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Baranek: Division races taking shape at Grundy County Speedway

Tommy Knippenberg (14) has been dominant force Mid-American divisiGrundy County Speedway with seven feature wins six fast qualifying times. |

Tommy Knippenberg (14) has been a dominant force in the Mid-American division at Grundy County Speedway, with seven feature wins and six fast qualifying times. | Brian Nolte/For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: August 12, 2014 6:29AM



Halfway home, let’s turn our focus to the goings on at Grundy County Speedway, where there are some hot points battles and one, well, not so much.

It’s coming down to a four-man race in the late-model class.

With his win Friday night, defending track champion Ricky Baker opened up his lead over Eddie Hoffman to a 689-654 margin. Larry Schuler is right there in third with 630 points, while Scott Koerner is within striking distance at 615.

Baker, who broke a monthlong dry spell last week, has four feature wins to go along with four fast-qualifying times and one heat victory. Hoffman has captured three main events, while Brett Sontag and Anthony Danta each have one.

There is no race, really, in the Mid-American class, where it’s all Tommy Knippenberg with seven feature wins and 766 points. The real battle is for second place, where Kevin Murphy (635) is just ahead of Joe Vinachi (633). Luke Baldwin (594) is lurking not too far behind. Murphy and Kevin Gentile have one win apiece.

In the street stocks division, Eddie Ligue is looking stout with four feature wins and a 775-727 lead over Jake Bradley. The feature winner’s circle has also been visited once apiece by Chris Woodall, Bob Davis, Jason Kolbe, Christy Penrod, Pat Kelly and Rob Scamen.

Justin Mikel, meanwhile, leads a wide-open pure stocks division with 656 points. He’s followed by Dan Schmeissing (652), Mikey Slabenak (650), Austin Blackwell (647), Jeff Law (610) and Spencer Leake (605).

Great racing has been the norm in the pure stocks, with 10 different winners in 11 features. The only repeater has been Leake.

Friday it was Danielle Dobczyk, who prevailed in the pure stocks main for her first career win in what seemed to be a sure thing, but turned into a heart-pounding last-lap run to the finish line.

Dobczyk was leading Blackwell by a comfortable margin as the white flag flew when a loose tire on the track brought out the caution flag. That allowed Blackwell to close on her bumper for the restart, but Dobczyk got a good jump and held on.

“I was just hoping the caution wouldn’t hurt me, that someone would catch up,” she said. “That whole caution took about five minutes. I was like, ‘Ohh, come on.’ It’s a good feeling to get one.”

Dobczyk, who finished third in points as a rookie in 2013, missed the start of this season while earning her aviation license at Southern Illinois.

Probably the best battle of the night July 4 came in the street stocks feature between John Senerchia and Logan Love. Neither had anything for winner Jason Kolbe, but they had a back-and-forth duel for second that raged for several laps.

At one point Senerchia got underneath and past Love going into Turn 1, only to slide up a bit and have Love dive into the bottom groove and get back by him in Turn 2.

“You see that all the time on TV but it rarely happens down here,” Love said. “So it was really cool that it did happen and I could get back under him and at least make it interesting. It’s a lot of fun racing with John.”

Senerchia finally prevailed to take home second-place honors.

“I’m just out there having fun,” Senerchia said. “That one time I finally got by him my foot got stuck on the gas pedal and I overdrove the corner and had to go save it.

“I kept driving like he was driving me. I was underneath him and he’d come down, so I did the same thing to him when he had me on the outside.”

Look for Cheryl Hryn to return Friday in her No. 8 street stock. Frustrated with some subpar finishes, Hryn put longtime friend and veteran racer Peter Hernandez behind the wheel for the past few weeks.

Hernandez had one really good finish (a third June 20). Hryn, meanwhile, took some valuable notes.

“I learned that he is a wheel man and could put the car anywhere,” Hryn said. “I knew that Bill’s Speed Shop had built me a rocket. I just had to get over some mechanical issues.

“At first I didn’t miss it. I had a lot of things building up inside of me that made me just want to give up. These past few weeks have helped me clear my mind. I’m ready to jump back in the car.”



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