There’s one thing that the East Coast Pipeline Racing team is synonymous with, and that’s being a front-running contender. In this exclusive interview, Totally Speedway’s Daniel Powell has caught up with the team’s new driver Lockie McHugh, along with the team’s long-time manager / crew chief Nick Speed. This Q&A interview also contains exclusive photos of the team’s 2020-21 season colour scheme, which will see the team debut this Saturday night at Toowoomba’s Hi-Tec Oils Speedway.
Regarded as one of the country’s leading 410 Sprintcar racers, McHugh, aged 22, is excited about getting amongst the action aboard the NQ # 7 East Coast Pipeline Racing car.
Firstly, congratulations on securing the coveted drive with the East Coast Pipeline Racing team. How does it feel?
It’s a fantastic opportunity and I can’t thank team owners Barry and Felicity Waldron enough for believing in me. There isn’t a driver in this country that wouldn’t want this ride with this team, so I’m certainly looking to grab this opportunity with both hands, and I know that I have some big shoes to fill with Robbie Farr being their long-time driver.
How have you settled into the East Coast Pipeline Racing team?
Over the past few months, I’ve been working closely with team manager Nick Speed in readiness for the season ahead. Of course everything has been up in the air with when or if we will get to race, but Nick and I have been preparing the car and getting me settled into the team prior to we hit the track. As everyone knows, the East Coast Pipeline Racing are a first-class operation and it’s a huge honour to be their driver and I’m looking forward to the season ahead.
To say that you have been impressive in your two practice nights – one at Toowoomba’s Hi-Tec Oils Speedway where you set a new track record and the other at Brisbane’s Archerfield Speedway – would be quite the understatement. What’s your take on your first two practice outings?
With the East Coast Pipeline Racing team being a first-class operation, I felt comfortable in the car from the first time I stepped into it. There was no pressure on me from the team during these two practice sessions and that helped me for when I stepped into the car. I was quite surprised to break the track record at Hi-Tec Oils Speedway, but it was very pleasing all the same.
What engine and car package are you going to be running this season with the East Coast Pipeline Racing team?
It’s the same as previous seasons for the team with the Garrett Race Engines prepared 410 cubic inch engine with a Cool Chassis. I have plenty of experience with the Cool Chassis while running with my family-owned team, but I’ve had no prior experience with the Garrett-prepared engines up until a fortnight ago. However, I’ve been impressed with the engine and it’s a nice fit with the Cool Chassis.
With your debut race meeting with the East Coast Pipeline Racing team being this Saturday night at Toowoomba’s Hi-Tec Oils Speedway, how are you feeling and what are your goals?
I’m feeling quietly confident and the goal is to be a front-running contender and finish up the front in whatever race I go in. I’ve taken a lot of confidence from the practice sessions a fortnight ago and the team and I are certainly hoping to build on that.
Is this season’s Australian 410 Sprintcars Championship at the Perth Motorplex in Western Australia on the team’s agenda?
At this stage, the team and I won’t be contesting the Australian Championship. With the current state border closures, it’s unsure if the event will even be able to go ahead.
One final question, what are your overall season goals?
Of course everything is up in the air with the border restrictions, but at this stage, we are going to race in Queensland between Hi-Tec Oils Speedway and Archerfield Speedway. Hopefully once the borders begin to open, we can travel down south to tracks like Sydney’s Valvoline Raceway (NSW) and Murray Bridge Speedway (SA). When it comes to results, I’m wanting to be on the podium – hopefully on the top step more often than not. I know that I have a great team behind me, so it’s going to be up to me to get up the front and stay there.
Nick Excited About McHugh’s Speed
ECP Racing team manager Nick Speed
Photo: Tony Loxley
With over two decades as a full-time Sprintcar crew chief across both Australia and America, Speed, who once raced a Sprintcar in America, has a quite a resume of achievements – particularly with the East Coast Pipeline Racing team.
There was a big shake up during the off season within the East Coast Pipeline Racing team following a driver change, how are you feeling heading into this season?
I’m looking forward to working with Lockie this season, as he is a young talented driver that has achieved quite a lot during his five seasons so far in Sprintcars.
Your association with Robbie Farr as a crew chief-driver combination had been a long one, with McHugh joining the team brings a new challenge, would you agree?
Both Robbie and Lockie are talented drivers, so my role within the team to provide a solid race car doesn’t change. In a similar case with Robbie, Lockie knows what he is doing out of the race track and it’s up to me and the rest of the team to put a competitive car under him. There is no doubt that working with a young driver like Lockie is an exciting one and I’m looking forward to seeing what we can achieve together out on the track.
With everything up in the air around the world the coronavirus outbreak, how hard has it been to prepare for this season?
It’s been quite challenging, as like everyone in the world, you just can’t plan ahead too far. I have just been preparing the car and the team the best I can, and during the middle of the year it was announced that Robbie wasn’t going to be with the team heading into this coming season, so there came another challenge. Once it was confirmed that Lockie would be driving for the team, it was a matter of getting him settled into the team in readiness for us hitting the track.
What’s this season’s schedule looking like for the East Coast Pipeline Racing team?
The plan at this stage, because we don’t have any choice with the current border closures, is to be based in our home state of Queensland. We can’t do much else, but I’m hoping we can venture south later in the season by getting down to Sydney’s Valvoline Raceway in New South Wales and maybe even into Victoria and South Australia with a bit of luck.
Of course it’s early days, but how is McHugh settling into the East Coast Pipeline Racing team?
As he has proven when he has driven for other teams and his family-owned team, he isn’t afraid to have a go. To jump into our team’s car straight up at Hi-Tec Oils Speedway and break the lap record was an awesome achievement and it was a clear example of how well he has settled into the team.
As the team manager of the East Coast Pipeline Racing team, what are your goals for the season ahead?
No matter who I have racing the car, I always go to the track wanting to win, and with McHugh as the team’s new driver that desire hasn’t changed one bit. As I have previously said, McHugh is a talented driver and we both share the desire to win as much as each other, and that’s an important aspect when it comes to a driver-crew chief combination.
One final question, what is your career highlight in your role as a Sprintcar crew chief?
It’s hard to go past the 2019 Grand Annual Classic win at Premier Speedway with Robbie, as well as the night Robbie defeated Steve Kinser fair and square at Valvoline Raceway a few years back. When it comes to the future, I’m hoping to add some more highlights with McHugh and myself.
Nick Speed and former ECP Racing team driver Robbie Farr
Photo: FTBC Photography & Media
McHugh and the East Coast Pipeline Racing team are proudly supported in the 2020-21 season by:
WTG Western Truck Group
Dondex Sheds and Garages
Rite Price Autospares
SOCIAL MEDIA: To find out more about McHugh and the East Coast Pipeline Racing team, along with keeping up-to-date with all of these news and results throughout the season, LIKE them on Facebook or FOLLOW them on Instagram by searching McHugh Motorsport.