KALWASINSKI: Chicago Chips
MORRIS, Ill. — Grundy County Speedway was a busy place this past weekend as the third-mile paved oval was the scene of racing three consecutive days – Friday through Sunday.
Located at the Grundy County Fairgrounds, the ‘Friday Night Racin’ Place’ saw a whole bunch of racing take place as other area speedways found themselves battling the weatherman and being rained out.
The three nights of speed were highlighted by the track’s season-ending 38th annual Night of Features with veteran Larry Schuler winning the 61-lap Lee Schuler Memorial, which honors the memory of Schuler’s dad, a former track champion at the speedway (in 1972) and a longtime Chicago area stock car speedster.
Looking through the record book, Larry Schuler previously won the Schuler Memorial event in 1992 and 1993 with younger brother Tracy winning the annual contest in 1990, 1991 and again in 1997. Larry Schuler, who hails from nearby Minooka, won the Grundy late model title back in 1976. That was the year that the 23-year-old Schuler was the dominant force in Midwest stock car racing, winning three track championships and 43 feature races, most of them behind the wheel of the George Appleton-designed “Junkyard Dog” Camaro.
Schuler wheeled his Rod Baker Ford-sponsored Taurus to the victory Sunday evening, defeating teammate, Ricky Baker. Baker wrapped up his second consecutive Grundy late model crown with his second place finish. Earlier in the day, Baker turned in a scorching 14.993-second lap during time trials to grab fast time honors among a field of 25 entries.
Pat Kelly and Eddie Hoffman led the early laps of Sunday’s headliner with Schuler, who started sixth, eventually coming to the front on lap six. A couple of yellow flags slowed the action during the first 25 laps as Schuler attempted to build a strong lead. Baker moved to second place on lap 23 and began to chase the leader.
Schuler maintained the top spot, keeping Baker at bay, even during the closing laps when the leading duo encountered lapped traffic and a slick race track.
“Somebody dumped a bunch of oil and it pitched me terrible,” Schuler said. “I thought, ‘Oh, my God, of all things.’ Then being on the outside, that’s where the oil was and I couldn’t get away for most of that lap.”
Back under control, Schuler took starter Greg Kuntz’s checkered flag with Baker close behind. Rounding out the top six were Hoffman, Anthony Danta, Brandon Clubb and Chris Cooling.
“We’ve been down a little bit this year,” said Schuler. “I’ve been doing this a long time and first is certainly better than second. But for it to be this race really means all the world to me.”
Other feature winners during the evening included Joe Vinachi (Mid American Sportsman), John Senerchia (Street Stocks), Zach Sontag (Pure Stocks), Johnny Kringas (Legends) and Patrick Bruns (Illini Midget Series). Bruns’ victory came in the 25-lap ‘Tom Arthur Memorial’ and was his fifth IRS feature win of the year. Bruns is shooting for his second straight IRS midget title. Teammate Jimmy Clark chased the 38-year-old Bruns, a Champaign resident, to the checkered flag.