Baranek on Auto Racing: Newest ‘Flyer’ makes smooth landing
Tony Baranek firstname.lastname@example.org | (708) 633-5947 June 19, 2012 8:38PM
D.J. Weltmeyer after his first career late-model feature victory at Illiana Speedway. | Chris Goodaker~For Sun-Times Media
1. D.J. Weltmeyer 675
2. Paul Shafer Jr. 660
1. Jacob McKown 808
2. Bill Serviss 790
1. Alex Arelano 747
2. Matt O’Leary 739
Grundy County Speedway
1. Pat Kelly 683
2. D.J. Weltmeyer 623
1. Kevin Gentile 634
2. Ron Willems 585
1. Nathan Kelly 690
2. Randy Weese 589
Updated: July 21, 2012 6:16AM
Sons of legends don’t have it easy.
Kyle Petty never came close to matching his dad’s greatness — or reputation.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. has had a solid career, but he’s never fully emerged from the shadow of “The Intimidator.”
Following in the footsteps of his father hasn’t been that heavy a weight for D.J. Weltmeyer, but over the past few years he’s slowly learned of the legacy he’s carrying around with his last name.
“Yeah, the more I’m around the sport the more I realize it,” the younger Weltmeyer said about the career of Dave Weltmeyer. “For a long time he was just a dad to me, but the more I talked to different people, I realized the shoes I’m trying to fill here.”
Dave Weltmeyer, or “The Dyer Flyer” as he came to be known after he moved from his native Harvey, was one of the Chicago’s most successful drivers during a career that spanned from 1971 through 2008. Weltmeyer won 280 feature races at tracks in eight different states, capturing three late-model track titles at Raceway Park, two at Grundy County Speedway and one at Illiana Speedway.
Wait, there’s more. Three uncles — Bob, Jim and Dan Weltmeyer — all had successful local racing careers, with Bob winning two late-model titles at Raceway and one at Illiana, and Dan a hobby stock title at Raceway.
Dave Weltmeyer turned the wheels of his late-model over to D.J. in 2010. The kid was only 17. Now, at 19, he’s a late-model feature winner.
It happened in pretty dramatic fashion June 9 at Illiana. Weltmeyer, while running second, caught a break about 10 laps from the finish when leader Mike White had to pull off with a rear end problem. Weltmeyer led the rest of the way, but spent the final couple of laps with veteran Eddie Hoffman right on his tail.
“I was ready for it, just in case something would happen if the lead were to fall into my hands,” Weltmeyer said. “Something happened in the suspension. It started sparking, and then he pulled off the track and gave me the old wave (by).
“All I could think now is, ‘Man, this is ours to lose, now. OK, now that we’ve got the lead we’ve got to keep it. We’ve got to do what we can to hit our marks.’ ”
A relieved and happy son was all smiles in victory circle.
“I wanted to run out to the track, but it took me five minutes to get there because everybody along the pit wall down to the scales were high-fiving me,” Dave Weltmeyer said. “I couldn’t even get to the track. People were going nuts in the stands.
“It was really exciting, probably the most exciting thing I ever did in my career. With all the stuff I’ve done, that was the happiest I’ve been in 40 years of racing, to tell you the truth.”
D.J. Weltmeyer won the first race he ever competed in, a late-model slow heat at Illiana on April 17, 2010. Since then he has been a regular at both local asphalt tracks. In 2012, he is leading the points at Illiana over Paul Shafer Jr. and ranks second behind Pat Kelly at Grundy.
“For three years we tried to learn as much as we could, and now it’s paying off,” Weltmeyer said after his first feature victory. “This is a big step for us. Hopefully, this is the first of many.”
This ’n that
Grundy County Mid-American speedster Ron Vandermeir should have asked Kevin Gentile to stand up at his wedding. Vandermeir went into Friday’s action with a 559-545 points lead. But while he was busy saying “I do,” Gentile was saying “I did it” after capturing the 25-lap feature and vaulting into the top position.
Friday’s street stock feature at Grundy got pretty crazy in the final two turns when Paul Polarek, who was running a couple of laps down, made contact with all three front-runners, Nathan Kelly, John Senerchia and Aaron Shelton. Somehow, they all crossed the line OK. Polarek had plenty of company in his pit afterward. Shelton later was DQ’d for a motor infraction.
Rain washed out the Elmer Musgrave Twin-56 event Saturday night at Illiana. Some 25 cars already had qualified when the sky opened. The makeup day is Saturday. The next show at Grundy (Friday) will feature the Illinois Vintage series and an old-timers reunion. The open-wheel midgets, meanwhile, are in action every Saturday at Grundy.