Ricky Baker thanked his crew after his seventh late-model feature win Friday night at Grundy County Speedway for adjusting a car that almost spun out during qualifying.
He also owed a debt of thanks to the yellow flag, without which he would have had a hard time getting to victory lane.
“Yeah, I think I do, because there was no catching John (Nutley),” Baker said. “He was out there a ways.”
A long ways. Nutley, in his No 96, opened a big advantage after taking the lead from James Gregait on lap 14. It was typical of a few other races this season where Nutley has led the most laps — but not the last one.
Things dramatically changed this time when Gregait went around in front of Eddie Hoffman in Turn 4 on lap 20. The yellow came out, and both were sent to the back.
Suddenly, what seemed to be a runaway turned into a bumper-to-bumper battle. Still, Baker wasn’t sure.
“Even after the yellow flag (Nutley) took off and I was like, ‘Oh, man, I don’t think I’ll be able to get him,’’ Baker said. “The car was just way too tight. But he was just burning (the tires) up and it finally showed when I got by him.”
That happened on lap 25. Nutley dropped in right behind him and hung with Baker for two laps, but eventually fell back by about five car-lengths.
Baker beat Nutley to the finish line by 0.822 seconds. Billy Knippenberg was third, followed by Larry Schuler, Chris Cooling and fast qualifier Pat Kelly.
“Yellows kill us every time,” Nutley said. “Tony and Tammy (Phillips) put us in a good car. I just steer it. I’m still trying to get used to the bump stops and the handle.
“The chassis is really good. We’re a little low on horsepower and we know that, but we’re getting better. We’re staying right up front in the top two, three every night, and that’s what we need to do.”
Late-model heats went to Knippenberg and Chuck Sottosanti.
Ricky Wilson made the outside groove work to perfection in passing the top two cars en route to his first pure stocks victory of the season.
Wilson spent several laps working on second place Alex Gay before passing her via the upper groove. He then tracked down leader Nick Clubb and made the winning move just four laps from the finish.
“It was a tough battle,” Wilson said. “I wasn’t sure how to get around Alex Gay. She was running pretty quick. Finally I decided to make the move on the outside and it ended up sticking.
“We made a few changes to the car and it felt great out there (in the upper groove). The inside was a little loose, but the outside it stuck.”
At the finish it was Wilson by 1.286 seconds over Mike Yuris. Clubb, Zach Sontag, Gay and James Gross completed the top six.
Pure stocks heats were captured by Austin Blackwell and Mikey Slabenak. Justin Mikel was the fast qualifier.
Street stock points leader Eddie Ligue made it five feature wins on the season with a near wire-to-wire run.
Ligue took the top spot from Rob Scamen on lap 2 and never was headed. John Senerchia came the closest, easing past Jake Bradley for second and staying within 0.399 seconds of Ligue at the checkered flag.
Bradley finished third, followed by fast qualifier Christy Penrod, Paul Polarek and Chuck McTrinder.
Senerchia and Ligue won their respective heats.
In the Mid-American main, points leader Tommy Knippenberg won for the eighth time in a runaway over Jason Hendron, Matt Clemens, Kevin Murphy, Joe Vinachi and Jeremy Clubb.
Clemens and Billy Rud were heat winners.
Fast Time: Pat Kelly
Heat Race 1: Billy Knippenberg, Ricky Baker
Heat Race 2: Chuck Sottosanti, David Einhaus
Feature: Baker, John Nutley, Knippenberg, Larry Schuler, Chris Cooling, Kelly, Brandon Clubb, Tony Scalpelli Jr., Einhaus, Eddie Hoffman
Fast Time: Tom Knippenberg
Heat Race 1: Matt Clemens, Joe Vinachi
Heat Race 2: Billy Rud, Jeremy Clubb
Feature: Knippenberg, Jason Hendron, Clemens, Kevin Murphy, Vinachi, Clubb, John Ventrello, Chuck Yuris, Rud, Jeff Wakeman
Fast Time: Christy Penrod
Heat Race 1: John Senerchia, Rob Scamen
Heat Race 2: Eddie Ligue, Craig Matteson
Feature: Ligue, Senerchia, Jake Bradley, Penrod, Paul Polarek, Rita Fields, Pete Odell, Bob Davis, Renee Farren, Matteson
Fast Time: Zach Sontag
Heat Race 1: Austin Blackwell, James Gross
Heat Race 2: Mikey Slabenak, Chris Mihalski
Feature: Ricky Wilson, Mike Yuris, Nick Clubb, Sontag, Alex Gay, Jim Gross, Blackwell, Jeff Law, Slabenak, Dan Schmeissing
– Grundy County Speedway Press Release/Tony Baranek, Southtownstar.com
Photo Credit: Brian Nolte