Baranek: Talent aplenty at Grundy County opener
Tony Baranek firstname.lastname@example.org | (708) 633-5947 May 1, 2012 7:32PM
D.J. Weltmeyer (16) posted a career-high third-place late-model finish Friday at Grundy County Speedway. | Photo courtesy of Chris Goodaker.
Grundy County Speedway
(First race 8 p.m.)
Friday: Full program
May 11: Street stock special
May 18: Full program
May 25: Late-model Twin-25s.
(First race 7 p.m.)
Saturday: Full program
May 12: Full program
May 19: JEGS/CRA All-Star “100”
May 26: Full program
Updated: June 3, 2012 8:15AM
Just the sight of Joliet’s No. 1 racing son, Brett Sontag, and his No. 5 in the pits at Grundy County Speedway on a very cold April 27 opening night gave yours truly visions of a great late-model title chase in 2012.
Sontag and Eddie Hoffman going head to head every Friday night? It doesn’t get much better.
Then, just as quickly as I got excited ... pfffffffft!
“P.J. Polcyn got me drunk last night and made me do this,” a playful Sontag said after qualifying. “It’s just for one night. We’re shaking it down for him.”
Turned out that Polcyn bought the car from Sontag and plans on campaigning it himself this season.
You might remember this No. 5 from a memorable night a couple of years ago. Sontag, amused by people saying he had an unfair edge with a crate motor, brought out this car with a 9-to-1 compression motor, put Larry Schuler in the crate car and beat him.
Sontag, who won late-model championships at Grundy in 2001, ’02, ’08, ’09 and ’10, said he’ll be running the same type of schedule he did in 2011.
Lots of time on his boat. A little time running on ovals.
“I don’t know ... I’m just burned out on racing, that’s about it,” Sontag said. “I’ll be out for some of the big shows. I’ve still got the guy who bought my old car, Jim Weber. I’ll be running that in big shows.”
So who’s to challenge Hoffman? Well, maybe the guy who beat him Friday night, Boris Jurkovic. But probably not.
Jurkovic, of Manhattan, said he likely isn’t going to change his independent ways.
“We’re just going to do what we feel like doing. We don’t have any real direction at this point,” Jurkovic said. “I mean, we’re here tonight, but we didn’t know we were coming until today.
“I have to know that my work (repossession business) is more important at my stage in my life. I have good employees, but it’s nice to keep my finger on things.”
Jurkovic acknowledged it would be tempting to come back this week if he won the feature on Friday. Of course, he did, in spine-chilling fashion over Hoffman, who had the nose of his No. 8 all over Jurkovic’s back bumper during the final 10 laps.
“Eddie is probably as good as they get here,” Jurkovic said afterward. “It got a little tight, and I want to thank him for racing me clean. I didn’t feel like I was out of control at all.”
And his promise to come back this week?
“I didn’t say that,” Jurkovic shouted, laughing. “I said I would think about it.”
One contender who definitely plans on giving Hoffman a run for the crown is two-time (2000, ’06) titlist Pat Kelly.
Kelly, back in his familiar orange No. 16, won the trophy dash and was having a good run in the feature when he had contact with Sontag while they were battling for first. Both went around and had to restart in the back. Sontag finished fifth, Kelly sixth.
“We’re planning on running all year and having a little fun,” Kelly said. “My son (Nathan) is doing street stocks. He’s come a long way in the last couple of years. We took a lot of time off trying to get him where he is, and now he’s doing pretty well on his own. I don’t think he needs all that much attention from me.”
Nathan Kelly, meanwhile, ran down and passed veteran Randy Weese in the final laps to capture the street stock main.
A late-model dark horse at Grundy in 2012 might very well be D.J. Weltmeyer, who was third in Friday’s main and looked comfortable in doing so.
Weltmeyer, the son of longtime area ace Dave Weltmeyer, has been taking a lot of small steps over the past two seasons. The younger Weltmeyer looks ready to make his first big leap, driving with his dad’s No. 16 on the side of his car.
Both he and the car looked a little different than they did in ’11.
“I’d like to think it’s a combination of both,” he said. “The guys on the crew worked hard all week. And we’ve been doing a little training during the offseason. I’ve been trying to get in better shape and use my age (19) as an advantage. I’m just excited to be out here and doing better.”
The Mid-American division, meanwhile, appears alive and well. Ron Vandermeir paced a healthy field, beating out John McMahon in the first 25-lap main event of the season.