Auto Racing: Baker finds right ingredient for victory at Grundy
By Tony Baranek firstname.lastname@example.org May 23, 2014 11:34PM
Kevin Gentile celebrates after winning Friday night's Mid-American feature at Grundy County Speedway. | Tony Baranek/For Sun-Times Media
Updated: May 24, 2014 3:26PM
Boris Jurkovic doesn’t often make a mistake. So when he suddenly veered out of the groove between Turns 3 and 4 while leading Friday’s late-model feature at Grundy County Speedway, it startled second-running Ricky Baker.
“It did for a second,” Baker said. “When he took off there I thought, ‘Oh, boy. I hope I didn’t get into him.’ ”
Baker did, however, keep his foot in it and shot underneath and past Jurkovic on lap 19. The Plainfield native then led the rest of the way, capturing his second late-model feature win in four nights of racing.
“I did not think we were going to be holding a trophy at the end of the night the way it started,” Baker said. “(The car) was bad all night. It was bad in the heat race. We just kept changing stuff and it all paid off.”
Indeed, Baker’s handling in the No. 52 was so bad his qualifying time landed him in the slow heat. He won that event but had to start the feature well back in the field.
A multi-car skirmish early involving Eddie Hoffman, Larry Schuler, Ron Vandermeir and Billy Knippenberg resulted in a reshuffling that put Baker in contention.
Up front, Jurkovic used the high side on the restart to take the lead from Dylan Harmon. Baker quickly closed the gap on Harmon as well and moved into second place. He pressured Jurkovic for a few laps before the decisive turn of events in Turns 3 and 4.
“I lost it,” Jurkovic said. “I drove in the corner and overdrove and just got it sideways. Ricky did a good job of getting by us. I think it would have been a good race had I not missed the corner like I did. But Ricky did a great job tonight.”
Baker opened a significant lead but during the latter laps Jurkovic appeared to be reeling him back in. At the end Baker was dominant, beating Jurkovic to the line by 1.534 seconds. Brett Sontag was third, followed by Hoffman, Harmon, Scott Koerner, Schuler, Brandon Clubb, James Gregait and Jay Foster.
Kevin Gentile was in the process of passing Kevin Murphy eight laps from the finish of the Mid-American feature when a yellow flag for a spun-out car foiled his effort.
No matter. The Elwood native pounced on Murphy on the restart and made a successful pass en route to his first feature win of the season. Gentile bested Murphy by 0.489 seconds.
“We’re from the same (car) stable so I knew (Murphy) had a good car and he’s a good driver,” Gentile said. “I knew I had to set him up. I was trying to bide my time and I finally got the big run and the caution came out. That was kind of disappointing but I knew we had the speed in the car. I as a driver just had to get it right one lap.”
Jim Kachel finished third behind Gentile and Murphy. Tom Knippenberg, Ken Benson, Cody Clubb and John Ventrello completed the top seven.
Rob Scamen had a big night in the street stocks, winning his heat and the 25-lap feature. Christy Penrod held off a persistent Eddie Ligue for second, while Bill Serviss was fourth and Tim Stewart fifth.
Blaine Passini was victorious in the 4-cylinder feature, beating out Chris Woodall, James Gross and Austin Blackwell.