Auto Racing: Schuler ninth different winner at Grundy
By Tony Baranek firstname.lastname@example.org July 5, 2013 11:04PM
Josh Hart's car is lifted away from the wreck scene Friday night at Grundy County Speedway. | Brian Nolte~For Sun-Times Media
Fast time: Eddie Hoffman. 1st heat: 1. Scott Koerner, 2. Ricky Baker, 3. Tracy Schuler. 2nd heat: 1. Brandon Clubb, 2. Chuck Sottosanti, 3. Dean Patterson. 30-lap feature: 1. Tracy Schuler, 2. Rich Bickle, 3. Baker, 4. Hoffman, 5. Ray Brackett, 6. Koerner.
Fast time: Josh Nelms. 1st heat: 1. Ron Vandermeir Jr., 2. Chuck Yuris, 3. Tom Knippenberg. 2nd heat: 1. Jason Hendron, 2. Joe Vinachi, 3. Jim Kachel. 25-lap feature: 1. Knippenberg, 2. Nelms, 3. Vandermeir, 4. Vinachi, 5. John Ventrello, 6. Matt Clemens.
Fast time: Ryan Moore. 1st heat: 1. Jeremy Clubb, 2. Pete Odell, 3. Aaron Shelton. 2nd heat: 1. Chris Woodall, 2. Matt Arvia, 3. Craig Matteson. 3rd heat: 1. Renee Farren, 2. Kyle Carlson, 3. B.J. Grabow. 25-lap feature: 1. Darrell Gay, 2. Bill Serviss, 3. John Senerchia, 4. Jake Bradley.
1st heat: 1. Mike Slabenak, 2. Tom Kaminski, 3. Chris Kowalski. 2nd heat: 1. Zach Sontag, 2. Chris Mihalski, 3. Alex Gay. 12-lap feature: 1. Sontag, 2. Kowalski, 3. Dominic Perona, 4. Emma Wright, 5. Chris Mihalski, 6. Alex Gay.
Updated: August 8, 2013 6:58AM
Tracy Schuler had a mirror full of competition virtually every lap he led in Friday night’s late-model feature at Grundy County Speedway.
He noticed. But he didn’t flinch.
“I just did my thing and figured they’ll do whatever they have to do. We had a good enough car to hold them off today,” Schuler said after his first win of 2013.
Schuler beat Rich Bickle to the finish line in the 30-lap event by 0.293 seconds. He became the ninth different late-model feature winner this season.
“From the beginning, if it stayed good I thought we were going to be good no matter what,” Schuler said. “It stayed pretty good. It started pushing a little bit, but I thought we had enough to win.”
Schuler spent the first five laps chasing early leader Scott Koerner. Koerner finished lap four about three car-lengths ahead of him, but Schuler got a run on the bottom and shot by between Turns 1 and 2.
“The car was just coming off the corner strong,” Schuler said. “Gosh, I don’t know the last time it stuck so well on the bottom. It was kind of like we were running at Illiana (Speedway) about a month ago.”
Schuler’s first challenger was his older brother Larry, who was running in second place when he dropped out with motor issues on lap 13. That put points leader Ricky Baker in the runner-up position, but he stayed there for just four laps before Bickle made a move on the lower groove and completed the pass.
Bickle was right behind Tracy Schuler from laps 19 through 30, but never got a fender underneath him.
“The last couple of laps I got a run on him off of 2 and then I got down in the dirt and I got loose, too,” Bickle said. “I thought I might have had a shot at him there, but he got off the corner about the same as I did. He was better in the middle and I was better in. We were about even.”
Baker finished third, ahead of a hard-charging Eddie Hoffman. Hoffman suffered a flat left rear tire on lap 11 and after quick repairs in the pits returned in the back of the field to race his way into the four-car battle up front. Fifth went to Ray Brackett, ahead of Koerner.
Darrell Gay captured his first career Grundy feature, along with the second leg of the North Grand Street Stock Challenge.
Gay, whose daughter, Alex, won her first career feature a week earlier in the pure stock division, led from laps four through 25 — some of them by a wide margin, the final nine with five-time Illiana Speedway champion Bill Serviss right behind him.
“I just wanted to make sure I kept it clean, stayed out of trouble and protected my position,” Gay said. “It started looking easy, but the next thing you know a caution came out.”
The final yellow came with two laps remaining, giving Serviss one last shot on a restart.
“I thought, ‘Here we go,’ ” Gay said. “I knew Serviss was a five-time champion and knows what to do. I just had to stay focused.”
Gay beat Serviss to the finish line by 0.356 seconds. John Senerchia was third, followed by Jake Bradley.
Mid-American points leader Tommy Knippenberg grabbed the lead from Joe Vinachi on lap five and had no takers the rest of the way en route to his fourth win of the season. Quick qualifier Josh Nelms was second, followed by Ron Vandermeir Jr., Vinachi and John Ventrello. Zach Sontag prevailed in the pure stocks main over Chris Kowalski.