Luck pulls Sutton through
As a veteran race car driver Lee Sutton is comfortable and skilled behind the wheel. Yet, the glory of leading a racing series has been elusive.
However, the Tahoe Paradise resident seems to have discovered the missing ingredient to success two races into the Nor Cal Best of the West Series – luck.
A rocker arm broke in Sutton’s engine during a preliminary race last Saturday in Carson City, but his crew was able to repair the damage on his 1994 Chevrolet Lumina just as the racers for the main event were being introduced. Time didn’t permit the team to dial in the valves – a distinct disadvantage – yet the 45-year-old Sutton still managed to place third and take over the series lead.
“We’re just lucky everything worked out,” said Sutton, who also discovered a piece of metal sticking out of one of his rear tires afterward. “A lot of the things that could have taken is out haven’t hit us yet.”
Coupled with his fifth-place performance in the season opener in Eureka, Sutton opened a 21-point series lead over 16-year-old Greg Anderson of Roseville. The former NASCAR tour racer is obviously excited about the prospects of winning his first series.
“I’ve been second or third before. For us to be in the lead this early is a heck of an incentive,” he said.
The evening began with Sutton qualifying fourth. He finished third in the trophy dash (a race between the top four qualifiers) and third in his heat race. With the inverted starting order, Sutton actually began the trophy dash on the pole but was bumped to the rear for several presumptuous starts.
“I just can’t seem to get the start right. If you don’t get it right in three starts, they put you and the car beside you to the rear,” he said.
After crew chief Terry Senf and crew members Darin Zimlinghaus, Clay Sharpe and Diane Sutton hustled to prepare the car for the main, Sutton didn’t stray far from his third starting slot.
The 60-lap main ran under the green flag until lap 55 when a three-car accident enabled Sutton to improve from fifth to third.
“I made it through the wreck with some people bumping on me, but I went down to the inside and got out of it,” Sutton said.
As in NASCAR racing, Nor Cal drivers are permitted to pass after an accident until they reach the starting line and then they proceed in order under caution.
The race series continues May 10 in Ukiah. The series returns to Carson City on May 24.
NOR CAL SERIES LEADERS
After two races
1. Lee Sutton, Tahoe Paradise, 155 points
2. Greg Anderson, Roseville, 134
3. Jim Parnell, Orangevale, 127
4. Randy Hedrick, Reno, 95
5. Randy Olson, Eureka, 94
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