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Auto Racing: Grundy County ‘Monza’ flawed, but exciting

Updated: September 16, 2012 6:09AM



Some drivers liked it. Some didn’t. Some fans left early. Some stuck it out to the end.

Friday’s Frank Welch Memorial 94 at Grundy County Speedway saw plenty of close racing, a scary moment and something we’ve seen plenty of this season: Eddie Hoffman walking away with the most dough.

This time it was serious dough, about $2,250, for finishing second in the first 30-lap segment behind Pat Kelly, winning the second 30-lap segment over Dave Gentile and also prevailing in the final 34-lap race despite a splendid late challenge from D.J. Weltmeyer.

The format was a tweaked version of the old Raceway Park “Monza Classic.” In the original format, the payoff was separate for all three races, and via a points system the Monza champion received a trophy. All of the money in Friday’s event was put into the final points tally. In other words, you could win two features and not sniff any of the big money.

That decision wasn’t very popular, although Hoffman said he liked it. He also said it after he won the big bucks.

At least one car owner (Dave Weltmeyer) said that his son, D.J., would not race in the final two legs of the event if he had problems and finished in the back of the first.

“Why waste tires?” the elder Weltmeyer said.

There wasn’t a whole lot of celebrating going on, either, about the total invert in Race 2 for everybody who finished on the lead lap in Race 1. Mercifully, a few of the tail-enders voluntarily started in the back.

Brett Sontag, who was in attendance as a spectator in the pits, predicted the “Talladega” moment would happen in Race 2, and he was right. While battling for the lead, Danny Darnell and Curt Tillman, while battling for the lead, crashed head-on into the backstretch wall. Tillman flipped on his roof. Fortunately, both of them were OK, although their cars were far from healthy.

Anyway, the biggest complaint I heard (and had myself) was how the show dragged on. From qualifying to the victory celebration track-wise by Hoffman, it was nearly five hours. And that was with the Mid-Ams being given the night off.

Some things you just can’t control, like the Darnell-Tillman wreck. That took some time to clean up. But why have an intermission at 10 p.m. when you’re already running late and there are still two late-model features to run?

That being said, I still like the “Monza” concept. If they do it again, though, pay the three winners, give some additional money to the overall champ and keep the inverts reasonable. And start the doggone races at 7 p.m. instead of 8 so that families can see it all and still get the kids on their way home before midnight.

Good job, kid

Saturday night at Illiana Speedway, 15-year-old Paul Shafer Jr. won the first late-model race of his career, prevailing in a side-by-side battle with five-time Illiana champion Mike White. So far this season, a 15-year-old, a 16-year-old (Mark Sontag Jr.) and a 19-year-old (D.J. Weltmeyer) have won features at Illiana. Add their three ages up and they’re still younger than the track itself.

Shafer consistently has been a good qualifier this season. But this was the first time he was involved in a white-knuckle battle for first with a veteran. Afterward, Shafer got the ultimate compliment from White.

“He drove a great race and deserved to win it. He’s done a good job for a rookie. Some of these other young guys should pay attention.”



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