The season-ending Lee Schuler Memorial at Grundy County Speedway is a special race no matter what the year or who comes away with the trophy.
But when a Schuler wins it …
“Well, I’ve been doing this a long time and first is certainly better than second,” Larry Schuler said after capturing the 38th running on Sunday. “But for it to be this race to do it in means all the world to me. It really does.”
The 61-lap event, held in honor of Larry Schuler’s legendary father, brought to a close a 2014 season that saw Ricky Baker emerge as a back-to-back late-model champion.
Schuler and Baker ran 1-2 in the feature, which saw a breath-holding final two laps in which the leaders had to negotiate through some oil that had been spilled from the middle of the back straightaway into Turn 4.
Schuler, leading Baker by three car-lengths and with the lapped car of Jeremy Spoonmore just ahead, saw his No. 30 careen crazily through the turn.
“Somebody dumped a bunch of oil and it pitched me terrible,” Schuler said. “I thought, ‘Oh, my God, of all things.’ Then being on the outside, that’s where the oil was and I couldn’t get away for most of that lap.
“Finally, I was so happy to get to the bottom. But I think it messed everybody else up, too.”
It messed up Baker, to be sure.
“Just look at the front of my car,” Baker said. “Larry thought it was (a car) leaking rear end grease. I mean, it’s all over the hood of my car and the windshield.
“I was telling the guys (on the radio), ‘It almost looks like it’s raining out, it’s so slick.’ But we just kept going. We just held on.”
Baker’s second-place finish clinched the season championship over Eddie Hoffman, who finished third in the race.
“It was fun, a lot of fun,” Baker said. “It was a lot of work. But I was really happy for Larry winning the race. I was hoping he wouldn’t go the whole year without winning one. And if he’s going to win just one, this is the one to win for him.”
Schuler took the lead from Hoffman with a move on the bottom on lap 6. For much of the race he was comfortably in front. Hoffman maintained second place until lap 23, when Baker zoomed by.
Behind the top three, Anthony Danta finished fourth, ahead of Brandon Clubb, Chris Cooling, John Nutley, James Gregait, David Einhaus and Chuck Sottosanti.
Joe Vinachi closed the Mid-American division season strong by winning his second feature event of the weekend. Vinachi took the lead from track champion Tommy Knippenberg and held Knippenberg at bay the rest of the way. John Ventrello, Jim Kachel, Chuck Yuris and Luke Baldwin followed.
Johnny Senerchia won for the third time this season, but it didn’t stop teammate Eddie Ligue from capturing the street stocks track title. Senerchia beat Don O’Leary to the finish line by 0.252 seconds. Bob Davis was third, followed by Jake Bradley, Jason Kolbe and Peter Hernandez. Ligue was seventh.
The pure stocks feature saw Zach Sontag win out in a close battle with Ricky Wilson. Justin Mikel was third, followed by Spencer Leake and Dan Schmeissing. The division crown was clinched by Austin Blackwell.
The Legends feature went to Johnny Kringas over Tommy Jones and Austin Kunert. Patrick Bruns beat teammate Jimmy Clark in the Illini Midgets main.
Race Results Sunday August 31st
Fast Time: Ricky Baker
Feature: Larry Schuler, Ricky Baker, Eddie Hoffman, Anthony Danta, Brandon Clubb, Chris Cooling, John Nutley, James Gregait, David Einhaus, Chuck Sottosanti, Andy Jones, Jeremy Spoonmore, Ron Vandermeir Jr., Danny Darnell, Hank Tews, Trevor Tichy, Mark Sontag Jr., Len Nowosel, Ray Brackett, Dan Odell, Dave Gentile, Scott Koerner, Pat Kelly, Anthony Scapelli Jr., Steve Seligman
Fast Time: Tom Knippenberg
Feature: Joe Vinachi, Knippenberg, John Ventrello, Jim Kachel, Chuck Yuris, Luke Baldwin, Jeremy Clubb, Billy Tuckwell, Jeff Wakeman, Marty McKinney
Fast Time: Don O’Leary
Feature: John Senerchia, O’Leary, Bob Davis, Jake Bradley, Jason Kolbe, Peter Hernandez, Eddie Ligue, Christy Penrod, John Ventrello, Rob Scamen
Fast Time: Cirk Lindemuth
Feature: Zach Sontag, Ricky Wilson, Justin Mikel, Spencer Leake, Dan Schmeissing, Rich Dearborn, Mikey Slabenak, Jim Gross, Blaine Passini, Austin Blackwell
Race Results Friday August 29th
Fast Time: Ricky Baker
Heat Race 1: Billy Knippenberg, Brandon Clubb
Heat Race 2: Scott Koerner, David Einhaus
Feature: Anthony Danta, Baker, Eddie Hoffman, Larry Schuler, John Nutley, Andy Jones, Koerner, Chris Cooling, Einhaus, Mark Sontag Jr.
Fast Time: Tom Knippenberg
Heat Race 1: Marty McKinney, John Ventrello
Heat Race 2: Kenny Joosten, Chris Clemens
Feature: Joe Vinachi, Knippenberg, Kenny Benson, Cody Clubb, Scott Dunning, Jim Kachel, Ventrello, Luke Baldwin, Craig Stark, Chuck Yuris
Fast Time: Jake Bradley
Heat Race 1: Tim Stewart, Bob Davis
Heat Race 2: Bill Serviss, Darrell Gay
Feature: Stewart, Eddie Ligue, John Senerchia, Bradley, Christy Penrod, Billy Rud, Paul Polarek, Serviss, Peter Hernandez, Jason Kolbe
Fast Time: Dan Schmeissing
Heat Race 1: Zach Sontag, Mikey Slabenak
Heat Race 2: Justin Mikel, Jeff Law
Feature: Sontag, Ricky Wilson, Jim Gross, Dan Schmeissing, Austin Blackwell, Trevor Martin, Cirk Lindemuth, Mikel, Slabenak, Bryce Leake
– Tony Baranek for Grundy County Speedway
Photo Credit: Grundy County Speedway