Dennis Strickland reflects on the Glass City 200
Dennis Strickland reflects on the Glass City 200
“Debi Domby told me this. I didn't realize it, but when ARCA bought Toledo Speedway with Roy Mott [in 1999], I'm the only driver that's been in every Glass City 200 since that time.”
If there’s a driver synonymous with the Glass City 200 over the past two decades, it’s a man who came to Carleton by way of Willow Run. Dennis Strickland has seen Toledo Speedway and the Glass City over multiple eras, creating memories for fans as well as fellow competitors as an extremely popular driver and member of the garage.
Stickland prominently competed in the Glass City 200 in every year from 1999 until 2022, with highs and lows making up a recognizable track-and-driver combination - Strickland versus the Glass City.
He grew up attending races at Flat Rock and Toledo Speedways as a fan, eventually working on cars, and soon driving. He became a fan-favorite in quick time, always regarded as a friendly face in the garage area, and one with a jovial spirit who could consistently provide results on the track, and great for some wisdom off the track.
Just before winning his first of four late model championships at Toledo (1999, 2001, 2005, 2011), Strickland told Steve Crowe of the Detroit Free Press the following:
In short, Strickland never missed a chance to put in the work.
In September 2022, Strickland announced his retirement during the on-track autograph session prior to the start of the 34th Running of the Glass City 200, receiving a warm and loud ovation from the Toledo Speedway crowd.
Debi Domby wrote the following for Toledo Speedway post-race:
Prior to the race Dennis Strickland, the driver with the most starts in the Glass City, announced it was his last race.
Although the Bailey Racing team tried to keep his car running after multiple pit stops, the car was finally parked, with a 10th place finish.
Dennis started racing in 1984, and old time fans might remember the bumper sticker on his street stock “When I grow up I want to be a Late Model”.
The Street Stock grew up and became a Late Model.
He ended with four championships at Toledo (1999, 2001, 2005-a tie with Greg Studt, and 2011), two at Flat Rock (2007 and 2013) and also Gold Cup championship with a Glass City win in 2013.
As of 2023, Strickland ends his run in the Glass City 200 with more top tens than any driver to ever run in the event - 12 total.
And, of course, there’s the big win in the 2013 Glass City 200.
Toledo Speedway talked with Strickland in his Carleton garage for a sit-down interview regarding his history in the event, his memories of the Glass City 200, and everything in between.
Where did racing start for you?
[My stepdad] started taking me to Toledo, probably about 71, 72. I remember being up in the grandstands and just I'd do anything just to get in the pit area and check the cars out and stuff. And of course I love the high speed and stuff, but back then it was like John Anderson, Danny Byrd and [Bob] Senneker and [Ed] Cooper and [Dick] Barker - it was all these so guys. That was pretty cool back then - seeing all of that.
I moved out of the house, got married, kind of got into streetcars, really didn't get back into racing. And I took a friend of mine for a ride in a Camaro that I had souped up. And he says, ‘hey, I got a buddy that has a race car looking for a mechanic’. And I said, well, let's go over there, I'll check it out. Well, it was Tommy Webb. I know you probably don't know that name, but Tommy Webb. I worked on his car’s spark plugs, wires laying against headers and shortening out and stuff. All I did was engine work to it because I didn't know anything about the chassis at that point. We went to Flat Rock Speedway and we won right off the bat. Well, I was really hooked after that [laughs].
Were there any highlights?
When we won a feature - we really had a lot of fun. He was about the middle of the pack runner, but we’d go to Sandusky… Toledo… We did do some traveling with that car. And I didn't know anything about chassis back then. It was all about engines because I was an engine guy. But, we had a lot of fun.
I worked on his car for, like, four years and to the point where it ended up over in my shop. I actually rebuilt the whole car during that winter. Then his Dad passed away and he had a maintenance garage in North Carolina. Tommy moved down there, and then I bought my first street stock. Didn't know if I could drive - I bought the trailer and the car for $1,400.
An old dirt street stock car… that was my first race car.
Why did you choose the number 90?
My daughter was born on the 9th, and my step brother who used to help me out in the car a lot, was graduating in 1990.
