ROYSE CITY, Texas — While some may feel Sprint cars or Super Late Models are tops among classes of cars that run on dirt, it's the ground-pounding Outlaw Modifieds that really catch your attention. They blast around the oval at a blistering pace, and are often driven by seasoned, savvy veterans.
For 39-year-old third generation racer Jack Sartain, the Outlaw Mods are a perfect fit. He stayed fast and consistent throughout 2023, with four wins, 19 top-five and 28 top-10 finishes overall in 41 starts, highlighted by the Touring Outlaw Modifieds Series (TOMS) points championship.
“We got a new car for this year, and it was pretty good to us,” Sartain said. “It was a little weird, the whole TOMS deal kind of forced me to stay consistent all year. That's not normal for me; I usually go on a hot streak, or I go into a slump with hardly any wins.
“I'm always trying different things on the car, looking for an advantage. But running for TOMS points, I got the car dialed in then pretty much left it alone. We probably didn't win as many races as we could have, but we were pretty consistent. We were in the top five pretty much everywhere we went.”
Now reflecting on his 22nd year of racing, Sartain has paid his dues and is part of a large racing family.
“My Grandfather started it all way back in the day,” he explained. “He raced at Princeton Speedway many years ago, and my Dad raced, as well. Dad started at Devil's Bowl in 1974, and he raced all the way up until about the year 2000.
“He came back and ran four or five races in 2005, just for fun. I also had one uncle and two second cousins that raced; my cousin raced, and my brother raced, as well. You might say this sport is in our blood. My Dad always did the best he could on a limited budget, until his business really took off.”
The Sartain family lineage in racing is a story for the ages, and it only gets better from there.
“At the end of my Dad's career, he had much newer cars and won a lot of races. He actually got a Sport Mod and came to race against me and my brother just once. He started 12th in the feature, passed both me and my brother and was leading the thing, then pulled off the racetrack.
“I came into the pits and immediately went over to ask him what broke or what exactly happened. He told me, 'I just wanted to show you sons a bitches I can still do it.' He was just making a statement, and sold the car the next week. I'll never forget that night.”
Once Jack got things figured out on his own, his career began building momentum.
“My first car was actually a Modified, and I ran them from 2001 all the way up until 2007,” he added. “I drove a Sport Mod for about six months in 2007, and did not like it. I won a lot of races, but didn't feel it was much fun. So I went back to a Modified and dove in deeper.
“Dad helped me get started in the sport, but from there he made me figure things out on my own. It took me a about a year and a half to get a handle on it. I'm still learning as I do trial and error, which you need to do if you travel. To get better, you need to travel and learn to adapt.”
Not only are the Outlaw Mods incredibly exciting cars to watch, they're driven by some great drivers.
“I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing, but there's a lot of new technology being brought into the Modified world,” he said. “Ninety percent of it comes from Super Late Models. Some of the chassis builders are coming from Late Model backgrounds, and they're bringing that technology with them.
“Everybody is going out, buying these new cars and getting the latest information. So now you've got 15 guys with top-notch equipment, at least, and any one of them can win. Ten to 15 years ago, you had maybe five of six fast guys with a legit shot in the A Main. It's a whole lot tougher now, for sure.”
When Sartain puts on his safety suit and gets ready to race, he climbs into a very high-end machine.
“I have a 2022 Billsbuilt chassis here, and it's a great piece,” he explained. “As for horsepower, it has a 406 with Spec Heads that I built myself. I've always built my own motors for the most part. The motor in the car right now will run up front, but it's nothing spectacular. Some guys have way more power.”
Along with his over two decades of experience and top-notch car, Sartain also has a ton of supporters.
“I need to thank all of my great sponsors, including Falcon Metals, Crawford Racing, Billsbuilt Racecars, TDS Suspension, Tyler Davis at MK1; Sneaky Horse Traction, Buckmeyer Motorsports, Shipley Motorsports, Rush Racewear, David Leech Construction and Smileys Racing Products.
“I also want to thank Speed Secrets, Reality Roofing, Day Motor Sports, and of course, my family for putting up with me during race season. I couldn't do this without them, and sure appreciate all they do.”
While his TOMS rivals and others were racing last weekend, Sartain was out deer hunting. With title in hand, he opted to enjoy the fall tradition and now wisely shifts his focus to more important things.
“I always make a promise to my wife that from now through the Holidays, my focus is on family,” he explained. “We'll be at the The Dome in St. Louis next month for the Gateway Dirt Nationals, but that's it We spend a ton of time in the shop and out on the road. After St. Louis, it'll be time to relax at home.
“I'm not 100 percent sure what I'll be doing next year as of yet. I may buy a new Modified and be back doing the same program, but I just don't know. I'll be out there racing, for sure, I'm just not sure where. We had a decent season, and a lot of fun. After New Year's Day, we'll take a good look at our options.”
By Phil Whipple, RaceOnTexas.com Staff Writer
Photo by Stacy Kolar/Southern Sass Photography