Auto Racing: Billy Knippenberg takes late-model opener at Grundy County Speedway
By Tony Baranek firstname.lastname@example.org April 26, 2013 11:18PM
Billy Knippenberg. | Tony Baranek~Sun-Times Media
Updated: May 29, 2013 7:47AM
Billy Knippenberg didn’t bring a brand new late-model to Grundy County Speedway on Friday night, he brought a rocket.
The Plainfield native started on the pole and never left the No. 1 spot, smoking the 19-car field for his first late-model feature win since 2006 and his first-ever opening night victory.
“I’ve been working at this car for two years,” an emotional Knippenberg said. “Tony D’Ambrose and T-1 Racing really helped out a lot. This is one of his chassis, and we’ve become really good friends. We actually house it in his shop.
“We broke a motor last week (at practice) and my dad, from Bill’s Speed Shop, gave me another motor to use this week. We put a lot of work into this. Charlie Martin, from Martin Racing, he’s done so much for me. I couldn’t do it without him.”
Knippenberg equally was fast in his heat race. The only time he wasn’t a step ahead of the field was in qualifying.
“I think I’ve got something to work on,” he said. “We didn’t qualify well; we had a loose battery cable. But when we work the bugs out of it, I think it’s going to be a pretty good piece.”
The real race was for second place, that occurring over the final 10 laps between Ricky Baker and Eddie Hoffman. Hoffman, who started ninth after setting fast qualifying time, methodically worked his way through the field.
Hoffman was able to ease underneath Baker in Turns 3 and 4 on lap 24, but because of slower traffic was unable to get a clear run at Knippenberg.
“If there was a yellow then we would have raced,” Hoffman said. “But I was pushing pretty hard, so I don’t know what I would have had left once I would have gotten there. Between the lapped cars and a couple of odds and ends we couldn’t get there.
“This is a good car. Yeah, it’s a fast car. If we’d have had a yellow or a better starting spot, or if Billy wasn’t so good up front, then maybe. But certainly no complaints.”
Paul Shafer Jr., making his Grundy debut, turned in a solid fourth behind Baker. Former NASCAR veteran Rich Bickle, driving for the Tony and Tammy Phillips team, finished fifth ahead of Tracy Schuler, Chris Cooling and D.J. Weltmeyer.
In the Mid-American Division, Ron Willems led for 23 laps before Matt Clemmons worked his way by and captured the last two, along with his first career feature win. Kevin Gentile checked in second, ahead of Tommy Knippenberg. Willems was shuffled back to fourth.
Aaron Shelton turned in a power show in the street stock main, taking the top spot on lap three and maintaining it the rest of the way over Johnny Senerchia. Tony Scalpelli, Marcus Hoover and Logan Love completed the top five.