On any given weekend during the heart of the season scores of unique individuals slide into a sprint car in a quest to test their limits and match wits with similarly competitive peers.
No matter the location, the available prize money or the prestige of the event the challenge is the same.
Those who live in Indiana and follow weekly sprint car racing probably know Jake Scott. For those from outside the region, Scott is a talented driver who performs at a high level and has earned the respect and admiration of fans, officials and his fellow competitors.
As much as anything, Scott reflects the values and work ethic of his family and region. His racing roots position him firmly in a web of relationships that are generations deep and form the backbone of a proud and deep Indiana open-wheel tradition.
In wistful moments he wonders what it would be like to devote all of his energy to racing. Then he snaps out of it and recognizes that this just isn’t in the cards.
Refreshingly there is balance in his life. Scott is more than a racer. He is also a successful leader, a proud husband and father, a youth sports coach and a man who has his priorities in order.
However, addressing other life demands has not dimmed his sense of purpose when he pulls on a helmet. To do so would be to betray a force that guides his every move.
During his high school football career his head coach once remarked, “It doesn’t matter if it is tick tack toe or kickball Jake Scott is going to compete.”
That same drive is present when he takes a sprint car through its paces, an activity he has enjoyed for two decades. Scott lives a hectic life but if you think racing has been pushed into the corner, think again. As far as he is concerned there is a lot more to be accomplished at the track and, better yet, he feels he has the necessary tools to do it.
This racing tale begins with Glenn Scott, who spent his days as an engineer for the Chicago-based Mitsubishi Injection Molding. Glenn was a devoted motorhead, who still dabbles in classic car restoration. He constructed a small dirt track near his rural Morgantown, Ind., home and before long his children Jensen, Jake and Jodi were rocketing around the oval in karts.
A pivotal moment came when Glenn Scott hired a young man named Nick Adams to work at his firm and he soon learned his new employee spent his weekends wheeling sprint cars. Adams eventually convinced Scott to watch him race at Lincoln Park Speedway.
“I knew,” Glenn Scott recalled, “that if I ever went to a race, I would just have to do it.”
One thing led to another and Glenn Scott purchased Adams’ car and began racing sprint cars at age 40.
During his teenage years, Glenn Scott received a haircut that led to him being saddled with the nickname “Tater Head.” The moniker stuck to the degree that decades later he is still routinely referred to by others as Tater. Thus, when he started his new professional sprint car team, he named it Tater Head Motorsports.
“We started the racing team and had so much fun,” he said, “and we sold thousands of shirts, jackets, and hats that had two potatoes with helmets spinning up dirt.”
Things escalated to the point that there came a time when Scott fielded as many as five cars, providing rides for his brother, oldest son, Jensen and, eventually Jake.
Jake Scott was a teenager when Tater Head Motorsports launched. That didn’t mean he was just standing around. He raced karts on dirt and pavement and won two titles at Indiana’s Whiteland Raceway Park. He also raced and won on dirt bikes, but no matter how much he lobbied, his father would not allow him to try sprint car racing until he was 15 years old.
Soon after that birthday, he began racing at Paragon and Lincoln Park Speedway.
Active in traditional sports as well as racing, Jake Scott earned a scholarship to play wide receiver at Anderson University. After two years he transferred to Marian University in Indianapolis. Marian, which embodies property once owned by Carl Fisher, James Allison and Frank Wheeler, three of the four founders of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, was launching an NAIA football program.
By the time Scott graduated with a business degree he had helped establish the groundwork for a championship-winning program.
After graduation, Scott’s racing ties paid off handsomely. He ecured a position with Conagra and quickly found a niche in the food industry. Today he serves as a plant manager for CraftMark, a bakery with 250 employees spread over a 300,000-square-foot building.
In 2010, Scott married the proverbial girl next door. Ashleigh Walters was a basketball star for Indian Creek High School and her mother had been Scott’s babysitter.
The Scotts settled comfortably into a married life marked by constant motion and activities. Meanwhile, Glenn Scott was ready to make changes as well. He was inching toward retirement, and was a bit burned out from trying to keep a fleet of sprint cars operational.
Jake took over the operation, but it became increasingly difficult for Scott to find the time to make it to the track.
Then he hooked up with legendary Southern Indiana racer Leon Thickstun.