For the first time since 2011, a Chris Young in a tour modified visited victory lane at New York’s Riverhead Raceway. This time, however, it was the son who won in the trademark red No. 49 car, earning his first career tour modified win. It did not come easy. It never does for Chris Young. Not for the late father. Not for the son.
Six years before this generation’s Chris Young was born, Jeff Tuthill penned a story in “Auto Rac’r” in April 1987 about the elder Chris Young. It chronicled the valiant effort Young put forth, competing against better heeled teams as an independent.
“Anything with a challenge is always game for me!” the elder Young said in the article.
Meet Chris Young, version 2.0. Like his father, he pours a lot of time, money, and soul into his modified. And, like his father, a challenge doesn’t deter him from striving for success.
During the off-season, Young bought a new Gen 2 LFR chassis. Just the bare, unpainted frame. Nothing else. He then put together the car himself — painted the frame, rebuilt the drivetrain, installed the suspension components, retrofitted the body from his old Troyer car, fabricated the interior sheet metal, assembled the engine, and painted the body.
“It’s out of necessity — if I didn’t do everything I did myself, I couldn’t afford to do it,” said Young, 26, of Riverhead, New York. “There’s an advantage in that. I know the quality of work that’s going into what I’m doing.”
Young exudes talent and experience in a variety of areas. Like his father, he possesses a strong mechanical ability. However, he also has a background in engineering, with a bachelor’s degree from Purdue University in mechanical engineering. Plus, he understands the business end of things, with an MBA from Hofstra University. Racing on your own requires a racer to wear many hats, and Young wears them well.
During the day, Young works as a senior manager of operations for Contract Pharmacal Corp. (CPC), a pharmaceutical company that manufactures products for many household names such as Goody’s. Young said his background benefits his approach to racing.
“On the racetrack, you’re always fighting for that extra tenth,” Young said. “In manufacturing, you’re fighting to get that extra 1% of production. Where you make an adjustment on the car versus where you make an adjustment at the plant, the logic is the same. It’s just applied differently.”
Young takes an analytical approach to racing. Last Saturday, he started on the pole for the 50-lap feature at Riverhead. Young looked over the lineup and played the race through his head based on many years of observing his competitors. During the feature, on restarts he strategically selected starting on top or on the bottom depending on the tendencies of the racers behind him. Young thwarted a number of different challengers, but in the closing laps, he got a mirror full of Tom Rogers Jr. Rogers knows his way around Riverhead, with 58 career wins.
“I remember my father saying to me, ‘If you’re out front, you got to stick that [car] to the bottom, because he ain’t going around you,’” said Young. “There was no clear point [during the feature] I could say, ‘I’m going to get this win tonight.’”
Young held off the hard-charging veteran for the win, thanks in part to the wisdom his father gave him.
“As I was going around for the victory lap … as I was going down the backstretch, I was looking in the stands, which were empty because of Covid-19,” Young said. “You start getting flashbacks of all the Legend Car races I have won. They always have everyone wanting to go to victory lane staged on the [turn four] ramp. I always would make eye contact with my dad, and get a thumbs up. He’d be always more excited about me winning than I was.
“I was driving down the backstretch, getting into [turn] three, and I’m looking up at that ramp, and it was like yesterday. I could see [my father], standing up on that ramp. [My eyes] welled up in the car, because I wish he was there to see it. I wish I could really see him there.”
Young celebrated in victory lane alone, due to restrictions from the Covid-19 pandemic. In spirit, however, he wasn’t.
In turn, Young visited the grave of his father after the races.
“I don’t really go there much,” said Young. “I don’t like going. It hurts to go. Before I started racing [modifieds], I had stopped by. [I said,] ‘I’m going to start racing this car, and I’m not going to be back for a while. I’m not going to come back until I win one.’ It took three years to get back there.”
Chris Young made good on his promise.
“I was going have a beer with him once I finally broke through [to victory lane],” Young said. “Just to say thanks for the work ethic I got out of him and the lessons he taught me.”
The Outside Groove Executive Editor has covered motorsports since 2000. His many awards include the 2019 Eastern Motorsport Press Association (EMPA) Jim Hunter Writer of the Year and the 2013 Russ Catlin Award for Excellence in Motorsports Journalism.