As Dennis Strickland came out of the final caution of the Great Lakes Helicopter Glass City 200, he heard a familiar voice come over his headset.
“My friend got on the radio and he told me, ‘this is a lifetime opportunity, and right now, you’ve got to be the best you can be behind that steering wheel.’ So I just put every lap forward and went as fast as I could drive the thing.”
Harold Fair, Jr., hit the wall on the 177th lap and when the race restarted, Strickland took over the lead after the final caution and stretched his lead over runner-up Scott Hantz to nearly four seconds.
Strickland’s win was the most definite outcome in a race in which little was clean.
Between the 11 cautions, the two red flags, seven lead changes, and the scraps of metal and puddles of oil that littered Toledo Speedway’s half-mile oval at certain points of the race, nothing was definitive until the end.
“Typically, in this race, you have a lot of fallout,” said Strickland, who led the final 23 laps. “I’ll lay back and wait for things to happen, and see if the race comes to me. The race definitely came to me. We were fast, especially under long, green runs.”
Hantz led twice, including a stretch of more than 30 laps in the second half. Five laps after Hantz held off Terry Senneker’s attempt to pass on the outside at the start-finish line, Senneker made his second attempt to take the race lead from Hantz when he moved to pass Hantz on the inside between the third and fourth turns on the 163rd lap.
During the course of the maneuver, Senneker — already with a chunk taken out of the right side of his car — made contact with Hantz, who went into the wall but returned to contend with Strickland in the late laps.
“Dennis drove a smart race,” said Hantz, who finished ahead of Senneker and was part of a 30-car field that was whittled down to 13 in the second half. “And he deserved this.”
There were seven cautions and two red flags in the first 80 laps — including one on the second lap, which resulted in a seven-car accident in Turn 3 — which brought cars to a halt on the half-mile oval. After the first two laps, only three drivers led the race: Brent Jack, Johnny VanDoorn, and Jeff Ganus.
Jack led until the 33rd lap, and VanDoorn took over the lead after the race’s fifth caution.
But the 2012 runner-up lost oil pressure on the 62nd lap and VanDoorn went into the wall at Turn 2 as his car shut down, ending his night and bringing out the race’s sixth caution.
Then, on the 79th lap, Point Place resident Nick Bailey spun out going into Turn 4 and barely avoided getting hit, which brought out the seventh caution — and the second red flag. On the opposite side of the track, oil from Ganus’ car spilled onto the track and ended his race.
Hantz, who was the top qualifier Saturday afternoon with a lap time of 14.856 seconds, took the lead after the red flag, before a break in the race on the 101st lap.