LOUDON, NH - SEPTEMBER 22: The Visit New Hampshire 100 of the NASCAR Pinty's Series at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, NH. (Photo by Matthew Manor for NASCAR)

Catching Up With: Kevin Lacroix

The offseason is over and eyes are looking towards Kevin Lacroix to make a break for the checkered flags. With proven success on ovals, including Juaksa, Lacroix is one of the favourites heading into the 2020 season. But during the extra months at home how has the 31-year-old kept himself competition-ready especially while working as an essential service during COVID-19.

You finished runner-up in the championship with an 11-point difference. You swept the races at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park and also claimed 10 top-fives and 12 top tens. All and all, that’s a pretty good 2019 season for you. 

Yea, for sure it was a very good season, we were very fast all year long. We qualified on the front row for most of the races. I would say that luck wasn’t on our side at the end of the year. We got one DNF that really hurt ourselves but overall it was a very good season for us. We were very happy and maybe in the future, the luck will be on our side.

Last time we caught up with you back in April, you said you were working through the quarantine at Bumper to Bumper, shipping auto parts to a variety of different vehicle services during the pandemic. What was the rest of the spring like for you and how did things change as the province began to open up again?

We have five stores at Bumper to Bumper and we closed four of them for two weeks during the pandemic at the start. Then we had to open one for essential services like police and city maintenance trucks. Once the government opened back all the businesses and garage shops we opened all the stores. Still, we have some employees that are a little bit scared about it or have a family at home that have health that isn’t the best. So we had to reduce staff. We understand for sure, and my being healthy I had to take over with my brother and all the employees that were healthy had to take over all the big jobs.

It was really busy and all the people at home have been hitting the website a lot and ordering wheels and tires. So that kept us really busy with all the shipping and packing. For a few weeks, we were having a little bit of trouble dealing with all the demand but we got over it and now everything is working just fine.

What was it like for you having prolonged offseason and getting to spend more time at home as well?

Right now I’m missing racing because everything has come back to normal, the peak of our season would be behind us. So I’m having more time and thinking about racing and missing it. I would say in the spring or earlier in the summer, having my weekends just to relax was very good for me, honestly. I don’t want to get the racing taken away from me for the rest of my life for sure but having one short period of time where I can relaxing was good for me.

But now I’m relaxing and just want to get back to racing.

One of the things you did do during the offseason was participate in the inaugural Pinty’s Series iRacing Invitational and you’ve also participated in multiple Canadian Sim Racing Series. How has iRacing and the simulator helped you stay ready to go back to racing? 

Well at first I thought that it would be easy. I thought people on the sim racing we not as experienced as us. But I found out that experience is key in everything and sim racers are really experienced in it. They got me back in my competition mood and to think about how to get better. Sometimes on sim racing, because you’re not in a car with so much noise and vibrations, you have more time to focus on the important things of driving and the mistakes that you do. I found it was getting back to the basics and see the bad habits I have. Getting back in sim racing where you can just focus on the important things, I think it helped me a lot.

Since the majority of your wins have come on road courses, how do you feel going into a season that is strictly ovals? You have one oval win under your belt that came at Jukasa in 2018 and you finished second there last June. 

You know, I didn’t win last year on ovals but we qualified on the front row pretty much every weekend on ovals. We were very fast, we just weren’t able to maintain the speed for 300 laps. So I think for myself, having two races of 125, shorter racing I think will be better for us. You look at the stats and we’re the team that led the most laps last year and most of the laps are on ovals so we were always upfront just not at the end. The end is going to be much closer this year.

Yea, you were upfront for most of race 1 at Saskatoon last year until that crazy storm rolled in. And Saskatoon is the same size as Sunset and Flamboro, they’re both a third of a mile. Have you done any testing at those tracks or do you have any experience at those tracks?

Well, we raced at Sunset in 2016, it was my first top-five in NASCAR on an oval. I feel confident, we went testing there two weeks ago and then also tested the next day at Flamboro. We’ve tested every track that we’re going to this year. Sunset was a little more difficult for us but from what I’ve heard the other drivers that tested there had the same troubles as us. I think it’s just going to be a battle for everybody. Flamboro went very well for us though. We didn’t do any long runs like 200 laps but on 30 lap runs the car was very stable.

What track are you most excited to go racing at or do you think you’ll have the best chance of winning at?

I would say Jukasa, we’re always fast there. We feel very good for Jukasa, we went testing there a few weeks ago also and I think we made the car better. Also, we have a new car this year and we managed to fix some problems, even though we’ve been very fast in the past we managed to get the car even better.

For Sunset and Flamboro, maybe the other teams are hiding their game right now when we talk to each other but it’s hard to tell because you don’t have any experience there. I also feel very good for Flamboro the car was very good but for Sunset, I don’t know we’ll see.