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NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour

Craig Lutz aims to finish strong with a win

The 25-year-old is fourth in points but without a NASCAR Modified victory in 2019

Adam Glanzman | NASCAR

He just wants to win.

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour season has definitely been a success for Miller Place, New York, native Craig Lutz, as he sits fourth in the championship standings with two races remaining.

But for him, the mark he’s looking for is his first career win. In 66 career starts, he’s winless so far, but feels like the annual NAPA Fall Final at Stafford Motor Speedway this weekend could be the place he gets the job done.

“Obviously, the No. 2 and the No. 51 are the guys to beat everywhere,” Lutz said. “It’s hard to take the spotlight from them, but I think it’s been an awesome year for us. The whole team has grown together, putting together top-five finishes. It’s time to get a win.”

In his last eight Stafford starts, Lutz has finished inside top 10, a number that includes back-to-back second-place efforts. In last year’s NAPA Fall Final 150, Lutz’s pit strategy put him in position, but he couldn’t quite hang on in the final laps. In this year’s NAPA Spring Sizzler, Lutz led five laps late, but got passed by Coby for the win.

In August, he finished fifth after running inside the top seven for the duration of the race.

“I think we need to qualify better, our average starting spot is a lot further back than some of the top five guys,” Lutz said. “It seems to come down to pit strategy. Last year in the Fall Final, the last 20 or 30 laps, I feel like I was the car to beat. It’s a gamble.”

The gamble on pit strategy is because teams are only allowed to take one tire per stop during caution flag periods at Stafford, which dices things up. He’s finished inside the top 10 in the last nine races this season and scored eight top five finishes in the first 14. His top-five count has more than doubled from his best season previously.

“My crew chief Doug prepares an awesome car, the setups are always very close when we get to the track,” Lutz said. “Stafford is my favorite track and that definitely helps. We’ve been running consistent all year.

“Our season compared to last year, the competition level just stepped up. If this was last year, I’d be second in points right now. Running on the tour is probably the toughest competition you will ever race against. We want to win races, and with two races to go, and two tracks where I feel like we have a good shot at it, we are going to take some chances. We have nothing to lose.”

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