Almost Had It! Near Victory At DIRTcar Nationals Fueling Jack Lehner That Off-Season Work’s Paying Off
Story By: MICHELINA FRISS / DIRTCAR – CONCORD, NC – Jack Lehner knew he had work to do in the off-season.
To chase his first Super DIRTcar Series win, he “rebuilt everything.”
He saw the first steps to that nearly pay off at Federated Auto Parts DIRTcar Nationals when he saw his first win vanish on the last lap of the final night. However, his performance at Volusia Speedway Park helped him still leave with confidence.
“When it’s racing against (Mat) Williamson and (Matt) Sheppard and stuff, sometimes we can race with them, sometimes we can hang with them, but it always feels like they’re a little bit quicker than me,” Lehner said. “Last week, I felt like we were on a level playing field with them. I felt like we were right there with them. It just came down to elbows-up racing, which is really encouraging…I feel like if we can put ourselves in those positions consistently, we will get our wins.”
After 10 laps of battling with Williamson for the lead, Lehner went into the final lap well ahead of his competitor. However, lap traffic blocked a clean view in Turn 1. Making a split-second decision, to dove to the bottom of the track, hoping for a run around a slower car, but his hoped vanished as the slower car halted his run and allowed Williamson to pass him around the outside.
“Running the middle there, if you hit it just right, it’s fast,” Lehner said. “But, if you missed it a little bit, it was really slow. In my mind, I didn’t want to miss it and give the bottom up to Matty (Williamson) there. But at the same time, I’m thinking, I don’t want to get stuck behind a lapped car there and leave the middle open for him. There was a little bit of a gap to Jimmy, this is just my thought process, I just put a lapped car between me and Williamson, what I thought. Let me tuck in and try to bring this thing home. It just didn’t work out that way.”
While he missed the win, Lehner had a consistent run in the three races, finishing seventh, sixth and second, giving him good momentum going into the 2023 championship season, which starts at Atomic Speedway, March 31-April 1.
“It was building a lot of experience for me, running with those guys, being in that position, being the leader with a handful of laps to go in lapped traffic,” Lehner said. “I’ve been in those positions in the weekly racing stuff but maybe not so much with the Super DIRTcar Series. It gets me more experience and gets me more comfortable being in that position and hopefully being able to make better decisions when I’m in that position.”
UP NEXT: The Super DIRTcar Series Big Blocks are back in action at Atomic Speedway Friday, March 31-Saturday, April 1 for two Super DIRT Week Qualifiers, $10,000 on Friday and $12,000 on Saturday.