PORT HARDY — A year ago, Donnie Lawrence owed car owner Robbie Robbins a paint job after crashing Robbins’ stock car at Tri-Port Speedway.
On Sunday, Robbins allowed Lawrence back behind the wheel, and was rewarded when Lawrence parlayed a key pass on the next-to-last lap into victory in the main event of the first race of the Tri-Port Motorsports Club’s 2011 season.
“Donnie painted it, and now he’s racing it,” said Robbins, who has been sidelined from driving duties by a balky back.
And Robbie was smiling.
Ironically, Lawrence earned the victory with a late pass of the car he used to earn a share of at the track championship in 2007. Paul Weeks, the new owner of the red 44, seemed on his way to a wire-to-wire win in the main event before Lawrence slipped low in the first turn on lap 19 and snuck past.
“I don’t like looking at (the car) from that side,” said Lawrence, who spent much of the race in a battle with Justin Reusch and Glen Day as all three drivers chased Weeks. “He just made one mistake, and I took advantage.”
Weeks, who struggled to handle his new car in qualifying and who ran it into a berm in the first heat, made some adjustments to tire pressure and seemed in control in the main event. Starting on the pole, he quickly moved in front of the pack and, even after a competition yellow flag prompted a re-start after 12 laps, maintained his edge until Lawrence finally reeled him in and made the pass at the pair closed in on lapped traffic.
“He was waiting for me to lose my groove, and when I did, he made his move,” Weeks said. “It was an awesome pass.”
Reusch finished third as Day fell off the pace with an overheating issue.
“I wanted to finish without blowing the engine,” said Day, who limped home in fourth. “You pick your battles.”
Earlier, Reusch kicked things off by winning the trophy dash and Day cruised to victory in the second heat race. In between, Lawrence rode to a comfortable win in the first heat, with the highlight provided by Reusch’s pass of Day on the final corner to claim second place.
Terry Olfrey of Port Alice provided the big highlight to the youngsters in the audience with his new Legends car, which he showed off in exhibition laps between races before opening up for the kids to take turns sitting in following the races.
The pint-sized vehicle, a replica of a 1934 Ford, was purchased in Courtenay after running as the A&W car in the Saratoga track series in Campbell River in recent years.
The season debut was supposed to showcase Robbins’ other car, the completely rebuilt No. 3 driven by his son, Cody Robbins. But after Cody posted the second-fastest qualifying time and ran in front for part of the trophy dash, the car experienced a sudden loss of power, and the team shut it down for the day.
“You’re always gonna have glitches on opening race day, especially when you take a car completely apart and put it together with a new engine,” Robbie Robbins said.
Which made Lawrence’s win in the No. 5 Landon Collision car that much more sweet.
“This engine here is straight out of grandpa’s pickup and into the car,” Lawrence said with a laugh.