There’s nothing late about John Lodge Jnr’s progression in the Late Models class, with the driver impressively visiting the podium last Saturday night at Sydney’s Valvoline Raceway in just his third race meeting in the class.
Having stepped into the class after his family-run team purchased the Rocket XR1 Late Model from Ryan Fenech, the pilot of the NSW # 128 John Lodge Water Cartage / Concrete Blonde Hair Studio supported car only had a pair of outings under his belt prior to last Saturday night’s event.
While these outings, both of which took place at Valvoline Raceway, were without a doubt competitive, resulting in the 29-year-old racer placing ninth before experiencing a DNF caused by mechanical issues while running fifth in his second race meeting, it was last Saturday night’s efforts that made him stand out.
Time trialling sixth fastest and later starting out of position nine amongst a tough field of 22 other feature-race starters, Lodge Jnr could have been excused for folding under the pressure. However, doing just the opposite, he delivered a hard-charging performance, surviving the significant turbulence to make his way into the runner-up spot just two laps prior to the race being declared early due to time constraints.
“To finish on the podium in just my third race meeting in the class is something that was beyond my expectations and I couldn’t be happier with how everything is progressing,” commented the Kurri Kurri, NSW-based driver.
“Stepping into such a fantastic car has been a massive help and it’s allowed me to get up to speed quite quickly. Transitioning into Late Models has been a big team effort and I can’t thank my team, especially my crew chief Bainy (Gary Bain), enough for their efforts.
“We’re all learning a lot about Late Models and enjoying ourselves along the way. I also have to say a big thank you to my family and sponsors for all of their support and for helping to make this all a possibility.”
Lodge Jnr has tasted success in a few different classes throughout his career, including RSA Street Stockers, where he became an Australian Champion – a feat that was recently repeated by his sister Kiona Sunerton.
Lodge Jnr later stepped into AMCA Nationals, along with contesting selected race meetings in the national SSA Street Stocks class, both of which brought numerous feature-race successes and a Victorian SSA Street Stocks Title crown. He is also a previous winner of the Aussie Driver Search in the V8 Ute category.
With the 2018-19 season having seen him step into Late Models, Lodge Jnr is now in preparation for this Friday and Saturday night’s Australian Title at Valvoline Raceway, and while this prestigious event will be only his fourth race meeting with the class, his encouraging form will be sure to bolster him.
“We’re definitely not putting too much pressure on ourselves heading into the Australian Title, but we’ll be hoping for a strong result,” he enthused.
“The country’s best Late Model drivers will be in attendance, so it’s going to be quite a challenge, but our recent form has given us a bit more confidence, so we’ll be aiming to qualify for the feature race and hopefully challenge for a top-10 result.”
Lodge Jnr would like to thank the following 2018-19 season sponsors: John Lodge Water Cartage, Concrete Blonde Hair Studio, Highway Ford Maitland, Caves Beach Automotive and Dyno, The Denman Hotel – Abermain, Farrelly Automotive, Carline Mufflers – Belmont, Gnome Transport, Gibbos Auto Electrics, Glendale Warehouse, and Walton Mine Services.
Special thanks go to his parents (John Snr and Joanne), his partner Brittany and their daughter Georgia.
To find out more about Lodge Jnr and his team, LIKE them on Facebook by searching John Lodge Water Cartage Racing.
Photo: Crashy’s Photos