Auto Racing: At Grundy County and Illiana speedways, division races easy to figure
By Tony Baranek firstname.lastname@example.org August 1, 2013 10:32PM
Chris King celebrates another Legends victory Saturday at Illiana Speedway. King holds a commanding lead in the division standings over Paul Shafer Sr. | Goodaker Photography
Updated: September 3, 2013 7:21AM
Summer weather isn’t the only thing missing at our local asphalt ovals these days.
Where are the battles for track championships?
We’re at the three-quarter pole in the 2013 season and there’s only one division crown still up for grabs.
That’s in the turbo stox at Illiana Speedway, where John Senerchia, Jacob McKown and Ryan Moore are in a three-way scramble that likely won’t be decided until the final points night Sept. 7.
Senerchia leads going into Saturday night’s program, but by a razor-thin 1,280-1,265 margin over McKown. Moore is lurking in third with 1,242, while Bobbie Jean Wall is chasing nearly 100 points back in fourth at 1,196.
In the other divisions, only a missed night or major misfortune is going to dislodge the leader.
At Illiana, Chris King is absolutely dominating in the Legends class. Paul Shafer Sr. broke through for a win a couple of weeks back, but is trailing King 1,365-1,250. In the late-models, Paul Shafer Jr. won for the third week in a row Saturday and is pulling away by a 1,251-1,163 margin from second-ranking D.J. Weltmeyer.
At Grundy County Speedway, Ricky Baker last week became the 11th different driver to win a late-model feature, and in doing so has built a robust 966-820 advantage over Larry Schuler. Tommy Knippenberg equally is in good shape in Mid-American, holding a 1,040-907 edge over Matt Clemens. Johnny Senerchia might even be able to miss a night in the street stocks and not lose all of the 1,145-994 lead he’s built over Tony Scalpelli Jr. Dan Schmeissing holds a not-quite-as commanding, but still comfortable 994-904 lead over Alex Gay in the pure stocks.
Tom White, who is the director of competition at both Illiana and Grundy and is the official starter at Illiana, got his first experience waving the flags on dirt July 13 when he was brought in as a sub by facility manager Kerry Izzo and track promoters Joe Izzo and Tony Izzo Jr. at LaSalle Speedway.
“The biggest part of the story, to me, was even getting asked,” White said. “It was quite an honor for the Izzos to ask me. I wouldn’t have done it if I was working (at Illiana), but as it turned out I was free because of the monster truck show.
“The huge difference is the speed of the cars and getting dirty in the dust. I caught a few rocks that night, but all in all that was the most excited I’ve been (flagging) in quite some time. The Izzos just have a first-class operation.”
White, who was mentored by popular veteran Smokey Smith at Illiana and made his debut in 1986, might be the Chicago area’s most well-traveled starter.
“Probably the biggest accomplishment was three years ago being asked to go to South Africa for the ASA Transcontinental 500,” White said. “Then I got some really good breaks from John McKarns in the ARTGO series, flagging the inaugural race at Gateway International, and at Iowa Speedway, the Milwaukee Mile, Rockford Speedway … pretty much all of the tracks in Wisconsin.”
White also had experience in the stand at Raceway Park.
“I did,” he said, smiling. “Roger (Smith) asked me to flag a heat race when I was out there one night. That also was exciting.”
Logan Love was a regular in victory lane while winning the street stock title at Grundy in 2011. His debut season in the Mid-American class hasn’t been quite as smooth.
Friday night the 25-year-old from Plano carried his first checkered flag after winning a heat race.
“It felt great,” Love said. “After the year we’ve been having, it was definitely what we needed.”
Love’s first night in a 2001 Monte Carlo SS ended quickly, when he wound up sideways in the Turn 1 wall only one lap into a heat. It was a few weeks before he returned. The climb to the front of the pack has been a slow one.
“It’s been humbling,” Love said. “I used to come down here knowing that we could win every night. Now I’m down here second-guessing myself and trying to get better.
“We’ve been fighting a problem with the engine all year. We’ve been down on power, and this week we found we had a leaky gasket under the carb. So we were getting too much air and not enough fuel.”
Call it the seven-buck solution.
“We’ve done tons of things trying to figure out what it was,” Love said. “To know that it was a stupid little part that we overlooked … we feel like we’ve lost time. But now we feel like we’re at a point where we can start moving forward and I can start learning and getting better.”