EDITOR’S NOTE: This is part one of a feature on Lucas Oil American Sprint Car Series National Tour driver Blake Hahn from the May edition of Sprint Car & Midget Magazine.
As Blake Hahn entered the press conference room, located in the bowels of the Tulsa Expo Center, he looked a bit pensive. What by all rights should have been a lighthearted, and even celebratory, moment was a little more complicated.
Wednesday’s Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals qualifier had been a wild affair, and the final results indicated that Hahn fired off in 10th and placed third by the time the checkered flag dropped.
That’s the Cliff Notes version of what transpired. The rest of the story involved contact between Hahn and 2019 World of Outlaws champion Brad Sweet on the 27th circuit.
It happened. There was no getting around it. Hahn knew full-well because the incident involved Sweet, a man he considers a friend, that this was going to be a story.
Was it error? Probably.
Could Sweet have avoided it? Maybe.
Was it as egregious as some portrayed it? Many insiders thought not.
Yet, here was Hahn, in an environment he readily admitted can make him uncomfortable, fielding questions. He didn’t duck them. When excuses were made for him, he rejected them.
In the end, those that stood by him were among the most respected in all of motorsports.
So, for those who knew little about Blake, his history and his track record, here were the main takeaways from that night. This is a driver with plenty of talent and, perhaps most important of all, he’s a stand-up guy.
There is a certain weight and responsibility when you hail from Oklahoma, step into a race car and your name is Hahn. In a time past, long before he was the outgoing leader at the Chili Bowl Nationals, Emmett Hahn – Blake’s grandfather – was a supermodified badass.
In the days when the grandstands at places like Tulsa, Oklahoma City, and Hutchinson were packed to the gills, Hahn was a primetime and polarizing player.
His battles with Ray Crawford were legendary, and among those sitting on the bleachers on hot Midwestern summer nights you were either a Hahn fan or a Crawford fan, and rarely both.
It was must-see entertainment.
Tom Hahn followed in his father’s footsteps for a time, but ultimately got down to the business of finding a career and raising a family. But Tom’s son Blake, it turned out, was bitten hard by the racing bug.
While the Tulsa Fairgrounds had largely been shuttered by the time he made regular trips to the race track, Oklahoma City was still a thriving concern.
Hahn remembers those trips to “the City” where he saw sprint cars and admits “being in awe of how big, and crazy, those machines were.”
The seed was planted, and he knew just where his life was headed.
Tom Hahn worked hard at his vending business and, as his son continued to show interest in racing, he secured a junior sprint. He worked on the car in the winter, and decided to enter Blake in the running of the 2004 Tulsa Shootout.
Given the number of cars that would be on hand, and the urgency with which some approach this tune-up event to the running of the Chili Bowl, some questioned this choice for a maiden voyage.
Blake practiced at the family-owned Creek County Speedway a few times, and soon the big day was at hand.
There wasn’t a storybook outcome, but one important hurdle was actually crossed.
“I flipped in hot laps,” Blake Hahn said with a laugh. “A guy spun out in turn one and everybody went high to miss him. So I decided to go low, almost through the infield, and I ended up clipping his left front. It was bad because Grandpa told my mom and dad right from the beginning not to make the Shootout my first race. He said if I wrecked or something like that, I wasn’t going to want to race again.
“After it happened, I really was pretty shook up and didn’t know what to expect. I wasn’t really excited to get back in the car. Then my mom said, ‘Hey, you had better get back in the car because your Pa Pa said if you wrecked you wouldn’t want to race again.’”
That was good enough motivation for him to stick with it.
The irony in this story is that Blake Hahn went forth to be one of the most successful racers in the history of the highly-competitive Tulsa Shootout.
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