From first feature win to Lucas Oil Speedway Street Stock track championship, Ott enjoyed a memorable 2017
Wheatland, Missouri (November 14, 2017) - Among the four track champions in 2017 at Lucas Oil Speedway, perhaps there was no more popular one among the local fans than Toby Ott in the Big O Tires Street Stocks.
The long-time hometown racer from Wheatland, after a few weeks to reflect on a first championship that included five feature victories, said the title "means a heck of a lot more than I ever thought it would."
Ott said the prizes and perks are obviously wonderful, but said the handshakes and pats on the back - often from strangers - top everything.
"I've had responses from fans and people that are somewhat local, people that I didn't even realize were race fans," Ott said. "I've had people say, 'I never really cared about the races, but you were running there so I started going.' That's pretty neat."
Ott, who has been racing dirt since 2002, began the season with the goal of capturing a track championship. This despite never winning a feature on his hometown oval before finally breaking through - after many near-misses - for the first time on May 13.
Winning soon became a habit as Ott added four more feature triumphs and opened a comfortable points lead heading into the home stretch of the schedule. He finished 74 points in front of runner-up Kenny Carroll.
"The first win taught me what it takes to win," Ott said. "It's one thing to be leading the whole race, but it's another thing to close the deal. Once I figured that out, it pretty much opened the door. I didn't keep making the same mistakes.
"You learn a tremendous amount when you win. There's a lot of people who have led a lot of laps that haven't been able to completely close the deal with the end result. So it makes a tremendous difference getting that first one under your belt."
Ott cited a couple of other keys to his season. One was opening himself to accepting support from others. While that might sound simple, he said that wasn't the case for someone who always preferred "to do most everything myself."
"I found out that it takes help and support. You can't be successful by trying to do everything, yourself, all the time," Ott said.
Specific help came from Trey Rutherford, his dad Bob Ott and Don Howe. Even Chris Davis of sponsor Midwest Sheet Metal sometimes pitched in on race nights and always provided moral support.
Another key was the commitment to running a GM crate motor in 2017. Ott said the crate costs less than half of the open motors a lot guys in the Street Stock division run. While sacrificing some horsepower, the crate proved a great fit to Ott's driving style and pocketbook.
"I've always tried to do more, with less," he said. "I wanted to give the crate deal a shot. From what I understood about it, I knew how dependable and reliable it is. (Modified racer) Mike Striegel made me a really good deal on it. I bought it used from him, so I have to give Mike a big thanks as well. He knew what it could do."
Ott's sponsors include Jeff Freeman and Hobbytime Motorsports, where Ott is a service manager. He also gets support from Midwest Sheet Metal, TNT Quick Shop, Striegel's Outlaw Race Bodies, Buck's Service Center and Loehr Auto Sales and Construction.
Looking ahead, Ott is uncertain about making a run at a repeat championship because the commitment to points race is so intense. But he always will have the title "track champion" alongside his name from now on. That never can be erased.
LucasOilSpeedway.com is located at Highways 83 and 54 in Wheatland, Missouri. A campground with shower and bathroom facilities is also available. With its entrance located just outside the pit gate this sprawling scenic camping facility will continue to enhance the racing experience at the Diamond of Dirt Tracks.
Click LucasOilSpeedway.com for more information and detailed directions to the speedway or call the Track Hotline at (417) 282-5984.
Wheatland's Toby Ott won his first-ever feature at Lucas Oil Speedway on May 13, then went on to win four more times in 2017. (Kenny Shaw photo)