Baranek on Auto Racing: Polcyn finds groove, Grundy gold
Tony Baranek email@example.com | (708) 633-5947 June 5, 2012 8:24PM
P.J. Polcyn, of Elwood, celebrates after his win Friday at Grundy County Speedway. | Supplied photo
Friday: Full stock-car program, 8 p.m.
Saturday: Full STARS open-wheel program, 8 p.m.
June 15: Full stock-car program, 8 p.m.
June 22: Full stock-car program, plus Old-Timers Reunion, 8 p.m.
Saturday: Full race program,
June 16: 11th Annual Elmer Musgrave Memorial Twin 56-lap late-model features, 7 p.m.
June 23: Full race program,
Updated: July 7, 2012 8:43AM
Winning his first career late-model feature Friday night at Grundy County Speedway after eight years of trying was pretty special for P.J. Polcyn.
So special that he wanted everyone to see him when he got out of the car under the bright lights at the start-finish line.
He even borrowed a cap from one of his friends.
“I don’t have any hair,” Polcyn later explained. “I didn’t want the glare blinding people.”
No one behind the 30-year-old Elwood native could see him by the end of Friday’s 30-lap feature. It was as dominant a victory as anyone has registered so far in 2012.
It was also surprising. Like Superman ... or even Brett Sontag had jumped behind the wheel.
“Man, it felt like it,” Polcyn said, laughing. “This car was awesome. We made quite a few changes after the heat race and they really worked. It felt great.”
It’s been a long road to victory lane for Polcyn, to be sure. There were years of struggling, a couple of bad crashes, a money crunch and finally a boost from one of the speedway’s most decorated racing families.
It started, actually, with a chance opportunity fresh out of college when the former go-kart and mini-cup competitor was offered a ride in Grundy’s top division for the second half of the 2005 season. Polcyn didn’t have a lot of success, but became hooked on a late-model feeling. He bought a car from Sontag.
“Once you get into a late-model it’s hard to go to anything less,” Polcyn said. “It’s the adrenaline rush, just everything about it. Going down to a lower level probably would have been good for me because I’d have learned more and won a little sooner. But it’s just hard to do.”
Polcyn had moments, but not many complete efforts during the next several seasons. Then, at the end of the 2009 season, he became involved in a wreck that would shake him up physically and hurt his pocketbook even harder.
“Somebody got into me from the back, and I didn’t do what I was supposed to do,” Polcyn said. “I overcorrected and went straight into the wall.
“I was kind of bummed out, but I rented Mark Sontag’s car to run the Schuler Memorial, just because I didn’t want to end the season with a bad wreck.”
Polcyn eventually bought another car, this one from Gary Schultz, but it wasn’t until last winter he decided to return to racing full-time.
Brett Sontag was in that car one time a couple of years ago and drove it to victory at Grundy. When the car made its 2012 debut it still had No. 5 on it — and Sontag in it.
“Shakedown,” Polcyn said, smiling. “I mean, he knows his stuff. He set the car up. Half of this win probably came because he knows how to set the car up. It would have been dumb not to let him drive it the first night, just to shake it down.
“Brett doesn’t really tell you a whole lot, but I know that the car is going to be right after he gets out because he’s going to make sure that he’s going to win or be in the top two or three.”
Sontag was leading that night, but a spin after contact with Pat Kelly resulted in both going to the back. Sontag rallied to finish fifth.
Polcyn didn’t do nearly as well in his first two nights. But Friday, he was a rocket, taking the lead early and running away.
He even pulled away from Eddie Hoffman.
“Yeah, I was pretty excited about that,” Polcyn said. “Honestly, I never expected this night to go that way it did. When I saw Eddie in my mirror, I didn’t drive my line. But then I said, ‘Don’t pay attention behind you.’ And then I got to the point where I did look in the mirror again, and he wasn’t there.
“I don’t even know how to really explain it. I just hope I can keep continuing what I’m doing and get smoother and smoother and smoother, and stay up front.”
The NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series returns to Chicagoland Speedway this weekend for the “Burndown at Sundown.” Friday and Saturday will consist of qualifying and time trials in nearly a dozen divisions, with elimination races beginning at 8 a.m. Sunday.
Also, American Ethanol was announced as the event title sponsor for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race July 21 at Chicagoland.