MotorSports Extra - Chambers: Age is just a number

posted Jul 10, 2011, 8:36 PM by LRP Admin   [ updated Jul 10, 2011, 8:40 PM ]

Originally Posted in The Denver Post By Mike Chambers - 7/8/2011

DACONO — The running joke about veteran driver Roger Avants in the pits at Colorado National Speedway is that, indeed, the five-time track champion has slowed down.

"About four-tenths," he said with a grin.

That's four-tenths of a second, how much longer it takes Avants to complete a lap in his pro truck compared with his late model.

At age 59 and about four years after saying he was going to slowly enter the retirement stage of his late-models career, Avants is one of the busiest drivers at the NASCAR-sanctioned short track.

He is in his third full season of pulling double duty, competing full-time in CNS's top two divisions. He is first in the pro truck standings and fourth in late models after finishing first and seventh, respectively, in last weekend's midseason championships.

"I'm not slowing down, and it's all good," Avants said.

The longtime Littleton resident owns his late model and runs the pro truck for Alex Ortiz of Denver.

"I'm really lucky," said Ortiz, 38. "I have the best driver at CNS."

Ortiz introduced his team in 2007 with driver Ronnie Hults behind the wheel, and Hults won the division title.

Hults moved on to late models after finishing fourth in 2008, and Ortiz and Avants hooked up for 2009. Avants has season-ending finishes of second and fourth in the pro truck.

"They asked me to drive this truck and I said, 'Yeah, it looks like it would be fun.' We tried it and had a good time with it. We made it fun," Avants said. "Alex and his guys put in a lot of time and effort, and I take care of my late model. We show up the nights I have to drive (the pro truck) and I get to drive. No work and all play."

In hindsight, Avants' pledge to spend less time at the track four years ago was based on his struggling late model. But he introduced a new car in 2010 and won a division-high five features and finished second to Hults in the standings, just six points shy of capturing his first track title since 2002.

"It came down to the last night, and it was really exciting," Avants said.

Avants has three children, with the youngest age 25, and has realized that now is the time to spoil himself.

"In due time I'll slow down a lot," he said. "But my kids are adults now."

He is having a blast driving a vehicle that is unlike his late model.

"The truck is under 500 horsepower, like 480, so it's kind of momentum racing, with no power to get you out of trouble," Avants said. "We really rely on the brake, and it's got a lot of forward weight, so it's kind of top-heavy and you have to drive it in lightly and let it roll (through the corners). ... Sometimes you brake and throttle at the same time to keep the momentum up."

Avants' late model produces 550 to 560 horsepower.

"It has a better gear in it, so it has a better response, even with the motor, and not only does it have more horsepower but it has more torque."

The truck is producing lap times of 16.9 seconds. Avants' late model is around 16.5.

The two machines feature similar paint schemes.

"I painted the truck to give honor to the man," Ortiz said of Avants.