Title Collector: Justin Lamb Dominates In NHRA Sportsman Racing

Becoming a dominant sportsman racer at the national level in the National Hot Rod Association’s Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series doesn’t happen by accident with a minimal effort — it takes a high degree of focus, talent, and determination. Justin Lamb has asserted himself as one of the best in the NHRA sportsman ranks by securing multiple national championships in both Stock and Super Stock. His wall of Wally’s is the product of his ability to prepare like most aren’t willing to and executing his racing plan no matter the situation.

When you look at Justin’s racing program you can quickly surmise that it’s no accident that he won five NHRA world championships from 2013 to 2018 between Stock and Super Stock. What people may find surprising is how Justin and his family found their way into drag racing, because it wasn’t something they’ve always been involved in.

“My father had drag boats and he didn’t drive them, but he owned them. We were always involved in some type of racing. Getting into drag racing happened by accident as we were at a car show and there was a Jr. Dragster there that I thought was cool. My dad ended up getting me one for my eighth birthday and that’s all it took to get me hooked into drag racing,” Justin says.

Justin’s family didn’t know much about drag racing on dry land since boat racing was such a different world, but that didn’t stop them from jumping in at full speed. The Jr. Dragster program was the perfect start for Justin and allowed him to hone his skills as a racer at a young age. When he aged out of the Jr. Dragster, his family put him in a full-size car and he began bottom-bulb bracket racing in his hometown of Las Vegas. The following year he was racing in Super Comp and his racing career was off and running.

Justin has raced in multiple NHRA sportsman categories and has been highly successful with victories on his resume from each. His bread-and-butter classes are Stock and Super Stock, where he’s accumulated the majority of his victories. In the past six years, he has won two NHRA Stock Eliminator world championships, three Super Stock world championships, and won the title in 2017 in both categories: a monumental feat. Justin’s high level of accomplishment in these classes can be attributed to his skillset as a driver.

“I’m so attracted to Stock and Super Stock class racing because it’s bottom-bulb racing. It’s just what I’m best at. Don’t get me wrong, I can hold my own racing the top bulb because I’ve won national events in Super Comp, Super Gas, and Top Dragster. I just feel for me personally the bottom bulb is just a little more difficult, you don’t have a delay box, and you have to be way more disciplined to race it. It just really plays into my strong suit so that’s why I like it and do so well at it. The first year we started racing Stock in 2013 I won the world championship,” Justin explains.

Out of his two main classes, Stock holds a special place in Justin’s racing heart, as he says it challenges him and requires the use of every skill he’s developed over his years of racing.

“In Stock, you’re actually foot-braking the car and manually shifting it as it goes down the track so it takes more driver input. In Super Stock you let go of a transbrake button and it air shifts itself so you’re not as connected. With that said, I would say Stock is my favorite because it’s just more fun to physically go down the track.”

Justin has become deadly and proficient at winning in Stock but that hasn’t come easy. The learning curve in the class was steep and sharp due to the challenges imposed on the cars. The proficiencies that Justin possess in racing have truly been tested in Stock class racing in many ways and he has learned what it takes to overcome the challenges.

“The equipment and racers are getting so good and there are just so many improvements happening all the time. Honestly, the technology in the cars is what has really changed things and that’s why I stepped up to a COPO Camaro. I was racing a 1970 Chevy Camaro on leaf springs against these new factory-built racecars with a factory four-link suspension and coilover shocks in Stock. We had to work a lot harder to get wins with that old car,” Justin says.

At the highest of levels in any sport preparation is what helps make a champion.

Besides being able to get a quality racecar packed with the latest technology to go Stock Eliminator racing, the level of driver skill has increased significantly. Racers now have a plethora of tools at their disposal to become better behind the wheel, including online driving schools like This Is Bracket Racing Elite that Justin and Luke Bogacki have partnered to create.

“With the driving school, Luke and I teach people what we’ve learned racing at a high level that has helped us win. I’ve seen the success of our members first-hand as they apply what we teach. It’s tools like that along with better weather stations, predicting equipment, and improved racecars that have made racing more difficult in Stock,” Justin explains.

