By Stan Kalwasinski
February 27, 2017


Chicago, Ill.—The 10th annual Race & Performance Expo took place this past weekend at the Renaissance Schaumburg Convention Center in Schaumburg.  With countless tables of information and products being displayed, along with drag, custom and oval track cars being shown,  it was some 100,000 square feet of horsepower all under one roof during the two-day event for pretty much every type of motorsports enthusiast. 
Most of the area’s speedways and racing associations took advantage of the show, passing out schedules for the upcoming season with officials and drivers talking to fans.
Sycamore Speedway had a neat display, showing off track champion Jay Brendle’s super late model stock car No. 15.  The dirt raceway, which is located about 15 miles west of St. Charles, is set to open on Saturday, April 29.  Track officials are excited about the speedway being the site of a $5,000-to-win DIRTcar UMP Summer Nationals event, which is set for Thursday, June 29.  Midgets of the Badger Midget Auto Racing Association are set to visit the speedway four times this season with the small cars coming to town for the first time on Saturday, May 20.  POWRi Lucas Oil Division II midgets will be at Sycamore on May 6.
Grundy County Speedway in Morris will kick off its 47th season of racing on Friday, April 28.  Late model, Mid American sportsman, street stock and pure stock (four-cylinder) divisions will again make up the weekly Friday night slate.  Events not to miss during the year include the Frank Welch Memorial 94 late model special (June 2), the ARCA Midwest Tour Wayne Carter Classic 100 (July 15), the annual Night of Features (September 3) and the annual Tony Bettenhausen Classic 100 (September 16).  A number of special Saturday night shows are sprinkled in Grundy’s schedule this year with the Illini Racing Series midgets being part of these programs.
The Illini association crowned two champions in 2016 with Champaign’s Patrick Bruns claiming his fifth career Illini championship with Scott Koerner of Joliet being named the Illini Midwest Pavement Series champion.  In addition to his racing midgets, Koerner is a longtime late model competitor at Grundy.
Former go-kart racer Taylor Fenske is all set to compete in Illini midget action again this season and had her midget on display at the show.  The 19-year-old Oswego resident began racing go-karts when she was 12 years old with her dad, Jon, handling the mechanical chores.

At the Illini Racing Series booth, Taylor Fenske poses with her No. 11 midget during the annual Race & Performance Expo in Schaumburg, Ill.

The Central States Super Cup Series, the 1/2-scale stock car group, had a display with one of their racers, Zachary Tinkle of Park Ridge, getting ready to enter late model stock car action this season.  The 14-year-old Tinkle has entered into a training agreement with Midlothian-based Lorz Motorsports, headed by Mike and Dan Lorz, who have fielded a number of top running late model cars over the years.  Tinkle anticipates racing in some local late model races at Grundy and at Rockford Speedway and possibly competing in a few ARCA/Champion Racing Association late model events this year and then declaring his rookie year in 2018.

Zachary Tinkle and his No. 53 in competition last October at the Rockford Speedway.

If that’s not busy enough, young Tinkle has come out with a book – Zachary Tinkle’s Mini Cup Rookie of the Year Dream, published by Left Paw Press.  The children’s book details Tinkle’s quest for rookie of the year honors in Central States Super Cup action.  A must-read for any young racer. 

The front cover of Zachary Tinkle’s new book titled Zachary Tinkle’s Mini Cup Rookie of the Year Dream.

The Victory Lane radio show, featuring Rick Bill, John McCrory and Tom Churchill, was broadcasted live from the convention center on Saturday with a number of guests from the show being interviewed.  The weekly radio program has been a mainstay in the Chicagoland area since 1983.  The show is regularly heard on Monday evenings from 6:30 pm until 7:30 pm on either WSPY 107.1 FM or WCSJ 103.1 FM. 

Circle track racing is back at the Route 66 Raceway in Joliet with the Dirt Oval 66 ready to host a number of special events this season.  With the raceway being shortened to a racer-friendly 3/8-mile layout, World of Outlaws sprint cars and late models are set to attack the track this season with a big two-day event set for June 27 and 28.  The opening circle track event is Throwback Thursday, set for April 27 with sprint cars, midgets and modifieds on the program.  The track will again host a number of Team Demo events presented by promoter Sherri Heckenast.
Local racing gets underway with the sixth annual Thaw Brawl at the LaSalle Speedway on March 24 and 25.  Dirt late models will battle on Friday in a $7,000-to-win feature and a $17,000-to-win main event on Saturday.  Brian Shirley won both feature races last year.  UMP modifieds and UMP street stocks will also be seen in action.
Indiana’s Kokomo Speedway will present its “Kokomo Grand Prix” on April 7 and 8, featuring both United States Auto Club sprint cars and midgets.  The dirt oval gets underway with its weekly Sunday night racing on April 30.
Rockford Speedway opens for its 70th year of racing action in April with the 40th annual Spring Classic set for Sunday, April 23.  The Big 8 Series late model stock cars will see action in the 88-lap headlining event with Mid American Stock Car Series and INEX Legends also on the program.  Rockford’s begins its weekly NASCAR-sanctioned racing on Saturday, April 29.
Crews are busy at the Shadyhill Speedway in Medaryville, Ind., with new owner Billy Alger making some changes and improvements.  The cement block inner walls in turns one and two and turns three and four are being removed.  Dirt track stock car competition will again be featured.  Opening night is Saturday, May 6, the first of 28 race dates at the quarter-mile oval.
A recent visit with historian Ron Kessler to the site of the old Mazon Speed Bowl in Mazon, Ill., brought about a lot of memories.  The little town of Mazon, about 10 miles or so south of Morris, Ill., was a busy place when it came to racing for many years, dating back to around 1926.  With the old Grundy County fairgrounds located there, Mazon saw racing first take place on a pear-shaped half-mile dirt track.  The famed high-banked, quarter-mile paved “Speed Bowl” was the scene of racing first in 1947 with midgets taking to the speedway.  Midgets and stock cars raced there until the track closed after the 1970 season with Ray Young being crowned the late model stock car champion that year.

From the Ron Kessler collection, a photo shows a field of stock cars ready to race in the early 1950s at Illinois’ Mazon Speed Bowl.

Looking towards the east turn at the old Mazon Speed Bowl site in Mazon, Ill.  The old south side  grandstands were where the grove of trees (to the right in this photo) is at.


The address for news and comments is 9618 Cypress Ave., Munster, Ind. 46321-3418 or e-mail to skalwasinski@yahoo.com.