right there. Another three laps and we’d have won that one, too.”
Finally, for the first time since he won in 2009, Stearns visited Victory Lane last week. And he did it without having had to destroy a race car the week prior.
“The first race I won (in 2008), we wrecked the week before and the car was a bare chassis on Thursday before the race,” Stearns said. “Then when I won in 2009 – this is just another example of how good Crazy Horse is – I broke a trailing arm in the rear end the week before, went to those guys and got a bunch of parts and Mitch called me on Friday. He called and asked if I was done (rebuilding the car), and I told him the rear end still wasn’t even in the car.
“He and Judy came down that night, and it was just him and I putting that thing back together all night. We went out and won the next night. It was unbelievable.”
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