New York Sprint Car Racer Lance Yonge Not Ready To Retire

Steven Ovens Featured, Northeast, Other Sprint Cars, Sprints & Midgets, Steven Ovens Blog 1 Comment

December 5, 2013 – By RaceChaser correspondent Steven Ovens –

Earlier this summer, Race Chaser Online introduced you to Empire Super Sprints 360 competitor Lance Yonge and his 17J team.  When we talked heading into Utica Rome Speedway’s Inaugural Cole Cup, Yonge was contemplating putting the driver’s helmet on the shelf.  Now with the offseason rolling along and 2014 plans being put together, Yonge has yet to decide on carrying on or hanging it up.

2013 was a struggle for the former ESS champion.  Although he came up one spot short of a win at Brewerton (finishing 2nd to open wheel star Stewart Friesen), Yonge ended the 2013 season winless.

Lance spoke about the 2013 season, “my performance was down this year because things change.  Crew guys find it hard to come to every single race and my daughter is playing a lot of high school sports.  She plays a bunch of sports and my wife follows her to games during race season.  The love to come to the races when they can, but her games are the things you don’t want to miss.”

Nobody can fault a guy for contemplating wanting to take a step back.  Yonge has been wheeling a sprint car every week of each year since 1992.  Yonge has only missed 5 or 6 tour stops since his first year in ’92.  Not only that, he’s never finished outside the Top-10 in tour points and has finished in the Top-5 20 out of 22 seasons.  He even has experience beyond sprint cars- 30 years behind the wheel in total including street stocks, DIRTcar Modifieds and 410 sprint cars in the past.  The only time he wasn’t driving a 17J was from 1998-2003 when he drove the famous orange and yellow Lane’s Yamaha #5 on the ESS tour and other select shows for ESS Hall of Famer Malcom and Cindy Lane.

After he drove for the Lanes, Yonge returned to the seat of the Johnson Farms 17J and picked up his first two ESS championships in a row in 2004 and 2005.  2012 brought another opportunity for his 3rd title.  A championship that might have ended his racing career.

“I always wanted to end my career the way Fred Rahmer did this year, by winning the championship.”  But when asked if that championship would have made him retire, “I think I definitely would have cut back.  I don’t know if I could have stopped completely.”

That 2012 season left Yonge with a bitter taste in his mouth.  He led the ESS points going into the last full points show of the season at the Fonda Speedway.  Yonge won the feature that night and looked to have the championship won.  But after the ‘drop 2 worst finishes’ rule was applied, Chuck Hebing was declared the winner with Yonge finishing a distant 20+ points back.

2013 has come and gone and the popular Penn Yan, NY driver still can’t figure out what didn’t click this season.  “I couldn’t exactly put my finger on it.  I put a new car together for the last month of the season.  We went to Fonda for the last tour race and drove up from 13th to 3rd.  I finally felt like we really had something.”

That something was a GF1 chassis, which still currently sits in his race shop in the heart of the Finger Lakes of upstate NY.  After a month or two to reflect on the season, the hosts of the Turn 5 Racing Podcast asked Yonge: Are you ready to retire?

Yonge was quick to respond, “I don’t know how much longer I’m going to travel, I haven’t committed to anything.  I’m not ready to retire as a driver.  I’d love to have another opportunity to drive a car for someone.  I can still drive a racecar and even at 50, know I can compete with the teenagers.”

He didn’t rule out keeping his equipment and running local shows, which would include Black Rock Speedway, Canandaigua Motorsports Park and the borne again, Weedsport Speedway.  “We may keep a car and just run the close stuff and not worry about points any more.”

But then there is one more option out there too.  Canandaigua Motorsports Park runs a 305ci Sprint Car division weekly.  Black Rock Speedway is adding that class as a weekly division in 2014.  Brewerton and Fulton Speedways are looking into driver interest for a class of that nature to run at their tracks.  But is that a viable option in the former ESS champion’s eyes?

“I have mixed feelings over the 305 sprint deal.  The whole country is jumping on the 305 bandwagon.  But I don’t know anyone that is rich enough that can afford to put a racecar on the track and not get something back from doing what they love to do.  A 305 sprint car costs just as much money as a 360 does. I’ve never made money, I’ve always broke even running the tour.  But you’re not going to break even on a weekly basis running a 305 car.  I’m not knocking the 305 class or competitors, because for some it is an excellent opportunity to race a sprint car.”

Interesting perspective and honest answers from a guy here in the Northeast who has been synonymous with the Empire Super Sprints and local sprint car racing.  Although he may cut back his 2014 schedule, we have not seen the last of Lance Yonge in a 360 sprint car.  Personally, I’m excited to hear it!  The shoes that Lance will leave to be filled are easily size 15’s with everything he has accomplished on the track in New York and Canada.

Photo Courtesy:  Jeremiah Fish

Comments 1

  1. In my opinion many guys are coming back to sprints due to the 305 division. Racing will never be cheap but taking the head the 360 motors can have cnc work done on and making the 305 guys not able to spend that money is step one. Cutting on shaft mount rockers and high lift roller cams and gear drive and wet sump does it also. We ran ESS for years and while I wont say we will never run 360 again I will say we can build 2 305 motors for cost of one 360 and that says it all.

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