In 2023, popular Late Model Stock driver Landon Huffman followed up his 2022 Hickory Motor Speedway Championship year by signing with a struggling Nelson Motorsports team that was in the process of trying to turn their fortunes around. For both Nelson Motorsports and Huffman, the deal was a bit of a gamble. For Nelson Motorsports, it wasn’t as if the team had performed horribly for the past few seasons, with Bobby McCarty taking the CARS Tour Late Model Stock championship in 2021, his third with the team after winning two straight in 2018 and 2019. But in 2022, the team put up only one win as McCarty went winless, and teammate Kaden Honeycutt, running a partial season, netted the teams only win at Ace Speedway. But on the CARS Tour, wins are everything if you’re looking for championships and want to remain a premier team on the tour. The series is known for the best Late Model Stock competition in the region and beyond, and so in 2023 the team was looking to turn things around and gain the momentum they are known for. It didn’t help that three time Nelson Motorsports champion Bobby McCarty also wanted a change, and was slated to compete for the R&S Race Cars team in 2023. And with that in mind, the team decided to go back to a one car team so they could concentrate on one thing…winning. But it was also important to get the team where they were a threat to win even when they didn’t, week in and week out.

And so who to put in the car to achieve that goal was a top priority. The team first turned to Cale Gale at the beginning of this year, a driver that understands what it means to run up front. And Gale also had the experience they were looking for. But for whatever reason, the team didn’t start the season well, running 19th at Southern National Motorsports Park, 24th at Florence Motor Speedway, and with a DNQ at Hickory Motor Speedway. Looking for a challenge, Landon Huffman also set out to make the CARS Tour event at Hickory, qualifying 19th and finishing 20th in his family owned High Rock Vodka # 75 machine. Not totally what they had hoped for, but still satisfied running a family owned car against the best Late Model Stock racers in the region. It was enough to get the attention of the Nelson Motorsports team who was still looking for the driver that would be their perfect fit for the remainder of the season. And by week four, Huffman and the Nelson Motorsports team rolled the dice and inked a deal for Landon to run the iconic # 22 machine for the rest of the season. Landon Huffman was a Late Model Stock champion sure, but how would he fare racing against the best Late Model Stock drivers in the country every week on a tour known for sending drivers to the next level? Landon Huffman was going to have to step it up a bit for the gamble to pay off, and with the recent performance of the Nelson Motorsports team, it was safe to say this was no easy bet.

The first two races ended as many would have suspected with a pair of 21st place efforts at North Wilkesboro Speedway and Langley Speedway, but by race three at Dominion Raceway, things began to click with a finish right outside the top ten in 13th. The next week at Caraway Speedway got them closer with a 12th, but at Landon’s home track at Hickory, they had a bit of a setback, faring only 17th. But that 17th place finish didn’t set well with Huffman. You could see it after it was over. And for the rest of the season they only finished once outside the top 10, winning the tour’s crown jewel and highest paying event, the Old North State Nationals at Tri-County Speedway, and ending the season with two top 5’s, both podium finishes, first again at Tri-County Speedway and then at Caraway Speedway for the season finale. When the season numbers were analyzed, Landon Huffman and the Nelson Motorsports team ended with 1 win, 3 top 5’s, and 6 top 10’s, and with an average start of just 20.75, they still managed an average finish of 11.79. Not bad at all considering it was Landon Huffman’s first real run on the series. He had rose to the occasion. And most importantly for Nelson Motorsports, the team was back on track, knowing that they could not only just win, but be competitive every week. Still yet, in a move that underscores the challenges ‘big time’ racing can bring, in an effort to secure more funding for the team going forward, Nelson Motorsports signed a deal for Connor Hall to race the car in 2024. So after a year of constant improvement, where does that leave Landon Huffman?

Fortunately it’s true. When you learn to play the game at the top level and you play your cards right, most of the time you end up with a winning hand. In Huffman’s case, his gamble paid off, not only with a great competitive season racing at the highest of short track levels, and not only with a season where it was clear he was one of the most improved Late Model Stock racers in the region, but when he also drew the deuce. You see, for 2024, Landon Huffman not only secured a ride with Jimmy Mooring Racing that will see him compete full time on the CARS Tour in the # 37, a number he picked to pay tribute to his dad Robert Huffman, but he will also make his debut in a Touring Modified driving the # 98 for Shamrock Motorsports. Shamrock Motorsports in a 2nd generation team owned by brothers Justin and Ernie Hanney that are looking to bring their family back to Touring Modified racing at New Smyrna Speedway, following in the footsteps of their father who fielded cars for the likes of Richie Evans and Ed Flemke. And they were looking for the driver that could help get them to where they need to be, and after what Huffman pulled off on the CARS Tour for Nelson Motorsports, they’re pretty adamant that Landon Huffman is that guy. Once again Landon Huffman will have to step it up. The differences in Late Model Stocks and Touring Modifieds are immense. The team plans on running some southern SMART Modified races but their ultimate goal is to run the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour fulltime in the future, taking big steps this year by also competing at Richmond, North Wilkesboro, and Martinsville. That puts Landon Huffman in a position to involve his family shop with two teams running against the best competition on both ends of the short track racing spectrum. It’s another gamble of sorts for a driver that wants to prove that he can race with the best of them, but it comes at the benefit of calling on an already proven winning hand. It’s going to be one of the things to watch going into the 2024 season, but if this past season has been any indication, it wouldn’t be wise to bet against him finding even greater success.

Leave a Reply


123   Post in our HUB Storage

Subscribe now

If you want to receive our latest news send directly to your email, please leave your email address bellow. Subscription is free and you can cancel anytime.