By Greg Calnan / OntarioOval.com – For Varney, Ontario’s Lance Hotchkiss the thought of capturing the 2013 Late Model Championship at Varney Speedway Motorplex never crossed his mind. After all, what driver entering their first full year of competition in a division thinks they will be able to walk into a class and knock off the returning veterans? This 23 year old certainly didn’t however by the final night of the season the unthinkable had come true. It wasn’t easy, and he won by just a single point, but consistency and a short learning curve gave this youngster all he needed to take the crown.
Unlike many in the sport Lance does not come from a long line of racers, but he does come from a family that has been deeply involved in the sport for a number of years. His grandmother owns the property to the north and the east of the speedway and his late grandfather John Eden worked at the track for many years and owned Eden Automotive. His uncle, Gerald Eden was the President of the Ontario Modified Association and did PR work for the track in the past. Winning is also in his family bloodlines. His cousin Chad Eden had much success at Varney over the years in the Thunder Car ranks before shifting gears to Sauble Speedway.
Growing up around the track Lance knew he wanted to drive. At the age of 14 he was given the opportunity to drive a 4 cylinder car for Don Tremble. Don’s son Jason also 14 was starting in this class as well . Lance won 8 features during his time in the division along with multiple heat race wins. The experience both on the track and in the shop working with the Tremble Family proved invaluable and helped make the transition to Late Models that much easier.
Did he feel he would be a contender entering the 2013 season? “Not at all” says Hotchkiss. “I was more concerned about keeping the car in one piece and gaining experience”. That attitude was the right approach as his steadiness and patience started putting him into contention early in the season.
“By the third night of racing we were competing for the win, I was surprised. As the weeks wore on I realized we were a contender”. In fact he was the point leader heading into the final night of the season, and what a night it was.
Lance led the standings by 1 point over Dan Wright. Although he had not yet scored a feature win he knew that element wouldn’t come into play as Varney Speedway Motorplex only counts heat race points in the season finale. That meant all he had to do was keep pace with Wright. But that was easier said than done. Wright went out and won his qualifier and locked the pair in a tie atop the standings. That put all the pressure on Lance in heat two. He needed to win the heat to take the title, or finish second to at least remain tied. When all was said and done, Lance won the heat and clinched the championship by just 1 point. To add an exclamation mark to night he passed Wright late in the main event to capture his first ever feature win.
The championship season certainly caught this humble driver by surprise, but he never lost sight of those that helped get him to the top. “I want to thank Don Tremble of Candue Homes for his support and Crew Chief Todd Edwards for all his hard work, as well as his son TJ Edwards for spotting and helping . I also appreciate all the setup advice and tips that Jason Parker has given me over the years. Without all of these people I couldn’t be where I am today. We also have folks like 4 Wheels Performance, Merv Benders Carpentry, Durham Well Drilling, MacGregor Imports, H.Bye Const. and Statefarm to thank. Their support helps make it possible for us to compete at such a high level”.
Although no one expected the name Lance Hotchkiss to be on the championship trophy at Varney this season it definitely won’t be forgotten in the years to come. He proved that anyone with the right amount of talent, patience and passion can compete with the best and most importantly… make the unthinkable happen!