PORT ROYAL, Pa. – Lance Dewease held the door open of his primary workplace, Conduit Connections in Thurmont, Md., for a reporter trying to escape the summer rain.
Even National Sprint Car Hall of Famers have jobs to adhere to. But during his lunch break on a nasty day, Dewease ventured down a hallway and into a backroom cluttered with golf clubs, the dark space with a fancy golf simulator to justify the slight mess.
He turned on the lights.
At 55 years old, Dewease’s win percentage on the golf course isn’t what it used to be and his competitive spirit doesn’t jive with it. But on the race track? He’s like fine wine, seemingly growing more potent and convincing as the years press on.
His eight wins, in spite of a limited schedule, are tied for ninth in the nation. His win rate, 18.8 percent, is third best on the globe for drivers with at least 80 starts since the beginning of last year.
Kyle Larson’s otherworldly 45 percent win rate and Brad Sweet’s 20 percent clip are the only two that best Dewease’s effort.
Saturday in the 54th annual Tuscarora 50 at Port Royal Speedway, Dewease attempts to tack on another Crown Jewel atop his record seven wins in the event and 119 wins at the speedway.
Secluded on that rainy summer day, Dewease grabbed a barstool and sat down. There, he delved into the very reason for his growing legend and timeless ability.
“This is what I tell everybody: the difference between the people that are very good at this and the people who are not is seeing things slowly,” Dewease said. “This, I think, pertains to everything. Football, especially quarterbacks, and racing, is everything slows down for you. Hockey players, they’re handling the puck and everything slows down for them.
“You, I don’t want to say, see ahead,” he added, “but you predict what happens before it actually happens because it’s just slow motion to you.”
Dewease’s art of slow motion is a masterpiece 36 years in the making, his original canvas backroads that sprawl across Central Pennsylvania.
Back before sprint cars and hall of fame dreams were even a thought, Dewease would flat-foot his 1968 Chevrolet Chevelle down roadways, blazing through pasturelands, quiet townships and wherever the troopers weren’t.
“You know, street racing,” Dewease said.
He was an unbridled teenager, so of course he had a need for speed.
Then, the summer of 1985 brought forth his sprint car years. Hagerstown (Md.) Speedway, 30 miles southwest of his Fayetteville, Pa., home, hosted that first organized race.
Dewease, too, held the loud pedal to the floorboard of his family-owned No. 2D sprint car like the ‘68 Chevelle.
“I thought I was flying because I’ve gone pretty fast on the street,” Dewease said, his eyes widening. “Then Doug Wolfgang went by me in the [Bob] Weikert car like I was parked. … It was something I’ve never experienced before in my life.”
It will forever stand as Dewease’s most striking moment in a sprint car, his perception of speed wiped clean by mesmerization.
Wolfgang did that a lot during his hall of fame career, especially in 1985. His 53-win campaign that year is widely regarded as the greatest season in sprint car history.
“Picture somebody running the speed limit nowadays on the interstate and just somebody going by them at about 90 miles an hour,” Dewease said. “That’s kind of what it felt like. Like, I felt like I was flying, but I wasn’t. It was just a whole different feeling.
“That was my first time [in a race car], so everything was going a hundred miles an hour,” Dewease said. “Now, everything is so slow for me.”
Take last weekend at the Juniata County Fair opener, for instance.
Dewease started 12th, a place drivers just don’t win from very much anymore, especially in 25-lap features. By the time there was a restart with 15 laps to go, Dewease plotted his way to sixth and analyzed his surroundings.
“I kind of knew where most of those guys were going to try to run,” said Dewease, who opted for the bottom and immediately sprung into third on the restart.
Three laps later, as leader T.J. Stutts started to slip out of the middle groove, Dewease stayed tucked to the bottom off turn four and raced by, unchallenged.
On the final restart with two laps to go, he did one final surveillance.
“The restart with two laps to go, I wanted to make sure the car behind me ran the top and not the third place guy running the top,” Dewease said.
In Dewease language, that meant if he stuck with the bottom, Stutts would choose the top and put third-place runner and 11-time winner, Brent Marks, in a tough position.
“I didn’t want Brent to run the wall,” Dewease said.
Marks eventually got bottled up behind Stutts and couldn’t keep pace with Dewease as he raced into the night.
Dewease is as passionate of a fan as he is a driver. He attends more races now than ever before. On Thursday, he sat out the opening night of the Tuscarora 50, signed some autographs at his trailer and mingled with the crowd.
“I can tell when we run three races in a row,” Dewease said. “It doesn’t really affect me in a race car, but that Sunday, or Monday, I know it. You know you’re 55.”
When he races Williams Grove Speedway, he loves to perch atop his trailer and analyze other drivers navigate the competition in heat races.
“Hey, look, he’s rolling around there pretty good.”
“Why is he overdriving the thing? You know how much time he’s losing?”
“I don’t think that’s going to work much longer.”
His analytical mind always runs. His catalog of driver and track tendencies have yet to be matched. Those are just a few shades of Dewease’s greatest masterpiece, the art of slow motion.
“Some people get it,” Dewease started. “And some people don’t.”