Nobody expected too much of Deming Speedway driver Chance Crum heading into the 2014 season. Not even the 16-year-old Crum thought he had a chance to win a 600 Open title.
After a seventh-place finish in the 2013 standings, including two top-five finishes, Crum expected more of the same from himself.
"Maybe a few top-five finishes," Crum thought of how his season would play out.
Instead, Crum is sitting in second place of the 600 Open standings, and he was in first until a crash in Deming's most recent race.
He has racked up a dozen top-five finishes and three feature wins. Crum has established himself as a realistic contender for the title and a true threat heading into Clay Cup, which begins Thursday, July 17.
"It's really exciting," Crum said in a phone interview. "It's definitely been beyond my expectation this year."
It shouldn't have been any surprise Crum has risen quickly through the ranks. He's been able to impress at every level since he started driving when he was 6 years old.
The Crum family name has long been associated with racing. Crum's grandfather raced at Evergreen Speedway, his father was a driver and even his younger brother is following in the same footsteps. His brother, Hunter, is 17th in the 600 Restricted standings at Deming.
"It's a huge family sport," Crum said. "My brother and I are always working together in the garage during the week. ... My dad is awesome at getting the cars together well."
With his family behind him, Crum was able to win four quarter midget national championships, his first at age 9.
Since he got so much help from his elder drivers when he was young, Crum has become part of the Get Up Foundation, which he started with three other drivers. The drivers take some of their race winnings and donate to children in need.
"It's something that when you get to a higher level, you want to give back to racing," Crum said.
In order to give back, Crum has to win, something he wasn't able to do his first year in the 600 Open Class. It wasn't until 2014, Crum got his first win.
On April 25, Crum outlasted Liam Ryan to the finish line.
"You got to qualify, be good in your heat and piece together a whole night," Crum said. "At end, I was able to lead a bunch of laps, get some nice clean air, stay out of trouble and run my race. When it all comes together, it's awesome."
Moving into the 600 Open Class at Deming, Crum had to get used to the speed of the cars, the closeness of the racing and the thrill of the ride.
"It's a very unique adrenaline rush," Crum said. "When you go out on the track, you don't think. You have to clear your mind and focus."
The pressure gets even higher in big events such as the Clay Cup. Last season, Crum was able to put the pressure aside and snag a top-10 finish at Deming's largest event.
This year, Crum is hoping for a top-five finish and possibly a podium spot. His strong season has made him a Clay Cup favorite. With more eyes on him, the key is to relax, Crum said.
"In big events, that's really what you got to do," Crum said. "just think it's the same thing you did last week. Sometimes the pressure gets to you. You just have to focus on the task at hand. Just do what you do. That leads to success."
Certainly, if he can stay out of wrecks throughout the three nights and put together some points, Crum has a great shot against some of the best drivers in the area.
At only 16, Crum is a rising star and it seems like not much can stop him.
Reach Joshua Hart by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 360-715-2851.
CLAY CUP 2014
When: Thursday-Saturday, July 17-19
Where: Deming Speedway
Cost: Children $5, seniors $12, juniors $12 and adults $14. Prices increase $2 for championship Saturday night.
CLAY CUP CHAMPIONS
2013 Liam Ryan
2012 Liam Ryan
2011 Brock Lemley
2010 Brock Lemley
2009 Brock Lemley
2008 Derek Holmwood
2007 Aaron Fell
2006 Brock Lemley
2005 Eric Fisher
2004 Brock Lemley
2003 Kiel Vaillant
2002 Ron Cox
2001 Danny Bullock
2000 Stan Yockey
1999 Danny Bullock
1998 Greg Bragg
1997 Reg Vaillant
1996 Reg Vaillant
1995 Reg Vaillant
1995 Harold Holz
1994 Jim Carter
1993 Fred Holz
1992 Eric Rossi
1991 Reg Vaillant
1990 Darren Massie
1989 Mark Holz
1988 Reg Vaillant
1987 Darcy Vaillant
1986 Harry Styker
1985 Ray Campbell
2013 Brock Lemley
2012 Heath Duinkerken
2011 Michael Faccinto
2010 Reese Goetz
2009 Colton Heath
2008 Logan Forler
2007 Jared Peterson
2006 Coey Eliason
2005 Ben Hogarth
2004 Kyle Johnson
2003 Stan Yockey
2002 Brian Gaurd
2001 Rob Grice
600 RESTRICTED CLASS
2013 Jesse Schlotfeldt