Auto Racing: On birthday weekend, Danta has plenty to celebrate
By Tony Baranek firstname.lastname@example.org July 20, 2014 5:58PM
Phil Bretz climbs out of his late-model after it burst into flames during Saturday's late-model feature at Illiana Speedway. | Kim Kemperman/For Sun-Times Media
Fast time: D.J. Weltmeyer (19.561). 1st heat: 1. Bobby Gash, 2. Anthony Danta, 3. Mark Ross Jr. 2nd heat: 1. Dennis Lyp, 2. Don Sabatino, 3. Dean Patterson. 30-lap feature: 1. Danta, 2. Jeff Cannon, 3. Weltmeyer, 4. Eddie Hoffman, 5. Mike White, 6. Ross.
1st heat: 1. Michael Gerike, 2. Jake Straka, 3. Tom Crawford Jr. 2nd heat: 1. Kevin Sisk, 2. Hunter Rohweder, 3. Alex Treptow. 3rd heat: 1. Ricky Wilson, 2. Matt Baikie, 3. Ryan Gilliam. 15-lap feature: 1. Baikie, 2. Kyle Royster, 3. Wilson, 4. Sisk, 5. Jim Gross, 6. Rohweder.
Fast time: Jacob Melvin (17.520). Heat: 1. Matt O’Leary, 2. Paul Shafer Sr., 3. Stan Zolodz IV. 15-lap feature: 1. Zolodz, 2. Shafer, 3. O’Leary, 4. Melvin, 5. Jason Ellis.
Fast time: Tim Stewart (17.751). Heat: 1. Chris Woodall, 2. Billy Jarrells, 3. Bill Serviss. 20-lap feature: 1. Woodall, 2. Jarrells, 3. Michael Gerike, 4. Stewart, 5. Serviss, 6. Bobby Gash III.
Updated: August 22, 2014 6:23AM
Anthony Danta didn’t have the most exciting birthday on Friday.
“I worked and I went to watch (racing) at Grundy County Speedway,” he said.
Danta went to a speedway on Saturday, too, but this time he was behind the wheel. The 28-year-old from Orland Park won the late-model feature at Illiana Speedway in a heart-pounding side-by-side finish over three-time track champion Jeff Cannon.
“A little more exciting than my birthday,” Danta joked. “That might be the first time in a long time that I can remember racing with my birthday on the weekend. That was pretty cool.”
The victory was Danta’s second of the season at Illiana and his third overall at Chicago area ovals in 2014.
Danta did it coming from the ninth starting position in the 19-car field. While Mark Ross Jr. and Jack Kalwasinski were the early leaders, Danta was a fast mover, whisking his way into second place by lap 8 and easing into the top spot on lap 9.
“The start of the race went my way,” Danta said. “The car was really good the first half, but it kind of got tighter as we went.”
Cannon, who is the points leader, came from seventh place to get into challenge mode shortly after Danta went in front. Cannon closed on the leader, and on the final lap drew side-by-side underneath him.
“At the end he was really good in 3 and 4 in the center and I kind of messed up and he got under me in 1 and 2,” Danta said. “I would have really just liked to have kept him behind me. But if I’m going to give him a line on the last lap, on the inside he is at a little bit of a disadvantage to come off the corner. I was able to get a good run and keep ahead of him.”
Danta beat Cannon to the line by a scant 0.088 seconds. It was the second feature in a row that Danta and Cannon finished 1-2.
“I got the nose inside of him, but I couldn’t finish the job,” Cannon said. “I needed a little more. We were probably a little better than him from mid-race on. I just couldn’t capitalize on it.”
Not far behind the top two, D.J. Weltmeyer parlayed his fast-qualifying effort into a third-place finish. Eddie Hoffman was fourth, followed by Mike White, Ross, Michael Martin Jr., Chris King, Kalwasinski and Dean Patterson.
Matt Baikie topped a large pure stocks field and captured his fourth feature victory over Kyle Royster and Ricky Wilson.
Baikie was running in third midway through the race when, while Alex Treptow and Kevin Sisk were in a bumper-to-bumper battle up front, he went to the high side and passed both of them. Baikie went on to claim the win over Kyle Royster, Ricky Wilson, Sisk, Jim Gross and Hunter Rohweder.
Baikie became the first two-time feature victor in the class, breaking a string of eight consecutive different winners.
“Since we’ve been having a new winner every week my goal has been to be the first repeat winner,” Baikie said. “It felt awesome to accomplish it and even cooler to do it on Kid’s Night.
“It’s awesome to see how the division made such a big comeback. Pretty much on any given night anyone has a shot at a feature win this year. This has been the most fun I’ve had racing since I started (in 2006).”
Chris Woodall continued his dominance in the turbo stox class, winning for the sixth time in nine races. Woodall took the lead from Billy Jarrells on lap 6 and stretched it out from there.
Stan Zolodz IV boosted his narrow lead in the Legends points chase by winning his fifth main event.
The 13-year-old took the lead on lap 1 from Jason Ellis and beat Paul Shafer Sr. to the finish line by 0.197 seconds. Matt O’Leary, Jacob Melvin and Ellis completed the top five.