"It’s Just Neat To Be Here" by Jason Buckley
Jack Landis Likes Just Being The “Everyman’s Racer”
In the high pressure world of motorsports, drivers are forced to win at all costs to maintain their ride and keep their sponsor happy. This results in many drivers racing with a 'do or die' attitude. That translates to their driving style on the race track, being possibly overaggressive, as well as their poor attitude off it when they do not win. Some say the 'business' makes drivers bitter.
Jack Landis has not let the pressure to perform change his attitude. In fact, nothing seems to phase him. He just wants to race and have fun doing it.
Jack Landis' #10 is a very familiar car at tracks around the Midwest and the Southeast. (51 photo)
Landis got attached to racing when he was growing up in the Midwest.
"My grandparents owned a speedway up in Angola, Indiana," explained Landis. "I worked there and hung around the racetrack a lot. I had an uncle that raced, as well as my dad, before I was born. He was always involved with helping or wrenching on something.
"I kinda started driving like everybody else did. My first race car was a junk Street Stock. I had a couple brother-in-laws that helped me out getting started, and they still help me out now occasionally. That was about 23 years ago."
It did not take long for Jack to get comfortable behind the wheel. In his first year, he had success, but had to evaluate his commitment to the sport during a trying weekend.
"I had a 'good wreck,' lets say. The 'good wreck' came before the feature, so I had to figure out how much determination and desire I had in me to race. It took me all winter to build the car, and after the wreck, it took me one week to put it back together.
"I kinda had to figure out if this is what I wanted to do, but after I did it and I was successful by winning a feature in my first year, which is what everyone wants to do, I got that 'feeling' and got hooked."
Over the years, Landis had his fair share of good luck and bad luck. Fortunately for him, he has never had a wreck that scared him from the seat. He thinks about it, but not too much.
"You are always around it. I have been fortunate enough to not be involved in a big one. I have a good buddy that came down here and helped me, (CRA Super Series regular) Danny Jackson. I got to be good friends with him this year. He was telling me he has had a couple trips to the hospital in an ambulance. He is like 22, you know. I said 'dude, be careful.' I hate to say anything to jinx myself, but fortunately I haven't had any experiences like that so.
"Every once in a while you hear about something happening at the track that makes you scratch your head and think for a moment, but it goes away. You can’t be thinking about that. You probably wouldn't cross the road if you thought about how dangerous it was."
A smile is something Jack Landis always has on his face.
Still though, when something does happen, Landis takes it in stride.
"I did wad up my car two or three nights here at the end of last year (at New Smyrna). It was a mishap and happened on the race track. It wasn't any fun, but it’s going to happen. I told my boss if we do not want to scratch (the car), we should leave it in the shop.
"Everyone knows they are going to have bad races. So yeah, I have my bad nights, but we have to regroup to figure out what we are doing. We can't make it fast if we have to keep putting a nose piece on it every night. You can't learn anything by racing that way."
Landis has raced his Super Late Model at many tracks across the country. From Indiana to Florida, he has wheeled around many ovals, but doesn't have a favorite facility.
"I can't say I have a favorite track," he said. "You come down here to New Smyrna and see what they are doing to fix the place up. It’s pretty neat. You know, the track is older than I am and they are trying to keep it going. Back home, we have Angola Motor Speedway. You should see all the upgrades done to that track. It’s just neat how much these track owners are putting into these places."
Still though, Landis wonders about the cost of these upgrades, and who is really paying for them.
"I know the track promoters and owners are trying to make money. It seems like when the grandstands aren't quite as full, it costs the racers more money. I scratch my head and wonder what the track promoters are trying to do; run us drivers and racers off, you know? Just the little things like renting the slabs at the race tracks. Here is one, pit licenses. What is that money for? So there are little things the promoters do to generate vacation money or whatnot that makes me scratch my head sometimes. Or, if you go to one track and a set of tires is $400 and you go to another place and they are $550 when they are the same tire. So, it is kinda like the promoters sometimes don't seem like they are trying to help us out as much. We are trying to help the show too."
The rising costs of racing in the sport is about the only thing Landis is vocal about. At 42 years young, Landis has seen his fair share of talent moving in and out of the short track ranks. Some drivers might get jealous at these kids coming up now, getting high dollar rides and moving in, out and up in the sport of racing.
Again, not Landis.
"It is just kinda what is happening nowadays. In all honesty, they've got those kids turning the steering wheels and pushing the gas pedals and all, but if you look deep in the teams, you will find a lot of years of experience setting these cars up for them. Some of the kids are eager to learn too. It is very seldom that you ever see any of these young kids coming up that you fear to race with or you don't was run side-by-side with because most of the time, they have a pretty good handling car and a real good teacher or coach. So I don’t mind. That is what is happening more nowadays."
Landis has been a regular in the Super Late Models since ending his ASA National Tour career.
In fact, Landis doesn't have many enemies on the track, and it is a rare occurrence to hear him say anything bad about anyone.
"Every series has their bullies as I call them. Sometimes, they have to do what they have to do to get noticed or that is just the way they are. You know, I am the way I am and they are the way they are.
“I really like racing down here (at Florida Speedweeks). You got them old guys like (Mike) Fritts. He has been down here every time I have been down here. I like Mike. He is cool. Also Lee Anderson is down here with his Modified. We got to be good friends with him. Travis Kittleson is not here this year, but he usually parks next to us. I kind of miss him down here this year. I hope he comes around so we can joke around about who knows what.
"You know, it is cool to see all the people down here, guys like Wayne Anderson. It’s cool to talk with the old timers and reminisce about the old times. We stay down the road from old Smokey Yunick's garage. Of course every time we drive by, someone makes a wise comment 'wouldn't it be neat to grow up like 30 years ago in that era just to rub elbows with the kind of guys like that?’ But we have our own Smokey Yunicks out here through guys like Mike Fritts."
The humble nature of Landis is refreshing in a sport that is filled with high tension and emotions. Sure, winning is a big part of it and the drive to succeed is always there.
But at 42-years-old, what keeps him going is the fun factor.
"I just want to run as long as I can and be competitive and keep having fun doing it. I run for a wonderful car owner right now, Jim Newman. Manufactured Housing, the business he owns, provides me with everything I need and it makes everything a lot easier and a lot more fun. That is what it is all about. We are not going to get rich doing this. So as long as my sponsor wants to hang in there and pay these high dollar bills I keep raking in, I am going to keep doing it and having fun.
"It is just neat to be here."