Family Pipe Dream Turns Into Racing Reality For NASCAR Whelen Modified Racer Craig Lutz
Story By: PHIL LAMBERT / NASCAR – DAYTONA BEACH, FL – Racing has long been a family affair for Craig Lutz.
He spent much of his childhood racing go-karts with his father Eric, beginning at the tender age of 5.
The family continued to build up a race team, putting Craig into an SK Modified at the Waterford Speedbowl in 2012. Lutz cut his teeth racing drivers like Keith Rocco and Ted Christopher. After two years there, Lutz was running the Whelen Modified Tour part-time. And two years after that, with help from Eric and stepmom Renee, Lutz was able to get onto the Tour full-time in 2016, still driving for the family.
In the middle of the 2017 season, however, Lutz made the jump to the No. 46 Riverhead Building Supply Chevrolet, owned by Russell Goodale. Even though it was a big break to make the leap from a family operation to a different team, it was what the Lutz family had been striving for for years.
“My dad is a diehard racer,” Lutz says. “Every weekend, after our first year, we were like ‘man, hopefully one day we can get a ride driving for somebody.’ I got the call from Russell, and it was a dream come true.”
In his first race with the team at Stafford that year, Lutz sat on the pole for the first time in his Tour career and finished eighth.
After another year on the Tour, Lutz finally got his first Tour victory at the 2019 Fall Final at Stafford, holding off Doug Coby.
That first win was extra-special for Lutz. Not only was it his first Tour win, it was the first Tour win for anybody on the No. 46 team.
“The first one is definitely the best one,” Lutz says. “It was the first one for… all the guys on the crew. They put their lives into this, so that was the best part about the first one. Then, after the first one, you’re like ‘when’s the second one coming?’ ”
Lutz wheeled his Modified to two victories in 2020, at Jennerstown and the season-ending World Series 150 at Thompson.
With those two wins, Lutz and the No. 46 team made it very clear to the rest of the Tour garage: 2019 was no fluke.
The Thompson win was especially sweet. Believe it or not, Lutz despised the ?-mile oval the moment he began turning laps there. Winning races, of course, can help change minds.
“There’re so many good guys that have won Thompson, and I feel like it puts an exclamation point on your Modified racing career, to win at a track like Thompson,” Lutz says. “Long straightaways, high-banked corners. It’s a really demanding racetrack. To be able to finally win there is a dream come true. There’s nothing like it.”
Now, coming off back-to-back 4th-place finishes in the standings, Lutz enters the 2021 season as a driver to watch in the battle for the Tour championship.
“We all hope to be running for a championship,” Lutz says. “You just try to go every weekend, can’t have any bad days. You look at Justin [Bonsignore’s] season last year, he didn’t finish outside the top-five once. That’s what it takes to win championships.
“Hopefully, if the cards play out, we’ll have a shot at the end of the year.”
As Lutz turns the page to 2021, with three Tour wins under his belt, he still credits his father Eric for his success.
“I am where I am today because of my dad,” Lutz says. “My dad was always pushing me to be better and do bigger things, and because of him, I’m able to do what I’m doing now. Without him, I would never be where I’m at today.”