MISSISSAUGA, Ontario — As a young boy, Connor James spent his Saturday nights at Barrie Speedway, playing with miniature cars as he watched his father Robert James race Limited Late Models.
“It was one of those things that once I got the itch, he said, ‘time is time,’ and he sold all of his stuff and we got right into it,” he told SHORT TRACK MUSINGS at the Motorama Custom Car and Motorsports Expo. “It’s taken off from there.”
Since getting behind the wheel of a Jr Late Model in 2007, it’s been full throttle ever since for James, as he gets ready to embark on a full season of Lucas Oil Sportsman Cup Series racing in 2019.
“I mean, we’re going in there with a lot of confidence,” he commented. “When we ran it two years ago, we hopped in it a race late and still finished second in points and for the past few years, even with two different drivers with my teammate Stu (Robinson Jr.), we’ve been runner-up. This year, we’re looking to do one spot better and get the championship.”
The 2019 LOSC schedule will see James run eight races, across six different speedways across Ontario, beginning with Delaware Speedway on June 1.
“Personally, I am looking forward to Delaware – but also Full Throttle,” he said. “Stu said that’s the track that he had the most fun at, but I’m looking more like the high speed track at Delaware. It’s the first race of the season, and we’ll get the two out of the way quick because Full Throttle is next.”
Although James hasn’t raced at either facility himself, he will have his teammate Stu Robinson Jr. to lean on for advice.
“Working with Stu is so much of a help,” James commented. “He’s got so much experience – super late model championships, he’s run CASCAR. He’s run everything, even road courses. I look up to him a lot especially on race days, especially the tracks that I haven’t gone to yet, like Delaware and Full Throttle. Those are two places that he’s run at a lot and done very well, so I look up to him at places we haven’t been and if I’m struggling with the car, I ask him what he would do. So I look up to him in a lot of ways.”
Arguably, the LOSC is one of the most unrated series in Ontario, featuring many talented drivers like Chad McGlynn, Brent Wheller, and Kevin Gallant, as well as 2018 Champions Steve Arrand and Kevin Allen.
“On any given night, there are six or seven guys that can win,” James expressed. “We know that going into the season and we know there’s going to be a lot of cars – I think there are 20 cars, registered. So it’s going to be really good and we’re looking forward to it. It’s a stout field, but I think we’ll be able to make it happen.”
On top of the LOSC schedule, James has the opportunity to run both Super Stock events at Jukasa Motor Speedway, as a result of a partnership with Kevin Gallant and Brandon McFerran.
“I’m super excited,” James said. “It’s kind of cool to team up with Kevin Gallant and his team; Brandon McFerran will be my teammate that weekend. We’re going to be running the two super stock races, and I’m super excited. That’s one of the things that I’m going to have to look up to Brandon to, because he ran Jukasa in the super stock; he did very well. So I’m excited to get out there. We’re going to do some testing. It should be a lot of fun.”
Just opening in the second half of 2016, combined with hosting the Canadian Short Track Nationals in September, Jukasa has quickly become the crown jewel that drivers have circled on their calendar, no matter the series they’re running.
“You’re going to have a lot of big guys from a lot of tracks up here coming,” James said. “But you know what, we’re excited. Kevin has great equipment and he’s a great guy. He’ll be able to help us out a lot, and I’m excited to see what we’re able to do.”
Although he hasn’t ran a super stock yet at the half-mile, James got to run Jukasa Motor Speedway last year behind the wheel of a NASCAR Pinty’s Series car on two different occasions. While he may be able to build on experience, he also notes there’s a huge difference between the cars, beginning with the tires.
“They’re the same weight, but you have a helluva more horsepower in a Pinty’s car and a lot more tire,” he said. “You’re going to have to be more conservative. There’s a lot of room there, but there’s not with those big cars. So we’re going to have to see how it goes.”
For his first three starts in the Pinty’s Series last year, James was able to have success along the way, including a top-10 finish at Jukasa in June. Being able to get his feet wet in the series was an unreal experience for James.
“You feel like a rockstar, really,” he commented. “We got to do three races, and they were at the three tracks that everybody talked about – both Jukasas and Riverside. It was so much fun, and that was another time that I looked up to a lot of guys. I was able to walk around the pits and talk to L.P. Dumoulin, Kevin Lacroix, Mark Dilley whose making his full season return – which is awesome, as I’m so happy for him and his team.
“It was a lot of fun. It was a blast. It was a huge learning experience, and it helped me find where I stack up against the best guys in the country. So it was a lot of fun, and I thank Anthony Simone and his team for giving me that opportunity.”
With the success that he has been able to already have in his young career, James has been able to experience that with his family surrounding him every step of the way. He also hasn’t forgotten where things began, as noted with his Limited Late Model paint scheme last year.
“Last year, we did the throwback scheme from my dad’s old limited,” James commented. “He didn’t have a clue. We dropped the car off at Michael Paupst at Auto Trim in Barrie, and he did an awesome job on it. Once we got back from Daytona on vacation, he came and saw it and he was pretty excited. He thought it was really cool. I’m happy to be carrying it once again this year, and I think it’s going to be a great year.”