Auto Racing: Illiana late show a Bettenhausen bummer
By Tony Baranek firstname.lastname@example.org September 19, 2012 7:20PM
Logan Love (holding trophy), his girlfriend, Amanda Kolbe, and crew chief Matt Olson celebrate winning the North Grand Auto Parts Street Stock Challenge series championship Saturday at Illiana Speedway.| Kim Kemperman~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 21, 2012 2:25PM
Two words come to mind when summing up Saturday night’s season-ending Tony Bettenhausen Classic at Illiana Speedway: “exciting” and “unfortunate.”
The exciting part was the finish of the 51st annual race, which saw Boris Jurkovic steal the win away from Nationwide Series regular Erik Darnell.
The unfortunate part was that a chunk of the crowd wasn’t there to see it. The race ended around 12:20 a.m., much too late for some of the elderly fans and those with small children who left in a disgruntled state during myriad yellow-flag situations.
It’s a safe bet that only close friends and relatives of the drivers remained by the time two more pure stock features were completed at nearly 1 a.m.
Many fingers of blame were wagged in the pit area afterward at track owner/promoter Mike Mikuly — and certainly, the program should have been moved at a quicker pace. There were two late-model heats that were absolutely unnecessary and there was way too much dead time between races.
It was especially true between the street stock feature and the Bettenhausen Classic, which didn’t go green until nearly 10:30 p.m. I didn’t hear it myself because I was back in the pit area, but I’m told that people in the stands were screaming at the announcer to quit interviewing old-timers and current drivers and get the race started.
Time management, to be sure, was not good. That the scoreboard wasn’t working only added to the fans’ frustration. Mikuly, however, wasn’t responsible for some of the most reckless driving I’ve ever seen in a late-model feature of that magnitude. Only seven of the 26 cars that started were on the track when Jurkovic completed the 100th lap.
Everyone, it seemed, was in a hurry. Few made it to their destination. A 100-lap feature should not take nearly two hours to complete. Some of this goes on the drivers. Anyway, let’s break down the long day’s journey into the night.
Anthony Danta and D.J. Weltmeyer were early leaders, but the best battle of the night for the top spot raged for about 50 laps between Brian Campbell and Darnell. Darnell finally made an aggressive bump-and-pass move on Campbell about 10 laps from the finish and appeared to be in cruise control when with five remaining, Campbell and Danta had an issue in Turn 4, bringing out a final yellow.
“We got the cautions at the right time,” said Jurkovic, who early in the race had been involved in a tangle and had to go to the back. “Them guys were racing real hard up front and didn’t save anything all night long. It was a good race there at the end.”
Jurkovic, who rocketed past Darnell shortly after the restart, beat him to the line by 0.242 seconds. Scott Tomasik was third, followed by Weltmeyer, John Nutley, Josh Nelms and Bobby Gash.
There were a scary couple of minutes in the tech line afterward, when Nutley suddenly collapsed to the ground, overcome by carbon monoxide fumes that had leaked out during the latter stages of the race. Thankfully, he was all right.
Logan Love, meanwhile, earned the biggest street stock payoff of the season by finishing fifth in the third leg of the North Grand Auto Parts Street Stock Challenge, capturing the all-around series title and a check for $1,000.
In the series, street stockers from Grundy and Illiana speedways competed in one race at Grundy, one on the half-mile at Illiana and the final one on Illiana’s quarter-mile.
The three all-around contenders after two races were Love, Johnny Senerchia and Nathan Kelly. Kelly dropped out of the 35-lap finale early after being hit and breaking a tie rod. Senerchia finished second behind winner Chris Woodall, but Love was able to use his fifth-place finish to prevail over Senerchia in the series standings by one point.
“With no scoreboard and no radios I didn’t know what was going on,” Love said. “I was doing the math in my head and trying to figure out where we were at in relation to the other competitors. I felt pretty comfortable, but trying to not lose any position and gain as much ground as we could.
“It’s quite a series, to race on a half-mile and a quarter-mile (at Illiana) and at Grundy, three very different tracks. It was a very neat deal.”
Early in the evening, an emotional Bill Serviss clinched his fifth, and what he says is his final, turbo stox track title, finishing second behind Nathan Kelly in a make-up of last week’s rained-out feature.
Jacob McKown, who battled with Serviss for the top spot all season, was third in the race and second in the final points.
Afterward, Serviss gave a touching tribute to his late mother, Audrey, who passed away in December. Serviss, 55, said he plans to continue racing, only on a part-time basis.
So what’s left of the season? If you like dirt, Kankakee Speedway is running back-to-back shows featuring the PCRA Pro late-models Friday and Saturday, the Hubert Memorial Stock Car Championship on Sept. 28 and an open-rules show Oct. 21. Illiana hosts its final “Crash Fest” of the season Sept. 29.