Landon Huffman has a lot to look forward to in 2024, and that includes racing with the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour.
Huffman announced Monday he will drive the No. 98 Modified for Shamrock Motorsports, a new team that will make its debut during the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing at New Smyrna Speedway in February.
The team, which will be owned by Justin and Ernie Hanney and operate out of Huffman‘s shop in Claremont, North Carolina, has its origins in the 1960s and ‘70s. Hanney’s father, Ernie, owned a Modified team that fielded cars for drivers like Richie Evans and Eddie Flemke.
The Hanney family has decided now is the time to revive his family’s Modified team, and they asked Huffman to help him do it.
“I got connected with a guy named Justin Hanney, who is a longtime family friend. Actually his father (Ernie Hanney) built engines and owned part of an engine shop that worked with my dad (Robert Huffman) in the ‘90s during the Goody‘s Dash Series days called Golden Shamrock,” Huffman explained. “They developed a really good friendship over the years. Once my dad got out of racing, Justin‘s dad Ernie closed shop and Ernie moved out West with Justin, who lives in Washington State now.
“Over the last year or so, they‘ve been putting together a plan to restart their Modified team that ran in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s called Shamrock Motorsports. They got the funding put together to do so. Justin‘s going to own and operate it out of his headquarters in Washington State, and I‘ll operate all racing operations here out of my shop.”
Racing a Modified was not something Huffman said he had on his bingo card as he looked ahead to the 2024 season. But when Hanney came to him and laid out his idea to revive Shamrock Motorsports, it all made perfect sense.
“Justin approached me and he had this idea,” Huffman said. “He said he was looking for someone that could help him work on the cars and kind of kickstart the racing operations side of it. We obviously had a race shop already, and he was looking for someone who could help him build to his goal of having a team that can operate in multiple divisions and hopefully operate on a full-time basis moving forward in the next couple years.
“I‘ve always thought the Modifieds were cool. I think it‘ll be a neat opportunity for me to do something different and learn a little bit.”
The team plans to make its debut during the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing at New Smyrna Speedway in February, but Huffman said they will not compete in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour opener at the track on Feb. 10.
Instead, Huffman said the team will race in the Modified division during the World Series to better prepare for their Whelen Modified Tour debut, which will come at Richmond Raceway on March 29.
“The best opportunity for me to get experience and laps is to run those races,” Huffman said. “Basically they‘re just Saturday night shows, one set of tires. That‘s the easiest way to kind of break me in, I guess.”
In addition to the race at Richmond, Huffman said the team also plans to enter the events at North Wilkesboro Speedway on Oct. 5 and Martinsville Speedway on Oct. 26. Huffman said the long-term plan will be for the team to run the full NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour schedule at some point in the coming years.
Huffman and Co. are already hard at work preparing for New Smyrna. They‘ve acquired a complete Modified from Tommy Baldwin Jr., and Huffman is already reaching out to friends in the industry for advice on what to expect.
“I‘ve talked to a lot of people who have started in Late Model Stocks or in the Late Model world and transitioned to Modifieds,” Huffman said. “(Bowman Gray Stadium champion) Brandon Ward is a very good friend of ours, so I‘ve been talking to him and kind of using him as a mentor to sort of help me. He‘s been kind of preparing me for what to expect in the car.
“Honestly, man, it‘s got four tires and a motor; it can‘t be all that much different. It‘s got really wide, sticky tires, and they don‘t weigh anything. Everybody says they‘re a blast to drive, so I know going into it that it‘s going to be a lot of fun.”