For fans new to the sport, the name Charlie Luck may not ring a bell.
Longtime NASCAR fans remember him as a privateer who competed in the early years of what is now the NASCAR Xfinity Series. In the year Luck started 106 games between 1982 and 1986. He never won a race, but finished in five top-fives and 38 top-10 races on two occasions. He finished ninth twice (1984 and 1986).
In the year After 1986, at the age of 26, he dropped out of the competition to throw himself into the family business, Luke Stone. Luke Stone has expanded significantly into a multi-state operation. The company also split into three divisions, Luck Stone, Luck Ecosystems and Luck Real Estate Ventures, all under the umbrella of Luck Companies, where Luck currently serves as president and CEO.
A few years ago, the itch returned and Locke returned to his seat, this time in a Porsche. Over the past few years, Luke has risen through the ranks. Last year Luke stepped up to full GT3 competition for the first time in GT America Powered by AWS. Now 62 years old, Luke is full-time in the Fanatec GT World Challenge USA powered by AWS by Wright Motorsports in a Porsche 911 GT3 R in the Pro-Am class with Jan Heilen.
Frontstretch spoke with Luck last month at Watkins Glen International about his driving career, his draw to return to racing, balancing racing with his responsibilities at Luck Companies, why he’s not interested in returning road racing to the Xfinity Series and more.
Phil Allaway, Frontstretch: We’re six races in now and you and Jan Heilen are second in Pro-Am points. They swept the season opener at Sonoma, but it looks like it’s been a struggle ever since. How would you describe your first Pro-Am season so far?
Charlie Luke: I learned a lot [so far]. Coming into this series, I never made a driver change. It’s surprising. [number] Regarding the list [go into pit stops]; At the entrance of the pit, the right driver will change. We have about 37 seconds left to get out [Heylen] Inside, sealed and all, then it starts right at the 0.0 mark on the timer inside the car.
It’s very, very technical. Fortunately for us, that went well. We haven’t had any pit road violations or problems yet. Also, it’s different because I’m used to carrying all the running on me. Now, I’m starting today, Jan will take over. Jan begins [Sunday]Then I will take over and finish.
I really really like it so far. Jan has been coaching me for the past four years, but driving with a co-driver is a whole different world. We both learned a ton and had fun.
Alleway: Back in motorsport, the first time I saw you race was the IMSA Porsche GT3 Challenge Cup. What drew you to Porsche to return to racing?
Chance: In 2016 I started looking for the right series. I looked at Trans-Am, I looked at the Porsche Cup program, and those were the two that I was serious about.
Then I moved on to car safety. Where can I find the most reliable car? I felt the Porsche was a very safe car in that regard.
Then I went to the group. I wanted to find the best team in car prep, business values match, 100% professional people who do this for a living and are at the top of their class.
John Wright [team owner] In the year It was great to bring it back for the first year in 2017. It’s been five years and I’ve come a long way.
Alleway: After a 30-year hiatus, you returned to competition. During that time, you raised a family and started a business. But what held you back after all that time?
Chance: I believe there is something special about you in all of us. That’s a passion or talent. For me, it’s always been in motorcycle or car racing.
I remember being young and people saying, “Okay, when are you going to get this out of your system?” They used to ask me. I say, “It won’t get out of my system.” It’s in the system.
Congratulations to my brother in law Charlie Luke!!! 2021 SRO3 Drivers Champion and Masters Class Champion! He is an inspiration! He never let his racing dream die. He is an inspiration to me to never stop chasing your dreams. pic.twitter.com/4MN6JuejOm
— Kyle Petty (@kylepetty) October 19, 2021
During the 30 years of raising [my] With a family and running the business, I always hoped I would be able to return to motor racing. I know they won’t be stock cars, so they’ll probably be sports cars.
I think [the desire to race] It will be in me until I die. It’s like asking a gymnast or a professional swimmer or a cyclist that question. It has to stay in the system because it fills your bucket [of energy].
Allaway: You raced your entire season in the NASCAR Xfinity Series from 1983-1986. […] Describe what the series was like back then, because it’s very different today.
Chance: First there was no technology. You had a tachometer and a tire temperature gauge. None of the technology you see on these Porsches today.
The cars were also front engine cars with brakes that weren’t as good as we have now. The low power on them was completely overwhelming. We couldn’t do anything with Bush’s car. From the Bush days of 1983 to 1986, it was night and day when it came to the vehicle.
Allaway: At that time you had your own family operation sponsored by Luck Stone. How big was the team at the time?
Opportunity: We had two to three full-time people. Then we had eight to 10 volunteers. We come to the shop, and we start working at 6 o’clock in the afternoon and go until midnight. Then, on the weekend, that group of volunteers came to change the tire, to fill the car [with fuel] And all those things.
To be honest, we didn’t have the money to have more than three full-time people. I couldn’t afford it. But we were competitive and I’m very proud of what we did for my time and experience in NASCAR. It was a great memory.
Allaway: Last year at Busch was an unusual year for the cars. In addition to the introduction of V6 engines, General Motors continued to introduce A-bodies such as the Chevrolet Celebrity, Pontiac 6000, etc. You had an Oldsmobile Ciera. What went into that movement? Was it an order from General Motors?
Chance: That was a change. All engines were V8 engines, then the idea of bringing V6s is more fuel efficient. This was coming from all the big manufacturers. They wanted to see small engines and they wanted to see them in cars.
They also shortened the wheelbase on the cars. All this happened in 1986, the last year I competed. Also, this year was the only time I raced on a road course before returning.
That year we started racing at Atlanta Road. We had a short wheelbase car and a V6 engine. We had Darrell Waltrip, Dale Earnhardt and many other great drivers at the time [in the field]. We had never been on a road course before so we really ran it. It really reminded me of a motocross race because it was up and down and left and right [turns]. I liked it.
