As Charlie Luck made his way around the 3.74-mile Sebring International Raceway circuit on the cool down lap following the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama race on Friday, March 16, he was overcome by emotion.
Weeks after the race, Luck still got choked up thinking about his first victory in the Platinum Cup Masters division on the day before the 66th running of the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts.
After all, it was the culmination of a long journey back to motorsports for the 57-year-old Luck, who serves as president of his family-owned Luck Companies when he’s not piloting the No. 45 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 Cup race car.
“This past year or two years has been an incredible commitment of time, money, energy, physical fitness, driver training, all of that,” Luck says. “So, when I got the checkered flag, of course, the crew blew up on the radio, I blew up on the radio, and everybody was screaming and yelling. At about the halfway point, I just broke down crying. I cried all the way.
“It’s kind of crazy. I get emotional now about it. But it’s something that you love and something you care so much about and something you work so hard at. I think if there’s anything in life that you have like that, and when you perform at a very high level, it’s just incredibly fulfilling. It’s a moment I’ll never forget.”
It also was a moment that was decades in the making.
“I had an interest in motorsports back in 1972,” Luck recalls. “I was born in 1960 and started having an interest in motocross and all of that when I was 12 years old. I raced motocross for about five or six years and then went on into what was then late-model racing in the Richmond, Virginia area, which is where I’m from.
“I always had a dream of moving up and racing within the NASCAR circuit. I worked with Ricky Rudd when he was Rookie of the Year (in 1977). Eventually, I went to Virginia Military Institute for an engineering degree. Then, after I finished those four years, I began racing four years full-time on what was then called the NASCAR Busch (Series), now called the Xfinity Series.
“Anyway, I raced a little over 100 races and we ran from Oxford, Maine to Indianapolis Raceway Park to Daytona, and basically, most of the major NASCAR tracks. It was an incredible experience. I met so many great people and worked incredibly hard. It was a really cool time of my life.”
Luck amassed a total of 106 starts between 1982 and 1986, scoring five top-five results and 38 top 10 finishes. He finished a career-best ninth in the point standings in both 1984 and his final season in 1986.
And then he moved into the family business, which was founded by his grandfather, Charles Luck Jr. in 1923. Charlie’s father, Charles Luck III, also served as president of the company, which became a leader in the crushed stone industry.
“When I stopped racing, I began to work for our family company, called Luck Companies,” said Charlie. “We operate in Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina. For 30 years, I spent time working my way up and eventually became president (in 1995).”
Under his leadership, Luck Companies expanded to four business divisions. And as Luck Companies expanded, the desire to go racing came back to Luck.
“My wife (Lisa) and I were talking about how much we love motorsports and love racing, and my No. 1 criteria to get back into a race car was to try to find the safest series possible,” he says. “At 57 years old, that’s a big priority for me.
“I also really wanted to find a series where the cars were prepared professionally, where the driver development program was top notch, and for somebody like me who’s leading a company, when I take the time off and come to the track, I have to know that the car is ready and safely prepared. Certainly, the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge series is absolutely that. It’s incredibly well-run, incredibly professional.”
Luck also found a team in Wright Motorsports that adheres to many of the same principles he has.
“We’re a values-based company,” he says. “If you go to LuckCompanies.com, you can understand the culture that we are looking for when we hire people and bring them on and then have them work in our environment. So, when I was looking for a race team, I looked for a match to my personal values.
“I think the way I interact with the crew and the team is very similar to how I interact with our people in our company. There are tremendous parallels between the racing business that I’m involved with and our own company that I’m very involved with. Lots and lots of parallels, and I would say the No. 1 thing is people because that’s how we run our business, with a tremendous focus on people and leadership.”
The approach is clearly working for Luck and the Wright Motorsports team so far this season. He’s currently leading the point standings in the Platinum Cup Masters division. Platinum Cup as an overall class is for Porsche 911 GT3 Cup cars built in 2017 or 2018. The Masters division is for drivers 45 years of age or older.
Since that big win at Sebring in March, Luck scored another pair of victories, sweeping April’s doubleheader at Barber Motorsports Park. He finished second in both races at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course earlier this month and has an 18-point lead over Mark Kvamme.
Above all, though, Luck is thankful for his opportunity to go racing once again.
“I have so many people to thank,” he says. “My wife, Lisa, (team owner) John Wright and the whole team here. I never would have come close to this without them. Also, the people back at Luck Companies who have been very supportive of me doing this. They have been phenomenal.”