SELINSGROVE — When a mechanical issue during his heat race knocked Shaun Lawton out of Saturday’s racing program at Selinsgrove Speedway as well as out of the pro stock division points lead, it was just another setback of many that the 38-year-old racer has had to deal with.
Lawton, of Bloomsburg, who continues a decades-old legacy of family racing at the local track, was seriously injured in a go-kart accident at age 9. Despite a collapsed lung and other serious injuries, the appropriately nicknamed “Bruiser” was back on the track in several weeks.
Lawton, grandson of the late legendary race driver Johnny Crawford and son of champion limited late model driver, Randy, raced go-karts at age 7 and 8, then spent nine years in motocross.
“With a lot of success and with a lot of broken bones,” he said before the start of warmups Saturday night at Selinsgrove.
He aspires to the same kind of success in stock cars and is off to a good start. He finished fifth in his first time out in 2016, ran fulltime in 2017, won three feature races and won “Rookie of the Year” honors. He has two wins so far in his sophomore campaign.
Randy, his dad and crew chief, said, “As a family, we never stopped racing. Our dream was always to go racing once again at Selinsgrove. With so much racing history for our family at Selinsgrove, this is the place we needed to come home to.”
Before his misfortune Saturday, Lawton was tied with veteran and former champion Kyle Bachman, of Selinsgrove, for first place in the point standings. He is now third behind Bachman and Brandon Moser, of Middleburg.
A flex plate blew apart on his No. 92 in the heat race, sending him to the pits for the night and to the part store this week to get back on the track.
Although Lawton said Saturday that he is not going to go “points racing,” he absolutely wants to get back and race for wins and make a run at the championship.
“I would still love to win the championship, continuing the family tradition of winning championships at Selinsgrove,” he said this week, adding that he plans to be there every week and try to win races.
Lawton has been going to the local track with his family – father, Randy; mother, Kay; and sister Heather – since the siblings were toddlers. Randy worked with the Campbell brothers race team of Danville and eventually raced their famous No. 2 Flying Deuce. He won several races and two track championships after they bought Martz chassis and installed their drive line.
When Randy stepped away from driving the car, Steve Campbell took over and become one of the most winning drivers in track history.
Meanwhile, Bruiser was racing go-karts, first at age 7 when they lied about his age, at the former Sunbury go-kart track and Greenwood Valley in Millville.
“Unfortunately, I never got a chance to see my grandfather race in person in his heyday,” Shaun said, but added, “I did get a chance to see him race at Evergreen Speedway in a street stock in a pit crew race and he did exceptionally well there.
“I was honored to get to see that happen. Our family passion’s always been dirt track racing and I’ve heard countless stories as a kid when Pap was alive, listening to his stories. I cherish those memories every day,” he said.
He raced quads and go-karts, with his uncle, Johnny Crawford Jr. (himself a successful driver at Selinsgrove), for about nine years, but then walked away from the sport.
“I lost interest, unfortunately, in racing for a while,” he said.
After college, the Central Columbia High and Luzerne Community College graduate, eventually got back to race in 600cc micro sprints, but with little success. Then a chance meeting with his dad’s former team —the Campbells — led to his getting the ride in Adam Campbell’s pro stock.
“My parents and (the Campbells) have been extremely good friends since the 1970s and they helped us get going in the right direction with the pro stock,” Shaun said.
Randy said, “The Campbell family helped make this dream a reality. Bruiser has won championships in other series and would love to win one at Selinsgrove, again to continue a family legacy.”
In addition to Johnny Sr. and Jr., Shaun and Randy, the other family members who competed were Randy’s wife, Kay (go-karts, endurance races), Shaun’s sister, Heather (go-karts), Heather’s son, Levi (go-karts, micros), Shaun’s uncle, Charlie Anderson (late models and currently sprints at Selinsgrove) and Anderson’s children, Amanda, Jesse and Curtis (sprints).
Shaun’s No. 92 dates to his start in karts when he combined the first digits of his late grandfather’s No. 96 and his father’s 28. “That will never change,” he said.
Shaun laughs when he recalls his first time in the stock car.
“The first time I strapped in the car for warmups my first night in 2016, I set the seat and the pedals – because I’m considerably shorter than Adam – and I looked up at Adam and motioned for him to come to me.
“He said, ‘what’s the matter’ and I said ‘I don’t know how to start this thing. There are a bunch of buttons on the dash and I don’t know what any of them do.’ I didn’t know which switches turn anything on.’
Campbell showed him what to do, but then Shaun saw there were three shifters and asked ‘what do I do with these? I can drive stick, but I don’t know what any of the shifters do.’
“He chuckled and said, ‘you were never in it, were you?’ ‘‘
But Shaun eventually got moving and had a successful night.
He was racing a more powerful car on a track much larger than what he had been used to.
“They asked me (after warmups) what I thought, and I said, ‘it feels like a school bus on ice, because it’s big and it’s slippery and there’s not a lot of time,” he said. “I’m used to using real quick reactions and just driving and not thinking about it. With this car and this track, I’ve got a lot of time to think and maneuver where I want to be and decipher how I want the car to act.”
Selinsgrove Speedway can be daunting to first-time racers.
“It was not as overwhelming as I thought it was going to be, but it was a lot different. When you look down coming out of (turn) four, and you’re looking down at turn one and you’ve got the pedal to the floorboard for what seems like an eternity, then you get to the turn and you do what you need to do to go faster. Then you come out of the next one and you do it again,” he said.
“It wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be, but it was definitely a lot more time in the cockpit driving than I thought it was going to be as far as lap times.”
Win or lose, Shaun is enjoying the ride.
“We’re having a ball. Dad and I spend a lot of time in the garage doing our maintenance together. I clean the car every Sunday and we nut-and-bolt everything every week. We do a lot of maintenance to make sure it’s in tip-top shape.”
And he loves having the family back at Selinsgrove, where his grandfather won 16 races and a championship, while contending for many more.
Motorsports: Lawton to drive grandpa’s car
SELINSGROVE — Pro stock driver Shaun Lawton got into the sport because of the influence of his late grandfather, Johnny Crawford, a highly suc…