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Baranek: Double up at Grundy for Kellys

Nathan (left) PKelly celebrate their track titles Sunday night Grundy County Speedway. | Kim Kemperman~For Sun-Times Media

Nathan (left) and Pat Kelly celebrate their track titles Sunday night at Grundy County Speedway. | Kim Kemperman~For Sun-Times Media

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Rain, Rain,
go away ...

Last season’s final points night of the season at Illiana Speedway was washed away. To avoid a repeat, promoter Mike Mikuly scheduled a rain date for the final night in 2012, which will be used on Saturday because of the Sept. 1 rainout. All three points chases are close, with Eddie Hoffman holding a 1,868-1,816 advantage over D.J. Weltmeyer in the late-models, Bill Serviss (1,980) just ahead of Jacob McKown (1,972) in the turbo stox and Matt O’Leary (1,914) and Alex Arelano (1,913) air tight in the Legends.

Updated: October 7, 2012 7:08AM



Like father, like son.

Sunday night at Grundy County Speedway, it was true in the most glorious sense when Pat and Nathan Kelly won late-model and street stock championships, respectively.

Pat Kelly was absolutely dominant in winning the Lee Schuler Memorial race, besting Eddie Hoffman and Larry Schuler. Kelly clinched the points title — the third of his Grundy career — over D.J. Weltmeyer and Hoffman.

Nathan Kelly made a gritty run in the street stock finale, taking the lead with just a few laps remaining and going on to score the win. He claimed his crown over 2011 titlist Logan Love.

To say the least it got a little emotional in the Kelly camp.

“This is pretty special,” said the elder Kelly, who after the feature announced his retirement. “We can take this and have something to look back to as long as we live. I can’t wait to see him in this thing.”

Grooming his 16-year-old son for a future late-model career was pretty much what brought Pat Kelly back into racing full-time. He’d been racing sparingly over the past five seasons, but came back with a mighty roar in 2012. In Sunday’s win, his high-side pass of Josh Nelms for the lead on lap 28 was classic Kelly that we saw so often in 2000, when he won titles at both Grundy and Illiana.

“It was all for Nathan,” Pat Kelly said. “We felt we had to help him this year to get some information about this stuff. I didn’t know a lot about where things have gone (technologically) the last five years. It was a typical father-son deal. Sometimes he feels he knows more than dad and we kind of butt heads. But I’ve got a friend who is going to work with him next year, and we’re going to try to put a good program together for him.”

Nathan Kelly went through more than just a learning process equipment-wise as a street stock driver this season. He had a few episodes of teenage temper tantrums, losing one whole night of points after one incident, but nicely reeled it in during the second half.

“I had to get my head focused in a little more than I did before,” Kelly said. “All I really wanted to do was race. It’s a really good feeling to see that our hard work this season paid off.”

The last Mid-American feature of the season went to Ron Vandermeir, but most eyes were on points leader Kevin Gentile and defending champ Billy Knippenberg. Both had come from the back of the pack after an early incident and were battling for third with a few laps left when Knippenberg got into Gentile between Turns 3 and 4 and they both spun. Knippenberg drove directly off the track. Gentile finished the race.

Gentile had more than enough points on second-ranking Ron Willems, so the incident didn’t affect his clinching the crown. Cooler heads prevailed afterward.

“I thought we could race clean to the end,” a smiling — sort of smiling — Gentile said. “This was supposed to be my night. I’ve been looking forward to this. It’s whatever, though. We’re the champions and that’s all that matters. Maybe he’s jealous, but that’s fine.”

Jealousy didn’t really enter into it, according to Knippenberg.

“I guess the 2 car wasn’t happy enough with having a championship,” he said. “Every time I got under him he just chopped me. Well, you know what? I was in a (ticked) off mood, so I decided ‘(Bleep) it, I’m not lifting.’ I mean, you chop me two or three times, I’m not lifting anymore.”

If not in the best of moods at that moment, Knippenberg still had plenty to be proud of after rallying from not only a severe arm injury but also being diagnosed in the spring with diabetes. He won a couple of big races in the second half of the season. All signs point to a late-model run in 2013.

Rich Dearborn clinched the pure stocks title over Dan Schmeissing.

One of the non-title clinching highlights of the weekend at Grundy took place Friday, when 15-year-old Renee Farren posted a career-high fifth-place finish in the street stocks feature. Earlier in the season she said her goal was to finish 10th in points, and that effort put her one point ahead of Aaron Shelton.

Alas, a crash in Sunday’s race dashed that dream, but she was still one happy kid afterward.

“That race (Friday) felt great,” she said. “We figured out a lot about the car, and figured out a lot for me to do. Now we’ll improve from there.”



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