Eliott Watson had his birthday a few days ago and he celebrated it with another day at school, baseball practice and a telephone interview to talk about racing the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series presented by GEICO.
It's what every 16-year-old does, isn't it?
Watson, who lives just down the road from fellow racer Brock Heger in El Centro, California, is finishing his sophomore year at Southwest High School, where he plays the outfield and does some designated hitting and pitching for the Eagles baseball team.
In his free time he's getting ready for the second weekend of his second season in the Pro Buggy class, this weekend's Rockstar Energy SoCal Shootout presented by Toyota at Lake Elsinore Motorsports Park in southern California.
Lake Elsinore is where Watson made his debut in the class last season with 10th and 9th-place finishes in rounds 5 and 6. He ended up running 8 races, with his best results 2nd and 6th in Baja California, and finished 10th in the point standings.
This year Watson is third in the standings after surprising himself with a win and a 10th on opening weekend in Chandler, Arizona, March 18-20.
“That Friday at practice was the first time I drove the car,” Watson said of his new FOX Shocks/BFGoodrich Tires AlumiCraft Redline Chevrolet, “so I didn't think I was going to do that good at all.”
He did good on opening day, with a 3.7-second win over reigning champion Garrett George, but not so good the second day, when he was almost 30 seconds behind race winner Kevin McCullough
“We went onto the track and we had no power steering right off the bat,” Watson said. “All the power steering fluid drained out of the transmission. At the mandatory caution I went into the hot pit and we filled it up with fluid and it was fine after that, but I was way behind by then.”
That Watson was able to overcome the second-day problem and get to the finish line on the lead lap demonstrates the progress he has made while working his way up the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series ladder from the junior kart ranks.
Watson started racing a Mini-Dwarf when he was 5 and moved into the Junior 1 Kart class a few months before his 10th birthday. He was sixth in points that first year and second to Broc Dickerson his second season before running both the Junior 2 and Modified Karts in 2012 and Modified Karts only the next two years.
Last year the team bought an AlumiCraft Pro Buggy from Luke Johnson, the son of motocross Hall of Fame rider Rick Johnson, and Watson said “we didn't do that much (to it) all year. We didn't change the car that much because I was just trying to get comfortable in the car and get more seat time and get ready for this year.”
The obvious goal this year is a class title in an experienced field that includes Mike Valentine, Taylor Atchison and Darren Hardesty and Watson said he deals with the stress of competition by reminding himself that the main goal is to have fun.
What he's not sure of, though, is how long the fun will continue. He said he's committed to the Lucas Oil series this year and next. But he also wants to try desert racing, where dad Tom Watson won five consecutive Class 12 (SCORE Lites) titles and took Eliott for a ride in a Class 10 car at the 2013 Mint 400, and finish high school and college.
Eliott Watson At a Glance
- Age: 16 (13 April 2000)
- Lives in: El Centro, California
- Marital status: Single
- Occupation: Student; Sophomore at Southwest High in El Centro
- Car number: 3 Pro Buggy
- Type of chassis: AlumiCraft
- Engine: Redline Ecotec Chevrolet
- Crew Chief: Steve Downey
- Sponsors: AlumiCraft, FOX Shocks, BFGoodrich Tires, Redline, Tom Watson Inc.
- Years in racing: 11
- Divisions raced: Lucas Oil Off Road Pro Buggy, Modified Karts, Junior 1 and Junior 2 Karts, Mini Dwarfs
- Series points standings: 10 Pro Buggy (2015); 10 Mod Karts (2014); 8 Mod Karts (2013); 15 Mod Karts, 16 Junior 2 (2012); 2 Junior 1 (2011); 6 Junior 1 (2010)