Season-long battles at tracks across the northeast have led to five new DIRTcar Hoosier Racing Tire Weekly champions.
Marc Johnson (DIRTcar Big Block Modified), Lance Willix II (DIRTcar 358 Modified), Andrew Buff (DIRTcar Sportman) Luke Horning (DIRTcar Pro Stock) and Daniel Joubert (DIRTcar 4-Cylinders) were declared the 2023 champions in their respective divisions.
Johnson trailed leader Peter Britten by 10 points going into the final weekend of competition. The Guilderland, NY driver clinched his first Hoosier title with the Feature win on Sept. 1 at his home track Albany-Saratoga Speedway, giving him an eight-point advantage over Britten who was sidelined with a hand injury.
“We’ve been consistent,” Johnson said. “We’ve got a lot of seconds, and a lot of top-fives.”
The former full-time Series driver acknowledged the significance of his crew and their hard work helping him persevere through a challenging season.
“My core guys stuck by me, and we plugged along,” Johnson said. “We were still consistent. I still know how to drive a race car. My guys still know how to work on cars. We were just spread a little thin this yeLance Willix II was the victor in the DIRTcar 358 Modified division, after winning a tight battle over runner-up Jordan McCreadie. It’s also the first Hoosier title for the Theresa, NY driver.
“It means all the years of not running so good have finally paid off,” Willix II said. “This year I felt like we were more consistent, and it paid off. We were fast almost every night, and the end results show it.”
His Hoosier season saw success from the beginning, landing several victories early in the season. He finished with eight wins, 20 top-fives, and 24 top-10s in 31 starts.
“We started the season off fast right out of the box, which is always good,” Willix II said. “We got wins at Can-Am, Airborne, and our home track Glen Ridge right off the bat. We had wins right there on opening night of each of them. We’re just trying to stay consistent. We had a few hiccups during the season of part failures, but we just tried to stay consistent and ended up getting the championship.”
Willix II has now switched his focus to preparing his equipment for Super DIRT Week 51, Oct. 2-8, at Oswego Speedway. He’ll look to continue extending his impressive resume by battling for his first Salute to the Troops 150 title.
Andrew Buff, of Latham, NY, edged out his younger brother Zach for the title in the DIRTcarSportsman. The 25-year-old delivered one of the most consistent seasons in the division, notching 34 top-five finishes in 42 starts. He also recorded nine wins.
“Everybody in the northeast is involved in the (Hoosier title),” Buff said. “It’s basically who has the most consistent year…it’s awesome. The more racing you do, the better it helps. But it’s pretty cool to win it two times.”
One of his favorite moments of the Hoosier season was when he and younger brother Zach scored wins on Sept. 2 at Fulton Speedway. The elder Buff won the makeup Feature, and the younger Buff took the checkers in the regularly scheduled Feature.
“That was pretty cool that we were able to be on the front stretch down there together,” Buff said.
Transitioning towards the end of the year, Buff remains confident in his equipment and momentum going into the end of the year events like the Chevrolet Performance 75 at Super DIRT Week 51.
“Knowing what a good race car we have together going into all the big races at the end of the year is definitely a confidence booster.”
Over in the DIRTcar Pro Stock competition, “Cousin Luke” Horning took the title, defeating defending champion Chad Jeseo. Horning also saw a consistent season, finishing his Hoosier season with 10 wins and 17 top-five finishes in 25 starts. The Gloversville, NY driver was supported by a dominant run of six wins in a row at his home track Glen Ridge Motorsports Park.
“Glen Ridge really helped me out a lot,” Horning said. “We’re really strong there. It’s been our home track for years. We have a lot of experience up there. We’re the all-time winner up there. We have six (wins) in a row right now, plus, we won three earlier in the season. So, we have a total of nine up there. That helped a lot with the Hoosier points. It’s a big deal. It’s a nice payout and a nice bonus.”
Even though he came out on top, there were moments throughout the competition he wasn’t sure if he would. He said he felt the demands of the grind of the race season and how it affected his ability to compete up to his potential. But with a relentless attitude and a dash of luck at opportune moments, Horning was able to stay in the fight.
“It seems like everything went well when we needed it to go well,” Horning said. “When we fell a little bit behind at Glen Ridge, the season turned around. We had someone buy us 10 tires. When things started to slow down a little bit, something came along to right the ship and get us in the right direction.”
Securing the title has a significant meaning to Horning. It wasn’t just a race against local competitors. It was a race against the best DIRTcar Pro Stock drivers in the entire region.
“I really like (the Hoosier) title,” Horning said. “It’s the best of 16 races. You didn’t just beat your guys at Glen Ridge or (Albany-Saratoga). You beat the guys that run all the DIRT Series stuff and all their home tracks, even the places we don’t get to. It’s good to get your name out there a little more, too.”
Along with finishing out DIRTcar Pro Stock Series action, Horning will also be preparing for another showing at Oswego Speedway for Super DIRT Week 51 to battle for his first DIRTcarPro Stock 50 title.
Daniel Joubert took the 4-Cylinders title, edging out runner-up Alex Riley by a mere three points. He finished with one win, nine top-fives, and 20 top-10’s in 20 starts.
To see Johnson, Willix, Buff and Horning compete in Super DIRT Week 51 at Oswego Speedway, CLICK HERE to get your tickets today. If you can’t make it to the track, you can watch all the action live on DIRTVision.