Saturday night at Baer Field Speedway in Indiana, Scott Hantz and Brent Jack played a game of high-speed Jenga.
The two Outlaw Super Late Model standouts took turns trying to either pass or block the other for the lead, each time leaving the fans at the Great Lakes Outlaw Series event at Baer Field holding their breath and cringing in hopes that calamity would not be the result. Each time Hantz would poke his nose inside or outside Jack’s once-dominant car in the second half of the race, Jack’s moves to thwart Hantz’s advances were was like pulling a block out of a Jenga tower. Just like the popular game, Saturday night’s race was full of tension and excitement because everyone knew one person was going to win and the other person was going to be ticked off with a pile of junk left afterwards.
In the second half of the 100-lap race, Hantz reeled in Jack up front and tried either the inside groove or the outside groove going into each corner. No matter where Hantz put his #72, Jack’s #41 would go to the same spot to block, forcing Hantz to lift.
Then on lap 74, the tower came down. Hantz tried the outside groove to get the lead from Jack through turns three and four, but Jack and Hantz made contact that hooked Jack’s car into the outside wall on the frontstretch. The pile of ruins that was left for Jack meant Hantz would inherit the lead, keep the lead after not being penalized for any contact, and go on to winning the Great Lakes Outlaw Series thriller Saturday night.
“I was passing Brent on the outside,” said Hantz. “I was trying to get up clean with him. I didn’t quite get up there, but I was beside him. His spotter didn’t really tell him, I guess. He came up and he hit the wall a ton. Tore his car all to pieces.”
The only difference between Saturday night’s race and Jenga is that another tower can be re-built without too many hard feelings. Wrecked racecars aren’t as easy to get over.
“He just took me out,” said Jack. “Clipped me. Put me in the wall. He did the same thing to Junior Hanley here a few years ago. He’s a better racer than that. He shouldn’t be racing like that.
“That’s the only way he’s going to beat me.”
Jack took the lead from pole starter Dakota Carlson on lap five and built up a sizable advantage early in the 100-lapper. Behind him, Scott Hantz, who qualified second and had to start fifth after the post-qualifying invert, worked through the field to get into second. Hantz reeled in Jack, tried to pass him a number of times in the second half of the race, even doing it one time on the bottom groove of turn one on lap 65. But, off the second turn that lap, Jack kept the momentum on the high side and re-took the lead that he would hold until he and Hantz came together on lap 74.
“My car wasn’t great but I could keep it on the bottom,” added Jack. “I gave him the outside every lap. He got on the inside of me once, but I passed him back on the outside.”
Even after having come up short on his first full bid for the lead, Hantz still tried to pass Jack inside or outside in the final third of the race, but each time he would stop his advances when Jack protected his lead.
“He didn’t do anything wrong,” said Hantz of Jack’s defensive driving. “It was good racing. He was protecting the bottom. The track is slick and it’s hard to pass. I was trying to get a run on the outside. I did it a couple times, but I always backed out. That time, I didn’t really think I was even far enough to touch him, but we touched and he got the bad end of the stick.”
JACK HITTIN’ THE ROAD FROM THE GLLMS?
Brent Jack was admittedly angry with the way his night ended, but as he stated after the crash, he was also frustrated with the Great Lakes Outlaw Series not doling out any penalties for the contact between Hantz and his #41 car.
“I can’t believe the Great Lakes (Series) left him at the front of the race,” said Jack. “I won’t run another Great Lakes race, I guarantee it.”
In several of his most recent races, whether it be in Outlaw Super Late Model races or in template-bodied SLM shows like the CRA Super Series races, Scott Hantz has been close to, if not directly involved, with each race’s turning point. At Anderson Speedway (IN) last month, Hantz steered clear when several of the front-runners crashed around him, allowing the Angola, IN resident to drive on to the Redbud 300 CRA victory. Just this past Friday night in the CRA event at Toledo Speedway (OH), Hantz and Johnny VanDoorn took turns nudging each other out of the lead. That time, however, VanDoorn was left in victory lane and Hantz finished third.
Saturday night, Hantz offered his opinion of why he’s been involved in some of the craziness of recent races.
“It just seems like there’s controversy everywhere I go,” said Hantz. “I guess when you’re running up front, you know there’s going to be problems.”
Once Scott Hantz inherited the lead, he had his mirror full of the red #5 car of Dakota Carlson and Derrick Griffin’s #16. The final 10 laps saw the three drivers run nose-to-tail, but Carlson did not put too much pressure on Hantz, instead settling for a rebounding second-place finish.
“I think maybe if we could’ve pushed the issue, we could’ve gotten by him,” said Carlson. “We’ve had such bad luck this year, we just needed a good run. We had the wrong locker (rear end) in this car and we had no rear bite. That’s why they ran away from us at the beginning of the race, but then they wore their stuff out and came back to us. I really needed to get to the high side to get by Scott, but (my spotter) told me Derrick Griffin was right on me in third and I didn’t want to give up second place. So I just had to settle and try to make one last run there at the end.”
“You’re just driving a defensive line, which is on the bottom, but at the same time we were catching him (Hantz). Our car with that locker, we already knew from earlier in the race that we couldn’t go to the outside to get him anyways. We weren’t goin to get him anyway. The #16 (Griffin) was waiting for us to make a mistake and we were waiting for Scott to make a mistake, but Scott’s not going to make a mistake.”
SHIFT OF FATE FOR GRIFFIN
Derrick Griffin has had a pretty good couple one-month span. It kicked off with a $10,000 win in the Stan Perry Memorial Outlaw Super Late Model race in mid-June at Angola Motor Speedway (IN). That same week, Griffin parlayed that win into his first-ever NASCAR Nationwide Series start for Braun Racing at O’Reilly Raceway Park outside Indianapolis. He did suffer some bad luck Friday night at Toledo’s CRA race after breaking a hub, but the 19-year-old rebounded nicely with a third-place finish under difficult circumstances at Baer Field.
“We had a really good car,” said Griffin. “I figured out how to get it to turn really good on the bottom there at the end. I did everything I could without moving them out of the way, but I didn’t want to do that. I was really just waiting for them to mess up or run into each other, whatever they were going to do. It was hard for me to stay with them on the restarts because the shifter fell off halfway through the race, but we didn’t end up too bad.”
- Hantz took $2,500 home for his win at Baer Field.
- Fourteen cars took the green flag. Eight saw the checkers in the 100-lap race.
- Harold Fair, Jr. finished fourth, a handful of carlengths behind the top-three, who finished bumper-to-bumper-to-bumper.
- The Great Lakes Outlaw race was moved up one feature in the race order at the last-minute because of rain showers that were approaching the Fort Wayne, IN area. The entire race got in without weather being an issue.
- The final 10-lap shootout between Hantz, Carlson and Griffin was set up when Justin Claucherty blew the engine in his #7 car, laying fluids down around the entire Baer Field half-mile. The field was under a brief red flag during the cleanup.
- The next Great Lakes Outlaw Series event comes on Saturday, September 11th at Plymouth Speedway in Indiana.