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Baker wins Bettenhausen 100 at Grundy
Recap and photos by Stan Kalwasinski
 
 
September 17, 2016
 
Morris, Ill.-Ricky Baker, of Plainfield, was up to the challenge and challenges there were as Baker won the Tony Bettenhausen 100 Classic late model stock car special at Grundy County Speedway Saturday night.
 
A 54-year tradition at Indiana's Illiana Motor Speedway until the raceway was shuttered this year, the annual Chicagoland, late-season, event was held at Grundy for the first time. The 31-year-old Baker, a former two-time late model Grundy champion, was challenged hard by this year's Grundy champ Anthony Danta during the final 25 laps or so of the $5,000-to-win 100-lap chase.
 
A field of 27 started the race at the third-of-a-mile paved oval with DJ Weltmeyer, coming from his front row pole starting spot to lead the first 22 circuits.  Baker, who started third in the field, moved by Weltmeyer for the lead on lap 23 with the first of nine yellow flag caution periods coming about shortly thereafter as Michigan's Brian Campbell got together with Paul Shafer Jr., sending Campbell spinning between turns three and four.  The front end of Campbell's got hit hard sending the former two-time Bettenhausen race winner to the pits and out of the race.
 
During the caution, Weltmeyer, suffering from a broken driveshaft, stopped on the track with four-time Bettenhausen race winner Eddie Hoffman suffering mechanical issues and dropping out with only 24 laps complete.
 
With Baker in his Rod Baker Ford Fusion leading the way, the numerous caution periods set up various combinations of double-file restarts when the race returned to green flag competition.  Danta worked his way to second just passed the 25-lap mark and chased Baker most of way.  At 50 laps, it was Baker and Danta followed by fastest qualifier Andy Jones, Shafer, two-time Bettenhausen race winner Boris Jurkovic and Billy Knippenberg.
 
As the race wound down to the last two-dozen laps or so, Danta began to press Baker for the top spot with Danta working the inside groove with Baker still holding onto the lead even as Danta moved alongside Baker's leading No. 52.  Baker kept the lead, sometimes using the outside groove as Danta tried to squeeze inside.
 
The Baker/Danta battle continued until the last yellow flag flew with four laps to go as a spinning car slowed the action.  Right after the caution light flashed, Danta pulled off the track and into the pits with a broken rear differential. 
 
The final four circuits saw Baker keep Jones behind him with Baker taking the checkered flag with a 0.227-second margin.  Finishing behind Baker and Jones were Jurkovic, Knippenberg, Shafer and Michigan's Johnny VanDoorn, who came back from several pit stops to salvage a sixth-place finish.
 
''For some reason, the car had good forward drive on top,'' said Baker after his victory.  ''I really didn't want to be up there (in the outside groove).  My car was good at the beginning and then it got real tight.  The car just wouldn't turn after all those restarts. 
 
''I just have to thank Anthony (Danta) for driving me clean.  He could have gotten me a couple of times.  I was driving pretty defensively and I don't like doing that, but it was for the lead of the Bettenhausen (race) and you got to do what you got to do.''   
 
Danta, who won four feature races during the regular season on his way to his first career Grundy title, suffered another tough defeat in a Bettenhausen race.
 
''He (Baker) was giving me the (inside) lane when I was showing my nose (inside),'' said Danta.  ''I was trying to get by him clean.  We touched a little bit and ran hard.  When the yellow flag came out, something in the rear end broke.  The motor was running, but there was not drivetrain to make it go. ''
 
Support races saw Lamont Critchett win the 30-lap Bettenhausen Classic for midgets over Scott Koerner and Jordan Caskey.   Kyle Royster made a last-lap pass to claim top honors in the 20-lap four-cylinder division main event, besting Scott Ingram and Jacob Theissen.
 
The finish:
Ricky Baker, Andy Jones, Boris Jurkovic, Billy Knippenberg, Paul Shafer Jr., Johnny VanDoorn, Joe Vinachi, Austin Kunert, Nathan Bertino, Garrett Schwartz, Scott Dunning, John Nutley, Tom Schnabel, Kevin Anderson, Anthony Danta, Rich Dearborn, Steve Seligman, Brandon Clubb, Jim Weber, Scott Koerner, Jamie Wallace, Mike White, Scott Tomasik, Larry Schuler, Eddie Hoffman, DJ Weltmeyer, Brian Campbell.

 


Ricky Baker and his No. 52 Ford Fusion on their way to winning the 55th annual Tony Bettenhausen 100 Classic at the Grundy County Speedway
 in Morris, Ill., on Saturday night. 
Previously, the event was a 54-year tradition at the now-shuttered Illiana Motor Speedway.


Ricky Baker poses for a victory photo with his wife, Angelica, and daughter, Emersyn,
along with his parents Rick and Barb Baker on the left.


Ricky Baker (52) rolls inside of DJ Weltmeyer for the lead during the Bettenhausen 100.


Ricky Baker (52) feels the pressure from Anthony Danta (51) as the Bettenhausen 100 lapper winds down.


Former Bettenhausen race winner Boris Jurkovic (99) races inside Johnny VanDoorn (71).  Jurkovic came home third in the 100-lap chase.


Fastest qualifier Andy Jones (11) gets inside of Billy Knippenberg (01).  Jones came home in third place with Knippenberg grabbing fourth.


A two-time Bettenhausen race winner - Michigan's Brian Campbell works the low line inside of Andy Jones (11) during the early stages
 of the 100-lap contest.  
Campbell got involved in an early race accident and finished last (27th).


DJ Weltmeyer and his fresh No. 16 led the early laps of the Bettenhausen Classic.


Paul Shafer Jr. (7) and Bill Knippenberg (01) in competition.  Shafer finished fifth with Knippenberg fourth.


Podium finishers in the 30-lap Bettenhausen Classic for midgets included (from left to right): Jordan Caskey, who finished third;
 Scott Koerner, who came home second, and race winner Lamont Critchett.
 


Lamont Critchett receives the Heroes West trophy for his winning efforts from Roger Bettenhausen.


Lamont Critchett and his No. 14 were fast timers during midget qualifications.


Four cylinder feature action finds Ricky Wilson (57) and Bryce Leake (48) getting tangled up while Michael Tobuch (17)
 steers clear from the fracas.


Kyle Royster (51) works his way by JacobTheissen (46).


Four-cylinder division feature winner Kyle Royster enjoys a victory photo with his dad, Rick.


Safety workers try to figure out how to get Zack Orts' No. 31 back on all four wheels while Orts (left) surveys the damage.