Auto Racing: Christy Penrod experiences thrill of feature win at Grundy County Speedway
By Tony Baranek firstname.lastname@example.org May 1, 2014 8:24PM
Christy Penrod is all smiles after winning her first career street stock feature Friday at Grundy County Speedway. | Brian Nolte/For Sun-Times Media
Updated: June 3, 2014 6:36AM
The improvement from the beginning to the end of the 2013 season at Grundy County Speedway by street stock competitor Christy Penrod was absolutely stunning.
So stunning, in fact, I can remember one night in August, standing at the fence watching her battle up front during a feature race and asking an onlooker, “Is that really Christy in that car?”
“Ha, ha. Yeah. I was actually watching a video the other day from my first time on the track,” Penrod said. “I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh.’ It was quite a learning experience last year.”
Penrod went on to finish eighth in points and capture rookie of the year honors. In Friday’s season opener at Grundy, she ran like a championship contender.
The 16-year-old overcame some mechanical issues earlier in the night to lead all 25 laps in her 2004 Monte Carlo in capturing the first feature win of her career.
Penrod had challenges from Bob Davis, Jake Bradley and finally Eddie Ligue, none of whom could find a way past the No. 42.
“Starting on the pole was really nerve-racking, but once I got halfway through I figured I’d be able to finish,” she said. “After that it was just turn left and hope for the best.”
A junior at Lyons Township High School, Christy is the daughter of Mike Penrod, whose career spanned driving 4-cylinder cars on the dirt at Santa Fe Speedway, to piloting a Mid-American car on the asphalt at Grundy.
Christy Penrod began racing go-karts at age 5. Her rookie season in a stock car at Grundy didn’t start out what you’d call smoothly. One night early on she and Cheryl Hryn were in a multicar tangle on the track. Hryn got out of her damaged car, flinging her helmet at the No. 42 as it went past.
“We have all of that on video so we’ll look back and chuckle at it because she actually wound up apologizing because it wasn’t my fault,” Penrod said, laughing. “She’s awesome. She’s like a mentor to me now.”
She’s also likely to be one of Penrod’s top challengers.
Hryn is piloting a 1985 Monte Carlo out of Bill’s Speed Shop this season. She was fifth in the street stock standings in 2013.
“My dad (former late-model driver Larry Hryn) and I decided together we needed something a little more competitive,” Hryn said. “The ideal season would be for me to win a championship, but I have to learn a new car all over again. If I could get at least one feature, maybe two, that would be great.”
The Posen resident will continue to run with a pink-and-black paint scheme in honor of her fiancee (and fellow driver) Bill Serviss’ mother, Audrey, and others who are survivors or lost a loved one to cancer.
Meanwhile, Renee Farren, of Yorkville, is back in the No. 44. The 17-year-old Yorkville High School junior had a serious crash in June. She repaired the car in short order and not long after won a heat race, but stepped away the final couple of months of the season.
“I just needed a break,” Farren said. “I didn’t miss much because I was still there helping Billy Rud race the car a few times. When I got back in it for the half-mile race at Illiana Speedway (in September) I was ready to get back in it again.
“The car was good. We got it handling the way we want it to. We are going for a top 10 in points this year and just hoping for a good season altogether.”