After making a pair of NASCAR Camping World Truck Series starts last season, Robby Lyons is set to embark on the full schedule in 2018 behind the wheel of the No. 15 Chevrolet Silverado.
The Premium Motorsports driver recently spoke to POPULAR SPEED about his thoughts entering 2018.
POPULAR SPEED: What are your thoughts entering the season?
ROBBY LYONS: So, there are a lot of thoughts going through my head. First and foremost, the first thing on my mind is getting through Daytona, Atlanta and Las Vegas, being that I’m in the (No.) 15 truck this year, and not the (No.) 49 truck. We don’t have the owner points to fall back on in qualifying. I haven’t seen an entry list – I know it’ll be out here soon, but I think after Daytona, we’ll be alright.
The new spec motor is going to go a long way in getting us more even with the other teams like GMS (Racing), along those lines. I was talking to Brian Keselowski – he was my crew chief at Phoenix and Homestead last year. We were a little concerned with Daytona, just because the new spec motor will have a new gear than the older motors, and they get up to speed quicker – but the final fourth gear takes a little while to get rolling. So since we only have one lap of qualifying at Daytona now, the other motors might have a little more speed. It’s yet to be seen. That’s the only thing that I am nervous about going into Daytona. Then once we get past that, then it’s thinking about the race – which is survival as always.
PS: What does it mean for you to get this opportunity?
LYONS: It’s absolutely huge. The last time I ran a full season in 2014 when we were competing for the Legend Car National Championship. The end of that season, we think we ended up going through two motors in three days, and ended up finishing fourth in National points. One of the things that I strive on is consistency, which has been one of the tougher things in the last bit in not knowing when my next race would be, and then when I did get that chance, just having the pressure to make the most of it to get to another race. I always like having dates on the calendar to look forward to, and there’ll be a lot of that this year.
Jay Robinson – I can’t say enough about him. He’s one of the most stand-up guys that I’ve ever met in racing – not just in racing, but life in general. He’s given me a lot of good advice, and I thank him for giving me a great opportunity this year.
PS: What track are you most excited for?
LYONS: Definitely Daytona. I was born in Clearwater so I think we’re about two and a half hours away. My first race that I went to was the Pepsi 400 in 1998, and I haven’t missed a race at Daytona since. It’s always been a big part of my family. We always go there on Thanksgiving for the Hot Rod Show, and for Supercross – I grew up racing motocross, so initially when I was five years old, my ultimate dream was to race at Daytona and in my mind, it was going to be in Supercross. As time went on and the more injuries that I got and all that stuff, I realized it might not happen the way I thought it would.
But in 2011, my hero Tim Fairy told me after watching a race together that, “You know a lot more about cars than you do bikes. Why don’t you go race bikes?” The ironic thing was we were at Daytona when we were talking about it. So from that moment, I was thinking I might race at Daytona in Supercross, but I’m going to commit to racing there in a car one day – in this case a truck. So definitely looking forward to Daytona most of all, and I would say second track is Bristol. It’s such a fun track, and we raced there last year in a super late model and it just fit my driving style.
PS: What was the biggest thing you learned in your limited starts last year?
LYONS: So, I guess the biggest thing I learned is to not go in and over think the whole process. The fact that Phoenix and Homestead were both one-day shows – me and Brian were talking about it and he says he thinks the one-day shows are good for drivers experiencing it for the first time, because it doesn’t give you the time to think at all. It’s kind of one thing after the other, and you take it as it comes. It’s really no different than anything I’ve been doing since I got into racing for the first time. The goal is the same – go out there and learn as much as you can, and the more seat time you get the more you learn.
(Also) just leaning on the people around you; you’re never going to know everything, and there’s always going to be someone who knows more than you do. It’s good to listen to advice, and one thing Joe Nemechek said to me at Phoenix when we were standing together for driver intros – really, I thought that was pretty cool. He’s from Lakeland, Florida, so he’s someone that I’ve watched race for a long time. He said, “Just run your own race and stay out of trouble, and you’ll have success.” That’s what we did at Phoenix.
PS: How did you get initially interested in racing?
LYONS: It’s always been in my blood. My dad would probably tell you that he’d take the blame for it – well, actually, my grandma. The last time I got an injury in motocross and I was in the hospital, my grandma was talking and said, “You know what? I take responsibility for you having the need for speed.” When she was pregnant with my dad, she was still drag racing a barracuda. My dad started drag racing motorcycles and then went into off-road racing on motorcycles. But I kind of got started with off-road racing on trials and dirt roads, and stuff like that. Being the crazy teenager that I was, I decided to go race motocross instead; I guess I didn’t like staying on the ground that much. It was intense, and it didn’t quite fit; I was a little over aggressive, we’ll say that.
But through learning to race cars, I’ve learned to tone that back quite a bit. I’d say that’s the biggest learning curve when I started racing cars was being a little smoother, and learning to be patient – it especially helped me with some life decisions that are important, too. When I got into car racing, Travis Pastrana and Ricky Carmichael both kind of helped me see it was something that was possible, and a transition that motocross guys could make. I wish they were still around. I would love to see them come back and be able to race with them. I know Travis ran Las Vegas in the trucks last year, so it’d be cool if he came back here in a couple weeks.
PS: What’s been your most memorable career moment to date?
LYONS: I would say it’s probably – besides making my first start in NASCAR at Phoenix – it’d be back when I was racing Legend Cars. It was in 2014 (and) we were at Texas Motor Speedway – kind of a long trip we had planned. We were going to go to Munroe in Louisiana – unfortunately the track shut down now, but there were three races we were running and it was during the Cup weekend, and we were going to drive from Texas to Las Vegas and race three consecutive races at the Bullring. The trip started off really bad. We blew up a motor testing the day before the event started in Munroe, and ended up bending a valve just after the second race. We had lost both of our motors and it looked like the trip was going to be over.
But Rusty – he was head off the Legends for Texas Motor Speedway. He was there in Louisiana as well, and offered myself and my team – my crew chief Brandon and his wife Shannon – and got us a motor to run those five races. We actually won four out of the five, and won the championship. My dad blew out there and surprised me, and that was my first big championship in racing. To have my dad there – I just remember standing there and it was right before Cup qualifying, and I feel like that was the moment that I knew I made the transition and I could make it happen and go even further.
I went to the bullring, and won all three races there. I got to race with Noah Gragson, who is a good friend of mine now; we both started at the back of one of the races and I followed him all the way up to the front, and we raced side-by-side and traded the lead a few times. That whole trip was probably the most memorable that I’ve had so far in racing, but I’m looking forward to this season and creating some new memories.
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