Luza Hopes a Possible Allen Turner PLM Championship Season Could Be Catapult to Stardomadmin
By Chuck Corder
At some point during childhood, almost every red-blooded American boy has aspirations of sports stardom.
Ryan Luza, 18, is no different. Heck, one of his first memories came at Talladega Superspeedway.
Decked out in a Dale Earnhardt Sr. fire suit and operating a “mini-Intimidator” — a No. 3 motorized go-kart — the then toddler patrolled the pits and infield among the Mardi Gras atmosphere that’s synonymous with ’dega.
“I couldn’t get enough,” Luza now says.
The Cypress, Texas, native has spent his whole life around racing and has grand visions of swapping paint with NASCAR royalty in the not-so-distant future.
Spend a few minutes talking with Luza, though, and you’ll quickly realize he carries the type of intestinal fortitude that could one day turn his dreams into reality.
And the college freshman grasps what a potential Allen Turner Pro Late Model track championship at Five Flags Speedway could mean for his blossoming career.
“To be able to get up on a poster on that wall, as a late model champion, that’d definitely open the door to a lot of dreams,” Luza said.
Luza will join some of the country’s top PLM drivers, including local she-ro Johanna Long, Friday night at the famed half-mile asphalt oval. The series opens its 2015 schedule with a 100-lap event.
Super Stocks, Sportsmen and Bombers also share the card at America’s Favorite Home Track.
The gates open at 4 p.m. Friday. Qualifying for the PLMs and Bombers gets underway at 6:45 p.m. with heat races slated for 8 p.m.
Admission is as follows: $15 for adults; $12 for seniors, students and military; $5 for children ages 6 to 11; and free for kids under 6.
As was first introduced two seasons ago, the Allen Turner PLM division will once again host 20-/30-lap double features throughout the summer.
But this Friday’s 100 lapper provides a nice bookend for the PLM schedule, which wraps up in September with the Allen Turner Tune-Up 100.
Luza hopes to make all of the races, but knows that decision will ultimately fall on his father, John.
John Luza, who owns and operates A Christian Pest Control in the Houston suburbs, is the primary financier of his son’s No. 14 team.
Without any current sponsorship, the budget only allows a certain number of 10-hour drives to Pensacola. Still, Luza & Co.. forge ahead, chasing their racing dreams.
“My dad loves it, too,” Ryan Luza said. “It’s something we bond over. He works really hard for me. I love ’im for that.”
Luza began driving go-karts at 5 and amassed more than 100 wins before graduating to Bandolero and Legend cars once he turned 11.
The then-16-year-old got his first taste of late models in 2013 at Central Texas Speedway, just outside of Austin.
The youngster created a Texas-sized buzz by winning a few races and finishing second to Casey Smith, who currently drives the No. 99 Super Late Model and sits atop the Southern Super Series standings.
Luza knew, though, to test his mettle he’d have to eventually come to Five Flags.
“I really enjoy racing there because of all of its history,” he said. “The competition over there is phenomenal. It helps to compare ourselves.”
Luza has competed in the last two Snowflake 100s during Snowball Derby week. He wrecked on Lap 4 in 2013 with a car he felt could contend, but rebounded with a solid 16th-place finish last December.
“The track’s really abrasive,” Luza said. “A lotta people burn their stuff up. We missed the wrecks and were in good shape toward the end.”
He hopes to be there at the end come Friday and for the entire season. Luza’s start to 2015, a top-five at the 125-lap Baby Rattler in March, was just the type of exposure he had been eyeing.
“It was definitely a challenge,” said Luza, who finished fourth behind winner Bubba Pollard. “We proved we can run with a bunch of the top guys. We just want to accomplish something to get to that next step.”
What a step that would be if it came Friday in Pensacola against a touted field that will include Long, the defending PLM champion at Five Flags, among other seasoned veterans.
With Long splitting time once again in the NASCAR ranks and Garrett Jones, the 2013 track champ, making the leap to SLMs, Luza feels opportunity may be knocking at his door.
“Wayne Niedecken (Jr.) will be hard to beat and so will a few others,” he said. “But, I look forward to fighting for a championship.
“I’m thankful for every race I get a chance to do. Thankful for every second of the day. I feel blessed to think that I have a legitimate shot to make it to the NASCAR level.”