Championship brought relief, accomplishment for Johnny Layne

Published 3:32 pm Friday, November 24, 2023

There is no doubt that Johnny Layne felt a huge sense of accomplishment and relief when he won the 2023 season championship in South Boston Speedway’s Southside Disposal Pure Stock Division and captured his third career title in the division.

It had been six years since the Halifax, Virginia resident had last won the division championship. Winning the championship made him only the third driver to win three championships in the division. He joined former division champions Donald Brooks of Rougemont, North Carolina and Joe Allred III of Scottsburg, Virginia in achieving that accomplishment.

There is more.

Through the 2023 season Layne has won at least one race a year at South Boston Speedway over the past seven years. Through that span, he has won 25 races and 25 pole awards.

The accomplishment of winning his third division championship and putting up the outstanding numbers he posted this season came in a season in which Layne faced some of the toughest competition the division has seen in several seasons.

“Winning this championship means a lot,” Layne said. “This was my third championship, and it was probably the toughest one that we won. With all of the hard work that went into it, this means a lot.

“We’ve been doing this a long time,” Layne continued. “This year, with myself, my dad (Johnny Layne Sr.), and my brother, Steven, it took everything we had. We had to spend every minute between qualifying and race time trying to get the car either repaired or ready in time to race. It was just non-stop. If it hadn’t been for them working their tails off like they were doing, we would have never won the championship.”

Layne dominated the statistical columns. He won eight of the season’s 12 races, had a division-high six pole wins, finished in the Top-5 in 11 of his 12 starts and led a division-high 147 laps.

His ability to win the championship and compile those kinds of statistics against the level of the competition he faced showed how strong his season was.

“There was more competition this year,” Layne said. “You saw different people win races and several different people up front leading races. It really made me have to work for it. B.J. Reaves and Zach Reaves got a win this year. Caleb (Sanford) got his first win.

“I wanted good competition,” Layne continued. “It’s good to see. It was fun. I got to run side-by-side with Caleb and race side-by-side with B.J. Racing with those guys racing hard and knowing they are going to race you clean, it doesn’t get any better than that. That’s more fun to me, even if I finish second, than me winning by a mile. It’s fun when you can race side-by-side and it’s in the drivers’ hands and everybody knows there is going to be clean racing.”

Layne helped some of his fellow competitors in the division during the season, all of it to help boost the overall level of competition.

“We were trying to make the whole field in the class better by helping other people,” Layne pointed out. “We built a car, and Caleb Sanford ended up buying it. We set it up just like ours, and after about three races he was running well and was pretty quick. We also helped B.J. and Zach (Reaves) trying to make them faster.

“Nobody wants to see the same person win all the time,” he added, “but, at the same time, as a racer, I don’t want to give everybody the edge. I’m not saying I gave away all of the secrets. You’ve got to keep one or two for yourself.”

There was a bit of an unusual element in Layne winning the championship in that he won the championship using what had been back-up car in most of the races.

“We started the first race of the year with the primary car, the one with the American Flag wrap on it,” Layne explained. “Something happened to the car during practice. We loaded it up, took it home, unloaded it, had to put everything together on the back-up car, load it up, and rush back to the track. We just did manage to get back to the track in time to unload and line up in the rear of the field for the race. We ended up winning that race.”

Layne attempted to get his primary car back on track, but persistent issues prevented it.

“We kept trying to get the other car ready,” Layne noted, “but it kept having problem after problem. We brought the primary car to one other race, maybe the third or fourth race of the year, and managed to finish third with it, but we had an electrical issue or some kind of issue with the motor. That was the last time we raced it. Once we were really into the championship battle, we decided to let that car go and focus on the back-up car and trying to win the championship.”

What lies ahead for Layne in 2024 is a question mark at this point.

“We’ll have to wait until the time gets closer to next season to be 100 percent sure about what’s going to happen,” Layne remarked. “We’re going to take a little bit of a break next year. I’ll race a few times, but my little girl is playing softball and she’s gotten really big into it in both Dixie and travel ball. I’ve been doing this a little over 28 years now. I’m going to take next year and focus on her and what she is enjoying and watch her grow. I might put my brother in the Pure Stock a few times. We’ll just wait and see how things go.”