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Joe Verdegan racing column: Lentz misses dad, crew chief George

8:50 PM, Jun. 13, 2013  |  Comments
Kyle Lentz will race with a heavy heart this Father's Day weekend. His father and crew chief George died last September.
Kyle Lentz will race with a heavy heart this Father's Day weekend. His father and crew chief George died last September.
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With Father's Day weekend upon us, Kyle Lentz will be happy to have his co-pilot with him in his IMCA modified.

The 26-year-old from Green Bay lost his father, his best friend and crew chief George Lentz on Sept. 30, 2012. In 2013, Lentz has been racing with a heavy heart.

"I know he's always riding alongside of me," said Lentz. "Dad was my crew chief and he was a big part of my racing operation since I started running karts when I was 12 years old. There's a big void with our race team since he's passed."

After feeling ill for a few weeks last fall, George Lentz succumbed to congestive heart failure.

"When Dad got up out of the chair it was like he had just got done running a mile," said Kyle. "We knew something wasn't right."

As a teenager, Kyle and his dad would log thousands of miles, getting in prime windshield time traveling to national kart races all across the United States.

"We'd go everywhere, and chase the money races," said Kyle. "That started in 2000. I was 12 years old. We'd run up here in the Midwest, but we'd also wind up in Alabama, Mississippi, Kentucky, Tennessee and Oklahoma. We went all over the place and had a blast. We wouldn't run those out-of-state shows unless they were at least $500 to win at the time."

Lentz even raced against Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne.

It was through his karting that he met Johnny Whitman of De Pere, who, like Kyle, now races modifieds.

"My dad and I actually met Johnny and his Dad Mike at an A&W in Clintonville after the races one night," said Kyle. "One time we were traveling to a big-money show down south. Those guys broke down and we wound up picking them up in a rented U-Haul. Crazy stories."

When it came to Kyle's modified racing, George was the glue that held everything together in more ways than one.

"He was the No. 1 financial backer and he was also the tire guru," said Kyle. "He was always grinding on tires. I knew a bit more than he did about setups, so we were always bouncing ideas when we'd race back and forth."

Being without his crew chief, Kyle has limited his racing to one to two nights a week, concentrating on Saturdays at 141 Speedway in Francis Creek and Sundays at Seymour Speedway.

"It's pretty much just me and Buck (Zach Vandenheuvel) taking care of it," said Kyle. "With the hours we work it's just easier for us to get the car ready for 141 on Saturdays. We've had a few guys who've helped us out a little bit earlier in the year. It was hard early in the year not having Dad's presence there."

His best outing this season has been a second-place on opening night at Seymour.

"We're a top 10 car, but we're just missing that little something extra to take it to the next level," said Kyle.

Being in the top 10 in 141 points has landed Lentz a spot on Saturday's Big Cash Dash, in which the winner will earn a berth into the $10,000-to-win Clash at the Creek on June 26-27.

"To win that it would keep me racing for a long haul," said Lentz. "The 10 grand show will be exciting. Just to make the show itself would be an accomplishment."

Area News & Notes

Wilmot BMT/UMP Summer Nationals: The second race of the Custom Windows Plus Badger Mod Tour will be Sunday night at Wilmot Raceway. The event will be a doubleheader with the UMP Summer Nationals for super late models, and street stocks are also on the card. ... Lance Arneson of Oconto Falls won the modified event last year, and the BMT points leader is Green Bay's Benji LaCrosse. ... Shawano's Cody Hudson leads the BMT's rookie-of-the-year standings. ... Kaukauna's Pete Parker is among a handful of area drivers expected to compete in the late model portion of the show. ... Racing begins at 6:15 p.m.

$10,000 Clash update: Late model standout Nick Anvelink of Bonduel has filed an entry for the $10,000-to-win Clash at the Creek V modified race June 26-27 at 141 Speedway in Francis Creek. The latest Iowa drivers who've entered this week include Ryan DeShaw (Dyersville), Justin O'Brian (Union City) and Devon Havlik (Iowa Falls). As of Wednesday, 56 drivers from three states had entered the the largest paying modified race in Wisconsin history.

Stewart at Plymouth: Three-time NASCAR Cup champion Tony Stewart will be racing in the Interstate Racing Association winged sprint car program on Saturday at Plymouth Dirt Track. Warmups are scheduled for 5:30 p.m. with IRA qualifying to follow and racing to start at 7.

ASA update: Montello's Bobby Kendall, super late model feature winner at Wisconsin International Raceway in Kaukauna last week, placed 18th in the ARCA Midwest Tour event at Dells Raceway Park on Saturday. Minnesota driver Jacob Goede, driving for Green Bay car owner Mike Butz, placed 15th. Dan Frederickson of Lakeville, Minn., won the race. ... Kendall sits second in the rookie-of-the-year standings, two points behind Lake Geneva's James Swan. Goede sits fourth in the tour point standings. ... The tour's next event will be June 29 at Marshfield Motor Speedway.

Red, White and Blue: A trio of former Wisconsin International Raceway drivers who died this year will be honored in a special way during the track's Red, White & Blue State Championship Series this season.

The numbers on cars raced by Bryce Spoehr, Bobby McDonald and Dick Trickle will set the number of laps for the segments of the three-race series, which enters its 42nd season on the -mile paved oval.

The Red Race that was held Thursday was 78 laps, a tribute to Spoehr's car number. The White race on July 18 will be 84 laps in honor of McDonald, while the Blue race Aug. 15 will be 99 laps, Trickle's signature car number.

Long tow pays off: Oconto's Ralph Liegeois Jr. made the two-hour trip to the new Amherst Speedway worthwhile last Thursday. Liegeois scored a clean sweep in the 4-cylinder class, winning the dash, heat and feature. Stockbridge's Adam Broehm, a 141 Speedway regular in the grand national class, did the same in the super street class. Racing starts at 7 Thursday nights at the third-mile dirt track.

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