By Stan Kalwasinski
December 10, 2019
Chicago, Ill.—A look at Chicago area track and association champions for 2019 includes…
Eddie Hoffman won his sixth career late model championship at the Grundy County Speedway (Morris, Ill.) this season, winning eight feature races during the year on his way to his second consecutive late model crown at the “Friday Night Racin’ Place.”
Hoffman is the winningest late model driver in Grundy history with 142 career wins and his half-dozen titles now ties his late dad, Ed Hoffman, for the most late model championships at the third-of-a-mile paved fairgrounds raceway.
David Einhaus finished second in the final late model points tally at Grundy with Nathan Kelly, Dan Odell and Dean Patterson rounding out the top five.
For the second year in a row, Indiana’s Paul Shafer Jr. took home the trophy for Grundy’s season-ending annual Tony Bettenhausen 100 Classic.
Kevin Murphy won his first track championship at Grundy, winning the Mid American Sportsman crown as he scored two feature wins during 2019. For the second time in his career, Eddie Ligue was the rack’s street stock champion while Matt Chester won the pure stocks (four-cylinder) division title.
NASCAR late model action at the Rockford Speedway saw Michael Bilderback become a three-time titlist at the banked, quarter-mile, paved oval. Bilderback, who claimed previous track championships in 2017 and 2016, bested two-time champion Jon Reynolds Jr. and young Max Kahler in the final points standings. Bilderback also garnered his fourth Big 8 Late Model Series championship.
Other Rockford champions include Johnny Robinson II (sportsman), Aaron Rude (American Short Tracker), Duane Lounsbury (Roadrunner), Shona Meyers (winged women on wheels), Rich Schinderling (bandits) and Nick Schneider (figure 8 bandits).
Wisconsin’s Casey Johnson won the rain-postponed, and later, rain-shortened, National Short Track Championships late model special in late October.
Indiana’s Jamie Lomax won DIRTcar Racing (formerly UMP) modified stock car championships at both the Kankakee County Speedway and at Shadyhill Speedway (Medaryville, Ind.). Lomax won a total of 18 DIRTcar feature wins (11 at Shadyhill and three at Kankakee) and finished sixth in the national DIRTcar standings.
Lomax, who previously won a Kankakee modified title in 2017, defeated Matt Mitchell and Nick Clubb in the final Kankakee standings this year. Over at Shadyhill, Lomax claimed his second consecutive modified championship, finishing ahead of former track champions Brad DeYoung and Nick Allen.
Chad Osterhoff won his third DIRTcar Pro Late Models title at Kankakee. Osterhoff, who won previous division titles in 2016 and 2015, captured three feature wins on his way to this year’s crown.
Other Kankakee champions include Zach Zuberbier (stock cars), Matthew Balthazor (sport compacts), Don Stone (Pro Modifieds) and Jesse Simmons (factory stocks).
2019 Shadyhill titlists include Kyle Cooper (Pro Late Models), Cameron Shidler (I-Mods), Preston Oberle (bombers) and Owen Wells (stock cars).
Greg Cantrell Jr. nailed down his first career super late model track championship on the dirt at the Sycamore Speedway. Cantrell finished ahead of Jeff Kerley and Dave Engelkens in the final points rundown.
Other champions at Sycamore this year include Joel Hernandez (street stocks), “Smokey” Boyd (pure stocks), Megan Decker (powder puff), Josh Sipes (compact), Brian Mrazek (socker stockers) and Scott Vetter (spectators).
Plymouth Speedway in Indiana saw Frank Marshall win three DIRTcar modified features and grab his second Plymouth modified championship of his career. Finishing behind Marshall, who won his first Plymouth crown in 2013, were Matt Mitchell and Bradley Jameson.
Additional Plymouth champions include Ron Wilkes (super streets), Lee J. Hall (thunder stocks), Chad Hartzell (600 sprints) and Eli Lakin (CSR sprints).
A relative newcomer, Illinois’ Clay Curts traveled to South Bend Motor Speedway in Indiana on Saturday nights and captured the track’s late model sportsman championship and division rookie of the year honors. On Friday evenings, Curts could be found at the Grundy County Speedway, where he was awarded late model rookie of the year accolades.
Scott Koerner won his third Illini Racing Series midget championship. Koerner, also a regular in the late model competition at Grundy where he finished sixth In the points, won three midget feature races during the season and finished ahead of Ryan Finley and Christopher Adrien in the final standings.
Two points separated the top two drivers in Badger Midget Auto Racing Association competition with Illinois drivers Chase McDermand and Jack Routson battling down to the wire with Springfield teenage racer McDermand grabbing the championship, scoring two midget main events during the season. Wisconsin driver Zach Boden finished third with another Illinois pilot Ryan Probst taking fourth.
The Interstate Racing Association winged sprint car series saw Alaska native Bill Balog win the championship for his ninth title in 12 years.
Casey Johnson posted two victories and won the ARCA Midwest Tour late model series title. Former Chicago area racer, Zachary Tinkle captured the CRA Late Model Sportsman series championship with the 16-yerar-old wrapping up his title-chase with a season-ending victory at Indiana’s Winchester Speedway in October.
Area speedster Boris Jurkovic traveled to Michigan’s Berlin Raceway and enjoyed a lot of success in late model action, winning six feature races there including the $20,000-to-win Battle at Berlin 251 in August.
Ageless Woody Pool was a winner in Midwest vintage stock car racing, scoring victories at the “Milwaukee Mile” and at Wisconsin’s LaCrosse Fairgrounds Speedway during the track’s annual Oktoberfest weekend.
The year was not without sorrow as a number of members of the area racing community passed away including popular Chicago area stock car drivers Ray Young, Sal Tovella and Marks Hernandez, better known as “Speedy Gonzales,” in addition to other stock car racers George Young, Red Rinehart, Augie Wolf, Tim Stewart, Randy Barrett, Denny Falkos, Bobby Shell, Willie Reints, Rich Oertel, Bob Norkus, Bud Kaye, Eddie Leviner and Al Ponton.
Also leaving us were midget racers Roger West and Bill Clemens and midget car owners Bob Steffes and George Holterman in addition to mechanics Donnie Strait, Lloyd Doogan, Bob Cavanagh, Tom Reet and engine builder Mickey Nickos, plus race officials Scott Carter, Clem Droste, Ron Leek and Pat Smith.
You can’t forget longtime racing supporter George Kunkel, 1957 modified champion at the old Waukegan Speedway, Ernest “Fuzzy” Fassbender, 1953 Crosley stock car champion Ernie Karamas and Glen Wood, member of NASCAR’s famed Wood Brothers, who won a NASCAR convertible race at Chicago’s Soldier Field in 1957.
Rest in Peace to all.
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