Just call Ricky Baker the “lurker” of Grundy County Speedway.
The previous week the defending track champion was biding his time in fourth place in the late-model feature when two cars ahead of him collided and gave him the break he needed to move to the front.
Friday night the Plainfield native was all settled in for a third-place finish when the two front-runners, John Nutley and Brett Sontag, collided as they were roaring out of Turn 4 for the white flag.
Nutley went around to bring out the yellow, while Sontag left the track. That left the lead to Baker, who finished off his sixth win of the season.
“I just got lucky,” Baker said. “I don’t know what those guys were doing up there. They had everybody whupped and then just gave it up.
“Our motor started missing about halfway and it was kind of scaring me. I was trying to take it easy so the thing would last to the end. I’ve got to say thanks to my guys for working their butts off.”
Baker beat Dave Gentile Jr. by 0.324 seconds. Eddie Hoffman was third, followed by Billy Knippenberg, Scott Koerner and Mark Sontag.
It was heartbreak once again for Nutley, who earlier in the night lost a heat race to Sontag on the final lap, and just two weeks ago saw a feature victory snatched away by Paul Shafer Jr. after the white flag flew.
This time the Crestwood native outdueled Knippenberg at the drop of the green, and for most of the race led the pack. Sontag took second place away from Knippenberg and slowly began to reel in the leader.
Closing up on Nutley’s bumper, Sontag spent a couple of laps right behind him before making his move as they were about to take the white flag.
“I ran John down from what, probably seven, eight, nine, 10 cars back,” Sontag said. “He was pretty tight in the center and I had a roll on him. I barely touched him. It’s not like I dumped him, the poor guy.
“Just good racing. I had fun. I hope he had fun.”
“I would have been happy with second,” a frustrated Nutley said. “If he would have gotten underneath me on the last lap, on the last corner, I would have let him by or tried to.
“He never laid a bumper on me until he took me out. He’s supposed to be a teammate? That’s not a teammate.”
The two share the same sponsor.
Matt Clemens broke a long streak of bad luck by capturing his first Mid-American feature win of the season. Clemens took the lead from Kevin Murphy on lap 19, and eased away.
Points leader Tom Knippenberg, stuck in traffic for several laps, broke free into third place with about 10 laps remaining and swiped second away from Murphy.
At the checkered flag it was Clemens by 1.089 seconds over Knippenberg. Murphy was third, ahead of Joe Vinachi, Kevin Gentile and Luke Baldwin.
Spencer Leake claimed his third pure stocks feature win, passing Alex Clubb on lap 10 of the 15-lap event. Leake beat Justin Mikel to the line by 0.418 seconds. Zach Sontag, Austin Blackwell, Will Shepherd and Clubb completed the top six.
A yellow-flag-filled street stocks feature saw John Senerchia pass Billy Rud via the high side on lap 13 and go on to claim his first win. Second went to points leader Eddie Ligue, ahead of Rita Fields, Rud, Jake Bradley and Rob Scamen.
Fast Time: Ricky Baker
Heat Race 1: Brett Sontag, John Nutley
Heat Race 2: Erik Pierce, James Gregait
Feature: Baker, Dave Gentile, Eddie Hoffman, Billy Knippenberg, Scott Koerner, Mark Sontag Jr., Brandon Clubb, Chris Cooling, Larry Schuler, David Einhaus
Fast Time: Tom Knippenberg
Heat Race 1: Vince Cooper, John Ventrello
Heat Race 2: Jim Kachel, Jeremy Clubb
Feature: Matt Clemens, Knippenberg, Kevin Murphy, Joe Vinachi, Kevin Gentile, Luke Baldwin, John Ventrello, Vince Cooper, Chuck Yuris, Cody Clubb
Fast Time: John Senerchia
Heat Race 1: Don O’Leary, Rita Fields
Heat Race 2: Rob Scamen, Billy Rud
Feature: Senerchia, Eddie Ligue, Fields, Rud, Jake Bradley, Scamen, Bob Davis, Tim Stewart, Craig Matteson, Darrell Gay
Fast Time: Spencer Leake
Heat Race 1: Zach Sontag, Austin Blackwell
Heat Race 2: Brian Clubb, Justin Mikel
Heat Race 3: Steve Hespen, Eric Davis
Feature: Leake, Mikel, Sontag, Blackwell, Will Shepherd, Alex Clubb, Brian Clubb, Cirk Lindemuth, Dan Schmeissing, Trevor Martin
– Tony Baranek, southtownstar.com Photo Credit: Doug Hornickel/fastlapphoto.com