Over the past calendar year, Solid Rock Carriers CARS Tour driver Landon Huffman has had one of the wildest rollercoaster stories in racing that someone could ever imagine. The Claremont, N.C. native has been through some of the highest of highs for a short-track racer while also experiencing some of the most frustrating and downright bizarre events a racer can go through.
As the season winds down, just how bizarre has Huffman’s 2023 season been and what’s next in ’24 for the Claremont Kid?
For those who don’t know, Huffman is the son of former racer Robert Huffman, who had a very successful racing career in his own right, winning the championship in NASCAR’s Goody’s Dash Series five times during the ’90s and early 2000s. The elder Huffman also has two track championships at Hickory Motor Speedway to his name, winning those titles in 1988 and ‘89.
As for Landon, his rollercoaster ride began back in September of last year, as he captured his first track championship at Hickory with the NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly series in late model stock car competition. Huffman joined his father as a track champion and turned to the 2023 season with hopes of repeating the same success he found in 2022.
However, the start to Huffman’s 2023 season did not go as planned. For the first half of the year, disputes with track officials, other drivers and some unfortunate torn-up equipment were the highlights of his season, rather than on-track success.
Back in March, Huffman was involved in an incident during the first of twin 40-lap features at Hickory that knocked Huffman out of the race on lap 2 with heavy damage. After Huffman, along with fellow competitors Doug Barnes Jr. and Cade Brown spent the remainder of the first 40-lapper repairing their cars for the second feature, the trio were told that they could not compete in the event due to a tire rule and them not having a minimum of 20 laps on their tires.
To no surprise, none of the three were happy with the decision and Huffman took to social media to voice his displeasure, as well as his YouTube channel. Hickory Motor Speedway then responded, stating that the rule had been addressed during drivers’ meetings for years.
The track claimed that the solution that is presented to the team is for them to purchase 20-lap scuffs from the racetrack in order to create a fair and level playing field.
After the announcement, Huffman once again called out the racetrack, stating that the rule was never once mentioned in the drivers’ meeting and that track staff even admitted to this. Further, he added that options for scuff tires were never once mentioned to the teams and that the team should have been given a heads up while working to repair their cars for the second feature that this would become an issue.
Just two months later, Huffman again found himself in the middle of controversy, and this time a legal situation. A bump-and-run from Huffman to the back of competitor Annabeth Barnes-Crumb led to an attempt at retaliation from Barnes-Crumb and later Barnes-Crumb tracking down Huffman under caution and deliberately destroying both racecars.
Around that same time, a fight between Huffman’s spotter and father, Robert Huffman, and Barnes-Crumb’s spotter and husband, Jake Crumb, broke out on the spotters stand that led to violent images towards the end of the fight, with Robert Huffman on the receiving end.
The Huffman family chose to press simple assault charges against Crumb. Crumb then responded with charges of his own, claiming the video evidence that the Huffman’s have only shows half the story and that Huffman actually started the physical dispute. Eventually, charges were dropped from both sides.
Just before the incident, Huffman joined forces with Nelson Motorsports, a prominent force in late model stock racing and the CARS Tour over its history. The Nelson team had lacked the success over the past year that the team had become accustomed to, so the move to bring in Huffman who had such great short-track knowledge was the move the team felt they needed to bring them back to victory lane.
Just weeks later, the Huffman Racing team suffered another bump in the road, with the total loss of another racecar. During a test session at Hickory, Huffman’s limited late model was being driven by friend and fellow racer Travis Brown, who many know from the iRacing and Twitch streaming world as “Moonhead.”
With Brown in the car, an apparent mechanical failure of some kind caused the throttle to hang and send the No. 75 hard into the turn 1 wall. As Huffman put on display with his YouTube channel, the car was damaged beyond repair and thankfully Brown escaped with a concussion and some bruises.
In July, Huffman and the Nelson Racing team began to make improvements, running up front at South Boston in the Harley Davidson 200 and bringing home a third-place result in the crown jewel. However, Huffman was later disqualified due to a rear-end issue, where officials claimed that there was camber found on both the left and right axle tubes.
Huffman protested the ruling, stating that contact to either rear tire can cause this small bend, which has been proven in the past. Ultimately, the ruling was upheld and the team lost their third-place result.
Just two weeks later, Huffman found victory lane with the Nelson Motorsports team, again at South Boston, but this time in a NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly series event. The result was protested by the second-place finisher and once again, an infraction was found that led to disqualification for Huffman and the team.
The ruling was made based on an illegal left-rear shock valving that was illegal in the series, but legal in the CARS Tour. This led Huffman to start a movement for the CARS Tour rulebook and the NASCAR Weekly Series rulebook to be better aligned with each other, due to the fact that many teams run in both series with the same cars.
After all the struggles Huffman had faced throughout the season, the team finally had their breakthrough moment in August, as the CARS Tour made their stop at Tri County Speedway for the series biggest race, the Old North State Nationals.
Huffman started fifth on the night and battled up front throughout the race, running as high as second in the first half of the race. In the later stages of the race, Huffman outlasted the powerhouses of the CARS Tour to pick up his first career series win and a $30,000 payday at a track he considers to be his second home only to Hickory.
The win was huge for the team, as it marked not only their first with Huffman, who they hired to accomplish exactly what they did that night, but also their first win in over a year with the series and put behind them the struggles they had faced throughout the season.
Finally, to cap it all off up to this point, the late models made their yearly stop at Martinsville for the ValleyStar Credit Union 300, the Daytona 500 of late model racing. Huffman clocked in second in time trials, putting him on pole for the second of four heat races. Huffman then brought the No. 22 home second in his heat race, earning him a sixth-place starting spot in the 200-lap main event.
All race long, Huffman was a factor, and he found himself up front at the end in a four-car battle for the lead with Trevor Ward, Peyton Sellers and Carson Kvapil. A caution with 11 laps to go bunched the field back up and Huffman grabbed the lead on the ensuing restart.
Huffman held the lead until Ward finally got to the back bumper of the No. 22 with four laps to go and Ward got to the inside of Huffman heading into turn 3. The three raced door to door for the final three laps, with Huffman on Ward’s outside the whole way. Ward never used up the left side of Huffman and Huffman never got back in line to punt Ward as the two raced fair all the way to the checkered flag.
In a drag race to the line, Ward beat out Huffman by about half a car length for the biggest win of his career. In post-race interviews, Huffman used the term “heartbroken” to describe his feeling of running second in such a big race, but ultimately, Huffman left his mark.
The second-place result was the best for the Nelson team in the event since 2017. Huffman and the Nelson Motorsports team have shown big gains throughout the latter stages of the summer, and that shouldn’t end any time soon.
So now, what’s next for Huffman and the team? Huffman is set to finish out the season in the Nelson No. 22 with the CARS Tour while also running his own No. 75 team when he has the chance, as the season winds down. The fact that Huffman has managed to keep digging deeper for good results despite all the controversy this season is impressive in itself and it leads many to ask what more could there be to offer from the upcoming 2024 season.
It’s very well possible that Huffman could be full time in the CARS Tour for the 2024 season, with that possibly being the headliner of Huffman’s racing schedule for 2024 rather than a track championship at Hickory. Based on the late-season success Huffman is having, he could easily be a championship contender looking to next season on the CARS Tour.
This is all speculation as nothing has been confirmed or announced on any of these subjects for 2024, but a Huffman-Nelson pairing for 2024 would personally be something I’d look forward to seeing and I would fully expect success from the pair right out of the gate.
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