Auto Racing: Baker ends season with a bang
BY TONY BARANEK firstname.lastname@example.org September 1, 2013 10:44PM
Ricky Baker won the season-ending Lee Schuler Memorial race at Grundy County Speedway on Sunday. | tony baranek~sun-times media
Updated: October 3, 2013 6:30AM
Ricky Baker put a pretty impressive exclamation point on his late-model championship run, winning Sunday night’s season-ending 61-lap Lee Schuler Memorial race at Grundy County Speedway.
The 28-year-old from Plainfield clinched his first career title by taking the lead from John Nutley on lap seven, and then holding off two in-your-face challenges from multi-track kingpin Brett Sontag.
“This means a lot,” Baker said. “Working with Larry (Schuler, as a pit crew member)… I never got to meet Lee (Schuler), but I’ve heard a lot of great stories throughout the years,” Baker said of the late area legend.
“I had Brett on me there for awhile and I was worried, but we ended up pulling away from him. It was fun.”
Baker had two nervous moments.
The first came on a lap 27 restart, when Sontag got a good jump on Baker, and snuck underneath him in Turn 2. Baker, on the high side, needed two laps to reclear himself.
“Well, Brett’s probably the king of the restarts here, so I was worried with him back there,” Baker said. “I just did (from there) what I learned from him. He taught me how to get there.”
The second challenge came on lap 41, when Sontag once again closed up on Baker’s bumper between Turns 3 and 4. This time Baker didn’t allow a move on the bottom.
“Ricky was arcing it in pretty good,” Sontag said. “He was rolling through the center and getting good bite. That helped him quite a bit.
“Ricky’s a champion out here now. This was the second night for us with an older car. We got a little faster … it was a good time. I’m happy.”
Lee’s Schuler’s oldest son, Larry Schuler, was a strong third, ahead of Dave Gentile, Billy Knippenberg and Larry Schuler’s younger brother, Tracy Schuler.
The Legends feature saw a bumper-to-bumper battle between Tommy Jones and Max McNamara for the majority of the 25 laps. Jones, however, didn’t budge from the top spot, prevailing by that margin. Anthony Metallo was third, followed by Cullen Camasta and Matt O’Leary.
Aaron Willis Jr., came from sixth starting spot to take the lead early on and run away with the Illini Midget main.