The first season
My ex-wife actually kept track of my whole season.
My first year driving, we started out in the B main - 5th, 4th, 1st in the heat, fourth in the heat, second heat, third in the B, second in the B. And then I won the B main - about mid-season.
Then I started running the A-Main and progressively got better there. They used to have street stock nationals at the end of the year, I led it for 36 laps and ended up finishing 8th. I think Bob Studt won it.
The second year, after I ran one full season at Flat Rock as a street stock, I bought a sportsman car off Steve Azstalos, and I ran that car at Toledo. I used to take it to Flat Rock and run it as a late model just because I wanted to go racing.
I would run Sunday at Toledo and then Saturday at Flat Rock every once in a while. So that's how I got going with that.
Terry, Jerry, Scott Hantz, a bunch of them guys I looked up to. I looked to, you know, Butch Miller when he ran Iceman - a lot of the big Iceman guys - because that's who I was chasing back at that time.
I was just getting into late models. I had no experience with late models in the Iceman series.
If I finished in the Top Ten, I was very happy because there was some talent there. Freddie Campbell - just all the big names.
Glass City 200 Memories
Was there another Glass City that you felt like you should have won, or that you could have won?
Yeah, the one that Augie Grill won [in 2011] because he just kind of spanked everyone in that race. And I was just as fast as everyone else was for that particular race.
So if Augie wasn't there, that's one I probably had a shot at winning [laughs]
Every race car driver, at least the guys that run in the top ten when they hit the racetrack, they think they're going to win that night because that's your goal. You’ve got to have confidence to be a decent driver.
And so those guys, they don't get in their cars thinking they're not going to win. Doesn't happen. They all look at that top money and that checkered flag, and they want to be there first, especially back when we got 50 to 60 cars for the Glass City.
The 2013 Glass City 200
“When I won the Glass City 200, I told everyone afterwards that God helped me win that race because of the way that events went down. For some reason, it was easy to win that race, and it makes no sense at all. But everything went my way. I borrowed some parts and pieces on the car that went my way.
“Earl Bonner let me borrow a carburetor, which made a big difference in my motor. Just the way the whole weekend went, it was practically easy to do. I wasn't tired in the car or anything.
“It was just so easy because anytime I needed a break on the racetrack, it just happened. And it was almost like I just fell into the wind.
Was that off the truck?
We were okay getting off the truck, and Butch VanDoorn had done my shocks. We parked next to each other at the racetrack.
I'm like, "Butch, man, the car is doing this. What do you think?" He says, "Well, pull your shocks off and let me revalve them real quick to this new setup I've been running." So I pull them off.
He comes back and he says, "Oh, man, I don't have the parts I need." He says, "Just run these shocks" He gives me two shocks, and I threw the springs over from my shocks onto his shocks, the bump package and everything, threw them on there, went out, and we were fast, and I came in.
I told my crew guys, I'm like, "We're back in the game because this thing is turning now.”
[The VanDoorn’s] fell out. Johnny [VanDoorn] was driving the race car, right? Johnny fell out about halfway through the race.
So they loaded up during the 100 lap break, and they were heading home, but they had stopped in Dundee and gotten something to eat, right?
So they're watching RaceMonitor and watching what's going on with me, and how I'm moving forward.
Now my car is getting faster, and I guess they're in [the restaurant] screaming and cheering and everyone's looking at them like they're crazy - they got really excited over the fact that I won!
They’re looking at a screen, just watching lap times and when people are passing and the gap between the cars and stuff because you can see all that.
I guess they were just having a blast watching it on the phone, which is really cool.
Some of the things I'll never forget is I'll never forget the photo session in Victory Lane. Usually you win a feature, and you have the track photographer and maybe Debi Domby or someone taking pictures. Right.
There was nothing but a circle - a wall of people.
Everyone taking pictures.
The next week, I got calls from national magazines wanting interviews, and radio stations, and it - it was incredible, the whole experience. So it's something I'll never forget, for sure.
