Baranek on Auto Racing: Whirlwind weekend for these warriors
Tony Baranek email@example.com | (708) 633-5947 May 29, 2012 5:20PM
Updated: May 31, 2012 11:57AM
Today’s tale is a twin-spin.
No, it’s not about twins. It’s about two competitors whose weekends spun 180-degrees from good to bad and bad to good.
Our first spinee is Orland Park native Dean Patterson.
Friday night Patterson, a regular in the late-model division at Illiana Speedway, made his late-model debut in the Memorial Day Twin 25s at Grundy County Speedway.
It was more or less on a lark. Illiana had rained out two weeks earlier and the previous week the late-models were pre-empted by the JEGS CRA series All-Stars tour.
In other words, Patterson was starving to go racing.
He started out with a surprisingly respectable qualifying time at Grundy, then ran a consistent first feature in the middle in the pack, finishing seventh. But what Patterson did in the second feature is something he’d never done in his four seasons at Grundy.
He ran up front — and ran like he meant it. Patterson led the race from laps 3 through 14, and still was about five car-lengths in front of the field when a yellow flag bunched everyone up. On the restart he got caught in a gaggle that included Eddie Hoffman, D.J. Weltmeyer, Boris Jurkovic, Anthony Danta and Pat Kelly, and was shuffled back to sixth.
Even at that, though, Patterson was impressive in battling sometimes three-wide with Grundy’s best without losing his composure. He finished sixth, which was changed to fifth when Hoffman was DQ’d for an engine violation.
“I came here with no changes, just the Illiana setup,” an almost overwhelmed Patterson said. “Obviously I missed the setup (there). This setup is for Grundy, not Illiana.
“I was very nervous. I knew my car could be wrecked here. I didn’t know if I’d make the show. To hang out with those guys (up front) ... awesome. I’m so incredibly happy right now.”
Less than 24 hours later, Patterson’s dream weekend went up in smoke.
On lap five of Saturday’s late-model feature at Illiana, he was battling in a pack that included Michael Martin Jr., Dennis Lyp, Tyler Middleton, Karl Weber and Ryan Hill when coming out of Turn 4 all sorts of havoc ensued.
Contact with Martin resulted in Patterson spinning out. Behind him, Lyp couldn’t slow down and climbed over him, taking out most of the right side of the No. 64, leaving tire tracks on the roof. Middleton wound up sliding head-on into the wall.
So much for the incredible happiness. But at least Patterson did keep his cool.
“You get angry ... but you deal with it,” Patterson said. “Hopefully, you put a smile on your face there for the people to perceive you.
“You can’t get too high or too low when you do this. When you get in a car like this you’ve got to expect stuff like that to happen. It builds who you are, your character. We’ll put it back together.”
At about the same time Patterson was building character in the pit area at Illiana, Mark Sontag Jr. was overwhelmed with joy in victory circle.
The 16-year-old from Joliet had turned a horrible weekend into a huge one by winning the first late-model feature of his career, soundly beating Jerry Sharp by 3.256 seconds. Sontag led all but the first three laps, most of them by a large margin. Even on restarts he was able to pull away from the field.
The night before, at Grundy, Sontag made a bad decision after a tangle in the first feature with Anthony Danta and tore up the front end of his own No. 1 by bashing into Danta during the yellow. Both were sent off the track. Sontag was able to cobble his car together to at least start the second race (and get starting pay). Danta ran well in Race 2, finishing third behind Boris Jurkovic and Hoffman, and moving up one spot to second when Hoffman was DQ’d.
“It was a tough deal and I don’t really want to talk about it because everything is resolved now,” Sontag said Saturday. “I lost my temper last night and I admit to that. But over the years of racing go-karts and four-cylinders I’ve worked on kind of getting over things and talking to the people that I have problems with.”
Sontag and his crew had to decide whether to go on their racing/vacation weekend at the Wisconsin Dells or stay home and fix the car for Illiana. They chose to stay home.
What a payoff.
“I just drove it as hard as I could to get away from everybody,” Sontag said after the victory. “When we qualified and practiced it wasn’t looking too good. We just gave it our best.”
This time it was more than good enough.