Before Don Frantz’s most recent race at Wake County Speedway, he knew he had a good car.
He was driving the same car he’d been driving all season – a 1989 Ford Mustang he had put about $10,000 into.
Frantz, co-owner of Frantz Automotive and a Cary Town Council member, also had about 15 races under his belt. That Aug. 21 night was the 10th race of the season for the speedway’s mini-stock division.
“About halfway through the race, we were tailing the leader right on his bumper,” Frantz said. “We made a move to get by him and cleared him. At that point, I just kept thinking, ‘Don’t blow it.’”
When a pace car slowed down racers for an accident or debris to be removed from the track, the division’s points leader, Justin Fussell of Sanford, and the other drivers were given an opportunity to move ahead.
But Frantz was able to hold them off and lead the remaining seven laps for his first win. The feeling was amazing, said Frantz, who is seeking re-election next month.
In addition to the win, Frantz has three second-place finishes and two third-place finishes this season. He is second in the standings – 59 points behind Fussell.
“It was exciting to see him win,” said Mike Stodder, president of Wake County Speedway. “I know he’s been working real hard to get to the next level, and he’s been running strong out there. Finally, the sun and the moon lined up, and he ended up in victory lane.”
Working for a checkered flag
Frantz, a 24-year resident of Cary, spent much of his childhood racing in Orange County, Calif.
“I’ve been racing something all my life,” he said. “As a kid, I raced BMX bikes, motocross, did a little drag racing over the years, but I always wanted to go circle track racing.”
About eight years ago, Frantz took a step closer to his goal by outfitting a Nissan 240SX for racing by adding safety equipment and taking out all unnecessary parts. But after being elected to Town Council, plus other family commitments, he was unable to find time to race.
During that time, Frantz pulled the car out for local parades, including the Cary Christmas Parade, but he would always put it back in storage.
“The last time we pulled it out, I said, ‘I’m not putting this back. I’m going to go ahead and race,’” he said. “I wasn’t going to put it back in the barn, close the door and walk away.”
Once the car was ready to race, Frantz practiced at the track before he showed up for his first race in 2014. He finished seventh out of 16 participants.
“I was very nervous,” he said. “I didn’t really know what to expect. Driving on a track by yourself is a heck of a lot different than driving with 16 other cars.”
Because he started late in the season and also underwent back surgery, Frantz only participated in five of the 12 races last year. During those races, Frantz was running mid-pack, but during the off-season, he got a new car – a Ford Mustang – and spent time practicing to improve for this year.
Fussell said Frantz has drastically improved this year, particularly after investing in the new car.
“It’s fun. He’s a good guy and he races clean,” Fussell said.
Continuing to improve
Even though Frantz won his first race, he won’t stop trying to make his car even faster.
“We are always going to try to make it faster,” he said. “Just because we won one does not mean our car is great. You’re always looking for that 10th of a second.”
Stodder said Frantz is a prime example of someone who is able to get into stock car racing and compete without having to spend thousands of dollars. He said the sport attracts a wide variety of people, including doctors, lawyers and elected officials.
“He’s definitely a pleasure to be around, and all the competitors really respect him and look up to him,” Stodder said.
This season’s final races are Friday, Sept. 18, at 8 p.m. at the Wake County Speedway. Because the Sept. 4 race was canceled due to rain, the race will earn participants double points. The racer with the most points will win the championship.
While it is unlikely Frantz will get enough points to push past Fussell for this year’s championship title, he still hopes to win the final race.
“I want to finish this season strong, obviously,” he said. “We’d love to get another win.”
But as for a championship win next season? That’s another story.
“There’s not really anything I’d rather be doing on Friday nights these days than driving a race car,” Frantz said. “Anything that’s on your mind when the race starts, it’s just off. It’s just racing.”
Kathryn Trogdon; 919-460-2608; @KTrogdon
Cary Council election
Don Frantz is facing these candidates for the District B seat on Oct. 6.
▪ Frank E. Lazzaro Sr. is a 20-year resident of Cary and is the founder and CEO of National Door, Hardware and Accessories Corp., in Cary.
▪ Gabe Talton is a lawyer with Tatum and Atkinson Law Firm. The longtime Cary resident also is a member of the North Carolina Commission on Racial and Ethnic Disparties in the Criminal Justice System.