Baker Claims Grundy’s Schuler Memorial
MORRIS, Ill. — Ricky Baker capped off his championship-winning season at Grundy County Speedway Sunday night as Baker captured the 61-lap Lee Schuler Memorial Late Model Stock Car race, which highlighted the speedway’s 37th annual Nite of Features.
Starting sixth in the 27-car field, Baker drove his Rod Baker Ford-sponsored Fusion to the victory, which was his fourth of the season at the third-of-a-mile paved oval, securing Grundy’s Late Model Stock Car crown for the 28-year-old Plainfield racer – his career first.
Chris Cooling and John Nutley were the early race leaders with Nutley being on top with five laps complete when a rain storm hit the speedway, causing more than a one and a half hour delay. When racing resumed, Nutley was the leader for only a few laps with Baker charging around the outside of Nutley for the lead. Fastest qualifier Eddie Hoffman ran strong during the early laps only to be involved in a yellow-flag causing spin with 21 laps complete. From then on, Hoffman made a series of pit stops, eventually dropping out of the race.
Baker was pretty much in control of the entire race with the exception of a challenge that five-time track champion Brett Sontag put together during a restart after another yellow flag fell with about 20 laps to go.
Withstanding the challenge, Baker held a comfortable margin over Sontag at the checkered flag. Larry Schuler, Dave Gentile Jr., Billy Knippenberg and Tracy Schuler rounded out the top six. Brandon Clubb, Scott Koerner, Paul Shafer Jr. and Cooling made up the rest of the top 10.
“It means a lot,” said Baker about his victory. “Brett (Sontag) was on me for a while and I was worried. Brett is probably the king of the restarts here, (but) we ended up pulling away from him. He got into me down here. I had to motor it on the outside. I’m getting sick off making it exciting with this two-wide racing, but it was fun.”
Before the rains came, Andy Jones of Gurnee won the 20-lap Legends main event. Aaron Willis Jr. of Coal City took home top honors in the Illini Racing Series 25-lap midget feature race. The second generation driver piloted his open-wheeler to his second Illini feature win of the year ahead of Sean Murphy, Scott Koerner and series points leader and defending champion Patrick Bruns.
Kevin Gentile of Coal City was the winner of the 35-lap Mid American division headliner. Coming back from an early race tangle, which necessitated a pit stop, Gentile, last year’s Mid American champion, defeated Joe Vinachi, John Ventrello and 2013 champion Tom Knippenberg.
John Senerchia put the “icing on the cake” for his Street Stock championship title as he won the class’ 30-lap feature over Aaron Shelton and Tony Scalpelli Jr. Spencer Leake claimed the victory in the 20-lap feature for four-cylinder Pure Stocks.