Yeah, it was a cool moment. Another thing now, Debi Domby told me this. I didn't realize it, but when ARCA bought Toledo Speedway with Roy Mott [in 1999] - I'm the only driver that's been in every Glass City 200 since that time.
This year, that's going to break.
I felt like it was one for the local guys. It just wasn't a win for us. It was for all the local guys that run down there and try to compete against the big names that come in.
Going into the garage area after the race, do you remember any of the other local guys congratulating you?
Yeah, well, I called my stepdad. One of the first things I did.
And then Jack Burnett, who filled the cars for Greg Studt, and Scott Stovall drove his car for a while. I drove it off and on. Ronnie Allen drove for him. Been a bunch of people. And when I got to be friends with Jack, we're really good friends. We talk almost every day. - And matter of fact, I'm going over there this afternoon because he's got a part for this car for me.
He was walking across the pit area, and my car is in the tech barn because they're going to look at our cars, we just gave each other a hug. It was really cool.
But yeah, quite an experience, that's for sure. One I'll never forget.
The Trophy Room
So Tina's Garage - we had all my trophies in the house, and we built this garage for the personal car and stuff. We ended up bringing all the trophies out here.
I probably gave away 30 trophies, but there's two trophies that aren't out here in the garage - The Glass City 200 win, and the Michigan All Racing Fan Club trophy for Driver of the Year. That's in the house. Those won't come out here.
They won't collect dust like these did.
I don't know what kind of emotions I'll have at the Glass City. We'll see.
What do you remember about the fans?
Not really a fan club, but I had fans that were dedicated to being my fan for many years. A lot of them now, the kids that were fans of Strickland Racing - they're now adults.
I see them every once in a while, and I’m like “Wow. I'm getting old.” [laughs]
Everyone's getting old. The kids that I used to hang out with was a flagman at Flat Rock. Him and his kids were big fans of mine.
They were five years old when they first started coming out around. So what happened there? They would come down in the pit area after the races - I put the kids in the cards and sign autograph cards and do that kind of stuff.
And I think that was the main reason they became fans, because I gave them some attention, which is cool.
Was that the crown jewel for you?
Oh, absolutely. Without a doubt, bar none. That's the one people want to talk about, and that's the one that's so memorable.
About the Glass City 200
The 35th Running of the Glass City 200 Presented by DTS Drive Train Specialists and Courtyard by Marriott roars to life under the ASA STARS National Tour banner in Toledo on Saturday, September 16th. Built in 1960, Toledo Speedway first hosted its signature event in 1968, providing some of the most memorable moments in Ohio pavement short track racing history. Local and national stars alike have raced in this historic event at Toledo Speedway, with a deep wins list that includes Joy Fair, Bob Senneker, Joe Ruttman, Danny Byrd, John Anderson, Brian Campbell, Junior Hanley, Harold Fair, Augie Grill, Johnny Van Doorn, J.R. and Tyler Roahrig, Tyler Ankrum, Carson Hocevar and many others. Click here for a full list of Glass City 200 winners. New in 2023, the return to the 200-lap main event will prove to be a new endurance test for many of the top drivers in the country. You can get your tickets now for this race by clicking the link.
ASA STARS National Tour
The ASA STARS National Tour debuted in March of 2023 for Super Late Model racing in America. Announced last October, many of the best drivers in America will compete in the ten-race national tour with a minimum $100,000 point fund. The championship team will be guaranteed $25,000.
The ASA STARS National Tour is made up of three races from each of the regional pavement Super Late Model Series under the Track Enterprises banner; the ASA CRA Super Series, the ASA Midwest Tour and the ASA Southern Super Series.
The Team Construction Winner’s Circle program has been announced as a part of the ASA STARS National Tour for licensed drivers/teams with perfect attendance. The program provides additional financial incentives to those teams who support the Series, thanks to Team Construction.
Track Enterprises, a Racing Promotions Company based in Illinois, will operate the ASA STARS National Tour. It announced the acquisition of the CRA sanctioning body in January and followed that up with the purchase of the Midwest Tour in July. In October, Track Enterprises President, Bob Sargent announced a partnership with the Southern Super Series which set the table for the formation of the ASA STARS National Tour.