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Lentz dominating local races

March 16, 2001|By CHRIS GRANT, Sports Editor

When Tony Lentz crossed the finish line to win the factory pro stock race at Saturday's Southwest Racing Association races in Imperial it was nothing new.

Saturday's win was Lentz's seventh this season in the group's 10th race of the year.

"The season has been going real good," said Lentz, a Brawley resident. "We had a couple of setbacks, but things have been going real well."

The setbacks came in two races that Lentz's car was unable to finish. In his other race he took third. His seven firsts have earned him the top spot among the SRA's drivers as he is the association's points leader.

His strong showing is especially sweet as the SRA attempts to re-establish a foothold in the Imperial Valley. The sport has mostly been absent from the Valley since 1995 but has made a strong comeback this year and Lentz has been the driver at the head of the comeback pack.

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"It's been a long time since the fairgrounds were involved in races," Lentz said. "Everything's been going all right. Hopefully in the future we'll get a variety of cars instead of having the same thing. We've had to do what we've had to do to get this going and now it's going good."

Lentz truly relishes the opportunity to race in front of local fans. He spent the past five years racing in Yuma, and while he enjoyed his time in Arizona, he is quite happy to be home.

"This is a lot nicer because I get home quicker," he joked. "This has always been a good track. In fact it's one of the best ones I've raced on. It's just a lot nicer to be closer to home. Yuma is a good track, but this is a lot faster track."

Lentz got his start racing full-time at age 19. He first competed in the sport at age 16 on a part-time basis. The fact that he was drawn to auto racing was hardly a fluke. Lentz's father, Vern, spent 30 years competing in the sport.

"Since I can remember my dad spent Saturday night at the race track," he said. "When I was 10 or 12 I realized I wanted to drive race cars, too. When I got old enough I got a car together and started racing."

It is both his father's and his own considerable experience that Lentz feels is the most important part of his success.

"I've been racing this class eight to nine years and I'm pretty dialed in to what we have to do," he said. "My dad's got 30 to 40 years of experience and him knowing what to do with the car gives me a little bit of an edge. The experience with the old man plays a big part in why we do so well."

Lentz will attempt to earn his eighth win of the year Saturday. While he certainly is focused on winning, Lentz still wants to make sure his ride around the Imperial Valley Speedway's oval is an enjoyable one.

"I want to go out and have fun and not tear up the car," he said. "But I want to keep on winning. That's the main thing."

Gates for Saturday's races at the I.V. Expo open at 4 p.m. Mud-packing starts at 6:30 p.m. with racing to follow.

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