Auto Racing: John Senerchia sizzles in street stocks at Grundy County Speedway
By Tony Baranek email@example.com June 20, 2013 8:58PM
John Senerchia (car 77) has won five stret stock feature races this season at Grundy County Speedway. | Brian Nolte~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 22, 2013 6:58PM
We’ve mentioned here on a few occasions how Ray Young, Dave Weltmeyer and Mike White are the three drivers in Chicago short-track history to win late-model titles at Grundy County Speedway, Illiana Speedway and Raceway Park.
Did you know there’s another area racing veteran who’s been a champion at all three, plus Kankakee Speedway?
John Senerchia, 42, of New Lenox, has been racing since 1991. He’s mapped out a successful career as a support division driver, winning a nimrod title at Kankakee in 1992, a semi-pro title at Raceway in ’99 and Mid-American crowns at Grundy in 2006 and Illiana in ’07.
This season, he’s been a force in the street stock class at Grundy, winning five feature races and building a 678-639 points lead over Tony Scalpelli Jr. Nobody else is within 100 points.
“We’re just going along, running every night and trying to be consistent,” Senerchia said. “We had some things over the winter that we found were wrong with the car. We fixed the front end, which was hit pretty hard once. So we got that straightened out and we tried some stuff with a new setup.
“Since then I’ve been leaving it alone. Usually I go in there and try to make a big swing at things and change springs and shocks. This year we pretty much leave it alone and run every week with the same car. We’re not the fastest qualifier every night, but we’re consistent.”
If Senerchia wins his fifth track title, it’ll come at just about the same time he and his wife, Kari, welcome their second child. He’s also driving this year with a cause.
“My mom (Nancy) has been battling breast cancer,” he said. “That’s why the car is painted the way it is, and why I have the breast cancer symbol on my hood. I’m happy to say everything’s going really good.”
Late-model competitor D.J. Weltmeyer, of Dyer, Ind., made his first big splash on the traveling series scene June 7 at Dixie Speedway in Birch Run, Mich., finishing fifth in the JEGS/CRA All-Stars Dixie 100.
Weltmeyer, 20, the son of multitime Chicago track champ Dave Weltmeyer, came from 19th starting spot at the 4/10th mile, D-shaped, aggressive-banked oval. The effort also earned him the Five Star Racecar Bodies Hard-Charger Award and the Hoosier Racing Tire Performance Award.
“We’ve been paying attention to the JEGS schedule and this one happened to fall on a Friday,” said Weltmeyer, who’s a regular campaigner at Illiana. “They had a test day Thursday and we couldn’t go. We got there early (Friday) and there was an hour practice session and a 15-minute practice session. We got about 33 green flag laps just to learn the track.”
Weltmeyer struggled in qualifying, but worked his way through the pack without incident. Another area driver, Josh Nelms, was among the top contenders until spinning out in a late-race collision.
“We just kind of stayed out of trouble while I was learning a line,” Weltmeyer said. “I learned as I went, watching the other cars making their turns. Finally, I was able to get my car to do the same thing, sometimes even better than the cars ahead of me. I was able to pass a few of them.”
Weltmeyer, who is fourth in the Illiana late-model points standings, said he definitely has the itch to travel more often.
“Oh, I’m all about it,” he said. “It’s just a lack of funds right now, or else I’d love to be going everywhere, all the tracks that (the JEGS/CRA tour) is going to. We’ve had our stint at Illiana and Grundy, but I’m all about going to new tracks and getting the feeling for racing against different people.
“I’d like to go as far as I can. I’d love to be a driver for a Cup team. But I’m going to school right now for mechanical engineering, so I want to end up in NASCAR whether it be in a pit box or in the seat.”
Never too old (to win)
The Illinois Vintage Series stopped by Grundy County Speedway on June 14 and had a “rookie” winner in the feature event.
Longtime Chicago-area racer Woody Pool, who will turn 70 in October, put on a power show in his 1970 Maverick, leading from lap 4 to the finish.
In recent years, Pool had made sporadic appearances at Illiana and Grundy. Back in the day, he was a successful top 10 runner in the late-model class at Raceway. He retired from late-model racing after the 2012 season.
“I had 40 years in a late-model, so I made last year my last year,” Pool said. “But I can’t stay idle. I wanted to make a tribute type car to the Maverick. I want to hit the Milwaukee (Mile) deal this season; I’ve never been there. It’s on my bucket list.”
This and that
Renee Farren’s return to Grundy in her No. 44 street stock got off to a rocky start when she got caught up in a lap 1 multicar mess. Her crew made quick repairs and she was able to drive to a fifth-place finish in the feature. ... The different late-model feature winners number at Grundy is up to eight. There’s a reasonable chance for it to become nine this week. Points leader Ricky Baker and fifth-ranked Tracy Schuler still are looking for their first wins. ... John McMahon appeared to have won his first Mid-Am feature, but was DQ’d for a rules violation. Declared winner and points leader Tommy Knippenberg gave him the trophy anyway.