By Jeremy McDonald
ROSEBURG, Ore.– Let me know if this sounds familiar: Richard Lavallee takes the Checkered Flag.
Well, it happened again. But it wasn’t at the steep banks of All American Speedway, the Madera-isc, flat-ish track at the Douglas County Fairgrounds that had the same eerier result that happened so many times at All American:
“It was close after the two practices,” described Lavallee. “But when Tim showed up he took over and that thing was a rocket and was on rails plus broke track record.”
Yep, it’s Rich being Rich. Nice guy outside of race time, but come race time, he means business. That track record was 16:38 by the way. Not bad for someone who didn’t know the track too well!
Leading up to the race Saturday night, there were some nerves for the seasoned vet, as some unfamiliarity came with it going to a new track. But with some help along the way, he felt confident in the situation at hand.
“It was a little bit nervous, a little bit nervous,” Lavallee said. “When you’ve never been to a track before, Nick he’s been great, he’s been telling us what gear to run and what he runs, he really wanted us to come up here.
“Tim (Walters) wasn’t going to be able to make it and Alex (Segovia) just had a baby, so I just started to come up, I was a little bit nervous but once I got here, everyone has been super cool and made the transition a little bit easier but the track size is intimating, it’s a big track.”
As fate would have it, outside a quick trip to Eugene that’s a story all in itself, Tim surprised Lavallee Saturday morning at the meetings as they prepare for battle on the 4/10 paved track.
Lavallee has taken lessons from out of town races, something he calls, ‘putting the spice in the chili’ because your changing up the usual routine racing at your usual track, as him and Walters prep for what’s to come.
“We took a lot from Madera because it’s flat and driving style and it’s a little bit different because Roseville, is Daytona 500 compare to this,” he said. “We’re banked real good at Roseville which helps turn the car, but on these flat ones, Tim is really good at the front end and getting it all set up so that I can come here and hop in and drive.
:With Madrea and Vegas, it’s good because you go out of town and you learn how to be out of town. You get into a routine at your local track where you just go, it’s kind of routine. So it’s nice to throw in a little spice in it so that’s what I call the out of town racing, a little bit of spice in the chili.”
Starting towards the back, similar to some of his wins at AAS, Lavallee’s car found it’s groove after learning the track through qualifying, practice and the heat races leading up to the main event.
He started to pick them off one at a time, and by lap 21, the lead was his and he didn’t relinquish it.
But there was a black car behind him in second that was hovering in second and third all race.
No, Dan Farrington didn’t make the 600-plus mile trip up to the town of roughly 21-22,000 people; but like similar battles with Farrington, Lavallee had to watch the car slowly creep up behind him in the final few laps.
But Sir Richard of Dixon held onto the lead for the win over that car driven by Nick Hansen, winning the 50-lap Street Stock Showdown.
As customary as his fame jelly donuts was giving his time to possible future drivers and sharing his time with the community. He gave autographs, took pictures, allowed kids to climb into his car and gave his Main Event Trophy and Main Event Flag to a kid.
All to make sure that these kids walking away know that the sport is done right through what Lavallee believes is right.
“The Super Soaker program and the Fan Appreciation Program and all that stuff that you get from the stands, I love,” said Lavallee. “Because if I could help this kid out, he goes home tonight and go, ‘Man that Richard Lavallee is a good guy’ and it gets him into racing or he finds a crew that’ll pick him up, he might be our next racer.
“Anyone of these kids is exactly the same. They could be climbing into this car and have the same dedication and passion as me. So I hope when I leave the track, they say, ‘hey, that guy is a nice guy’. That’s the way the sport should go.”
Even the adult fans came up and started to talk to Lavallee about his race car with how fast and strong it was out on the track. Lavallee pointed out something that his dad use to say:
‘It may not race NASCAR, but this is our NASCAR’.
“I use that saying a lot because it’s true,” he said. “We spend a lot of time on this, we’re not drinking, we’re not goofing off or anything like that. We’re serious, when it’s in the race shop, it’s work time. And I want, when I pull up to the track, I want to pull out where they know, ‘hey that’s Rich Lavallee and he’s a good racer’.
“And I want to continue that, race clean but race hard. When I get on this track, I want to take a checker flag. Every track I go to. Whether it’s my weekly series or it’s a out-of-town race, I want to see that checker flag go wave.”
Anyone who knows Rich, racing is in his blood. It’s who he is. It’s hard for him to describe and put into words.
“Some people say, ‘dang he’s passionate about racing,” Lavallee said. “But it goes deeper than that…I always have a tough time answering it because it’s in my heart, it’s in my heart. I’ll race Hot Wheels, I’ll race you down the grocery aisle and beat you in my shopping cart. If it has four wheels, I want to race it.”
As he wraps up the night, he knows he has two jelly donuts waiting for him in this trailer. A custom that slowly turning into a tradition.
“But naw the jelly donut thing kind of took off, so I’ll say this,” Lavallee smiled with a chuckle about one of his favorite baked goods. “This is kind of my new saying this year. People look at the side of the car and go, ‘ah man you got a lot of tire marks’ and I always say this: ‘I’ll give a donut to win a jelly’
For now, as other racers from back in Roseville blow up his phone, perhaps an Oregon-California race could be in the works for the future. Who knows!