FUZI: Landers Is Making His Mark
For Jared Landers, childhood was filled with cars, horsepower and dirty Saturday nights. The Benton, Ark., native grew up loving sprint-car racing. His father Lance owned Landers GMC and sponsored area sprint-car teams.
The rumble of race engines was not an unfamiliar sound and at the age of 14, Landers got the chance to run a go-kart. What was intended to be a hobby soon became a passion and now just a decade and a half later Landers has made a career out of motorsports.
As the pilot of the Clint Bowyer Racing No. 5 dirt-late-model, Landers has been making a name for himself on a national level for two years, but for Midwestern UMP Modified fans; Landers made an impression long ago.
The distinctive No. 777 was frequently found in victory lane at tracks throughout the Midwest, and although the number was a lucky one for Landers, it originally wasn’t supposed to be the slot-machine symbol of winning. Landers go-kart career began with a No. 77 stickered on, but soon Jared found the number wasn’t uncommon.
“There were a few places I would race in go-karts that I always had to be No. 77x or No. 177 so after a while I just said, ‘Lets make it No. 777,” said Landers. “Everybody seemed to like it and it stuck. Now for the first time I am not running that number and I have to admit that sometimes in an autograph line I slip and still write the 777”
The number on the side panels is definitely not the only change the 30-year-old driver has seen in the past couple of seasons. Racing full-time in the late-model ranks is an awesome opportunity but one Landers never thought would come his way.
“I spent 10 years in modifieds and up until a couple years ago I never had even thought of moving into late models,” said Landers. “The modifieds are easily maintained on your own with a much smaller budget. With late models running up and down the road and racing 43 weeks a year requires two full-time employees and a lot of money.”
With over 100 modified feature wins to his credit Landers definitely had already established himself as an amazing competitor and for many it was no surprise when he caught the eye of Clint Bowyer and landed a seat during Speedweeks.
“I have known Dale McDowell for a while and Dale and Clint are buddies,” explained Landers. “So I ended up building Clint a modified to run at Volusia and he let me drive his late-model a few times. It got to the point where I was running his for him full time and became part of the CBR team. It has been huge for my career, its just a great deal. I have a good team, good teammates and we feel that we are getting to the next level. Hopefully we can run up front with the top guys soon.”
Although Landers has had untouchable success in the modified ranks, he is still a late-model rookie. A fact which is often overlooked by fans and drivers alike and 2012 has brought a new series of challenges for the talented father of one.
“We had big changes over the winter. We have a new car with Barry Wright Chassis, a new shop, I have a new teammate, and even a new number,” said Landers. “It’s a work in progress and its been good, but there has been a learning curve for the whole team. We have run better and worse all in one. We may not have the statistics, but we have been learning a new car at new tracks. I’ve still got a lot to learn as a driver and some people may expect me to be better than I am but I just try to not let the pressure get to me.”
With only two full seasons in the late model ranks Landers is already considered one of the premier drivers on the Lucas Oil Late Model Series tour.
In his rookie season of 2011 he picked up one tour victory, finished fifth in the final points standings, and earned the Rookie of the Year title, he also surprised everyone including himself by setting a new Eldora track record at the 2011 Dream 100 with a time of 14.922.
“I didn’t even feel like I had it in me,” recalled Landers. “It didn’t really feel like a good lap so I was surprised when I came in and everybody was cheering. That was a pretty cool moment”.
Those accomplishments alone would indicate a stellar late-model career, but early on Landers landed one of racing’s crown jewel events when he picked up the double checkered at the 2010 Topless 100 at Batesville Motor Speedway.
“The Topless win was by far the highlight of my career,” Landers recalled. “A 100-lap race is hard to win anyhow, but in my first year and at my home track, it was unbelievable. I never would have thought I’d have won it so it definitely tops the board.”
With a late-model career still in its infancy, the Topless 100 will certainly be one of many amazing accomplishments on Landers already impressive racing resume.
With just one full season behind the Clint Bowyer Racing machine under his belt, there is still lots in store for the man who now calls Clement, N.C., home, much of which is possible because of the support he receives off the track from his crew and his biggest fan.
“My wife Jessica and I have been married for four years and together for six and she goes with me everywhere, if it wasn’t for that it would be too hard to do this. She supports me and that means a lot,” said Landers.
Not only is Jessica by his side, but unless race track rules disallow; three-year old Madden Lance is also not too far from the action cheering his father on.
For Jared Landers and the Clint Bowyer Racing team, there is definitely a lot to cheer about and it’s only the beginning.