Auto Racing: Cannon not horsing around at Illiana
By Tony Baranek email@example.com July 13, 2014 5:34PM
Eddie Hoffman (8) beat Jeff Cannon (33) on May 31, but Cannon holds a slim points lead in the late-model title chase at Illiana Speedway. | Goodaker Photography/For Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 14, 2014 2:10AM
Jeff Cannon says he’s “back in the saddle.”
He’s also on top of the late-model world at Illiana Speedway for the first time in quite awhile.
In seven Saturday nights of competition, the Kouts, Indiana, native has two fast qualifying times, two heat race wins and two feature victories, and is showing the way in the division race with 928 points.
But while he’s showing the way, the 35-year-old Cannon isn’t running away.
Right behind him in the championship chase is Eddie Hoffman, who has one fast time, three feature wins and 920 points.
With Chris King well back in third with 833 points, it looks to be a two-man race to the finish in the second half.
“It’s not going to be easy,” Cannon said. “I think we’re planning on being here, and I don’t see any reason why Hoffman wouldn’t be here. We’ll have to see what happens in the end.”
Cannon won late-model titles at Illiana in 2007, ’09 and ’10, but for the past few seasons has driven the Wayne Govert No. 33 car on a part-time basis.
“We didn’t have those goals (to race for a championship),” Cannon said. “Last year we knew we weren’t going for anything, and the year before we were helping Paul (Shafer Jr.).
“This year we’re kind of back in the saddle a little bit as far as the full-time stuff. Hopefully, we can get the job done.”
Hoffman won his only Illiana track title in 2012. The Wheaton native often won more features than any other competitor, but a penchant for traveling and missing nights derailed more than a few title chances.
His schedule for the rest of 2014?
“I don’t have that answer,” Hoffman said, smiling. “Not to lessen what it (a championship) would be, but it’s not a priority. But we might make the rest of the races this year.”
Anthony Danta, whose eighth place in points reflects missing a few nights, has set fast time on three occasions and won the main event on July 5. Shafer also has one feature victory.
Bobby Gash is fourth in points with 814, followed by Don Sabatino (734), Dennis Lyp (690), Ryan Hill (677), Danta (645), Mark Ross Jr. (612) and Tony Alexander (498).
Chris Woodall is in command of the turbo stox division and looks to be sailing toward his first career championship.
The Blue Island resident has six fast times, two heat wins and five feature victories.
His 983 points puts him more than 100 ahead of second-place Ryan Moore (878). Michael Gerike (860) and Bobby Gash III (836) are chasing Moore for the runner-up spot.
Like Cannon, Woodall is racing full-time for the first time in awhile.
“We finally got a sponsor to help pay some of the bills,” Woodall said. “Winning the title is always the plan when you decide to run full-time, but I didn’t think we’d have a big points lead like this halfway through the season.
“When you win a lot, it makes you feel confident. Winning the (Grundy/Illiana Challenge) race at Grundy made me feel better, too, because there were 25 cars there that night.”
The battle for the Legends division crown is one for the ages as 13-year-old Stan Zolodz IV holds a 945-932 points lead over 60-year-old Paul Shafer Sr. Ben Fidone is a distant third with 600 points.
Zolodz, of Hobart, Indiana, has two quick times and won four heats and four feature events. Shafer has two feature victories.
“It’s pretty much fun,” Zolodz said. “It’s a new experience for me, since last year I was eighth in my first year in the car. It’s been good competition with (Shafer). Every night it’s been back and forth, racing side by side.”
There are no points kept in the pure stocks, but it has been the most competitive division with eight different winners in eight features — Justin Mikel, Jeff Law, Matt Baikie, Hunter Rohweder, Ryan Gilliam, Tom Crawford, Melissa Kuehs and Ryan Lagestee.