Auto Racing: Welch Memorial crown goes to Baker
Ricky Baker, Dave Gentile and Pat Kelly were tied points-wise going into the third leg of Friday night’s Frank Welch Memorial at Grundy County Speedway.
Baker had a leg up. He started on the pole.
The runaway late-model division leader made the most of it, leading all 30 laps to claim the overall trophy.
In the end, it happened in dramatic fashion.
A late yellow flag allowed Gentile to close on Baker’s bumper. Over the final three laps he bore down, and as the white flag flew he was underneath and alongside Baker.
The two drag raced around the oval one final time, with Baker, on the outside, edging Gentile by 0.047 seconds. Third went to Larry Schuler, followed by Stevie Campbell, Kelly and Brandon Clubb.
The event, named in honor of the longtime Grundy promoter, was composed of three feature races, the first two 30 laps each and the finale 34 laps.
Feature No. 1, lined up in qualifying order from the fastest to the slowest, saw Eddie Hoffman lead all 30 laps. The first 15, though, he had Gentile on his back bumper practically the entire time.
On lap 9, Gentile got in even deeper, and Hoffman wound up sideways in Turn 2. Gentile backed off, however, and Hoffman was able to save the spot.
“He got into me somewhere and got me sideways,” Hoffman said moments after the race. “It was a little more than I would like for the first race out of three, but we’re alive. That’s all that matters.”
Gentile surrendered second place to Baker on lap 23. By then, however, Hoffman was far enough in front that Baker couldn’t make a charge. Baker finished second, ahead of Gentile, D.J. Weltmeyer, Kelly and Boris Jurkovic.
Feature No. 2 was lined up in reverse order of the 19 lead lap finishers from the first race.
Mark Sontag, the 19th finisher, used pole position to dart into the lead at the drop of the green. He stayed there despite a dogged effort by Scott Koerner.
“Starting up front … I definitely knew I had a good car,” Sontag said. “I just looked in front of me and kept going.”
Schuler followed the top two across the line, with Clubb, Kelly and Campbell completing the top six.
Johnny Senerchia prevailed in the street stock main over Jeremy Clubb, while Austin Blackwell captured the pure stock feature.