Auto Racing: A fitting memento for Santa Fe Speedway
By Tony Baranek email@example.com August 15, 2013 10:56PM
A boulder commemorating Santa Fe Speedway was installed at 91st and Wolf Road in Willow Springs. Among those in attendance were (from left) Willow Springs mayor Alan Nowaczyk, former Santa Fe Speedway director of competition Kenny Kuehn, longtime Santa Fe fan Michael Holmstatler, Chicago Brushmasters founder Bob Behounek and Lockport resident Dave Rawley, who donated the boulder. | Supplied photo
Updated: September 17, 2013 8:21AM
Santa Fe Speedway.
Will anyone who was a racing fan from the 1950s into the ’90s forget the slam-bang action on the quarter-mile, the high-speed side-by-side battles on the half-mile, the roar of the motorcycles on Wednesday nights or the twisted metal on Tournament of Destruction Fridays?
They won’t every time they drive past 91st and Wolf Road, where Thursday a lasting legacy to the Willow Springs action track of clay was etched in stone.
Actually, it was a rock.
The boulder, donated by Lockport resident and longtime Santa Fe fan Dave Rawley, was put in place at noon. About 35 people were in attendance, a figure I’m sure will be multiplied many times over when the official dedication takes place at 2:30 p.m. Oct. 13.
You can bet one of the people there will be Lou Dobis, who was a crew chief and eventually a car owner for late-model legend Al Johnson at Santa Fe for 25 years.
“This means a lot,” Dobis said Thursday. “It’s something that the track deserves. That was my home away from home on weekends.”
The memorial project was hatched in March 2012 by Willow Springs mayor Alan Nowaczyk and Bob Behounek, the founder of Chicago Brushmasters, which is an “automotive artists for charity” organization. Behounek lettered many cars that competed at Santa Fe, including those of Dick Nelson and Larry Jackson.
Nowaczyk, a vintage car aficionado, drove in the spectator division in the mid-1980s. He related: “We were talking about the history of Santa Fe Speedway, and (Behounek) said, ‘You know, wouldn’t it be nice to do some type of historical marker over there, do something to mark where the track was?’ I said, ‘That’s a terrific idea. Let’s do it.’ ”
Over the next several months, Nowaczyk and Behounek drew up a plan, which in November drew the blessing of the homeowners association for the housing complex that is located on the speedway’s former site.
The 6-ton rock was unveiled Aug. 1 at the Willow Springs annual benefit car show.
“Fifty to 100 years from now this will be the last memory of all those great memories that we all experienced at that track,” Behounek said. “There will be an emotional paragraph on the back of that rock that will tell everybody what that speedway meant to those people.
“Santa Fe was the place where people came to see the speed, having the fun of being with the family watching the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. It was just the best place to go every Saturday and Sunday night. I’d never miss it.”
It’s a big year of memories, actually, for Santa Fe Speedway. Willow Springs also made it the subject of its 2013-14 village sticker, and is selling commemorative memento decals to the general public for $5.
Defending Grundy County Speedway STARS Classic Modified champion Erica Ensor made her first Illiana Speedway appearance in an Aug. 9 open-wheel program and finished second in the feature behind Tom Schnabel.
“I really liked racing at Illiana; I like the challenge of that track,” said Ensor, who did have previous experience in a mini-cup at Illiana. “The big thing at Illiana on the quarter-mile is the turns. They’re very small, where Grundy has wider turns. Illiana is almost like a paper clip to me. I had a blast.”
Ensor has a late-model that she’ll debut either at the end of this season or the beginning of 2014.