Unbuckled: Getting To Know Claude Leclerc

Unbuckled: Getting To Know Claude Leclerc

Driver of the #11 Leclerc Motorsports Chevrolet

Hometown: Lanoraie, QC

2012 : Finished 12th Overall on the Série ACT Castrol

What are your favorite hobbies in the off-season?

Snowmobiling. I have been doing that for many years.  I first started snowmobiling in 1974. I do not race them though, I just do it for fun!

What do you do for work?

Now I am retired from my business, but I work for myself in my home garage. I’m a mechanic.

What is your biggest life accomplishment?

When I won the 300-lap race at Sanair, that was so great for me.  But it is a tie with the time I raced at Cayuga Speedway in Ontario for a 250-lap NASCAR North race.  I finished third behind Dale Earnhardt and Randy Lajoie, and on the podium Dale gave me a handshake and said I did a very good job.  He is a great man.  It was a great day for me; I will never forget that.

Big Plans for 2013?

I would like to race but one of my crewmembers is sick, and two other crewmembers have quit with family problems, so right now I need to find 2-3 new guys. I would like to make all of the Série ACT Castrol season, especially the International 500.  I would also like to return to Thunder Road at some point in 2013. 

What is the state of your car currently?

I have a new car from Distance Racing.  I am having a new clip put on my car from last year, but last year was a bad year for me. I am busy with a customer for work right now, but next week I will start to work on it to change things and would like to try something new for the new season.

What race are you looking forward to the most in 2013?

The International 500 at Airborne Speedway.  Oh yes. I love the longer races. I think it really separates the guy who worked all week on his car from the guy who just goes on a Sunday afternoon.  You are rewarded for your hard work. 

What was the highlight of the 2012 season for you?

It was bad. I would like to forget the 2012 season. It was my worst finish.  In the last 25 years, only once have I finished outside the top ten with Tom Curley. I had engine problems, flat-tires, and power steering problems.  Everything just went wrong this year. But in spite of that, I am really looking forward to the new season!  I am excited to get started.

Do you have a hero? Someone you idolize as a racecar driver or try to emulate?

My hero on the old Grand National series is Bobby Allison, but I think my hero in ACT is Robbie Crouch.  I think he is the best driver we had in the North.  He would race side-by-side with you for 20 laps and never touch you. I have a lot of respect for a guy like that. The younger racers in our series could learn a lot from him I think.  

Who is your biggest fan at the track?

I have some big fans. I used to have a guy who came and watched me at Nashville, Dover, Milwaukee, Nazareth, and Nova Scotia. He came everywhere with me. He passed away about 5 years ago, but he followed me for 25 years. He was a taxi driver in Montreal and he would finish work and take the car to the races, come back Sunday night, and work Monday morning.  I had a couple like that.  Now these guys are retired from that.  I think the travel is very hard on people. 

What is something about you that most people don’t know?

I think a lot of guys don’t know me, especially the younger guys.  I know the grandfathers of these guys, but they don’t even come to the races anymore!  I have raced for a long time, over 35 years, and I try to race with respect.  I would like the young guys to treat me with the same.  

How did you start racing?

I started racing in 1976.  I watched the races for a long time before that, just watching the old drivers like Cabana and all the guys in Quebec, and eventually I bought a Late Model in ’76 and decided to try it out for myself!

Tell me about your family?

In 35 years my wife Liliane has missed two or three races.  She was with me from 1976 to now, and has never quit. I have three daughters and seven grandchildren.  Sometimes they come to the races, but my daughters are very busy with work and their children but they come to St Eustache a couple times in a year.  One daughter lives in Great Britain too, so that’s a little far to come watch me race!  They do like them when they do watch, though.    

Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 

I would like to have a racecar still and prepare it, bring it to the racetrack, and have a young guy drive for me.  I think I would like to be a car owner and crew chief.  2013 is going to be a very great year for the Castrol series.  I think it has been hard to be a car owner before now, but the point funds and purse is so good for next year, I think I would like to try it. I think we will have a lot of good races, especially the International 500.  I would like to try to help build the young, skilled drivers.  I say if you’re still on the racetrack after 300 laps at Airborne, you’re a good driver.  The guys that wreck in the first twenty laps, not so much.