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WAMPURN, Pa. - The mountaintop above this small, rural town is awash in activity. It is here, at Beaver Run Motor-sports Park, about 250 miles west of Baltimore, that Maryland sports car driver Chuck Goldsborough has come to test his Lexus IS300 race cars.
As his three cars are being unloaded, Goldsborough, looking like a driver out of a Hollywood movie - sun-bleached blond hair falling over his forehead, stylish sunglasses shielding his eyes and dressed in his driver's suit - tells the tale of family and success.<P>

Descended from the family of Maryland Continental Congress delegate Robert Goldsborough and of Charles Goldsborough, governor of Maryland in 1819, the Baltimore native has overcome rocky years to gain the attention of a major car manufacturer and build a championship race team from scratch.<P>

"Twenty years ago, my family would have preferred a more traditional line of work," said Goldsborough, recalling that his family's ancestors were prominent land owners, lawyers and politicians in Colonial America.<P>

"Choosing to be a race car driver 20 years ago was like going to Hollywood and trying to become an actor. Only a handful make it. I don't know how it happened for me other than the fact that I've just stuck with it."<P>

Goldsborough's team, consisting of an all-volunteer crew from Baltimore and which operates as Team Lexus, was the 2002 Grand Am Cup champion in the Sport Touring I Class, finishing the season first in both team and drivers points.<P>

This season, Team Lexus is learning all about how much NASCAR, the sanctioning body for the Grand Am Series, as well as the Winston Cup stock car series, loves parity.<P>

<b>Making it tougher</b>
At the start of this season, Goldsborough's cars were given a 50-pound handicap that has since been raised to 100. And just before the midseason break that began after the June 29 race in Mid-Ohio, the team was told it could no longer use its performance cams and clutches.<P>

"Telling us we have to use stock cams and clutches, it can slow us down a little bit," said Mark McKay, who has been a volunteer Team Lexus mechanic for four years and also drives the team rig.<P>

"Stock parts are more reliable," said Blake Osmond, who also has volunteered for four years. "But the after-market parts are more performance- oriented."<P>

The results of all this handicapping has been Team Lexus is in a difficult battle to remain top dog. Goldsborough, who has two second-place finishes and two other top fives in the first seven races, is tied for fourth with teammate Andy Lally in drivers points in the ST1 Class and is second in owners points.<P>

Goldsborough's other two drivers, Ian James and John Rutherford IV, are eighth and 12th, respectively. James has the team's one win this season, in Miami.<P>

The season will resume this weekend at the Sunoco 94 Mosport 3 Hour in Ontario. Yesterday, Team Lexus swept the top two spots in qualifying in the Sport Touring I class, with Goldsborough driving his No. 2 car to a 1:34.861 lap at 93.320 mph, setting a class record.<P>

"We've only won one race, while BMW and Acura each has two wins," said Goldsborough. "But they said we were too dominant. Since we're coming off the championship, I guess they want to spread the wealth."<P>

But Goldsborough isn't interested in spreading the wealth. That's why he and his team hold regular morning meetings to sort through the positives and negatives. That's why they decided to take advantage of Beaver Run's availability on their way to Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis., recently to do a driving school for Lexus.<P>

<b>Ironing out kinks</b>
It was a valuable test day on a 12-turn, 1.53-mile road course, because three of the team's seven cars had problems. A wheel bearing went bad in one, an engine malfunctioned in another and a brake line broke in a third.<P>

None of it made Goldsborough happy. He not only wanted his cars to run well, but also wanted to make a good impression.<P>

"Well," he said, sheepishly, "this is why you test. You want these things to happen on test days, not race days."<P>

And that's been the team's modus operandi. Much of its success has come from always being on the track for the finish.<P>

"I think that's the reason for what we've accomplished," said crew chief Ray Rachuba. "The consistency we've had. This is the second year we've had the same crew members. ... It's pretty obvious everyone on this team loves the time they spend. It's the camaraderie from high school team sports that you don't have any more."<P>

Perseverance and consistency are Goldsborough's building blocks. He started racing in the mid-1980s in regional Sports Car Club of America races, but quickly turned to Formula cars. His aspiration was familiar. He wanted to drive in the Indianapolis 500.<P>

With his dream in place, he made progress through the Formula Ford and Formula Atlantic series before hitting a wall in the Indy Lights series, one step from the top open-wheel cars.<P>

<b>Turned to teaching</b>
"No matter how much talent a driver had, it didn't matter," he said. "You had to come with a corporate sponsor, be a wealthy driver of means or have a legacy, like an Andretti or Unser. Just having talent didn't cut it."<P>

It was 1992 when Goldsborough decided to change paths and turned to teaching for the Bertil Roos Racing School, for which he still works occasionally.<P>

Teaching enabled him to keep his skills sharp and allowed him to meet people who might be able to help him. That's how he met Leigh Miller, who called him in 1993 to drive for the Champion Porsche team. That ride lasted three years and boosted him back toward the realm of prototype and Formula cars.<P>

And that's where he was in 1998, when he noticed Mercedes, BMW and Audi racing, but not a Lexus in sight.<P>

"I just cold called them," Goldsborough said. "It was the hardest thing I've ever done. I had to sell them."<P>

Goldsborough wasn't the first to call. But he was the first not to ask for millions.<P>

"I said, 'I'm going to try to do this on my own. Keep an eye on me,' " he said. "When I said that, you couldn't just go out and buy everything you needed to take a Lexus racing.<P>

"With a BMW or Acura, you could go buy dozens of parts. With a new manufacturer, we had to make and fabricate everything. It was a long and arduous road with a steep, steep and brutally unforgiving learning curve. I wouldn't do it again."<P>

But he did it in 1999. The team tested every chance it had, at least a dozen times that first season, and it impressed Lexus, which began to contribute to his then-budget of about $450,000.<P>

Most of those funds, however, came from local sponsors. Even today, with a $1.75 million budget, most of which is Lexus money, local sponsors are still an important part of Goldsborough's financing.<P>

"Initially, Lexus had no budget for racing," said Goldsborough, whose team has managed at least one win in every season. "But we had success and we displayed professionalism. It took a year and a half, but the Lexus budget changed - obviously."<P>

Copyright © 2003, The Baltimore Sun
 
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