In the year
If the audio is correct, Luke doesn’t seem to be in the Sierra V6 that day. However, he was very competitive, leading three laps by one point and finishing ninth. In the video above, he can be seen wrestling with Dale Jarrett. In the end, Waltrip won by 9.5 seconds from Terry Labonte, with Earnhardt third and Haskell Willingham fourth in the best of the reduced cars. LD Ottinger was fifth. Luke Sierra’s was the second highest A-body result of the day.
ALLEY: After 1986, you were done with NASCAR. Was it a situation where you had to focus on various changes in business, financial matters or personal choices?
Chance: At that point in my life, I looked forward to NASCAR. [Busch] Grand National or Winston Cup level. At 26, I knew I needed five to 10 years to be active at that level of competition.
When I think about our family business, I don’t want to go back to my family business and I don’t want to be skilled and competent in it. If I had stayed in NASCAR, I thought I would have. [that way] If I was back in the business in my mid-30s.
He was one of the drivers. Another is that those people are missing 250 days a year. I grew up with a very close family. Lisa [Luck’s wife] And I wanted to build a close family ourselves, have children and do things with them. If I were a professional race car driver, I knew that wouldn’t happen.
Were fortune companies much smaller in the mid-1980s than they are today?
Chance: Yes. We are probably three or four times the size we were then. I went through a training program. Then in 1995, I was appointed as the president and my father became the chairman.
With our values-based leadership culture, we’ve done a lot of good and grown. We were in one state (Virginia) at that time. Today, we are in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia. It’s an incredibly rewarding experience.
ALLEY: Even with your competition, you still have significant roles with Luke’s Companies. How can you balance the two?
Chance: I am now the president and CEO of the company and I was in this competitive window. We’re talking about seven weekends of racing here, then we test and do a lot of training during the weekend and in the mornings. It’s a 20-hour-a-week job for me, not counting the business side. This should be early or late for me. My support [The Luck Companies] It is second to none in terms of programming and logistics and that was major. [factor] Because I was able to do this.
Allaway: In recent years, NASCAR has added many more road races to their programs. If the opportunity arose to compete in an Xfinity Series street race, would you take that opportunity?
Chance: I say no. I think at my age , you have to make it special. The sport is highly sought after and has achieved high performance. If you watch some NASCAR drivers come and drive in a Rolex 24, they have trouble trying to make the transition.
Generally, most people don’t make that transition very well. It doesn’t make sense to me to go back and try to start from scratch with the current car you are running. I need to continue my skills in this department.
Alleway: For this season, we have your driver coach and brother-in-law Jan Heilen as your teammate. First, how about Jan being your teammate?
Chance: I feel like I got to know Jan better through his coaching relationship. He started dating my son two years ago, so I clearly saw the personal and social side of Jan.
On this track, Jan is very focused and very determined. He has extremely high standards and high expectations, and all of these things have helped me become a better driver. I would say that I tried hard to be a good student and open my mind and apply what he taught me. I couldn’t ask for a better relationship.
On a good day, I’m about two seconds off Jan’s pace. If I don’t do well, I can drop close to three seconds. It’s a small measure that we use. Also, the pro drivers here, like Jan, started racing go-karts at the age of four. He has hundreds of thousands of hours behind the wheel, and he can feel the smallest of things. He is incredibly talented as a professional driver, and I respect that.
Alleway: You raced the same car last year at GT America in an AWS-powered car, so the transition to the Pro-Am class wasn’t as big as it could have been, with long races and driver changes. How was the transition from the Cup car to the GT3 R last year?
Luck: I would say the trophy was like fighting a greased pig. It’s a very difficult car to drive, frankly.
When I try [911 GT3] R for the first time in VIR [Virginia International Raceway], I fell in love immediately. There is a lot of low power on the car, so it is planted in the asphalt very safely.
There is no doubt that I spent four years [the Cup car] It has made me a much better driver in this series. If I had never driven the Cup car, I wouldn’t be able to do what I can do with the GT3 R. I would say that about any driver in the series.
You will also see drivers who have never done it in this series [Porsche GT3 Cup] And some of these basics [of racing] They don’t exist. I would never trade the trophy experience. It’s a wonderful experience, a great learning ground and extremely powerful.
Allaway: There are two more full rounds, plus Indianapolis 8 hours later [Watkins Glen]. what do you do? [think] Does this team have the potential for the rest of the year?
Probability: What I want to think about is the formula: A+B=Results. A-factors are things you can control. B-factors are uncontrollable things like engine blowing or rain. The results are what most people spend all their time thinking about.
The catch is that if you focus on the B-factors or the results, you won’t get the results. You will get results only by focusing on A-factors. It’s how you drive, how you physically prepare, how you eat, how you train and exercise.
My 100% focus is here. Obviously, we’re second in the Pro-Am points right now, and my kill this weekend is round one. [and] One corner at a time. At the end of the season, the points will be up where they should be.
Watkins Glen was a very successful weekend for Luke, Haylen and Wright Motorsports. Although he wasn’t quite as quick in qualifying in 12th place, Luc made great progress during his time at Porsche.
Hylen was able to maintain forward momentum and capitalize on tire issues that hampered the leaders. This put Haylen in the overall lead and he was able to beat Colin Brown to take his and Luke’s first overall win together.
Race #2 the next day was not as successful, as the duo finished fifth in the Pro-Am class. Through eight races, Luke and Heilen are second in Pro-Am points behind Brown and George Kurtz.
Sign up for the Frontstretch newsletter
A daily email update (Monday through Friday) featuring contest news, reviews, features and information from Frontstretch.com We Hate Spam. Your email address will not be sold or shared with anyone else.
Share this article