The 2014 racing season got underway at the fast 4/10s mile progressively banked paved oval of Dixie Motor Speedway in Birch Run, Michigan Friday night with the 48th running of the Dixie Classic 100. After a tumultuous off-season that saw Owners / Promoters, Mike and Krista Kern make wholesale changes to the facility including tearing down the 64-year-old concrete grandstands in favor of new bleachers. The new season got off to a late start, but it was well worth it for the crowd on hand.
In the headlining Dixie Classic 100, Angola, Indiana veteran, Scott Hantz took the lead from home track favorite Johnny Belott on lap 52 of the 100-lap main for the Great Lakes Helicopter Main Event Racing Series. From there, the 51-year-old standout would hold off late charges from fast qualifier Drew Charlson and then from Dakota Carlson to score his third career DixievClassic 100 triumph.
Hantz, who previously won the event in 2008 and 2005, started seventh and was able to avoid a lap-29 melee involving the second-place car of Mickey Maier who blew a rear end. The crash resulted in several cars getting knocked out including Harold Fair, Jr., the last winner in MERS back on June 14th at Angola Motorsport Speedway (IN) in the Stan Perry Memorial 110.
On the restart, Belott and Hantz were able to get away from the rest of the field to battle. Hantz tried several times to slip past the race long leader using the inside lane and then the outside. Finally
on lap 52, Hantz’s momentum on the high side was enough to propel his familiar #72 entry around Belott for the lead.
“We had a good car and I was just being patient behind Johnny (Belott),” said Hantz after the race. “This is 100 laps and I’ve been in a few of these before.”
Once Hantz got out in front it was smooth sailing until 28 laps to go when Charlson got up to second after a little bump and run on Belott. Carlson soon followed and the two drivers tried to catch up to Hantz who was picking his way through lapped traffic.
With nine laps to go, Carlson was able to slip past Charlson and go after Hantz. As the white flag flew, Carlson finally got up to the race leader’s back bumper, but couldn’t mount a charge. Hantz would
hang on for the win. Carlson finished second while Eric Lee, who was also involved in the lap-29 accident and pitted several times to repair damage, came away with an impressive third-place run. Scott Pemberton scored a career high fourth place finish as Charlson slipped back to fifth at the end.
“We had a great car all day, just needed to fine tune a couple of things and we were good,” added Hantz. “I really need to thank John and Meloney Lojko with Great Lakes Helicopter for everything they’ve done for me personally and for this series. They’re good people and work really hard to get everything we need to make this program work.”
The next race for the Great Lakes Helicopter Main Event Racing Series is set for Thursday, July 3rd at Midvale Speedway (OH).
– By Matt Prieur, Speed51.com Correspondent – Twitter: @MattPrieur