By Stan Kalwasinski
Chicago, Ill.—Before getting too far into the New Year, let’s take a look at area track and association champions for the pandemic-plagued 2020 racing season.
Paul Shafer Jr. was the late model stock car champion at the Grundy County Speedway in Morris, Ill. The second-generation racer won three feature races during the season, including the ARCA Midwest Tour Wayne Carter Classic 100. Shafer’s dad, Paul, was one of the best during his racing career on Midwest dirt tracks.
Shafer defeated six-time track champion Eddie Hoffman in the final points tally with Nathan Kelly, Billy Hulbert Jr. and Clay Curts rounding out the top five.
For the second year in a row, Kevin Murphy claimed Grundy’s Mid American sportsman division championship, winning four feature races during the season. Eddie Ligue became a three-time street stock division titlist with Jeremiah Senko taking top honors in the pure stocks (four-cylinder) class.
Steven Brooks was the top man in the modified standings at the Kankakee County Speedway. Brooks won two feature races on the Kankakee dirt and finished ahead of four-time feature winner Jason Hastings and Beau DeYoung in the final points rundown.
Kyle Cooper was the pro late models champion at Kankakee, winning the championship by a mere one point over two-time track titlist, Torin Mettille. Other Kankakee champions for 2020 included Matt Fabrizius (stock cars), Jake Momper (sport compacts), Deece Schwartz (I-Mods) and Austin Hubbard (factory stocks).
Jon Reynolds Jr. won his second NASCAR late model championship at the Rockford Speedway. Reynolds, previously champion on the pavement at Rockford in 2014, finished ahead of Mike Beyer and Dennis Smith in the final points tally.
Other Rockford champions included Trevor Robinson (sportsman), rookie Shawn Bowar (American Short Tracker), Justin Wagner (roadrunner), Cody Armato (bandits) and Dallas Conniff (original sixers).
Winning his second consecutive track title, Greg Cantrell Jr. was the super late model titlist at the Sycamore Speedway. Cantrell won four feature races on the Sycamore dirt, finishing ahead of 2018 champion Jeremy Spoonmore and Glen Toppel, who finished in a tie for the runner-up spot.
Joel Hernandez was Sycamore’s street stock champion, winning three feature races during the shortened season. 70-year-old Mike Nelms grabbed his third pure stocks division championship.
At Indiana’s Shadyhill Speedway, Jamie Lomax, running a limited schedule, made off with his third straight modified championship, capturing five feature wins in the dirt track action. Former champions Brad DeYoung and Tom Bell finished behind Lomax in the final standings.
Champion at Kankakee, Kyle Cooper also was the pro late models titlist at the Shadyhill speed plant. Cooper, who won two main events, defeated five-time feature winner Torin Mettille and Jace Owens in the points.
Other Shadyhill champions included Dan Marshall (I-Mods), Ron Wilkes (stock cars), Chris Joseph (bombers) and Skylar Antonelli (four bangers).
Another Indiana dirt track, Plymouth Speedway saw Bradley Jameson win his first career modified championship. Jameson captured one feature race to finish ahead of Dylan Woodling and Todd Sherman in the points. Woodling was the track’s champion in the 600cc open micros division with Ron Wilkes winning his second consecutive super streets class title. Austin Hubbard (thunder stocks) and Josh Lank (mini stocks) were other Plymouth champions.
On the pavement at the South Bend Motor Speedway, Steve Stacy was the outlaw late models division champion. Stacy finished ahead of Rich Boal and Charlie Hanna in the standings. Other South Bend champions included Austin Maynard (sportsman), Logan Maynard (street stocks), Derek Davis (front wheel drive division) and rookie Eli Sandberg (hornets).
Scott Koerner won his fourth Illini Racing Series midget championship. Koerner, a feature winner in late model competition at the Grundy County Speedway, won four midget feature races during the season and finished ahead of Ryan Finley and Rich Drangmeister in the final standings.
Area midget racers, brothers Nick and Tyler Baran and Jeff Zelinski finished second, third and fourth respectively behind champion Chase McDermand, who wrapped up his second consecutive Badger Midget Auto Racing Association title.
The Interstate Racing Association winged sprint car series saw Alaska native Bill Balog win the championship for the tenth time, scoring 12 series victories. Jimmy Sivia was the Wisconsin WINGless champion.
Casey Johnson won the ARCA Midwest Tour late model series title for the second straight year. For the third year in a row, Ron Vandermeir Jr. captured the Mid American Stock Car Series championship, scoring three victories along the way.
A regular at both the Kankakee and Shadyhill dirt ovals, Torin Mettille was named the DIRTcar Racing (formerly UMP) Pro Late Models national champion. Mettille posted a total of 11 DIRTcar victories. Brian Shirley, with nine victories in 2020, was DIRTcar’s national late model champion for the third time. Winning an impressive 22 feature races, Nick Hoffman took home national honors in DIRTcar’s modified division for the second straight year.
The year was not without sorrow as a number of members of the racing community passed away including Chicago area stock car champions Johnnie Reimer, Erik Johnson, Ted Janecyk, Gary Raven, Joe Birsa and Kory Kohler, along with two-time ARTGO late model champion, Jim Weber. Other stock car racers that left us were Matt Johnsen, Jake Dyer, Rick Mills, Dick Simnick, George Hayes, Ray Greenberg, Al Gutche, Lee Simonsen, Raleigh Frye, Scott Cicuto, Roy Mitchell, Tony Tomasi, Harry Klisiak, Whitey Fisher, Chuck Frencl, Robert Hixon, Ronnie Orr, Phil Werno, Sandy Slager, Danny Albrecht, Robert Button, Juan Vela, Howard Weissmann, Mike Terrafino, Kathleen Trusty and Tom Prim.
Also leaving us were Midwest midget speedsters Bob Ellingham and Jerry Matter and track owners Mike Mikuly and Carol Fabrizius in addition to racing parts expert Brad Lameyer, announcer Ross Mackey, race official Randy Neal, stuntman Mike Rossi, midget racing publicist and historian Bryan Gapinski and racing supporters Ted Kerner, Bob Werniak and George Wachholz.
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