Story By: MICHELINA FRISS / DIRTCAR – BARBERVILLE, FL – When the winter weather turns harsh in Jack Lehner’s New York hometown, trekking south to Florida in February for DIRTcar Nationals with the Super DIRTcar Series is usually an easy decision.
But beyond the enticing climate and a chance to see his racing peers again, the season-opening event, Feb. 15-18, serves other purposes as well.
“I feel like if you don’t go, you’re a little bit behind the eight-ball starting the season,” Lehner said. “Because a lot of the guys, myself included, use some of the nights as a little bit of a test session to try out some stuff that we may have come up with over the off-season because there’s not much at stake being non-points.”
Lehner had a career best run at DIRTcar Nationals last year, claiming his first top-five finish at Volusia Speedway Park with a third-place run on the second night. He backed that up with a seventh-place run on the fourth night, but finishes outside the top-10 the other three nights kept him out of contention for the Big Gator title.
The Saratoga Springs, NY native enters 2023 coming off a career-best points finish with the Super DIRTcar Series last year, earning his first top-10 points run. But, with only four top-10 finishes during the championship season, he’s poised to increase that number this year.
He’s been hard at work during the off-season, in his garage, getting his hands dirty, fine tuning every aspect of his equipment.
“I’m pretty much rebuilding everything,” Lehner said. “I’ve got one new chassis that I probably won’t be bringing down there. I’ll be bringing one of our cars from last year. That car got completely stripped down and gone through. We replaced all the moving parts that wear out and it’s got a fresh motor in it. I’m looking forward to this year because I feel like I’m going to be geared up the best that I’ve ever been as far as equipment.”
Along with that, Lehner also made some business decisions that he hopes will help support him as a driver both on and off the track.
“I invested in having my own shock business over the winter,” Lehner said. “So, it’s just another avenue that I can help dial myself in and try to gain an advantage on the competition… You look at a lot of guys that run really well like [Matt] Sheppard and Stew [Friesen], they do all their own shocks. They understand them and how they work. I think that’s something that you have to be able to do if you want to compete with them.”
As far as his expectations for the upcoming season, Lehner stays away from having specific goals in mind, but will admit that he wants to try to qualify better and worry about the Feature later.
“I think putting all the pieces together, last year we had stints where we were really good, and then we had stints where we really struggled,” he said. “This year our focus is for us to be as prepared as we can be so that all summer long we are ready to face whatever challenges come up.”