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Auto Racing: Rita Fields having successful run as car owner at Illiana Speedway

Jack Kalwasinski's No. 99 goes off hook after hard crash late-model feature Saturday night IllianSpeedway. | Goodaker Photography

Jack Kalwasinski's No. 99 goes off on a hook after a hard crash in the late-model feature Saturday night at Illiana Speedway. | Goodaker Photography

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Updated: August 13, 2013 6:36AM



There’s no place Rita Fields would rather be than behind the wheel of a late-model race car. But she’s proving to be successful as a car owner this season at Illiana Speedway.

On June 29, Ryan Moore drove Fields’ No. 88 Monte Carlo turbo stock to a qualifying track record time of 17.607. Moore is third in points in the turbo stox class at Illiana.

Fields, who has driven in various divisions at Illiana since 2007, is waiting to make her 2013 debut in her No. 5 that’s being prepared by Tony D’Ambrose.

“It’s kind of strange, honestly, not being behind the wheel,” Fields said. “But in the same sense it’s given me a different perspective as well.

“I’m learning a lot more, taking the driver’s input and watching the car go around from my perspective vs. his perspective. It’s totally different, actually, a different world.”

Fields also owns another 88 street stock that last season was piloted by Shaun Wiltjer. That car, when finished, may be ticketed for Grundy with Logan Love behind the wheel, and Illiana with David Cressler as the driver.

Fields, who finished 10th in late-model points at Illiana in 2012, has been taking her time in refurbishing her No. 5.

“Tony’s working on it,” she said. “He’s had quite a full shop all season long. I told him to take his time, get it right.

“Sometimes when you have the season like I did last year at the start, you just kind of need to step back, look from the outside, regroup and go back at it again.”

Fields had an unbelievable string of bad luck at the start of ’12, being unable to finish her first six races because of wrecks.

“It was mostly by the same drivers,” she said. “It kind of put a bad taste in my mouth a little bit. It’s rough when you have to spend that much money back to back. It wasn’t fun at that point.

“I was really surprised to finish 10th in points, with the bad luck we had at the start. But we’ll put everything together.”

Wild ride I

There are plenty of uncomfortable feelings a driver can encounter during a race. But Jack Kalwasinski had one of the worst when he wheeled his No. 99 into Turn 3 on lap 24 of Saturday’s late-model feature race at Illiana.

“I had brakes going in 1 and 2 and went down the backstretch,” Kalwasinski said. “Going into 3 I did my normal thing and the brake pedal went to the floor. I tried to pump them up a little bit and slid the car as much as I could, but it just snapped around.”

Kalwasinski went driver’s side into the wall. After the car came to a grinding stop back in the groove, the yellow was thrown. Kalwasinski pulled down his window net, but all was not exactly OK inside the car.

“My (left) elbow got in between the roll bar padding and I think I hit the door plate,” said Kalwasinski, who was treated by the ambulance crew but didn’t go for X-rays until later. “I guess I should invest in a better pad for the left side.”

Fortunately, Kalwasinski’s seat and harness did their jobs and he suffered no head injuries. X-rays shows his elbow was bruised, but not broken. The car wasn’t so lucky.

“I think it’s pretty wrecked,” Kalwasinski said. “It’ll have to go to Port City to get looked at. Hopefully, in a month we’ll get back out.”

Wild ride II

Grundy County pure stocks points leader Dan Schmeissing is used to watching everything in front of, alongside of and behind him. But Friday, he had to deal with a hazard from above.

During a heat race, Schmeissing was running in front of the battling duo of Josh Hart and Austin Blackwell. After Blackwell and Hart had contact, all sorts of havoc ensued.

“I was stuck on the outside,” Schmeissing said. “Blackwell got into Josh Hart a little bit and Josh kind of overcorrected and came across my nose. When he came across my nose, he actually collected me with him.”

Hart became airborne and rolled. At that point running behind him, Schmeissing drove underneath Hart. Hart’s 2,600-pound No. 15 Honda Prelude flipped over and landed on top of the No. 12 Prelude of Schmeissing.

Schmeissing quickly unstrapped and got out of his car. It wasn’t to argue.

“I saw some liquids coming down on my windshield and it spooked me out,” Schmeissing said. “It was whatever was coming out of his motor, a little bit of everything, I think.

“Talking with a bunch of guys who have rolled their cars before, maybe we watched too many of the ‘Final Destination’ movies, but a lot of guys say the first thing they think of is that the car is going to blow up.”

No cars blew up. The roll cages held up. Both drivers were OK. Schmeissing was able to get his No. 12 back on the track later in the night to collect some feature points.

This just in

The Musgrave Memorial Twin-56s for late-models at Illiana Speedway that was rained out June 15 has been rescheduled for Aug. 24.



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