Jim Laird knows all about luck on the racetrack because last year he had none.
Broken parts and varying factors led to a disappointing finish in the Blunderbust championship standings, but that didn’t hold him back. The 30-year-old driver got back to work, and it’s starting to pay off — he won his first race of the year last Saturday at Riverhead Raceway and he’s second in the overall standings.
“That was the main thing we were lacking — luck,” Laird said. “Did I think we were going to be this good? No. I’m really happy with the way things are going, with the way my team is and it’s a great feeling.”
After the mechanical issues his team suffered last season, Laird moved his shop to his home garage. It gave everyone, including his crew chief Kory Comiskey and crew member Frankie Scimeca, more time to focus on the car while balancing work and family life. If Laird is running late, the crew can still get started.
“We upgraded some parts this year. We went through the car a lot more thoroughly,” Laird said. “If it wasn’t for the help I’ve had with my crew I wouldn’t be able to do it.”
But as last year showed, even the best laid plans can come up short in competition.
“It’s actually quite difficult because the car has so much adjustability,” Laird said. “It’s a lot of different factors in how this car handles.”
Laird lives in Riverhead and works as a contractor. Between his 40-plus hour work weeks and raising a family, he’s found his niche at the track. He got his start racing eight-cylinders in 2011 and has been racing in Blunderbust since 2015. He had one win in the event before Saturday. Now, it’s all coming together.
“This is the closest I’ve been to being able to compete for a championship,” said Laird, who grew up in Islip Terrace. “I think we have the car to beat every week.”
He’s been running in the front of the field each week and sits 21 points behind Tom Pickerell’s 345 thanks to Laird’s latest victory. Derek Wegmann is third with 300 points. The competition is at the season’s midway point, and Laird will hit the track again this weekend with one thing on his mind.
“I’m focused now more than ever on getting that championship,” Laird said.