Auto Racing: Late surge pushes Hoffman to victory
By Tony Baranek email@example.com August 23, 2013 11:00PM
Christy Penrod (42) works the bottom groove while Darrell Gay (60) rides the outside during the fast car heat in the street stock division Friday night at Grundy County Speedway. Penrod went on to finish third in the event behind winner Chris Woodall and runner-up John Senerchia. | Brian Nolte~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: September 26, 2013 6:45AM
Friday night’s 30-lap late-model feature race at Grundy County Speedway was an example of what makes Eddie Hoffman one of the most cagey, determined and dominating short track drivers in the country.
Hoffman was in third place behind Ricky Baker and both seemed unlikely to challenge runaway race-long leader Chris Cooling when everything changed on lap 25.
A spin to the infield in Turn 4 by Tony Brutti was the race-changer. It brought out a yellow and set up a five-lap straight-up dash to the finish.
At the drop of the green, Hoffman made the first move, jostling Baker and tucking his No. 8 underneath for a pass in Turn 2. Two laps later, Hoffman, with Baker glued to his bumper, was able to take Cooling coming out of Turn 4.
Hoffman did a heck of a lot in not a lot of time.
“You know, I didn’t think I was going to,” Hoffman said. “I didn’t plan it. I really think the track got oiled down with something. I was slipping and sliding and it looked like everybody was slipping and sliding.
“(On the restart), he (Baker) didn’t go. I think I got into the back of him and I think I helped him up out of the way getting out of 2. I don’t think I ever touched Chris … but I’m not sure.”
Baker, without question, rubbed with Hoffman on the final lap. The duo wound up side by side roaring down the back straightaway.
Hoffman, on the outside, prevailed by a scant 0.112 seconds.
“You win some, you lose some, right?” a smiling Baker said. “I was expecting it (the bump on the restart). My car was pretty tight in the center and it was loose off.
“I knew (Hoffman) was going to do something. It is what it is. It’s racing. I gave it back to him a little bit, but couldn’t get the job done today.”
For Cooling, the final five laps were a marked departure from the 25 laps in which he totally dominated the 19-car field.
“Hopefully, we were going to catch a break there (no yellow) but we didn’t and wound up third,” Cooling said. “I’m still pretty happy about our run tonight.”
Brett Sontag made one of his rare appearances a solid one, finishing fourth, ahead of Billy Knippenberg, Tracy Schuler, Ron Vandermeir Jr. and Scott Koerner.
Veteran driver Josh Nelms, subbing in John McMahon’s No. 01, prevailed in the Mid-American feature.
Nelms went from third to first on lap 18, passing the battling duo of Ron Willems and Tommy Knippenberg. Nelms went on to beat Matt Clemens to the finish line by 1.786 seconds.
“I took advantage of a situation that they did on their own,” Nelms said. “We were just kind of riding behind them making sure that we still had something there at the end. Once we got out front, we were in good shape.”
Chuck Yuris was a close third behind Clemens, while Knippenberg, Cody Clubb and John Ventrello completed the top six.
The street stock feature went to Chris Woodall, who took the lead from Timmy Stewart and held runner-up John Senerchia at bay over the final 11 laps. Third went to Jake Bradley, followed by Aaron Shelton and Stewart.
Dan Schmeissing won the pure stocks feature.