KALWASINSKI: Chicago Chips
CHICAGO — LaSalle Speedway got the Chicago-area racing season off to an early start as the quarter-mile, high-banked dirt oval hosted its third annual Thaw Brawl on March 29.
Second-generation racer, Dennis Erb Jr., from just up the road in Carpentersville, Ill., took home top honors in the $15,000-to-win, 75-lap late model contest, pretty much having his way with the field.
Slated to be a two-day event, officials had to cancel both the scheduled Friday night races and Sunday’s makeup date for various reasons — the one constant being the harsh winter conditions seen in these parts this past winter and some its remaining effects.
The Izzo Family promotional team worked hard at getting the track ready for Saturday evening’s action, but “Mother Nature” could have helped a little bit more with a bit of warmer weather before the opening racing weekend.
With 29 cars in the pits, the late model action was part of the Sunoco American Late Model Series schedule with modifieds, street stocks and four cylinders also in action. After winning one of four 10-lap heat races, the 41-year-old Erb started on the outside front row of the 22-car field and pretty much seemed to be in control of the 75 lapper until the checkered flag waved.
The likes of Brian Shirley, dirt-track superstar Scott Bloomquist and a few others seemed to be positioning themselves to challenge for the top spot, but, for one reason or another, couldn’t really get close to Erb.
Shirley dropped out of the race and Bloomquist saw a couple of tires go flat, causing late-race cautions. Effected by the harsh, cold winter, the track became rough and caused problems for most drivers.
“You really had to survive and get through the holes (in the track) the best you could,” said Erb after his second career Thaw Brawl win. “It’s early in the year and cold out and there ain’t much they (track preparers) can do there. We tried to stay as smooth as we could. It worked out and thank God everything held together.”
Using the high outside groove to his advantage, Nick Allen of Wheatfield, Ind., bested a top-notch field of modifieds and won the $1,500-to-win main event. Allen battled fellow “Hoosier State” resident Jamie Lomax most of the way. Jeff Curl, who came home fourth behind Tyler Nicely, was also in the mix for the top spot most of the way.
LaSalle gets its regular season of weekly stock car competition underway this Saturday evening — April 12.