GAPINSKI: Great Racing At Grundy County
Thanks to Hurricane Louie, Midwest race fans will get one more chance to see the STARS Racing program at Grundy County Speedway in Morris, Ill., on Sept. 29.
Completing their second season of racing, the Short Track Auto Racing Series has revived the Saturday night tradition at the third-mile paved oval. The weekly program highlights the STARS/USAC D1 Midgets, along with Classic Modifieds, INEX Legends, Mini Cups and other various alternating divisions.
A history lesson shows midget racing has had a stronghold in the Chicagoland area since the beginning of the sport back in 1934, including hosting the first ever indoor midget race.
UARA, started after World War II, was a force in Midwest sanctioning of midget races. In the early ’80s things slipped and the World of Outlaws Midgets (WOOM), with the backing of UNO card game owner Bob Tezak, changed the landscape in the area with bigger paying events.
UARA closed their doors after 37 seasons in 1984. Tezak’s short attention span with the cars ended in 1986, with the closure of WOOM, as Tezak dodged massive legal issues including Murder for Hire and Arson that eventually led to a Federal Prison sentence.
The United Midget Auto Racing Ass’n (UMARA), led by former UARA President Laverne Spencer and a group of investors, started the organization in 1987 and made Grundy their home base with 10 to 15 events each year.
The track also was the birthplace of the popular economy division Sportsman Midgets. Multi-time UMARA midget champion Steve Thinnes purchased the series in 2005.
Always a tough draw for a crowd on Saturday, things slipped quick under Thinnes with car counts and fan appeal disappearing quickly.
“The deal was a runaway train and Thinnes was riding in the caboose, great driver but not a racing series administrator,” said a long-time Grundy competitor who chose to remain anonymous.
Thinnes left quietly after the horrible 2010 season.
After a successful promotion of the final ever race in 2009 at the famed Joliet Memorial Stadium, a group led by Mike Gugliemucci, Jr. (Managing Director), Joe Kirkeeng (President), Bob Guess (CFO/Treasurer), Bernie Myers and others took over the program for the 2011 and rebranded it under the STARS banner.
The individuals all have an extensive racing background, but more impressive have been successful in the business world and bring that energy to the series.
There’s probably not a quicker turned around successful program in racing right now as they complete year number two. Increased purses, more unfired racing and promotion make Grundy a fun place again for racing.
Each night is sponsored and also involves giveaways, discounted admission to various residents from cities/counties and a donation with event receipts to charities.
The quickly paced racing at the track and smooth program makes a great three-hour program with reasonable admission and food prices. Check it out this weekend or mark your racing events calendar for 2013.