Lyons eager to race in NASCAR

Premium Motorsports

By Caleb Whisler, Staff Writer

At the age of 28, Robby Lyons was able to make his NASCAR and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series debut at Phoenix Raceway with Jay Robinson and Premium Motorsports.

From five years of age, Lyons started racing dirt bikes. For 18 years, Lyons spent the time on two wheels. When Ricky Carmichael announced that he would be transitioning from two wheels to four wheels, that is when the 28 year-old began to look at how to get involved in motorsports.

“He has always been my hero coming up. There is a quote I remember him saying was ‘With age comes a cage.’ I started looking up how to get involved with racing,” said Lyons.

The research led him to choose between Legend cars or go-karts. Lyons decided that choosing Legend cars would be his best option. After finding  a manufacturer of Legend cars in Florida, the rest, as Lyons put it, is history.

During his first visit to Charlotte, North Carolina, Lyons was able to become friends with Garrett Smithley, driver of the No. 0 for JD Motorsports in the NASCAR XFINITY Series. Lyons knew that he wanted to progress through the ranks of motorsports just like Smithley. If you ask Lyons, Smithley became a mentor for him.

“We ended up moving in together. He was my roommate for two and a half years. I saw him go from not really racing for a year and a half and just being patient to work in the whole business side of it. I learned a lot of what to do and what not to do from him,” said Lyons.

During Speedweek at Charlotte Motor Speedway this past fall, Smithley introduces Lyons to Jay Robinson, owner of Premium Motorsports. At the time, Lyons was unaware that Robinson owned the Nos. 49 and 15 in the Truck series, until he went to the organizations shop.

“I actually didn’t even know that Jay owned the 49 and 15 trucks. When we showed up to the meeting, I was like ‘woah, this is Premium. He has Cup cars and all that.’ It was a great meeting,” said the 28-year-old driver.

Robinson reminded Lyons of his father as someone who is smart and really laid back. The choice for Lyons to race under Premium Motorsports wing was that Robinson knows about racing and the business side of the sport.

At Phoenix Raceway, Lyons made his Truck debut with Robinson and Premium Motorsports, a decision Lyons called “crazy” the more he reflects on what transpired during the race.

“The more people ask me that question the more I realize how crazy that was. The race was nothing but crazy there at the end. In situations like that where it is all or nothing, make or break, especially for the championship guys. There is probably a tendency that things were going to get pretty crazy,” said Lyons.

Because of the nature of the race, Lyons and his No. 49 team were able to capitalize on the opportunity to finish 12th. That finish was due to the part that Brian Keselowski, brother of Brad Keselowski, was on top of the pit box calling the shots. Lyons placed all of his trust in Keselowski to make the correct calls, especially when they had a fuel issue towards the end of the second stage. Having Keselowski on the pit box was considered “priceless” by Lyons.

“I couldn’t even put a price on that. The confidence I have in him to make the right calls, it puts me at ease so I don’t have to over think things. Wen he tells me the truck is going to do something, I 100 percent have faith in him that it can do it.”

After the race, Lyons kept looking over his shoulder at the scoring pylon in disbelief that he finished in the 12th position. Throughout the day, Lyons dd not have his phone on him so because he wanted to focus on getting to know the team and the truck. The reality of the 12th place finish hit Lyons when he picked up his phone and saw the messages.

“It really sunk in when I picked up my phone and saw the texts. People were so excited. Garrett came up to me and was like ‘Dude, I can’t believe you did that. You had to one up me.’ It was hard not to get chocked up. I think I kept my composure around everyone else, I teared up thinking about it. It’s just really awesome,” said the 28-year old.

Later in the week, Lyons mentioned on social media that Phoenix was his least favorite track. The reason why it was his least favorite track was based on the iRacing software. Lyons prefers tracks that have some banking to them. However, after he raced there, the track moved to the top of his list with Atlanta, Darlington, Bristol, and Richmond.

His background from racing dirt bikes helped him at Phoenix when it comes to restarts. During one of the restarts, the field went six-wide, but ultimately ended up wrecking. Lyons was able to capitalize on it.

“In motocross, we all start in a line and try to beat each other to the corner first. That was a lot like that was like. In motorcross, when you get into that one corner, lot of those guys run into each other, they slide to the outside, and you go to the inside and capitalize on them. That’s exactly what I did. It worked out,” said Lyons.

Before he could race at Homestead-Miami Speedway in the Ford EcoBoost 200, Lyons had to be cleared by NASCAR to race on all mile-and-a-halves on the circuit. Lyons took the advice of Brett Bodine, chairman of the Driver Approval Committee, to heart to get approved by the sanctioning body. Lyons was at the Governor’s Cup at New Symrna Speedway when he received the call from Bodine.

“I was freaking out about qualifying third at Governor’s Cup. Next thing you know, I saw a Charlotte number calling me. Anytime you see a Charlotte number calling you, you pick up I did. It was Brett. He said, ‘You are good to go on all mile-and-a-half tracks.’ I was like, ‘Can this week get any better?’ It was awesome.”

Lyons finished 24th in the Ford EcoBoost 200 at Homestead-Miami.

Despite the many claims that NASCAR is in a decline, Lyons believes that the sport is beginning an upswing, especially with the playoff format across all three national divisions.

“I think it is on the upswing. I think more people are starting to pay attention. I think a lot of it comes from this playoff format. Love it or hate it, from a fan’s perspective, even I can sit back and get excited, even though it is chaos on the track,” said Lyons

What does 2018 hold for Lyons and racing in NASCAR? Just like may drivers, the goal is to find sponsorship to be able to compete in the Truck series. For Lyons, being in and around the Truck garage over the past few weeks made him realize how many people are striving to get into the sport.

“We are going to work hard. Go out there and make some phone calls and hope somebody wants to be on the side of our No. 49 Chevy Silverado.”

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