Jack Lehner '21 tries to get all of his homework done during the week, because on weekends he drives race cars for a living.
Jack Lehner '21 easily stood out from the crowd. Not because of his curly, vibrant red locks (the hair has earned him the nickname Ginga Ninja), but because of his age. Lehner was a baby-faced college kid, and his mechanics (his high school friends) had baby faces, too. Their modest trailer was parked in the infield for Super Dirt Week in Oswego, which is the Super Bowl of the Super DIRTcar Series. The top drivers, with their top sponsors and their luxurious trailers parked all around them. The red-headed college kid, who slept in his trailer, was way out of his league. Eighty cars vied for 35 spots in the finals. To everyone's surprise (except the Ginga Ninja's), Lehner not only qualified to the finals, he finished 15th overall.
Lehner started racing cars when most kids his age started playing tee-ball. His dad put him in a go-cart at five years old (just like he did with his other children). Jack was the first family member to make a career out of the family hobby.
Lehner graduated to Sportsman Modified when he was 16. Most racing prodigies skip college, but that was never a consideration for Lehner, or his family. He thought he could balance racing and school at SUNY Geneseo, but Geneseo wasn't the right fit for the Saratoga Springs native. In 2018, he transferred to Siena as a sophomore. That same year, he was named Super DIRTcar Series rookie of the year.
Lehner is the only driver on the professional circuit who's also in college. He's also the youngest driver in the series. The marketing major loads up all of his courses on Tuesdays and Thursdays (he's in class from 9:00 in the morning to 9:00 at night on Tuesdays) and tries to get his homework done in between. On Mondays and Wednesdays, he works on his car. On the weekends he's racing - from Canada to Florida, and plenty of dirt tracks in between.
When he graduates next May, Lehner will focus full time on racing. He can make a career in Super DIRTcar, but if the wins pile up, he could also catch a ride elsewhere. NASCAR? Maybe. Or, he can put his marketing degree to work. The Ginga Ninja has sponsorships, fans, and more and more over-sized (literally) checks, but his diploma has always been a priority. And Siena was the perfect, if not first, fit.
"I began my college career at SUNY Geneseo. It soon became clear that it would be very difficult to juggle my racing career and academic career, until I transferred to Siena. Siena has accommodated everything needed to make sure I could be successful in the classroom and on the track. Siena is a college where the student is more than just a number. I truly experience this as I continue to pursue both my racing and academic careers. It's clear that Siena cares about their students' success."
Jack Lehner '21