STAFFORD – Over the last three seasons Johnny Walker has been a fixture near the front of the field in DARE Stock feature events most weeks at Stafford Motor Speedway.
This year the challenge for Walker is getting someone else to that place. Walker has connected this season with DARE Stock division rookie Zack Robinson as a mentor for the 14-year old driver.
Walker, who has finished second in the DARE Stock division standings the last two years, decided during the offseason to take a year off from the division.
“It was just a combination of not having a crew and financial stuff,” Walker said. “But I had already bought a pit pass [for the season] and I didn’t want to see that go to waste.”
Walker, who finished seventh in the DARE Stock standings during his rookie year in 2012, wasn’t a fan of coming to the track each week and not being involved in any way.
“To me it’s like being at the strip club with no dollar bills,” Walker said. “It’s tough being on this side of the fence. The justification is that I know I’m coming back next year, so if I can make the best of my year off and help people then I don’t think it’s a year wasted.”
“I kind of just said, what am I going to do now? I know how hard it is for teams to come by crew help so I decided to help out. I didn’t really have a lot of help when I first started so I kind of want to just help some people that are just starting out.”
Robinson, the grandson of longtime former local racer Leo “Bim” Adams, made his DARE Stock debut in last year’s Fall Final at Stafford. He finished 11th in the season opening 15-lap DARE Stock feature at the NAPA Spring Sizzler last Saturday. Robinson raced Quarter Midgets previously at the Little T at Thompson Speedway, but had been out of racing competitively for seven years.
Robinson said even before connecting with Walker during the offseason he considered himself a fan of the Ludlow, Mass. driver.
“I paid attention to Johnny a lot,” said Robinson, of Putnam. “I always watched the guys up front, but Johnny was mainly the one I was always watching.”
Walker had a division high three victories last year, but fell short in his battle for the title with eventual championship winner Frank L’Etoile Jr.
“Unfortunately it wasn’t enough to pull off the championship,” Walker said. “But I’ve got nothing bad to say about Frank. He’s a great champion. He’s just as good as I am. He’s a great kid and if I had to lose it to anyone I would want it to be him.”
At Stafford Friday Walker took Robinson’s car out in practice and kept an eye on the rookie during practice to evaluate his behaviors on the track.
“He’s been a great help,” Robinson said. “So many tips and points he makes for me. Telling me how to drive it in, when do use the brakes and stuff. Telling me lines to run. All kinds of things, he’s just been a lot of help.”
Said Walker: “It’s a lot of tips that I had to learn the hard way. Feathering the throttle when you’re spinning out to keep the engine alive so you don’t have to wait for a yellow. I’m trying to watching his hand movements in the car and help him with that. It’s tough watching the car from the outside. That’s something I’ve never done before, so there’s a learning curve for me too.”