Driver of the Week…..In the winners circle
WHEATLAND, Missouri (July 11, 2018) – Will Vaught has settled into a racing sweet spot in 2018.
No longer consumed by full-time racing as he was a decade ago or rarely climbing behind the wheel the past two years, the 31-year-old from Crane, Missouri, seems to have found a perfect middle ground.
“I had a lot of fun when I was racing for a living,” Vaught said. “But now, it’s fun but it’s a different kind of fun I guess you could say.”
Such as last weekend when Vaught swept both ends of a Lucas Oil MLRA Series doubleheader at Lake Ozark Speedway, giving him three for the season. Vaught’s family including wife Ashtin, son Maddox (8), daughter Mallory (7) and six-month old son Myles joined him in victory lane.
“We got to celebrate together,” Vaught said. “That was more fun than anything. The kids were excited, maybe more than I was. They’re getting to the age where they understand things and how racing is and how hard it is to win.
“So it’s still a lot of fun. We’ve just made it into a different kind of fun, an all-around different feeling than it used to be.”
Vaught would enjoy nothing more than another family celebration on Saturday night at the 12th annual CMH Diamond Nationals at Lucas Oil Speedway. The Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series and Lucas Oil MLRA come together for a single-night program awarding $12,000 plus a diamond ring to the feature winner.
“We’re kind of getting settled with this new car,” Vaught said of the Rocket XR1 chassis. “It’s taken us a little longer than I expected to get a good balance with it. They asked me after we won (at Lake Ozark) Friday night, ‘well, I know you want to duplicate this win.’ I didn’t really expect us to win again (Saturday) against some really good cars. Racing has so many circumstances.
“But everything just kind of fell our way and we were blessed to win Saturday as well. Going into Wheatland, we’re confident with the race car. Lake Ozark, it’s not just like Wheatland, but I think it races similar. Hopefully it will fall into place for us again.”
Vaught said he’s raced about 15 times this year, which is about his total amount of outings in 2016 and 2017 combined. He took a step back those years as Maddox and Mallory were growing up and he was getting a business in his hometown up and running.
“Just a lot of things that were a priority at that time,” Vaught said. “This year, I have some good guys at the shop (Johnson’s Service Center) where I can leave a little early on Fridays to go race.”
Maddox and Mallory both are involved in quarter-midget racing and Maddox is playing summer baseball. Watching their endeavors has provided further balance to Vaught’s racing and business ventures.
His most-recent success also can be attributed to a different mindset on the race track. He laughed about a late June three-race MLRA swing in which he compiled two fourth-place finishes and a sixth.
“It was almost pleasing,” Vaught said of the competitive, but non-winning outings. “We’ve never been like that. We’ve always been guys that raced to win. I told Eric (crew chief Eric Barnes) ‘I don’t know what our deal was, but we were pretty pleased with fourth.’ And I was like, ‘I’m done with this. I’m ready to win.’
“I guess you could say that was a little motivating last weekend. We worked hard and the car was good.”
So don’t expect Vaught, even though he plans to follow the MLRA circuit throughout, to worry a lot about the points chase. He enters the Diamond Nationals event 76 behind Chad Simpson of Mount Vernon, Iowa and 14 in back of second-place Tony Jackson Jr.
“We’ll just go race and have fun and try to win,” said Vaught, whose sponsors include Johnson’s Service Center, Wright Asphalt Products, Keyser Manufacturing, Integra Racing Shocks and GW Performance.
Jonathan Davenport of Blairsville, Georgia, leads the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt championship standings. Defending Diamond Nationals winner and reigning series champion Josh Richards of Shinnston, West Virginia, enters this weekend 120 points behind.
Also on tap Saturday is a full Pitts Homes USRA Modified program, paying $1,000 to win. Darron Fuqua of Mayetta, Kansas has won six USRA Modified features at Lucas Oil Speedway this season.
Grandstand gates open at 4 p.m. on Saturday with hot laps at 6:30 and opening ceremonies at 7.
Adults (16 and over) $30
Seniors (62 and over)/Military $27
Youth (6-15) $10
Kids (5 and under) FREE
Family pass $60
Pit pass $40
For ticket information on all events at Lucas Oil Speedway in 2018, contact admission director Nichole McMillan at (417) 282-5984 or by email at nichole@LucasOilSpeedway.com. Fans also can go online to purchase tickets for any event on the 2018 schedule.