There’s absolutely no doubt that Justin is one of the best drivers in all of NHRA sportsman racing, and dare we say one of the greatest of all-time. His resume tells the story. When you talk with Justin about what he thinks has helped him win, he quickly points out that driving ability is just a certain percentage of his success model. He believes that how you prepare to race plays the biggest role in winning at the highest levels of NHRA racing.

“I test a lot before events and I do a good amount of research on weather and things like that, too. The biggest thing for me I think is making sure my car is 110-percent ready to go before it hits the track. More than my driving, I pride myself on making sure I have the best equipment that’s ready, and fortunately, my father gives us that,” he explains. “Anybody can buy the best stuff, though. It’s also about making sure it can get down the track every time. I think one of the biggest reasons I’ve been able to win five world championships in the past six years has been my preparation before events and understanding the weather.”

Being prepared has helped Justin deal with the pressure that comes with racing and it has helped him win some pressure-cooker rounds when there was a lot on the line. Having the mental confidence that both he and his machine can handle any situation thrown at them is a huge advantage. That extra boost has assisted in elevating his abilities on the track and led to some big wins.

“The race to win the Super Stock world title in 2018 is a great example of how being prepared helps me. It came down to one round to win the world championship between myself and Brad Zaskowski. We both made great runs in that race but I was .0011-second package and he was .0015-second total package, so it was close. Don’t get me wrong, that wasn’t easy, but I feel like I’ve raced that race in my mind many times so I was ready.”

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When it’s time to pull the belts tight and head towards the waterbox Justin is ready to do his job as a driver. His ability to win championships is also rooted in being calm under pressure rather than melting under the bright lights one the biggest stage.

“To me, it’s everything to be calm, cool, and collected no matter what the situation is. It’s funny because some drivers, especially in the pro classes, need to get all pumped up for a run and I’m totally opposite. I want to have the same attitude no matter if it’s a big round or small round. That’s one of the big things I try to do in mentally preparing for a race. I have zero emotion, I’m just there to do a job. I’m prepared for anything and that helps,” Justin says.

The grind of winning a championship in NHRA sportsman racing is something that the majority of racers will never get to experience. It’s a grueling journey that is taxing on both man and machine as the season wears on, so survival is just as important as turning on win-lights. With multiple national championships to his credit, Justin knows all too well what it takes.

“When it gets to the end of the year there’s a ton of travel, so you’re constantly online looking at results and texting friends to see how someone you’re competing against in points did. There are times where a national event and three divisionals can be going on all on the same weekend and you’re trying to follow all of that to see who does what. It’s so mentally draining watching what everyone else is doing plus making sure your program is ready, too.”

 I’ve made great friends like Kyle Seipel that I race with each week that I wouldn’t have met if it weren’t for sportsman racing.

Racers are highly goal-oriented, whether it’s to win more events, go faster, or find a means to scale the ranks. Justin, however, has no desire to go 300 mph or seek out a ride in the professional categories. Sportsman racing is his home and he loves where he gets to hang his hat.

“I have zero interest in anything else when it comes to racing. I love the people we race against and sportsman drag racing has so many great people. There’s a lot of camaraderie among the racers and the competition is tough. In my opinion, it’s way more of a driver’s sport than something like Top Fuel is because it requires so much precision. Now, if given the opportunity would I race Pro Stock, absolutely,” Justin shares.

Justin’s family has supported his racing at every level since the beginning. His parents do all they can to make sure he has the equipment he needs to compete for titles every year, and his wife holds down things at home when he’s on the road. He’s grateful for the support he has received and is quick to acknowledge it’s importance to his program.

“My parents gave me the opportunity to start racing when I was eight years old and have been there ever since. I’m an accountant for the city and could never afford all of this but they help make all of this happen. My wife is so supportive and makes sure everything is taken care of when I’m on the road so I can concentrate on racing,” Justin says.

There aren’t many people in the world who have won at the level Justin Lamb has. His commitment to do what it takes to win through careful preparation has paid off with multiple world titles, and don’t be surprised to see him continue to pile on the accolades for years to come.

About the author

Brian Wagner

Spending his childhood at different race tracks around Ohio with his family’s 1967 Nova, Brian developed a true love for drag racing. When Brian is not writing, you can find him at the track as a crew chief, doing freelance photography, or beating on his nitrous-fed 2000 Trans Am.
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